Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Déjà vu in Limburg?

One of the Dutch provinces is Limburg. Since the closing of the mines it has been a problem area in terms of employment. So all kind of initiatives were taken to get new industry to Limburg. Eventually it was a car manufacturer which built a factory there. But in the eighties the province did get also a lot of money to start an interactive cable videotext project. It was supposed to be a new media laboratory for mass communication. After 10 years the project was stopped and stamped “disaster”. Even the Dutch government, which had sunk a lot of money into the project, never dared to investigate what went wrong. The conclusion of communication was that a lot of copper had been sunk into the ground, but that no one had thought about the services. These thoughts came up again this week when the Stream Group and KPN announced an experiment in the South of Limburg.

The Stream Group, led by a former Overture Benelux CEO, has developed a technology which they indicate as personalisable TV. Central in the concept is the Electronic Program Guide (EPG), which has three layers. It presents information on the national level on national broadcast channels and programs on the second level it makes local information accessible and on the third level there is personal content. The technology, which Stream Group wants to register for a patent, is part of the service MailMall. Within MailMall personalisable TV is possible through OpTV (OnTV). Every consumer, company or institution can start a channel or can exchange photographs, video and music. Besides consumers can use Video On Demand services, gaming services and thematic channels.

Recently the Rabo Bank stepped in as partner. It wants to offer the consumer the opportunity to do their banking online, including screen-to-screen visual contact with a Rabo employee. Besides Rabo TV will present information about investments. Also Rabo Sports – Rabo is sponsor of a cycle group, which was amongst others active in the Tour de France – will have a slot. The Rabo Bank, a co-operative bank, likes to extent its local presence in this way.

The service MailMall has been piloted in the city of Roermond among 100 households. Now the pilot will be extended to 1.000 households in the cities of Sittard and Geleen with the help of KPN. AS the technology has been proven in Roermond, it is now important to learn to market the service. And before that is done, a new interface has to be built. During the pilot a settop box, manufactured by Createl, will be handed out to the households. This is the weak point of the service. With the settop box Mailmall lands in the middle of the box war. The cable operators are either handing out settop boxes like UPC or people have to buy them as with Casema. But also Tele 2/Versatel has a settop box for television. And as usual, before the pilots and trials are over, Stream Group is dreaming about internationalisation. In 2007 KPN will launch Mailmall as part of its own television service Mine, which still has to be launched. Despite the fact that KPN is having 51 percent of the shares in Mailmall, the service can also be sold to mother telecom and cable television operators.

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Blog Posting Number: 475

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