Thursday, April 18, 2013

Meet Our Customers: Rai

A short interview with Espedito Longo, Project Manager (Technological Services) at Rai, one of the most important broadcasting organizations in Europe.

Let’s talk about your organization. What is your core business?

"Rai is the owner of the Italian national public service radio and television broadcasting license, and one of the most important communication firms in Europe. The company has the ability to conceive, design, and develop contents (which include news, movies for cinema and TV, TV formats, and others) to distribute through a wide range of media including Sat TV, DTT, and the Internet. The main objective of Rai Net, fully owned by Rai and founded in June 1999, is to develop and improve the web as a channel for effectively promoting and easily distributing the aforementioned contents to all Italians".

 Could you let us know any further information?

"Rai employs more than 10,000 people, serves over 16 million families as paying users, and owns more than 1,500 branded websites (for entertainment, news, or service) that attract an overall average of 8 million unique visitors a month. The several apps for smartphones and tablets published by Rai recorded more than 900,000 download since their launch dates. In 2011, Nielsen Media Research revealed a significant decrease in annual aggregated advertising revenues (-4%), excluding the web specifically, which recorded +12.3% compared to the previous period. The consolidation of this channel in terms of usage volumes and popularity, and the related capacity to raise growing investments from advertisers, increased the position of the web within the group’s strategy and offer".

Who is the typical user of your product or service?

"Born as the national public TV service licensee, Rai started its activity operating as the only Italian broadcaster and directed its offer of contents to a wide, general audience, also due to initial technical limitations of the analog television. DTT and Sat TV technologies on a side, and Web technologies (VODs, Second Screens, Smart TVs) on the other, overcome the national borders, allowed the enlargement of the offer with thematic channels, and enriched it with increased interactivity. Thus, as the technologies progress, even TV audience appears to be more segmented compared to past".

Could you please describe your product/service that integrates Lightstreamer?

"For Rai Net, the Lightstreamer technology has been integrated in the SocialTV platform that allows users to send and receive instant messages during a TV show and get extra contents. This Social TV platform went live to support Sanremo, a popular music competition for unreleased Italian songs. During the show, the audience has been able to discuss the performances and get goodies, extra contents that include texts, videos on-demand, “behind the scenes” footage, and real-time interviews with singers and artists. BallarĂ², another popular talk show broadcasted weekly, has also been associated with a Lightstreamer-powered Social TV platform during this season’s shows.

Lightstreamer is currently used in the Social TV platform to push users’ messages and editors’ featured contents to all concurrent users. It has already been inserted in the Rai’s future plans, as its usage will be extended to push real-time news in several web portals that we are going to update".

Is your main application based on HTML or other front-end technologies?

"The application we mentioned is HTML-based, but it (and Lightstreamer as a part of it) has been also integrated in the Rai.TV apps that we released for smartphones and tablets, both for iOS and Android".

Is your product or service visible at any URL (publicly or registration based)?

"When a SocialTV event is active, the platform can be accessed through the following URL:".

Samsung and its competitors launched “always connected” TVs, and smartphones and tablets’ growth appear to be relentless, creating a definitely more interactive and ‘social’ way to watch TV,  not only on the home screen. Is the future of the TV on the web?

"The possibilities given by the IP protocol for all devices, including smart TVs, will radically change the traditional idea of television known so far, turning it into a true multimedia domestic hub in a short time. Today, it’s already possible to have Catch Up TV services, VOD, news browsing, web search, and popular social networks on a common Smart TV. Two issues arose and need to be solved soon:
  • On protection of intellectual property for content owners - broadcasting via IP on master screens can’t be unruled as part of the web is today. Broadcasters’ legitimate interests have to be protected. 
  • On technological standards - is mandatory to find a standard that would get along with open industry standards, such as MHP, and proprietary technologies, owned by manufacturers".
In the 2011 financial statements, Rai declared that "the web represents, paired with DTT, a key medium for the group’s industrial and editorial strategy for its growing diffusion among the Italian families and for its ability to define deep innovations in the overall media offer, consumption, and business". What future can be predicted for the web as a medium, according to Rai as a mature, traditional broadcaster?

"Rai is still not considering its over-IP offer as the key element of its strategic roadmap for products and customer development so far. Right now, the offer can definitely be considered as A-class, both for contents and technologies, but steps need to be done to improve the quality of communications and the integration with traditional media. Broadcasting and content delivery via IP will be progressively considered essential, and it needs to be declined on Smart TV, to keep the overall strong linear development aligned with the non-linear one".

“In the future, no television advertisements will be just self-contained narratives. They will be trailers into deeper branded digital experiences”, declared Shiv Singh, Global Head of Digital of PepsiCo. The web will undoubtedly be the medium in which all the others will converge. Which grade of interactivity will be needed to make this possible?

"Italy has always been a step behind Europe, United States, and Asian markets in advertising and digital cross-mediality. We would see enhanced advertisements in a short time syncing the traditional TV ads with second screens, delivering extra contents and changing the fruition paradigm through an audience that now expects to be interconnected, both directly and on social networks".

Any comments on your experience integrating Lightstreamer?

"Rai Net appreciated Lightstreamer as a flexible, versatile, and easy-to-install product. Concerning the integration with other components of the Social TV platform we developed, it proved to be truly valuable. We managed to integrate the technology both for iOS and Android in a really short time, and we are also currently planning to integrate Lightstreamer in Multimedia Home Platforms and Connected TVs. Its support team was really quick in answering and overly proactive so far, and this is the true added value compared to other products currently available on the market. Plus, we always inquired the support team to ask for help, never to notify of product bugs".

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