Get Ready for Punter's Paradise

28 October 2005

A faster distribution channel for interactive gambling is on the horizon, and it will arrive via British Telecom Group's next generation TV.

Philips, Europe's largest electronics company, has been selected to supply a set top box that will deliver a range of unique services. Every set top box will include a personal video recorder (PVR) capable of storing up to 80 hours of programming and capable of delivering high definition content.

The BT-Philips partnership builds on the recently announced alliance with Microsoft, which will provide Microsoft TV IPTV Edition as the software platform for BT's TV over broadband service.

Ian Livingston, chief executive for BT Retail, says the technology puts the TV viewer in total control of content delivery.

"Our services will be a world first and will place power in the hands of the viewer," Livingston explained. "No longer will BT customers be reliant on TV schedules. From next year, they will be able to watch what they like when they like. This is all about giving our customers choice, convenience and control.

"We see next generation TV as a vital element of our vision for home entertainment. In an increasingly converged world, BT customers will be able to benefit from the combination of television, communications and the Internet."

Football fans, for example, will be able to chat using video telephony while watching matches. And those who miss the matches will be able to turn back time via the "catch-up TV" feature.

Analysts expect interactive gambling to be one of next generation TV's major revenue drivers. Here are some of the others:

  • Entertainment on Demand - An extensive library of movies, TV and music all available instantly.

  • Catch-up TV - Programs from the previous seven days broadcast schedule will be available on demand without the need to record.

  • Flexible Payment - Pay-per-view options means no mandatory subscriptions.

  • Personal Video Recorder - A simple-to-use recording function capable of storing up to 80 hours of programming.

  • Expanded Programming - More than 30 digital terrestrial TV channels.

  • Communication Services - Instant messaging, chat and video telephony on TV.

  • Interactive services - Online games, retail opportunities and community services.

DSL Upgrade

BT is also upgrading its asymmetrical broadband services (ADSL), for businesses purposes, to symmetrical broadband services (SDSL).

SDSL offers a different type of broadband experience than ADSL. Whereas ADSL delivers higher speeds to users who want to download large files, SDSL enables users to both send and receive data at high speeds. This makes SDSL a more suitable form of broadband connectivity for interactive operators.

On completion of the roll-out program, which will be carried out in two phases, a total of 1,300 exchanges will be enabled for SDSL services. This will bring high-speed symmetrical broadband services to over two-thirds of U.K. businesses.

The rollout should be finished in time for soccer's World Cup--an event that is expected to generate the world's biggest ever gambling turnover numbers.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.