Interactive TV focus of new collaboration between major industry players and Ball State

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

November 17, 2010

The Center for Media Design (CMD) at Ball State University has launched its new Viewing+ initiative, a formal program of research that will explore consumer attitudes and behaviors in the emerging domain of interactive television.

Already renowned for its pioneering work in the areas of direct observation and innovative, high-tech documentation of consumers' interactions with media and the range of modern communication devices, the CMD will endeavor with Viewing+ to address four areas key to interactive TV (iTV) development. The areas of inquiry are interactivity and programming; interactivity and advertising; interactivity in search and navigation; and the evolution of T-commerce (purchasing services or products direct from the screen via iTV applications).

"We chose the name Viewing+ for this initiative because, while we recognize that conventional viewing of TV will remain a central part of our media lives, as the TV screen evolves to deliver more interactivity as a part of an overall experience, we need to understand just what those additional functionalities will come to mean for consumers, broadcasters, advertisers and other stakeholders in the TV business," said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research at the CMD. 

"There is a real need to understand which propositions will work best, with which consumers, as well as in determining which design conventions are most effective and why," he added. The new initiative also will explore the relationship between on-screen content and interactivity facilitated through secondary devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

According to Michael Holmes, CMD's associate director of insight and research, "There are many valid areas of inquiry in the interactive TV space that will benefit from the consumer-centric approach that is fundamental to everything we do here at the CMD. A fair number of these apply to more than one of the points on our research agenda and should lead to the evolution of our research, based on our findings as we progress."

Viewing+ Advisory Board

Another core component of the Viewing+ initiative is the establishment of an advisory board that will gather industry experts to help direct the project's research agenda and lend intellectual capital to the initiative. Currently on the advisory board are representatives from CBS and industry group OEDN and membership discussions continue, involving other industry groups and key players in the interactive TV space. Industry partners can engage with Viewing+ through consortium-funded projects, thought leadership work and proprietary research.

The formation of the Viewing+ initiative stems from Ball State's involvement in the OEDN Academic Outreach Program, which for two years gave students, faculty and researchers special access to EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) development tools, facilitating the development of interactive TV applications including theC-SPAN test application produced by faculty and students in spring 2010.

"OEDN is delighted to continue our support of Ball State's Center for Media Design through its new Viewing+ initiative," said Will Kreth, senior director of advanced video strategy for Time Warner Cable and founder of OEDN.

"Since our inception in October 2007, we've seen the need for rigorous academic research into the behavioral aspects of interactive TV. Our gap analysis at that time showed that students simply didn't have access to the hardware and software necessary to build and test iTV apps. We look forward to building on the academic and industry partnerships that will aid Viewing+ to become a stellar example of what's needed for the industry."

Insight & Research Media Lab

The CMD Insight & Research Media Lab, a fully functional, end-to-end EBIF testing environment for interactive TV applications, was completed in September, thanks to equipment donations from Strategy & Technology (S&T), ADB, Ensqeuence, TV Works, Softel and Zodiac.

"S&T is committed to continued support and enhancement of the Media Lab as it is a crucial tool for Ball State, not only to offer the opportunity for students and teachers to develop iTV applications but also now to enable research in understanding how consumers interact with their TV," said Enzo D'Anna, S&T's director of sales for the Americas. 

"For companies such as ours that have been focused on the technical side of iTV, understanding consumer behavior has always been a challenge and we welcome and support Ball State's initiative."

"The Media Lab, combined with other resources and personnel at Ball State, enables our students, faculty and research teams to work with industry professionals and collaborate throughout an entire development, testing and research process, from the whiteboard, through design and authoring, technical testing and consumer research to the point of deployment readiness. This capability makes Ball State and the Viewing+ initiative unique in the nation," said Bloxham.

In addition to answering important questions for industry, the CMD will integrate Viewing+ with Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative, focusing the university's historic strengths in this area to accelerate the economic benefits of emerging technology to the state of Indiana through the preparation of increasingly media-savvy human capital.

Findings from Viewing+ projects will be used to inform future curriculum development around interactive TV, further engaging faculty and students in interactive projects.

About the Center for Media Design

The Center for Media Design (CMD) at Ball State University is a research and development facility focused on the creation, testing and practical application of digital technologies for business, classroom, home and community.

These efforts are accomplished through the Digital Exchange Initiative funded by a $20 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. CMD's success has directly contributed to Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative – a more than $20 million investment that aims to fund more research in emerging media; advance the emerging media expertise of students, faculty and staff; help faculty and students launch new businesses or commercialize ideas; and help companies improve their emerging media capabilities.

About CBS

As the number one television network in America and leading provider of TV programming to the international marketplace, CBS is deeply invested in the evolution of the digital home. Working with partners from across the software, metadata, distribution and consumer electronics landscape, CBS conducts extensive media research and creates interactive tools, applications and interfaces designed to make the television experience even more enjoyable for viewers.

About Ball State

Ball State University is redefining education by providing relevant, immersive learning experiences that engage high-caliber students in intense interdisciplinary projects both in and out of the classroom. Our expert, collaborative faculty members mentor students and encourage innovation and creativity in education. Located in Muncie, Ind., a midsized city one hour northeast of Indianapolis, Ball State's vibrant campus is home to about 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students from across the country and abroad. For more information visit www.bsu.edu

About OEDN

Founded in 2007, the mission of the OCAP/EBIF Developer Network (OEDN) community is to drive awareness of and application development efforts using the two primary interactive cable television open standards for middleware: OCAP (known to consumers as tru2way) and EBIF.

Through its partnership with universities, interactive media companies, and its developer community, OEDN aims to broadly socialize the advantages of developing interactive apps for digital cable and to bring a new generation of software development talent to the cable industry.

About Strategy & Technology

Strategy & Technology (S&T) is an acclaimed innovator of technologies for interactive TV production, playout, reception and monitoring, enabling broadcasters to deploy value-added services to viewers worldwide. S&T is the market leader in the creation of data carousel delivery systems for interactive television. 

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