What is IPTV?

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Jay Amato, former president and CEO of Viewpoint, is a managing partner at newly formed PersonalScreen Media. The company aims to deliver original entertainment to consumers, along with more effective ways for companies and advertisers to promote their goods and services to a growing audience of consumers who demand movies and programming "anytime, anywhere." Its first original "television-quality" series, "In Men We Trust," is set to premiere on May 1.

Corey Kronengold: There's a lot of confusion about IPTV and VOD and WebTV. What is different about them, particularly for the end user?

Jay Amato: You hear a lot about IPTV, but technically speaking, IPTV is a very specific thing. It's not just video on the internet as we know it.

If you look at it, there's internet TV, interactive TV, VOD on the web and VOD on cable. I don't think that there's a lot of clarity right now about how all these things vary. What they all come down to is more choice for the viewer. IP-driven video allows for a greater sense of interactivity, which is a big benefit for consumers as well.

For the end user, in a traditional VOD environment, VOD is based on a cable TV. Pick a show and watch it and its not affected by commercials. But it's mostly a one-way communication. Ninety-five percent of the people would accept that VOD is still a cable phenomenon.

The true benefit of IPTV is a much more immersive, much more interactive environment. Product placement in TV, being interactive, having more info about characters is something that people have talked about for years.

Kronengold: Is it too new a medium to have a specialized IPTV strategy?

Amato: The people driving advertising, especially for the big brands, are realizing that internet TV has sort of snuck up and become a very big issue. They need an interactive strategy, whether it's for the web or IPTV. And the smart advertisers are embracing -- or at least testing -- this new medium. It's very important for them to experiment with it at this point. The costs aren't like experimenting with TV. It's a great time for experimenting and developing new demographics and coming up with new ways to present products in an exciting fashion.

Kronengold: Video quality on the web varies tremendously. How broad does broadband need to get before video is 'really' good?

Amato: It doesn't need to get any broader per se. It needs to get more stable. In an office or at home, the ability to hold on to a megabyte of bandwidth at any time is not good. All of these low-cost broadband environments-- I'm not sure that they are worried about providing a stable enough environment. But the issue is that they need higher quality broadband so that you are guaranteed a minimum throughput, and then the quality would be quite good.

Kronengold: The last big online video event was the NCAA tournament. Technology aside, did you think it was a quality experience? Or more of a compromise between seeing something you wouldn't normally see?

Amato: It was definitely the latter, and I'm not sure that's how we're going to win viewers on the web.

Kronengold: How did working at Viewpoint help you shape the idea for PersonalScreen Media?

Amato: Coming from the online ad world, we had a number of choices. But we didn't want to be a technology company. While we've got the technology and a great user interface, it's not our core function. We named our company PersonalScreen because it was the right way to talk about what we were doing. Excellent content presented in an interactive and immersive way.

Kronengold: What did you do at PersonalScreen when creating "In Men We Trust" to ensure a better user experience?

Amato: We filmed at high quality so we could show it on a large screen or a small screen. Even our video window is larger than the usual video window to provide a better experience. Ours is 480 x 360. We're trying to go for a quality experience. That is what it is going to take to keep loyal viewers.

Kronengold: What makes "In Men We Trust" different than other sitcoms?

Amato: We didn't just take a 30-minute show and cut it up into seven-minute sections. We've got a whole story arc in a seven-minute period of time. It really allows the users to immerse themselves in the story and walk away with a level of completion as opposed to just taking "Desperate Housewives" and cutting it up.

Kronengold: Are there different qualities that make for a good web program, as compared to TV?

Amato: What makes a good seven-minute episode is like any other story for TV or the movies. You need to have a good story arc that moves you to a natural conclusion of that story or episode. We actually developed our shows in house and brought in people who are writers and they worked together to develop the story. We needed to create that seven-minute environment. Now that we've got that down, we actually have a number of writers and producers pitching ideas for other stories and we have a number of things in development from reality shows to teen programming and we're developing a shooting schedule.

Kronengold: When will the first episodes be ready?

Amato: Our first episodes of "In Men We Trust" will be completed at the end of the month. We're in negotiations now with a number of the large TV networks and their web properties for the distribution of our show.

Kronengold: Are you are offering your programming and your player to other web publishers?

Amato: We are looking at that. We may sign a deal with a TV network for this show because it's a drama/comedy, and that fits into their strategy. But the next show could be aimed at teens and that would be for a different type of property. So we are talking to a number of different publishers about options on distribution of the content. 

Kronengold: How do you define PersonalScreen Media as a company? Clearly you aren't another online advertising technology company.

Amato: We are a production company specializing in seven-minute episodic content for the web.

Next: What makes a good user experience?