He’s watching you: Murdoch’s TVguru
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