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Multi-view TVs: TV for Two

Imagine sitting on the sofa next to your significant other, and instead of one of you having to suffer through the other's favorite show - you are each watching a completely different program. Same TV, two different shows. If that sounds awesome, it's because it is.

Imagine sitting on the sofa next to your significant other, and instead of one of you having to suffer through the other's favorite show - you are each watching a completely different program. Same TV, two different shows. If that sounds awesome, it's because it is.

Now take this beyond just content and look at ads, or even product placement. Think about today's networks that are looking for ways to reach the most relevant people to deliver better advertising results for advertisers. Let's take this a step further into the future by including profiles integrated into the viewing glasses and the result is hyper-targeted TV advertising.

Yes, this means that I may never see another feminine hygiene ad and my vegan wife may never have to see another ad about fried chicken.

What's new with Multi-View TV?

The "multi view" concept can help accelerate targeted TV advertising because it is possible to collect from each pair of glasses an anonymous digital record about viewing preferences and to then to serve up offers accordingly.

In essence, with Multi-View TV two video signals are stacked on one another, and then using special polarising glasses not entirely unlike 3D specs to "isolate" a (two-dimensional) signal two or more people can watch different videos on the same TV. LG has it with Dual Play and Sony with PlayStation 3D Display.

The different entertainment combinations in the same living room are endless: a child can watch cartoons while the parents watch a romantic comedy; a teenager can play a game on Xbox while his older sister watches a sitcom; a husband can learn how to make homemade pasta while his wife watches the news; or two people can race cars playing a video game without a split screen. Some people believe that this technology will bring families back into the same room, sitting on the couch together, holding hands and feeling more connected than ever, while simultaneously pursuing their different interests.

Consumer Resistance

So if this is so appealing why aren't we seeing more multi-view TVs in living rooms? Some TV viewing habits are ingrained, and people are finding it hard to make a switch. TV is typically a shared experience whose real value is enabling people to the see the same picture at the same time, especially for popular real time broadcast events such as sporting events, reality TV and popular TV series.

In addition, many consumers still find the viewing experience inferior. Wearing those glasses is cumbersome and inconvenient, and listening to audio through earphones just can't compete with home theatre quality sound.

Based on the lukewarm response to 3D TV, it appears that after one or two tries the glasses are stowed away or misplaced. Despite a lot of sexy 3D TVs, a 3D re-release of blockbusters such as Titanic, and the emergence of 3D TV channels, at the end of 2012, 3D TV's had only 20-30% market penetration -- and even then, there's no telling whether those TVs are being used for 3D, or if they were simply purchased without any awareness of the 3D feature.

TV for two: is really TV for one

From a commercial standpoint, the biggest advantage of Multi-View TV is the opportunity to do one-to-one marketing. Similar to each coupon I receive from the grocery store with my name printed on it with a picture of a product I see every day on my kitchen table, personalised marketing works. Previously, not willing to waste my time with coupons I am happy to take advantage of receiving a discount on things I want and need.

With the hours consumers spend in front of the television it stands to reason that they should also benefit from filtering of commercials to make sure they are relevant.

An analysis by ad targeting company Simulmedia of data from Nielsen and Kantar Media showed that around three-quarters of marketers' TV ad impressions are viewed by just 20 per cent of their target audiences. Looking at one campaign - Unilever's $6.3m TV ad campaign for Axe - the research showed that the ad was not seen by 60 per cent of the 18 to 24-year-olds it was intended to reach.

That's clearly not ideal from the advertisers' point of view and also gives a clear sense of the sheer waste involved in attempting to reach a given audience at scale. Tracking individual preferences would enable broadcasters to provide brands with premium targeted advertising similar to the same targeting available with online channels, increasing the likelihood the ad is reaching the right people.

Personalised TV Viewing

But if the goal is to deliver the most relevant ads, there are other solutions besides multi-view TV. My wife doesn't need to wear glasses and plug in with ear phones to avoid seeing a sizzling steak on the big screen. There may be a simpler solution. What if viewers had the option to log in before they watched TV?

Consider it the same thing you do before you access your Amazon account, or before you open Outlook. It could be as simple as entering a four digit personal identifier similar to an ATM machine.

Broadcasters have already adopted similar concepts with BBC iplayer where viewers can stream shows they missed on their smart TV's and mobile devices. Most recently, to promote their streaming capabilities the BBC had a popular comedy show Car Share go out on TV only after making its debut on the BBC iPlayer. It is also rumored that broadcasters are considering 4K high definition video first for streaming services before broadcast, demonstrating that they believe the future is with streaming services.

Sky PIN protection for parental control, requires users to login in to see adult content. Identifying viewers has already been used to improve the viewing experience, but there is potential to push the concept further.

Broadcasters could recommend favorite movies and TV series, the same way that Amazon recommends books, and they could pre-select the advertisements you see based on your profile. Better yet, you could volunteer details of the ads you want to see, the latest movies, books and running shoes for example, making the targeting razor sharp, not forcing broadcasters to rely on recommendations based on similar viewers' habits.

This idea is not so far-fetched. This summer, Sky will rollout AdSmart, allowing UK TV advertisers to personalise ads on linear TV for the first time. Specially targeted ads will be sent to Sky+HD set-top boxes and, based on subscriber information, ads will be inserted into live broadcast streams.

Since the set-up box has an IP address, advertisers have the potential to do geo-targeting, mentioning local suppliers of advertised products and services. Supplemental information could be displayed on tablets and mobile telephones including coupons for local sales and special offers.

Microsoft seems to understand the value of reaching consumers through the set-top box. They have entered into a deal with Sky to offer Xbox One consoles along with TV package subscriptions. Sources claim that Xbox One could serve as a set-top box for Sky television, or as a companion device.

So what is more likely, that people will wear 3D glasses, plug in the audio, and watch in parallel or login to have a personalised viewing experience? If I don't have to see another cat food commercial, I don't mind entering in a PIN code. If I happen to login and then watch TV with my wife, it is not exactly one to one marketing, but it comes damn close. Hey I may even let her login the next time, so she can see those perfume commercials.

This blog was co-authored with Tej Rekhi, Director of Innovation Strategy, DG.

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