Multi-Screen Video Content and OTT Partnerships Enabled by New Video Network Architectures – Part 1 of 2

Introduction:

This article covers two types of sessions from the content rich OTTCON 2013, held March 19-20, 2013 in Santa Clara, CA:

  1. Second Screen Video from mainstream pay TV service providers OR via a partnership between an OTT network provider and local service provider (telco or cableco).
  2. Video Network Architectures that facilitate OTT video for second screens, smart TVs (with Internet connections), game players, OTT boxes that connect to TVs, etc.

The first article published on the excellent OTTCON 2013 addressed emerging technologies for next generation video.(http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/alanweissberger/technologies-will-offer-higher-quality-viewing-experience-enable-new-ott-servi).

Second Screen Video Content delivered by pay TV Service Providers :

Until now, second screen apps for mobile devices have been used primarily for searching, browsing and selecting content for the first screen (TV).   Examples include looking up information about a particular TV program, a movie review, actor bios, related programs, use as a remote control device, etc. There has not been too much OTT content being watched on those second screens, even though most pay TV customers have free access to “TV everywhere” from their pay TV service provider. Some may also have access to Hulu, Netflix, etc but don’t watch those much on second screens either (they use either game players or dedicated boxes like the one from Roku).  But in the future, there are other possible uses of the second screen such as social TV and watching pay TV/OTT video content from a service provider.

“Second-screen devices such as tablets, smartphones and ultrabooks are likely to be the principal force behind social TV experiences as companion apps are increasingly written for that experience,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner Group. “A combination of content integration, social interaction and loyalty programs are the key activities that will make up the social TV experience.”

Long-term efforts to connect traditional TV broadcasts to the Internet have largely been limited to either content companion websites or connected devices such as smart TVs, video format converter and set-top boxes.  None of these approaches has led to the creation of interactivity or a social networking type of viewing experience for consumers. Or watching OTT video programming from their pay TV service provider.

One company thinks that will change in a big way! Speaking at 2013 OTTCON in Santa Clara, CA, Alan Hoff, VP of Strategic Marketing at SeaChange said that MSOs/Cablecos and Telcos would soon be delivering multi-screen TV services; and it will not be just the largest service providers (SPs), either. Concerned about disintermediation from OTT players, multi-screen TV was said to be “in the sights of every (pay TV) service provider.” It addresses the OTT provider threat (think “cord cutting” or “cord-trimming”), while capitalizing on the IP and web technologies that may providers are now using to deliver video content to TVs (e.g. AT&T’s U-Verse network uses IPTV technology while Comcast uses a managed IP network to control VoD delivery).

Second screen video will provide SPs with new opportunities in long time content owner relationships. Advertisers were said to favor second screen video because of its interactivity capability. The Diffusion Group forecasts 2017 tablet video viewing (as a second screen) to be significantly greater than all the on-line/OTT viewing in 2011, in terms of total hours watched (58B hours versus 38B hours, respectively).

Several examples of collaboration between OTT providers and video SPs were given:

  • Virgin Media (UK) is offering YouTube and BBC iPlayer.
  • A Time Warner Cable app is being distributed on by Roku for use on their box that plays OTT content on TVs via HDMI cable connection.
  • Com Hem (Sweden) is combining OTT content with its linear, on-demand, and catch-up TV services.

Service provider/OTT integration examples were said to span all network operator types –cable, telco, mobile, and satellite. Superior reliability, quality of user experience, simplicity of a seamless experience, and presentation across multiple devices were the benefits to be realized, according to Mr Hoff.

Distribution of OTT content by SPs could be via: the on-demand program listings, local distribution of specialized content, or a pay TV event (e.g. VOOmotion+ created a pay per view offering for Belgian Premiere League Football).

+  VOOmotion is an innovative multi-screen video service offered by cableco VOO in Belgium. Launched in December 2012 and now available to VOO’s triple-play customers across Belgium, VOOmotion is founded on SeaChange’s Adrenalin video platform and Nitro subscriber experience software.

Summing up, Mr. Hoff stated that:
  • Service providers‘ multi-screen expansion will bring in a huge audience.
  • Think of the multi-screen platform as a brand-builder for the SP as an OTT content distributor.
  • The lines of video consumption are blurring: OTT needs to be everywhere, and “SP multi-screen is prime real estate!”

“You have to follow the video consumers.  They’re on the move and they’re using more and more devices to watch video content,” said Hoff.  “Blended content services are the key to consumer satisfaction and video service providers are in hot pursuit with their high QoS multi-screen offerings.  Ultimately, they’ll coalesce everything consumers desire into one convenient source and a powerful brand association for OTT providers,” he added.

OTT Content delivered by Partnership between OTT Provider and Local Service Provider:

Evegent slide 8 depicting role of local service providers.
Image courtesy of Evergent

In a related 2013 OTTCON session titled, “What does it take to be a global OTT Service Provider,” Evergent CEO Vijay Sajja said, “the opportunity exists for an OTT service that combines local LiveTV channels and premium VOD content.”  One method of achieving that vision is for an OTT provider to partner with a local pay TV service provider.   There’s also the possibility of the OTT player partnering with an ISP to deliver higher quality OTT content to (mobile and wire-line) Internet subscribers. Both types of OTT-Local Provider partnering are illustrated in the adjacent figure on the right.

High level slide depicting elements necessary to create a successful multiscreen service.
Image courtesy of Evergent

Note: In addition to this excellent presentation, Evergent showcased their OTT Subscriber Billing and Royalty Tracking software systems at 2013 OTTCON.

Among the key challenges for such a B2B2C (Business-to-Business-to-Consumer) partnership are: support for multiple devices, languages and payment methods; easy sign-up/service ordering/provisioning; video player integration; customer account management; customer care; and fraud alerts.  Key high level elements of an OTT solution is shown in the adjacent figure on the right.

Evergent slide depicting how service provider could offer OTT content.
Image courtesy of Evergent

For an effective partnership, the biggest issue is back office and systems integration between the OTT provider and local Service Provider (pay TV or ISP).  Integration of call centers will also be important for rapid problem diagnosis and repair. The functionality required for all such integration is depicted in the adjacent figure on the left.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article which will examine the architecture of video networks that make multi-screen video  (and other OTT environments) possible.

0 thoughts on “Multi-Screen Video Content and OTT Partnerships Enabled by New Video Network Architectures – Part 1 of 2

  1. Thanks Alan for reporting on OTT Con for the Viodi View. I missed going to OTT Con this year. My impression from this article is that the Service Providers creating their own OTT/Multiscreen video package was a big theme of the conference.

    Did you get the sense that service providers might start actively going over the top against other service providers (e.g. like what Verizon is hinting at with their Redbox partnership)?

    Look forward to part 2.

    1. Ken, I did not get a sense that mainstream pay TV providers were soon to be integrating OTT content with the video services they now offer. And especially for 2nd screen live video or OTT content. In fact, I asked Mr. Huff of SEACHANGE about that and he said the SPs are all working on integrating OTT content, but they’ve been very slow to roll it out.

      In particular, AT&T U-Verse announced second screen video content delivery last July. Here is that announcement:
      http://forums.att.com/t5/Features-and-How-To/AT-amp-T-Expands-U-Verse-Second-Screen-/td-p/3249611 and
      http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23064&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=34776

      And what they actually provide today:
      http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB411932#fbid=Uuz0T02RqNi and for developers:
      http://developer.att.com/developer/forward.jsp?passedItemId=10100307

      Note that you can NOT watch live linear U-verse programming on the 2nd screen and all OTT content consumed on that screen comes from the “best effort” Internet and NOT the U-Verse video network.

      1. The U-verse 2nd screen apps can only run on Apple’s iOS- not Android or other mobile OS/platforms. Those 2nd screen apps don’t have access to live linear or VoD U-Verse TV content. Instead, all OTT content is via the broadband network- either home WiFi, WiFi hot spot or 3G/4G mobile access. Thanks for reporting on these key restrictions!

        1. New input from AT&T:
          Are second screen U-verse apps only available for Apple devices … iPhone, iPad, iPod touch?
          The U-verse app on iOS has second screen capabilities, such as the ability to link your iPad to your U-verse TV receiver to access real-time companion content; to share information about what you are watching with friends on Facebook and Twitter; and to use your device as a remote control. More details are in this press release:
          http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23064&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=34776&mapcode=mk-att-applications|U-verse

          AT&T also offers several U-verse Enabled apps on iOS devices. U-verse Enabled allows you to download apps that are “U-verse Enabled” to your smartphone or tablet, and sync them to your TV over your in-home Wi-Fi. Here are a few examples of U-verse Enabled apps:
          – Easy Remote: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23394&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=35418&mapcode=consumer|innovation-releases
          – Twonky Beam and Pix & Flix: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23655&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=35920&mapcode=att_ces_2012|news_u-verse
          – U-verse Jukebox: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23917&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=36171&mapcode=consumer|news_u-verse
          ——————————————————————————————
          AT&T provides live content to U-verse customers via our programming partners’ apps. For example, we recently launched the WatchESPN app, which allows U-verse customers with ESPN as part of their TV subscription to access ESPN live on compatible mobile devices, tablets, computers and more. The press release for that announcement is here: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23953&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=36204&mapcode=U-verse|news_u-verse

          1. Email from Andrew Morgan of AT&T:
            Alan, There are several kinds of apps for U-verse.

            The U-verse app on smart phones lets you pull up the guide, search for shows, schedule recordings and also watch content. It’s available on iOS, Android and for existing customers, on Blackberry.
            http://uverseonline.att.net/uverse/uverse-mobile-app?utm_source=apps&utm_medium=tile&utm_campaign=Uverse_app_smartphone

            The U-verse app for a tablet is on iPad only right now:
            http://uverseonline.att.net/uverse/uvtablet?utm_source=apps&utm_medium=tile&utm_campaign=Uverse_App_Tablet

            And here is a list of various U-verse apps:
            http://uverseonline.att.net/uverse/apps

  2. TechRadar: By far the most embedded form of second screen use is the BBC iPlayer. With 174 million requests during December 2012 – a 22 percent increase on the previous year – this pioneering catch-up TV app is the standard bearer around the globe.

    “Go to Asia and America and people are talking about the iPlayer as best practice, about how they’re doing, and how it’s operating,” says Carl Hibbert, Head of Broadcast Research at analyst firm Futuresource Consulting. “The free-to-air broadcasters are almost being led by iPlayer, it’s a real flagship product around the world.”

    The second screen thus far is a place to surf the web or YouTube, watch catch-up TV, or join-in a Twitter debate about a live TV show, but getting apps in-sync with a live TV broadcast is where interactive apps could really come alive.
    Read complete article at: http://tinyurl.com/bmm27xn

  3. Albert Lai blog: http://blog.brightcove.com/en/2013/04/dual-screen-evolution-second-screen

    The Tablet is the Primary Screen while the Television is the Second Screen: In this dual screen model, the relationship between the television and the tablet is reversed. The tablet is the primary device, interfacing with and controlling the television, which essentially becomes a – for lack of a better description – dumb terminal, relegated to requesting and rendering video content.

    Dual Screen Experiences: The core capability of dual screen is the ability to create a video experience that deeply integrates the display of video content from the television while supporting simultaneous actions on the tablet:
    -Discovery and selection of video content
    -Playback control
    -Augmentation and enhancement through contextual metadata
    -Interaction and participation through social tools

    Comment: Is this really happening now or just a vision of the blogger?

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