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Top tv stars – in 3D, too

2011 is sure to be the year of new technologies and innovation in the old black box. The BBJ introduces some Hungarians who could influence the new wave.

iPont: takes on 3D TV

One of the most ambitious steps was taken by iPont was when it showcased its glasses-free (or autostereoscopic), multiview 3D TV technology at the famous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

They brought the 65-inch TV screen, developed by current partner Tridelity, and a special set-top box to the show, to demonstrate that any stereoscopic Blu-ray or live multimedia (like YouTube 3D) content can be transformed into glasses-free 3D content in real time. The company also showed its cloud-based digital signage solutions, developed especially for commercial purposes, as well as  the movie trailers already debuted in Budapest theaters and at Mobile and Multimedia Cluster’s Innovation Tech Show in December.

The CES highlighted that 3D is definitely the way forward for TV manufacturers and content producers alike: but while most of the major brands are still focusing on further developing their glasses-dependent solutions, iPont lined up next to Toshiba and Sony in displaying glasses-free content – yet stole the show. “Our solution is the only one that can be viewed from multiple positions, as it displays a 3D image in 120 degrees,” said CEO Zoltán Korcsok.

The international press was wowed: PCWorld called the technology “breathtaking” and “impressive,” and the 3D TV Box device was featured on CNET and even in Corriere della Sera, which called it an ultimate novelty.

And hype is good for business in TV, too.

Gravity: boost cable TV sales

Gravity, already well-known worldwide for its sophisticated recommendation engines, has started to gain momentum on the broadcast market as well. IPTV, cable and digital satellite service providers are usually slower to react to innovations and to accept such a thing as a recommendation solution as an industry standard, “but 2011 will surely change the game and bring a definite upturn in market penetration,” said Gravity CEO Péter Csíkos. The product, Impress, has proved to be a good boost of sales for VOD and IPTV content for the most innovative cable companies: the largest service provider in Israel has introduced the new feature to more than 1 million subscribers and the system is being established in China and on one of the largest western European markets as well. The US market, already familiar with Gravity’s other products, is also targeted for this business, although it is a slower-moving mammoth in this perspective. Gravity is otherwise sure to have a competitive advantage in not requiring specific user actions for calculating recommendations, as it automatically tracks, learns and profiles viewing behavior. The revenue increase is directly measurable for operators: for a cable TV operator with around 1 million subscribers, Impress generates additional direct revenue of more than €2.6 million per year due to increased VOD and Catch up TV sales.

Gravity has received two rounds of VC financing so far, with a total value of close to $1 million from well-known Wall Street and Hungarian investors, with the second round closing in a few months. It is also ready to receive a third round of another $1.5–2 million, “possibly enough for the next two years’ development and expansion plans,” said Csíkos.

HybridBox: be small to be big

The best advice for innovative companies might be to prepare for the US market, but a company with Hungarian origins can also turn the knowledge of the Eastern European market into a competitive advantage.

Such is the case with HybridBox, the developer of the HomeSys platform and the related HybridBox hardware, which meet today’s demand for non-linear television by bringing all media together in the living room so that internet, TV and everything else can be viewed directly on the TV – something that is good for the consumer.

HybridBox is determined to first establish itself in Eastern Europe –only a “rounding error” for global IT giants like Google or Apple –, which could then be followed by broader European expansion and possibly also a sale to a US company, managing director Csaba Lázár told the Budapest Business Journal.

Already thousands have downloaded the HomeSys free software solution, which is capable of aggregating media content, and it has also sold the first couple hundred units of the combined hardware, HybridBox, in pre-order. “In 3–5 years, the media business will totally change and broadcasting and media rights owners are starting to realize that, looking for solutions like ours,” said Lázár.

To finance expansion and development, the company listed its shares with total nominal value of HUF 510 million on the Budapest Stock Exchange, as well as the Frankfurt and Stuttgart bourses, in 2010. HybridBox estimates that revenues were around HUF 141.8 million last year, with no profits yet from selling its hardware and services, but expects to close 2011 with HUF 105 million EBITDA and more than HUF 1 billion in revenues.