OTT to TV for the Independents: a BroadbandVision Show Report

Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA interviews Jeff Gardner of Windstream at NTCA.
Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA interviews Jeff Gardner of Windstream at NTCA.

The BroadbandVision 2014 show was held in Las Vegas last week. While smaller than the TelcoTV show that used to be held for a similar audience until last year, the BroadbandVision show was nonetheless fairly well attended and continued the tradition of being a wealth of good information.

One much discussed topic was Over-The-Top Television (OTT TV) and the ability to bring OTT video onto all screens. From the pre-conference sessions to last day of the event – vendors and Television service operators discussed the technologies behind delivering OTT everywhere. Several presentations and panel discussions debated the technologies that can be used to deliver OTT video.

Quick and Dirty OTT to the TV

More than one panel (and exhibitor) discussed how to deliver video over-the-top to a television without using traditional set-top-boxes. Interestingly, the Roku (see interview with Roku’s Steve Shannon) was the end-user device most often discussed. This is likely because Roku connects directly into the television and supports delivery of content via the Internet – and it is but a small step from there to building an operator application on the device that would allow OTT video to be viewed on a television.

A Roku-based OTT solution appears simple enough to implement that some small operators have taken the extreme step of implementing their own application with their own resources and therefore delivering an OTT solution fairly quickly and at a low price.

This author’s opinion is that, while a quick-and-dirty solution using an OTT device might be a great idea for a proving a proof-of-concept or running a trial, it can potentially be very dangerous for an operator wanting to generate revenue long-term from the video business.

Television video customers are unforgiving. They are also used to slick user-interfaces and high quality video delivery to their televisions. Netflix has made them used to sophisticated recommendations. An incomplete solution runs the risk of alienating video-subscribers and causing damage to the service providers’ video prospects.

Content providers are also demanding partners. They require strong DRM and a complete billing and device management solution and like to see that service providers are protecting precious content and billing accurately for the content.

Thinking Beyond the Short-Term

The Broadband Vision show also had a fair sized exhibit area, which included vendors and others of that ilk demonstrating many different solutions that could also be used to deliver video to multiple screens (including Roku).

These include vendors large and small who have invested varying amounts of efforts to implement multiscreen OTT solutions. It is likely that a thorough vetting process would yield a shortlist of reliable products that could be used by the independent operator to deliver multiscreen video.

A video service provider must think longer term when implementing a video delivery solution including solutions that have at least a path to:

  • Doing true multiscreen delivery (iOS/Android/Game-stations/TVs etc.)
  • Intuitive User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX)
  • Recommendation engines and capability to get audience insights
  • Device management and subscriber management
  • Scalable but fairly priced solutions and so much more.

It behooves us as an industry to make sure video operators are able to implement solutions that will enhance their video subscriber’s experience and help in rapidly spreading positive reviews that will help the video provider’s business flourish.

Summary

Technology choices aside – it was clear that OTT multiscreen delivery is fast becoming a must-have for all video operators. Service providers (regardless of size) were interested in understanding how to get OTT to every device inside the home. It was a positive sign for the independent operator that there are several viable options for multiscreen delivery. The Broadband vision 2014 show signaled some exciting times ahead for OTT and the independent operator.

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