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TV Anytime 2004

I attended the 30th meeting of the TV Anytime Forum on September 21-22 at Sony in San Jose.

TV Anytime

TV Anytime was formed in Europe about 3 years ago to develop an open standard for DVRs (digital video recorders). The group has grown since then, and now includes active members from Asia, and to a lesser extent, North America. They have produced their Phase I specification and are now working on Phase II, which may be the final specification. Their next meeting is November 16th - 19th in Sydney. This will be the last meeting at which new contributions can be submitted. They will then freeze the feature set and produce the final specification, which is expected to be published in 2005.

The Phase II specification will complete the Phase I DVR specification. TV Anytime calls this device a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), a device with more personalization features. A significant amount of thought has been given to features that will support new advertising models. It will be possible to transmit programs and advertisements separately, inserting the ads in the home.

This presents some difficult questions. For example, an ad might be marked as non-skippable. Consumers want all ads to be skippable. That is one of the major benefits of the DVR. Who ultimately decides if ads can be skipped, the advertiser or the consumer? TV Anytime does not answer this question. They leave it to the manufacturer of the PVR to decide. I think that PVRs sold to consumers will give the control to the consumer. PVRs made for cable systems will not.

Much of TV Anytime's work is in the definition of metadata formats for describing television content and its relation with other content. Many of TV Anytime's recommendations have already been adopted by DVB, SMPTE, and other organizations.

TV Anytime wants Phase II to be applicable beyond PVRs. They want to support other kinds of devices, and allow the transfer of content between devices. They have a Rights Management scheme to deal with this. I am concerned that they have not given sufficient attention to security issues. It would be very unfortunate if PVRs are subject the same security failures as PCs.