He’s watch­ing you: Mur­doch’s TVguru

The Jewish Chronicle - - BUSINESS - BY CANDICE KRIEGER

IF YOU watch television, there is a very good chance that Abe Peled’s tech­nol­ogy com­pany knows more about you than you think. His com­pany, NDS, sup­plies the soft­ware for ev­ery­thing from satel­lite-TV smart­cards to the Sky+ dig­i­tal video recorders in mil­lions of Bri­tish homes.

Its equip­ment also col­lects de­tailed data about what pro­grammes you watch and ev­ery click you make on your re­mote con­trol. And now Dr Peled pre­dicts that TV ad­ver­tis­ers will soon be able to tar­get you with com­mer­cials tai­lored to your per­sonal view­ing pref­er­ences.

“We are cur­rently ex­per­i­ment­ing with a tech­nol­ogy that com­bines broad­cast tech­nol­o­gyand­broad­band ac­cess that would al­low ad­ver­tis­ers to de­liver ad­verts on de­mand, based on what you [the viewer] are watch­ing,” Dr Peled tells JC Busi­ness. “For in­stance, if you are in­ter­ested in a vacation, you could be open to ads on that, or if you are in the mar­ket for a new car. Th­ese ad­verts could be down­loaded in real time to your television.”

The tech­nol­ogy, which Dr Peled says should be ready in three-to-five years, could also al­low tar­get­ing based on con­sumers’ in­ter­net use and per­sonal de­tails. “The ad­ver­tiser would be able to see where you live, who you are or pref­er­ences you may have ex­pressed, and de­liver more fo­cused and valu­able ad­verts,” says Dr Peled. “Some­one liv­ing in W8 would re­ceive dif­fer­ent types of averts from some­one liv­ing in SE2.”

Is this not an in­va­sion of peo­ple’s pri­vacy? “There are ob­vi­ously pri­vacy is­sues, and peo­ple will be al­lowed to opt-out of the ser­vice,” he ex­plains. “But peo­ple would cheer up know­ing that they are only go­ing to re­ceive ad­verts that are rel­e­vant and of value to them. It is a case of reach­ing the right au­di­ence. Some ads are rel­e­vant to eve- ry­one. Some are not.”

A for­mer tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer in the Is­raeli Army Sig­nal Corps, Dr Peled grad­u­ated from the Haifa Tech­nion be­fore com­plet­ing a PhD in dig­i­tal sig­nal pro­cess­ing at Prince­ton Univer­sity. He went on to work for IBM in the United States, where his fi­nal po­si­tion was vi­cepres­i­dent of sys­tems and soft­ware.

Re­turn­ing to Is­rael in 1993 for per­sonal rea­sons, he be­came se­nior vice-pres­i­dent for busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at tech­nol­ogy firm Elron, where he says he started the coun­try’s first in­ter­net ser­vice.

In 1995, he was hired by Ru­pert Mur­doch to run NDC (now NDS), then a small, strug­gling Is­raeli com­pany. Mr Mur­doch had put $5 mil­lion into the com­pany, es­tab­lished as part of a joint ven­ture with the Weiz­mann In­sti­tute and bought out in 1992 by Mr Murdo- ch’s News Cor­po­ra­tion, which re­mains its ma­jor share­holder.

Dr Peled, now chief ex­ec­u­tive, ad­mits he did not know much about Mr Mur­doch at the time. “I read his bi­og­ra­phy on the plane to meet him.

“I never thought I would take the job, as it wasn’t con­ve­nient for me to move to Lon­don. I went out of cu­rios­ity more than any­thing else. But the op­por­tu­nity sounded great and I was very im­pressed with Mr Mur­doch’s vi­sion and com­mit­ment to the area. So I had to tell my wife that we were mov­ing.”

He re­calls ask­ing Mr Mur­doch why he started such a com­pany in Is­rael. “He told me that he had de­cided en­cryp­tion tech­nol­ogy was go­ing to be im­por­tant in the fu­ture. And on look­ing around for the best tech­nol­ogy, he found the best en­cryp­tion tech­nol­ogy was be­ing done in Is­rael. And his fore­sight turned out to be right.”

NDS has grown 20-fold to a turnover of $800 mil­lion, with a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of close to $3 bil­lion. Its latest ac­counts re­veal a 25 per cent in­crease i n r e v e n u e t o $204.9 mil­lion for the quar­ter up to Septem­ber 30.

D r P e l e d r e - mains b ul l i s h, pre­dict­ing that, sub­ject to cost, the Sky+ ser­vice will be the standa r d di g i box i n homes across the UK over the next five years.

“ I n t i me, we be­lieve there will be 100 per cent pen­e­tra­tion. Once con­sumers get it, they can’t live with­out it. Ev­ery­body is buy­ing big, flat-screen TVs and they want to have con­tent that looks good on it.”

Com­ment­ing on fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions, he adds that NDS is ex­per­i­ment­ing with soft­ware that will en­able view­ers to watch an edited ver­sion of some­thing from the in­ter­net, for ex­am­ple, YouTube, on television. This should also be avail­able over the next three to five years.

Born in Ro­ma­nia, Dr Peled now lives in Kens­ing­ton, West Lon­don, with his wife Ju­dith. He has a home in Haifa.

Abe Peled of NDS ( above, in a mon­tage) is of­fer­ing ad­ver­tis­ers a clearer in­sight into your view­ing habits

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