A $129 One-Time All-In Digital Signage Solution From Norway

April 9, 2014 by Dave Haynes

How about $129 for a digital signage system, and you’re done?

That’s the admittedly low-end, absolutely entry-level proposition being floated by the Norwegian software firm Tellystream, which has figured out a method to drop very basic software on an available PC and use multimedia sharing technology common across most late model Samsung TVs.

tellystreamThe Tellystream works with any Samsung TV with AllShare (now called Samsung Link) and built-in wireless networking. The set-up is aimed at pubs, sports bars and other end-users who want a lowest cost possible solution.

“With this new feature Tellystream is addressing pubs, hotels and bars that already show live TV. It is very compelling to leverage new or existing Samsung screens and combine TV and advertising to engage your audience even further. Tellystream is a software only solution with a price point that will disrupt the digital signage market,” explains Co-Founder Carsten Lehbrink.

The software runs on a PC and allows users to build content playlists from images and web pages. It also supports transition effects. Web pages  update in near real-time, making it ideal for displaying information with web technologies. Content is easily created with Powerpoint or Keynote or imported as images. A simple click toggles between content stream and live TV for each screen individually.

The big suggested use case for this is sports bar managers who want to show drink specials and promote upcoming events on screen during game breaks.

I threw a pile of questions at Lehbrink, who was quick to shoot back answers. “Our approach, except for being simple and inexpensive and disruptive, is that we want to enable anybody to experiment with digital signage without investing in specialized hardware. We play out to regular Samsung TVs and you need nothing behind it, and nothing can get detached or stolen.”

Is the integration just with Smart TVs or any Samsung TVs that support Allshare?

It is with any Samsung TV that supports AllShare since the C-series from 2010 (AllShare is Samsung´s way of saying DLNA). We will probably support another TV brand later but we are depending on that a special MKV live streaming format is supported.
Since Samsung is the market leader in LED screens we focus on those screens first.

If I am understanding this correctly, a bar manager with your software loaded on a Samsung tablet or smartphone can take over a broadcast signal with his own programming during commercial breaks, running a playlist developed with Tellystream. Is that correct?

That is partly correct. Our solution runs on a 64bit Windows machine, no tablet or phone yet (we might do that option, but the Windows machine is essential because it has the server part). It is made such that you can use any existing computer. In a basic setup you don´t see that it is a client server concept but you can separate the client and server part having it on different machines. Tellystream connects to one or many TVs through the local network using a very special form of DLNA. There is a menu item that allows you to select or deselect screens into the system. We are completely able to take over a screen showing any signal, either through any of the DVB-T, DVB-C or DVB-S inputs or through any HDMI connection. If we deselect the TV in our menu it is released from our system and shows the regular content again. It is probably easiest to just watch this video:

Tellystream – combining digital signage and live TV from Tellystream on Vimeo.

How do you address the legal issues of interrupting a commercial TV broadcast? Are you suggesting this is just the same as changing channels?

We do not interrupt the broadcast. We see it in a way like changing the channel. As long as you don´t have a contract that you need to leave your commercial TV broadcast on all the time you should be able to freely decide to use your TV for something else in between (or change channel or turn it off). We don´t see any legal problems here since we do not tamper with the original signal or replace anything in the signal.

How does the user know when the game has resumed? Are there smarts built into the software that reads that?

No, this is a weakness. You need to have one device on (radio, another TV, internet) and follow when the match resumes. In Europe it is very common that the TVs only get turned on for the games. If you don´t want to follow closely during the breaks you could use the TV while no games are on. Otherwise you better pay attention or this could backfire heavily ;-).

Is this totally manual? Or can you set this up and then it will handle the commercial breaks for a specific period?

No, this is manually, unfortunately. We offer this at an extremely low price so we cannot have all those convenience features. Creating a system that can switch between advertising and live-TV usually is very costly.

If you can live with our limitation that you need to follow closely it is a very attractive solution, especially if you already have Samsung TVs. We also see that people use it to fill the time between games, not necessarily during the breaks.

Again, this has a lot with ROI and investing to do. If you see a large return you might eventually go for a top of the line solution. But for many bar owner it is difficult to judge if it is worth it. So we encourage people to experiment with it.

Start with Tellystream. Chances are that it is good enough for you. If you outgrow our solution your business case is probably quite clearly defined and you can start with a bigger investment.

Is the $129 one-time fee based on per TV or per venue?

It is based per venue. If you have 10 TVs Tellystream would give you a one time fee of $129 per TV to enable an info screen solution. They are all controlled through the same Windows machine through a LAN or WiFi network.

Can this be supported by commercial Samsung panels and Smart Signage products?

We are working on our own player that will run both on the Raspberry Pi and on Samsung panels. XBMC definitely would work. We were quite surprised by the popularity of the RPI as digital signage platform.

But we would not be very competitive on a commercial Samsung panel. We cannot even show video (even though we stream video to the TVs). We have chosen to optimize for low bandwidth and dropped the video option since we know that there are much better solutions out there in the mid-range.

You can test Tellystream without any investment. If you deploy it it will cost you $129. Buy a Samsung TV, put it up in your bar or shop or company and see if it works for you. You can do this all by yourself. If it increases sales or employee satisfaction just buy a few more TVs. If not don´t worry too much. You can always use the TV for other purposes or sell it off.

The idea for Tellystream materialised when we saw all these DS installations either playing a very fancy (but highly outdated) video or being completely black (because the person that was able to operate it left the company).

Creating good content is expensive. Creating great video content is extremely expensive. Tellystream lets you easily create alright content with Powerpoint or Keynote and your company template.

For the pub and sports bar industry this is of course a home run since a large part of venues already have compatible TVs in place (we support them since 2010. For the old models you can get a WiFi stick for a few bucks).

There we really can fly in under any investment threshold. The biggest obstacle is to get attention in this vast pool of solutions where supply definitely outstrips demand.


Bottom-end stuff? Absolutely.

Is there a market for it? Absolutely.

Mention the whole TVs vs commercial panels thing and you will get vendors bemoaning all the times they’ve fielded questions about why commercial panels were needed and why they shouldn’t used TVs picked up at a Costco or Walmart for peanuts.

There is a large constituency out there that is conditioned to getting technology services for cheap or free, that gets great HD video off set-top boxes and streams movies from tablets to their $35 Chromecast. They will take a lot of convincing to shift to commercial panels and SaaS software solutions.

For all but the smallest software companies, this is a line of business they don’t really want anyway. Small business clients can be, frankly, a pain in the ass. Sales and support can spend hours dealing with one person, sorting out license activation and set-up on a project that’s not worth the resource time put in. It can take more time dealing with a $300 account than it does dealing with a $300,000 account.

I think the whole change the channel thing has a limited appeal in North America because there are so many commercial breaks in football, baseball and basketball. However, the rest of the planet watches soccer, and it has just one long break in a game and that’s manageable.

The disruption keeps coming.

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