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Channel Changing Solution Needs a Problem

Informitv reports that an industry group is seeking to address 'perceived concerns' over channel changing delays associated with emerging internet protocol television (IPTV) services.

It comes in response to Microsoft promoting fast channel changing as a key benefit of its IPTV software platform, but it remains unclear to what extent this is a real issue. Apparently, it's yet another case of a technology solution in search of a meaningful problem.

The Internet Streaming Media Alliance, which promotes standards-based systems, has identified fast channel change as "a vital quality of experience issue potentially affecting consumer adoption of IPTV." However, the need is perhaps subjective.

Whether or not this is a real issue, there is no doubt that Microsoft, which has a proprietary 'patent pending' approach to achieving fast channel changing, has consistently identified this as a key feature of its IPTV platform.

In usability testing, Microsoft has found that their 'instantaneous channel change' feature can improve user perception of other aspects of application performance. This may well be the case, but after a decade of prior experience with digital television, channel changing time has rarely been raised by viewers as a major problem. After all, viewers are mainly concerned with substantive content.

"Channel hopping" is generally known to be a symptom of consumer irritation at lack of sufficiently engaging programming, a response to interruption by advertising, or a function of a poor program guide. However, it's not clear if Microsoft has discovered a solution to any of these very real 'legacy TV experience' problems.

In a world of digital video recorders and video on demand, viewers are increasingly selective in their viewing choices, rather than idly cycling through linear channels. Navigation, content discovery and search are therefore of key importance, but channel changing is a relatively insignificant aspect of an enhanced IPTV user experience.

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