So as my blog has exploded with activity over searched for 4oD on Wii possibilities (688 hits over 2 1/2 months for a single blog on 4oD!), I decided to hunt down the man in charge Richard Davidson-Houston and try to persuade him to give me a few words on 4oD’s console future, thing is Richard was more than happy to speak to you the gamers who want the services they provide on your system.

So click through for more!

Hello Richard, thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A session with me.

First of all would you like to introduce yourself and what you do at Channel 4.

> > I’m Richard Davidson-Houston and I run the web sites at Channel 4: Channel4.com (including 4oD Online), E4.com and so on.

and secondly can you give a quick brief for those who may not know what 4oD is.

> > 4oD is our Video-on-Demand (VoD) service. It includes 30 days of catch-up and thousands of hours of archive Channel 4 programmes.

What is C4’s action plan on bringing 4oD to other internet enabled devices?

> > Extending 4oD beyond the TV (we’re on BT Vision, TIscali and Virgin) and PC/Mac is part of the agreed plan for 2010. Meantime we’ve already been experimenting with a few things behind the scenes.

Do you feel like C4 is slightly behind the trend with the BBC iPlayer being made available for most devices in many peoples hands and homes (iPhone, PS3, Wii) and Sky have just launched their Sky Player feature on the Xbox360?

> > Yes, but in other ways we’re ahead. For example, no-one else has as big a programme archive available on demand.

What would it take for 4oD to be brought to gaming platforms like the Wii?

> > I’m handing off here to Matt Wilson, Senior Solutions Architect for 4oD ..

“To bring 4oD to other connected internet devices we have two main challenges.

The first is to make 4oD more appealing for a 10 foot UI. This luckily isn’t technically too difficult but is vital if we’re going to offer an excellent user experience. The real challenge in this space will be how to bring the full 4oD archive to an interface that may not have a keyboard. Look at the full list here and you can see the challenge: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4oD/all !

The second more technically challenging issue is round security. We employ features from Flash, Flash Media Server and some proprietary software to ensure our content is secure from copying and enforces our business model (crucially: we don’t own the Content, unlike some other broadcasters, so we have a duty to the Production Companies to protect it). However the level of support across different devices varies greatly, from none to fully comprehensive.

Unfortunately in these latter cases there is very little we can do and in some cases it’s not in the device manufacturers hands either – the level of RTMPE support in Flash Lite for example.”

Nintendo recently upgraded their Opera Browser with Flash Lite 3.1, would it be possible for the 4oD website to be expanded to accept this flash format that is very similar to Flash 9?

> > It seems unlikely to be as simple as that as the Flash Lite security is not powerful enough (see Matt’s answer above).

Nintendo in Japan have a video on demand service called “Wii No Ma” channel, would C4 ever consider partnering with Nintendo to created a specific Wii Channel for 4oD or being part of an on demand service that may include other services for the UK and RoI?

> > I’d certainly not rule it out.

Do you think C4 could be pro active and possibly approach Nintendo about such possibilities?

> > I expect we will be talking with lots of people in the coming months. But again, we have to pick and choose where we should spend our time and effort.

Personally I would prefer using such a service through my consoles than a computer, sitting on my sofa watching a bigger screen is much more relaxing than on a chair in front of a computer screen. With around 12 million (6m Wii, 2.5m PS3, 3.5m 360) consoles sitting at homes around the UK connected to televisions, do you think this is a consumer that can be missed out on much longer?

> > There’s certainly a compelling argument to consider carefully. The right people, from a technical and business perspective are getting into it as we speak. 4oD on the PC has had a dizzying year of growth and taken up a lot of our attention. But one thing we know for sure is we can’t rest – and we don’t want to either.

As you may or may not be aware nintendo and the BBC have launched a iPlayer channel that sits directly on the Wii’s menu screen.

What do you think of this new service and would it be something that the 4oD development team could work towards in the future?

> > We really like it and yes, we’d like to. As Channel 4 is commercially funded (unlike the BBC), we have to prioritise carefully so it’s not possible to say either that we definitely will or, if we do decide to, when. But if we conclude it’s viable to do so, we’d be keen as mustard.

And on my blog I posted about how the BBC commented on Nintendo releasing a Video on Demand Framework, would the 4oD team be actively going out to get this development platform to play with and hopefully build some sort of alpha version of a 4oD Wii player to test it’s viability?

> > We are actively exploring the opportunity in extending to new devices. That means that the business people are looking at them on the one hand and the tech team on the other hand. Behind the scenes the tech team has already been tinkering.

Lastly would you like to leave us with a thought about the future for the 4oD service.

> > We’ll be doing everything we can to make 4oD as simple, reliable and accessible as possible. As 4oD users ourselves we are really passionate about these things and where there’s unmet demand or a problem, we feel it.

Thank you very much for your time, it’s been great being able to ask these questions.

> > Absolute pleasure. It’s a huge privelege to be responsible for something that people actually want to use and care about.

Well there ya go, make the demand known for 4oD on your system of choice and they will answer your call. But in the mean time, I see the 4oD team exploring options on the proverb of “build it and they will come”. I for one cannot wait to see the fruits of this particular labour on either my Wii or 360! If you want to directly contact Richard, please leave a comment here for him to read in future or visit his blogs at the Platform 4 blog within Channel 4 Blog’s

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