A landmark EPRA and Cullen International event on the future of television and the regulatory framework required to support connected TV - where TV broadcast services come together with on-demand video and internet services on smart TVs or other devices - was held in Brussels on May 3, attended by over 200 participants from all sides of the communications industry.
The Connected TV workshop examined how connected television is changing the current audiovisual value chain and if the existing regulatory framework on content regulation is fit for purpose, as well as how potential new bottlenecks could hinder the rollout of connected TV. The workshop showed that all sectors of the industry are part of the deployment of the
connected TV. TV set manufacturers are adding apps and features to TV sets while ensuring that viewers continue to enjoy ‘the lean back experience’. Cable operators, telecom companies, broadcasters, and newcomers are entering the market with innovative services and applications. All the speakers agreed that connected TV is here to stay.
Eric Scherer of France Télévisions suggested that the internet will enrich TV viewing, with connected TV being complementary to traditional “linear” TV. Jean-François Furnémont, chairman of EPRA, opened the workshop saying “This is the first time in EPRA’s 17 year history that such a public workshop has been held. It shows the willingness of a lot of EPRA members to engage with all stakeholders to discuss the complexity of the regulatory framework and the determination of regulators to respond to this complexity with regulation that is as proportionate, consistent and agile as possible.”
Laura Sboarina from Cullen International highlighted the challenges faced by regulators and industry, and in particular, how will the traditional rules on advertising, the protection of minors and the promotion of EU audiovisual works apply to connected TV. “On the same television set, viewers will see content that is currently regulated very differently. Television content is subject to tight rules, whereas on-demand video services are subject to a minimum set of rules. Internet services are hardly regulated and those from outside the EU are not regulated at all,” she said adding “This could create unfair competition and could be detrimental to viewers, who are often unaware of the differences in the levels of protection.”
Challenged by these comments, Detlef Eckert, from the European Commission, soon to be in charge of the main EU piece of regulation in the area - the Audiovisual Media Services Directive - said that connected TV is high on the Commission’s agenda. The Commission is currently consulting with the industry and other stakeholders and will publish a policy document towards the end of 2012 to see if adjustments should be made to the existing regulatory framework. He made clear however that the framework should enable the development of new services and that the danger of further regulating the internet is that it could hinder net freedoms.
Marc Janssen, President of the Belgian Media Authority (CSA) and Monica Ariño from Ofcom agreed that evidence should be gathered to understand market developments and consumer behaviour, then action could be taken, but that an overhaul may not be required.
During the session on potential competition issues, the question of net neutrality was raised by Eric Scherer from France Télévisions and by Michael Wagner from the EBU as a major concern. Acquisition and the licensing of content, especially on a pan-European basis were also referred to as one of the main challenges. Many stressed that open and preferably pan-European standards for devices are preferable such as HbbTV and that platforms should be open.