Posts By: Steven Hawley

CenturyLink Part 2: Who’s minding the store?

Posted by & filed under CenturyLink, Comcast, Competition, Operators, tvstrategies.

CenturylinkOur story so far…  We moved our office at the end of May, but our communications services were not established until mid-June.

At about 9am on June 14 – our re-scheduled installation date – I called CenturyLink to confirm the technician’s arrival time.  “Between 10am and 12 noon,” I was assured.  When I called again at about 3pm, they confirmed that a technician had in fact been dispatched.  A few minutes later, the CenturyLink truck pulled up and I intercepted the technician as he was inspecting the side of the building.  Expressing frustration with the state of the outside wiring, he said that the first installer and one of his colleagues had both taken early retirement, leaving just two installers for our area.

At that moment, a second CenturyLink truck pulled up, and as the two technicians conferred, I overheard that neither of them knew that the other one was coming, and that neither of them had the hardware they needed to complete my installation.  Undaunted, the first technician dismissed the second one and sheepishly asked whether I would be here the next morning (Yes!), and then asked me to lead him to the indoor telecom patch panel was so he could complete his pre-installation inspection.

Here’s where I reveal a guilty secret: prior to my move, and before I found out that I had been calling the “wrong” CenturyLink office to schedule install my new service, I placed a $100 deposit with CableCo to install phone and broadband service.

When the CableCo technician visited during the last week of May to pre-inspect my facilities, I showed him the access panels to both the outdoor and indoor wiring.  Equipped with the knowledge he needed and making no further comments, he left.  But when the “right” CenturyLink office was revealed to me, my sense of loyalty to the Telco industry led me to cancel CableCo’s installation and ask for my deposit back. I was beginning to regret that decision.

As the CenturyLink installer proceeded inside to complete his inspection, I asked whether he would mind whether I followed along to watch what he was doing – explaining to him that I was in the telecom industry and knowledgeable about the Mediaroom platform that CenturyLink uses for TV.  Realizing that he was talking to a friend (sorta…), lots of revealing conversation ensued.

As he removed the cover to expose the indoor wiring patch panel, we saw that there was none – just a mass of wires.  As he organized the wires into three pairs, he informed me not to expect an upgrade path to CenturyLink’s (advertised) 100mbps service.   Having settled for 3mbps VDSL service in my previous office, I was ecstatic at the prospect of having 20mbps service at the new one.  But then again, what if I did want to upgrade to 100mbps later?

To get 100mbps service, we needed four pairs of conductors from the Calix switch providing our service.  The technician had seen this situation in our neighborhood before.  Apparently, despite an agreement with the builders of our development to equip every subscriber with four pairs of wiring, the contractors engaged by the builders installed only three.  To get to four-per-subscriber, new wiring would need to be installed for each subscriber, and capacities of the up-stream transport facilities would need to be re-evaluated, and possibly upgraded.

The agreement also apparently called for them to install patch panels, but as we saw, none were present.   Meanwhile, CenturyLink had equipped this area to handle hundreds of subscribers, but CenturyLink’s actual subscriber-count was only about two dozen, partly due to this situation.  Ceding the rest to CableCo (which doesn’t need four pairs to provide service).

To add insult to injury, the CenturyLink installers who had recently taken early retirement had been suspected of sabotaging new installations by stuffing small rocks into the wiring conduits alongside the buildings, so the wiring would not be accessible.  If true – and perhaps they were just disgruntled short-timers – it made me wonder who they were really working for.  Between possible sabotage, insufficient in-building wiring, and the lack of IT integration described earlier, the cards are stacked against any possibility that CenturyLink could do much better than it is doing.

It’s really a sad situation, and it would probably motivate the developer of this area to take some kind of legal action – if only they knew about it.   Even if I have some of the details not-quite-right, I’ve been thinking about informing the development’s management of this situation.  But how far would this information get within the developer’s organization, and will it motivate them to take action?  And if so, against whom? 

On Friday June 15, we had service.  But one of the primary reasons we opted for CenturyLink service was to have line-powered phones in the event of power outage.  Because CenturyLink has fiber-to-the-premises access here (not that I’m complaining), we could need a battery back-up to preserve service unless the nearest switch has its own.  If we do need one, hopefully the charge for it is minimal.

Also on Friday I received a $100 refund check for the deposit I had made in May with CableCo for the service that we canceled before it was installed.  I had forgotten.   

CenturyLink Part 1: They still don’t get IT

Posted by & filed under Blog, CenturyLink, Comcast, Operators, tvstrategies.

CenturylinkAt the end of May, tvstrategies moved its global headquarters, but our communications services were not to be active until mid-June.  It’s the second time that CenturyLink failed at provisioning our basic telephone and broadband services.  Our story…

Because we are in an area that occasionally loses electrical power, we need a land-line from the local telephone company.  People forget that the CableCo provides phone service using Voice over IP.   Which means that when you lose power, you lose your router, which in turn means you lose not only your broadband service but also your phone – which will be important when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes.

So before our move, rather than placing an order with CableCo, I called local incumbent Telco CenturyLink.  Strangely, they couldn’t find our new address, asked me to identify the township and section from county land records (!) and instructed us to contact CenturyLink in Florida, 2,700 miles away.

Figuring that there had to be a better way, we contacted the management of our new development which gave us the number for the CenturyLink office that manages the area surrounding tvstrategies‘ new digs.  They located us quickly and scheduled the installation for May 30th.

But why did this happen? Because although CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest Communications (previously US West, one of the seven regional operating companies that resulted from the 1984 break-up of the Bell System) was completed in 2011, the two companies had still not integrated their IT systems.

Since my old office was in former Qwest territory and the new one is in a territory that was once part of CenturyLink’s predecessor CenturyTel, it meant that CenturyLink had no way to coordinate the relocation of our services – which should have been a simple of entering a new address on an admin screen.  Instead, our new address was invisible to them, and therefore didn’t exist.

But there’s more. A CenturyLink installer came out on May 30, poked around for a few minutes and informed us that they had to do some digging.  Even though there is a FTTH pedestal on the property, literally 20 feet from the door.  So yes, CenturyLink does in fact serve the neighborhood (or, in Telco/Cable jargon, “the buildings are passed”), but even the responsible office can’t seem to see whether or not the individual buildings are actually connected without a site visit.

CableCo, on the other hand, also passes all these buildings – and knows where their lines are.  They are also good at incenting new subscribers with “triple play” service (TV, broadband access and telephone together).  To provide the TV portion of the triple play, CenturyLink offers AT&T’s DirecTV, since they are no longer promoting their own Mediaroom-based Prism TV service.

When I asked the CenturyLink installer how long it would be (“Days? Weeks? Months?), he said “probably a week – someone will get back to you.”  After he left, I saw that he had left the door open for the network interface box on the side of our building.  I rolled up the exposed wiring by hand, stuffed it onto the box, and closed the door.

After several days of no contact, I called CenturyLink in Gig Harbor again and was informed that our installation would happen on June 14.  I called them again on the Monday prior to installation to re-confirm, and was assured it was still on.

I’m glad I had the foresight to add cellular/LTE compatibility for my iPad – as a mobile hot spot, it serves to connect our computers and other sundry devices to the outside world. But the cellular signal is marginal here, and we sometimes lose the connection.

June 14th couldn’t come soon enough. Click for what happened next…

GDPR: Does it apply to TV technology vendors?

Posted by & filed under News.

Image source: https://www.gdpreu.org/links-to-official-resources-395/The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect on May 24 (tomorrow, as I write this). You’ve probably received emails from your business partners, vendors, and companies that send email to you; asking you to opt in to emails that you already receive – and giving you the opportunity to ignore those which you no longer need.

The GDPR provides a regulatory framework to ensure the protection of personal data. But if you’re a technology provider to a company that proivdes consumer-facing video services to consumers in the European Union – one step removed from the consumer – do you need to care about GDPR on behalf of your service provider customers? The short answer is almost surely yes! (consult your corporate counsel)

The TV service delivery and security platforms that enable service providers and content providers to offer video services to consumers provide features that allow them to manage their end-users, and allow end-users to manage their own preferences for the services they take. These end users rely upon the provider to implement personal data preferences according to their desires, including the privacy of their personal data.

Consumer-facing entities will turn to their technology suppliers to help them comply with the GDPR. Suppliers outside the European Union that enable services to Europeans from the cloud are not exempt. According to Article 3, Recital 22, “Any processing of personal data in the context of the activities of an establishment of a controller or a processor in the Union should be carried out in accordance with this Regulation, regardless of whether the processing itself takes place within the Union…”

So a note to vendors and B-to-B service providers: if your platform manages privacy preferences for consumers in Europe and you haven’t paid attention to GDPR, the train leaves the station tomorrow! The penalties for non-compliance are very stiff: “For … especially severe violations … the fine framework can be up to 20 million euros, or in the case of a company, up to 4% of their total global turnover in the previous fiscal year, whichever is higher. But even the catalogue of less severe violations … sets forth fines of up to 10,000,000 euros, or, in the case of a company, up to 2% of its entire global turnover of the previous fiscal year, whichever is higher.”

It’s not something to lose customers over. Are you paying attention now?

Video Quality and Analytics: Two categories are really one

Posted by & filed under Blog, Multiscreen, Opinion, SNL Kagan.

Indian TV test pattern_rca_3The transition by broadcasters and pay TV operators from traditional services delivered to TV set-top boxes, to multiscreen distribution, seems to have created a two-headed beast with respect to video quality assurance.

On one hand, monitoring for MPEG delivery to STBs involves comparison of the source video before and after encoding, monitoring for data communications errors in transmission, and evaluation of the video after processing or delivery: characteristics like clarity, chroma, luma, A/V sync, the integrity of closed captions, plus things like channel-change latency and so on.

On the other hand, monitoring of adaptive bit-rate (ABR) streaming is more about determining buffering time, rebuffing and freezes, DRM errors, how often the stream changed video profiles adaptively, whether or not the viewer abandoned or completed the video – all of which are more transactionally-oriented. Of course, the data generated by this kind of monitoring is also useful to marketers (and not just to video and network engineers)

In reality, end users generally are not aware of the technologies that make their video experiences possible, nor should they care. Therefore, video providers must take an ecosystem approach that helps ensure the quality and continuity of the overall consumer experience, regardless of delivery or the nature of the end user device.

As it turned out, the first 4K content was distributed over adaptive streaming. But 4K, by definition, is high resolution, and to the end user, it doesn’t matter that the distribution was ABR.

So, in reality, the considerations inherent in the ‘two-headed beast’ of traditional and streaming video quality assurance are really one. The preservation of content integrity during transmission (QoS), the perceived quality at the consumer device (QoE), and whether or not the experience had continuity are equally important. And no matter how the video is delivered, monitoring gives video providers more tools to attract advertisers.

My Spring 2017 report for SNL Kagan, on Multiscreen Video Quality Assurance provides further details and analysis of this situation.

Apple 2016: What were they thinking?

Posted by & filed under Apple, Blog, Devices, News, Opinion, Smartphones, Steve Jobs, tvstrategies.

Although 2016 was generally a good year for technology, I do have a few bones to pick about Apple.  Hence, my first annual 2016 Apple ‘What were they thinking?’ blog post.

My “Baker’s” Top Ten list:

1) New MacBook Pro: The Touch Bar, which is the signature feature of the higher-end models. It’s dim and difficult to see, even under lesser indoor room illumination; and there’s no way to adjust its brightness manually.

2) New MacBook Pro: No real-world connectivity except for WiFi, BlueTooth and two or four USB-C ports.  Meaning that you need adapters for Ethernet, external display or projectors, and no SD memory card slot, which are useful (required) in Enterprise market,

3) New MacBook Pro: No Magsafe connector, so now, after a ten year hiatus, people can again bring their machines crashing to the floor when they trip over the power cord,

4) New MacBook Pro: Does not incorporate the latest Intel Kaby Lake processor.  People buy this machine for a 4-5 year lifecycle, and part of that is to buy the latest possible processor. The only reason I can think of, for why Apple opted for a previous-generation processor, was to boost 2016 revenue for the MacBook Pro line,

5) New MacBook Pro: No optical (CD/DVD-R) drive.  Even though these have been missing on the MacBook Pro for a few years, I’m not real happy about having to use an external DVD/CD drive to back up my machine onto physical media, which I still do every so often,

6) iPhone 7: No headphone jack, end of story.  Hope that Apple keeps the 6s around for a while longer,

7) iOS: Apple conditions users to use the button in the upper right to go “back” – except for voicemail, where the UI in that position is for changing your voicemail greeting,

8) iOS: Why does Apple insist on hiding elements of the UI that are useful, like the Search box and the ‘Back’ arrow in the browser?

9) iOS: Users have to shift to the alternate keyboard for the @, which is only the most used character on the Internet.  Really?

10) iOS: Apple ‘expires’ old versions of iOS too quickly, even when the new ones are known buggy.  Yes, you can download older OS versions, but as soon as the installer program pings Apple, the installation process is halted.

And just like a “Baker’s Dozen,” where you get 13 for the price of 12, here’s the rest of my Baker’s Ten:

11) Software stability:  iOS 10.2 broke several of my apps.  iOS 10.2 also apparently shuts down some iPhone models when the battery level reaches 30%.   iOS 9 was problematic too.

12) Technical support:  Neither an AppleCare phone support rep nor any of the Genius Bar staff in my local Apple store could confirm whether a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter could be used to connect and migrate my software and content from my old Mac to the new one – and told me to use WiFi.   I had to buy the Ethernet adapter and try – thankfully it worked fine.

I waited for a long time before buying a new MacBook Pro, hoping for better.  But given the first five items in my list, I went ahead and bought a 2015 model instead, which still has at least the first three.   The 2015 model is sufficient for my purposes, has fast solid state storage, the screen is beautiful, and it has the connectivity I need (with the exception of the optical drive)

After Steve Jobs returned to the company 20 years ago and Apple had its long series of successes with the iMac, iPod, and all the other iDevices, it hurts to think that the post-Jobs Apple has again lost its way.

Just as was the case pre-Jobs’ return, Apple again has many Mac models on the showroom floor, with little to differentiate many of them.  Who remembers the Mac Performa, Quadra, Centris, LC, Macintosh II, and Classic, which were all available at the same time. Bewildering.  Much like the current MacBook line-up.  Too many models, and many of them don’t quite fit.

Copyright Infringement: a public service message…

Posted by & filed under Blog, Content.

A letter recently arrived by postal mail, telling me that I had a copyrighted image on my Web site.  Many companies and individuals use images on Web sites that they find online.  Adding a caption that attributed the image to its source was not enough.

Today it was followed up by an email, below.  I write analysis about the use of watermarks and fingerprinting to detect the use of copyrighted content, which I imagine was used in my case; so this incident brought it all home!  Despite having taken the image down after receiving the initial letter, I still had to pay a license fee.

The moral of the story: Make sure you have clear rights (and license) before you use someone else’s content.  Come to think of it, I would expect the same if it were my content.

 


October 5, 2016

Via physical mail and email

Advanced Media Strategies LLC
P.O. Box: 717
Ravensdale, Washington 98051
United States

Unauthorized Use of (Name of the copyright holder) – Reference Number: XXX

(Our agency) provides copyright compliance services to third party content owners, including (the copyright holder). We recently sent you a notice that imagery represented by (copyright holder) was being used on your company’s website; however this matter remains unresolved.

According to (copyright holder’s) records, there is no valid license issued to your company for the use of that imagery.

Use of imagery managed by (this copyright holder) without a valid license is considered copyright infringement and entitles (copyright holder) to seek compensation for infringing uses (Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code). The cost of settlement for past usage of the imagery on your company’s website is $xxx.

To Resolve This Matter – (Reference Number):

You are requested to take one of the following actions within 14 days of the date of this correspondence, as follows:

  • If your company possesses a valid license … (and) the matter will be closed.
  • If your company does not hold a valid license or other authorization for the use of the imagery, please remove the imagery referenced at the end of this correspondence and remit the settlement payment of $xxx.

Please be aware that removal of the imagery alone will not resolve this issue; we require payment of a settlement for past usage even after you have removed the image.

You may have been unaware that this imagery was subject to copyright. However, copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent. Being unaware of license requirements does not change liability….”

(Further reference information followed, with a link to the offending image).

A big picture view of IBC 2016

Posted by & filed under News.

Cable & Satellite International asked me to contribute my thoughts after the 2016 IBC conference in Amsterdam.

The article is available online via CSI’s Web site.

The promises made by technological progress and the industry consolidation of recent years are finally coming to fruition.  Video delivery frameworks now can reside at the customer premises, in the public cloud, in a private cloud, or in a combination thereof. The major video security platforms can be software, hardware, or a combination. Because service delivery can be built around common management and video security platforms, multi-screen delivery challenges have largely been solved.  The remaining challenges revolve around implementing the video player, and video encoding in the cloud.

Two areas that I found to be very interesting, but still flying a bit under the radar for most operators, are video quality assurance and truly integrated video content security. Multi-screen service and adaptive streaming have had a huge impact on both of these.  Each requires an ecosystem approach and each of them benefits from having comprehensive management frameworks.

By the end of the week, this IBC showed that the vendor community is meeting challenges better than ever, to help operators meet consumer needs and better meet consumer expectations.

 

A ‘Zero, One, Two’ Strategy Pays Off for China Telecom Sichuan Branch

Posted by & filed under China, Digital Home, Huawei, IPTV, Multiscreen, News, Operators.

China TelecomChina has more IPTV subscribers than any other country in the world, and IPTV is available to millions of households nationwide. At the 2016 Huawei Global Analyst Summit this Spring, Mr. Jie Feng, CTO of China Telecom Sichuan Branch, explained how its own IPTV service has changed the DNA of his organization.

Traditionally, competition among communications carriers in China has been about providing bandwidth at the lowest possible price. On the mobile side, the three major mobile carriers in Sichuan Province are in a price war: the price for 700mb of data plus 200 minutes of voice service from Sichuan Mobile is equivalent to US$14/month, while Sichuan Unicom and Sichuan Telecom were at US$12 and US$13 respectively. The result is low customer loyalty and greater customer retention costs. In 2011, revenue was growing at a rate of more than 13 percent, but by mid-2013, growth was down to just over 8 percent.

The management of China Telecom Sichuan Province decided that a different approach was needed. Instead of joining the voice and data price war, it would focus its attention on providing Video First. Broadband has long been a national priority in China, not only for the benefit of consumers, but also to attract private investment and accelerate industrial growth. Because China Telecom has rich experience in the fixed broadband business, the company already had the foundation to differentiate itself from its mobile competitors by bringing video to as many consumers as possible.

To accomplish this Video First strategy, a new “Zero, One, Two” business model was put in place, where there is Zero cost for video as a basic service, Internet access over One fiber connection to the home, plus Two smartphones. Unlike the competition, Zero, One, Two enables China Telecom to appeal to the entire household, all for a single price. To support the transformation toward video as a basic service, China Telecom also transformed its organization by combining its TV Broadband, Multimedia, and New Media Operations departments, and placing them under unified management and operations.

By 2015, China Telecom had deployed a full optical network with 90% coverage. Traditional local exchange switches have all been shut down, and voice is all over IP. It took just 330 days from Sichuan Province to go from one to 21 fully-optical cities. In September 2015, the Sichuan government held a ceremony celebrating that it had become the first fully optical province in China. While some construction still remains in remote areas, coverage in cities in 2016 was greater than 98%.

At more than 9 million subscribers, China Telecom Sichuan Branch operates one of the largest IPTV deployments in the world. To provide high definition television, 4K ultra HD and Blu-ray video content, the operator built its ultra broadband metro networks to support 100mbps access. China Telecom also decided that CDN was integral, so it could accommodate not just traditional broadcast video, but also streaming video over the Internet. A three-tier CDN architecture was built, at the province-wide level, in municipalities and in areas that had marginal coverage. To meet the demands of its consumers, China Telecom Sichuan Branch opened its network platform to business partners. Content includes live TV such as China Central Television (CCTV), as well as video on demand, music and games.

Devices are also an important element. Before China Telecom Sichuan Branch placed video in its list of basic services, the operator certified full 4K set-top boxes, a first for any Telco worldwide. Then, there’s a feature called Home & Love. While consumers in other cultures tend to communicate mobile-to-mobile, China Telecom recognized that many younger Chinese consumers rely upon video to communicate with family members far away, so Home & Love enables video calling from Handset-to-Handset, Handset-to-TV, and TV-to-TV.

“We know there are high requirements,” said Mr. Feng. “If there are interruptions or pixilation, we will get calls. So over the past 3 years, we have been developing an end-to-end system for video quality maintenance, from user through the operator’s network. We also are striving for zero configuration of the home gateway and set-top box, and zero verification of quality. We have automatic fault-finding: currently our system can find errors in the home, in the optical modem, and in the network, so it’s an end-to-end system.”

China Telecom’s rigorous standards have been paying off. Installations have increased by four times. Fault isolation has increased by 10%, and customer satisfaction has gone up 12%. The company knows that customer satisfaction can increase greatly if they can identify and deal with problems before customers see them.

“If we can become pro-active, not passive, and forecast the user experience before the complaints come,” said Mr. Feng, “it will help a lot. We will continue to push the border of our video services and become a global leading operator.” China Telecom Sichuan Branch is already well on its way.

Compared with OTT and TVE, TTM is BoBW

Posted by & filed under Apps, Devices, DISH, Middleware, Operators, OTT, TV Apps.

191-_Go Over the Top_workWe all know about ‘Over the Top,’ where an online video provider circumvents or disintermediates a pay TV operator (while using the operator’s own network to deliver said video).  Then there’s ‘TV Everywhere,’ in which pay TV content providers require users to associate themselves with their pay TV subscriptions or, no play.

Through the Middle

A third online video service model is where a pay TV operator enters into a relationship with an OTT provider or online aggregator and exposes the online service within its pay TV experience.   In other words, not OTT or TVE, but “through the middle,” or “TTM.”

At first, it sounds like a gimmick – some kind of desperation move by the pay TV provider to give frustrated subscribers one more reason not to cut the cord.  But let’s look a little further…

TTM: A little background

In March 2014, the Danish broadband provider Waoo! introduced Netflix from within its pay TV user interface, through the middle.  Here’s a demo video (in Danish).

This is enabled through the integration of software from Netflix, Nordija and Airties, which are Waoo!’s TV middleware and set-top box suppliers, respectively.

DISH embraced TTM too

In December 2014, DISH Network introduced Netflix integration as well.   DISH’s implementation is different from Waoo!’s.  While Waoo! dedicated a button to Netflix in its main menu, DISH placed Netflix within the electronic program guide, which made Netflix “just another channel.”

DISH 2015-0403 Netflix in Hopper EPG

So now, I can access Netflix using the same method of access as DISH uses for video on demand.

TTM’s not a gimmick

Again, I thought “it’s a gimmick.”  Until I decided to try it.  If you own a streaming video player, you’ve probably been through a drill that goes something like this:

  • Turn on the TV set (using either the pay TV STB remote or the TV set’s own remote)
  • Locate the streaming video player’s remote, press the button to activate it
  • Locate your TV set’s remote, and change the input from your pay TV set-top box, to the streaming video player
  • Navigate the video player’s menus to the Netflix application, and activate the app
  • Navigate the Netflix thumbnails, using up/down/right/left on the streaming player’s remote, or locate the search field and use the text search character matrix.
  • Watch videos on Netflix
  • Grab the TV’s remote and switch the input back to your pay TV set-top box
  • (…At which point, we’ve used at least two different user interfaces – that of your streaming player and Netflix.’  Plus, perhaps, the TV set’s own UI – and as many as three different remote controls)
  • (…At which point, my wife asks me to call someone for technical support – but who?)

Compare this classic early-adopter experience with DISH’s TTM experience

  • Turn on the TV, using the DISH remote
  • Bring up the EPG and navigate to Channel 370
  • Press the center button to enter Netflix.
  • The Netflix user experience takes over (DISH can’t be held responsible for Netflix’ unusable search and recommendation capabilities)
  • Hit Cancel, Cancel, Cancel… to back out of Netflix and return to DISH
  • (…at which point we used one remote control and two UIs: that of DISH and that of Netflix)

The first time you access Netflix via the DISH EPG, you must enter your Netflix ID and passcode.  Any subsequent use of Netflix goes right from the EPG to Netflix, with no login needed.

Has someone already decided that TTM is too good to be true?

I was initially motivated to write this article because Zatz Not Funny published a report that the YouTube and Amazon apps were being removed from the TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 DVRs, as of April 15.  Sure enough, TiVo confirms this.  Because the apps reside on the TiVo box, this is really another version of Through the Middle.

I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Amazon and YouTube were starting to get choosy about their distribution channels – and that TTM might just be a fleeting phenomenon as different content providers contend against one another to be the one on top.   Or as my wife’s dad used to say: “If it’s any good, they’ll stop making it!”

As it turns out, the moves by Amazon and YouTube are simply because the TiVo 2- and 3-Series are old, and the app developers made the choice not to support them anymore.   In fact, video apps from Amazon, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Vudu (and others) are all key selling points for TiVo’s current Roamio DVR, and surely these video providers must appreciate having access to TiVo’s subscribers.

tivo-roamio-ttm

Not long ago, an industry friend of mine told me that Netflix had been in a pay TV operator’s EPG, but had pulled out.   But the reason that Netflix and the pay TV provider went their separate ways was because Netflix wanted more control over the user experience.

So, these weren’t cases of competitive wrangling or channel conflict at all.  One was about discontinuing support for old devices, and the other was about a content provider trying to maintain its look and feel across any device environment.

TTM is BoBW

Pay TV operators that integrate their services with TiVo can choose whether or not to expose TiVo’s OTT apps through the middle, but that’s also another story.  In those cases, the pay TV operator is calling the shots, which brings us full circle back to the debate as to whether OTT is a threat or an opportunity for operators.

In the end, I view ‘Through the Middle’ is BoBW (the Best of Both Worlds) as a consumer retention tool for pay TV.  But I think it’s more because of the added convenience, and it’s a tacit admission by pay TV operators that OTT can be a friend and isn’t a threat.

[ Side note: This topic takes us into a whole 'nother discussion about where the pay TV provider's user experience leaves off, and where the OTT (TTM) provider's UEx takes over.   I promise an article about this soon. ]

TV and Online Video: Boom times in India

Posted by & filed under News, Operators, tvstrategies.

1947_India_Flag_stampIt’s an easy trap to fall into: to be so distracted by goings-on in what have traditionally been the world’s largest pay TV and online video markets that we miss what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Case in point is India.  Five to ten years ago, it was easy to dismiss India as a yet-to-emerge market for pay TV.  There was a vague assumption that IP video might succeed over mobile, but not anytime soon.   And because per-subscriber revenue is so low, the conventional wisdom among infrastructure providers was that India wasn’t particularly worth their attention anyway.

Fast forward to the present day: India’s TV and online video industries are super-active, white-hot.  Last summer, Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia estimated that pay TV in India would grow at a 11% per year through 2018, driven by rising ARPU.

Just during the first calendar quarter of 2015 alone:

  • India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued operating licenses to  11 TV operators between November 2014 and January 2015, and then another 11 between January and early March.  In that short period, it represents about 15 percent of the total number of operators in the country (153 total, as of March 10)
  • Operators are adding new TV channels at a rapid pace.  Tata Sky announced that its move to MPEG-4 is making room for 20 new channels.  The same operator launched 4K set-top boxes early in 2015.
  • Outside media companies see India as a new market opportunity for their programming.  Turner announced the launch of its Toonami channel with five operators in February.  Online video provider Hungama.com is adding Disney and Marvel content.
  • New online video providers are also coming on the scene. Viral Fever launched on online movie service, while Culture Machine, which distributes content over YouTube, raised US18M to fund its network of 400 India-based media brands and independent content providers.
  • Graphic India raised about U$3M from the Asian investment arm of Chernin Media, which is also noteworthy because Chernin has a content partnership with AT&T (my guess is that this could help fuel a future AT&T ‘International’ content offering in the US).
  • New operators and broadcasters are also raising money: One operator, Ortel Communications, raised INR1.75B (about US$28M) in March.  India-based  Zee Media is offering 108M shares in its IPO, and is launching its &TV service in the UK in combination with the trivia app QuizUP on April 6.
  • New video advertising networks are coming on the scene, with launches by Komli Media and Seventynine, which offers an in-app advertising platform and advertising SDK for mobile video.

And of course, infrastructure providers are striking while the iron is hot:

  • Verimatrix announced a video security win with Vuclip, a mobile VOD service available in India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East
  • Ericsson, Cisco, and Elemental Technologies all announced operator wins for their 4K-capable video encoding platforms
  • Cisco also announced a win for its Videoscape multiscreen service delivery platform, with DTT operator Videocon 2dh.
  • Companies like Micromax are introducing Android-based 4K/UHD TVs in India, although consumer uptake for 4K in India is likely to be sluggish.
  • Amagi is winning deals with video content providers for its Cloudport cloud-based online video system
  • Technicolor is considering making video technology acquisitions in the country.
  • Home-grown infrastructure providers are emerging.  New Delhi-based Chrome Data has announced an anti-piracy service to fight cable signal theft.  Multivert India has partnered with Video Propulsion to offer low-cost headend equipment.

In short, the entire video industry ecosystem is thriving there.

If nothing else, this situation has prompted me adjust my perception as to which pay TV market might be the biggest one right now.  If not from a revenue perspective, then at least in terms of opportunity and potential.

This article owes a major tip of the hat to NexTV India.