Home Analysis Connies 2018: we profile all the shortlisted international entries

Connies 2018: we profile all the shortlisted international entries

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The Connies awards (organised by Mediatel Events, publisher of Videonet and Mediatel Newsline) represent the best thinking and innovation across the entire media ecosystem, from video distribution technology to advertising planning and media research. The winners and other category prizes were presented yesterday during an awards lunch in London. Here is an outline of every entry that was shortlisted for the three International categories, which focus on technology and video services. Judges also give an insight into why they liked the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners.

For our Connies 2018 results story, go here. To see the results of the Connies 2018 across every category, including the UK-only categories (which include ‘Best Research Project Initiative’, ‘Connected Campaign of the Year’ and ‘Best Use of Connected Data’, go to our sister publication, Mediatel Newsline, here.

 

The Connies 2018

International Categories – Shortlisted Entry Profiles

 

 

CATEGORY: Best TV/Service Update or Launch

 

Freeview Australia – Freeview Plus

= CATEGORY WINNER / GOLD AWARD =

Freeview Plus is the free-to-air Australian TV service that combines broadcaster linear TV with catch-up content in one place, harnessing HbbTV technology. In June 2017 it was upgraded with a new user interface, resulting in a 5% increase in average time spent by viewers visiting the platform.

In the year to December 2017 there was a 61% increase in HbbTV receivers in the market and a 78% growth in videos streamed via Freeview Plus, despite all broadcasters having individual catch-up apps on smart TVs that consumers could use instead.

Viewers are shown a carousel with all the catch-up programmes available for the channel they are watching. One click away, ‘My TV’ presents up to 15 carousels of programme choices from across all the linear channels and catch-up services in one screen, and presents personalised recommendations.

The service upgrade was a collaborative project involving five broadcasters working with a third-party vendor, Switch Media. In the seven months after launch, there were 37% more visitors and 56% more new visitors to what was, by then, a three-year-old service.

View from the judges:

“Broadcasters face growing competition for viewer attention, so achieving a 5% increase in the average time that viewers spend on a free-to-air platform is admirable. This service is delivering against metrics that matter, with a huge increase in the number of visitors and new visitors to an existing service. In a country where connected TV and on-demand is growing rapidly, Freeview Plus puts broadcasters at the heart of that universe.”

John Moulding, Editor-in-Chief, Videonet

 

TV Player – TVPlayer Network PVR Recording Feature

TVPlayer is the UK’s fastest growing OTT platform, currently live streaming 75 free-to-air channels and 30 Pay TV channels to one million active users across a wide range of multiscreen and connected TV devices. It combines live TV, catch-up, on-demand, pay-per-view and now network PVR recording.

The network PVR (nPVR) feature, launched in December 2017, enables online TV viewers to schedule recordings in the programme guide, including series-link recordings. One-quarter of the TVPlayer customer base has used the recording feature, which is credited with a 10% increase in TVPlayer subscribers in January 2018 compared to the previous month.

TV Player has implemented ‘single shared copy’ nPVR; which means only a single copy of a recording is made and this is used for all customers requesting that recording. Viewers can record as many live TV programmes as they want simultaneously across multiple channels. Playback is via your own dedicated recordings page.

Customers taking the paid TVPlayer service get 10 hours of storage included and can buy extra storage (another 50 hours costs £3 a month, for example).

 

Com Hem – Android TV UHD-4K Hybrid STB

Com Hem provides Pay TV, broadband and telephone services in Sweden and is pioneering the use of both Android Operator Tier and Android N – the latest generation of the Android TV operating system – as the basis for a new generation of STBs that will be used for cable, IPTV and OTT services on Com Hem and for terrestrial and OTT services with Boxer, which is part of Com Hem.

Using Android TV, Com Hem has introduced a UHD-4K Hybrid STB that provides a fully customised operator experience with integrated Google services including GoogleCast, PlayStore and Google Assistant (enabling unified search across all apps). Live TV, Catch-up, SVOD and TVOD, including popular streaming services like Netflix, TV4 Play and SVT Play, are all under one umbrella.

The platform is designed to enhance content discoverability and includes an ultra-intuitive EPG that banishes the classic grid and numbered channel listings. 3 Screen Solutions (3SS) provided its 3READY Android TV Client with custom launcher to power the project and was primary project lead.

 

 

CATEGORY: Contribution to User Experience – TV & Video

 

Accedo – Magenta Musik

Helped by Accedo, Telekom Deutschland, the IPTV, broadband and mobile provider, created the Magenta Musik application to provide a 360-degree VR live streaming experience from music concerts. The service is available via website, mobile browsers and as native VR applications on Android, iOS phones/tablet, Samsung Gear VR and DayDream.

The service – which debuted with the ‘Rock am Ring’ rock festival, harnesses the development work at Accedo to create a new way for consumers to interact with VR content. A key UX principle is that consumers never leave the VR experience to move between cameras, stages, artists or other features. The ‘lean-back’ navigation uses head orientation but without putting excess strain on necks.

Magenta Musik uses 360 VR Livestreaming on iOS and Android, using WebVR technologies. The Magenta Musik service is the first in the world to launch this in a commercial music application. The app must handle users moving between multiple stages and cameras and the significant number of live streams that can result.

 

XITE – Personalised Music Television

In 2015, XITE Networks launched Personalised Music Television, an app that presents viewers with its NOW channel, showing the most popular music videos on the service at a given moment and allowing users to ‘like’ or skip videos, launch a menu with curated genre-based channels, or create their own music video channel by selecting genres, moods, visuals and/or eras in a feature called ‘MIXER’.

Users reported difficulty finding XITE Personalised Music Television in operator app stores. The company responded by introducing an auto-start feature to its live linear TV channel, making it more accessible. This provides a seamless transition from the channel to the interactive, on-demand (digital/streamed) experience.

After the auto-start feature was introduced for Personalised Music Television on the XITE TV channel in the Netherlands in August 2017, the number of unique viewers per month increased by 450% in less than six months. Meanwhile, Personalised Music Television is currently the second most popular app on the Ziggo platforms.

 

 Media Distillery – Next Generation Replay Experience

= CATEGORY WINNER / GOLD AWARD =

Using its AI platform, Media Distillery extracts next-generation metadata that was previously only visible to humans, in real-time and at an unparalleled scale, to create a better understanding of what is ‘inside’ video. This knowledge helps TV operators optimise the consumer replay TV experience.

One of three projects under the ‘Next Generation Replay Experience’ banner is EPG Correction. By locating the start and end times of TV programmes, this corrects the difference between scheduled and actual airtimes and related commercial breaks in real-time. In the replay environment, viewers will not miss the first minutes of a programme because they were not recorded or sit through minutes of ads because the programme started later than scheduled.

A related project, Binge Markers, locates the time-marks needed to omit the start and end credits on a show, or the ‘previously on’ segment of a television programme. This enables a smooth transition between episodes for binge viewers.

Meanwhile, Episodic Images technology automatically delivers a relevant and appealing visual image (Thumbnail) that reflects the content concerned, tempting viewers to watch

View from the judges:

“Media Distillery analyses the essence of media to produce descriptive data. It addresses practical problems, like identifying the actual start and end times of programmes or extracting representative images from different episodes. This can really improve the user experience.”

William Cooper, Founder and Chief Executive, informitv

 

 

Net Insight – Live sport enthusiasts experiencing the future of television

= BRONZE AWARD =

For the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship (STCC) race in Stockholm last June, the STCC Live app was created to demonstrate the future potential for live sport where streams to all screens – like mobile, computer, TV and tablet – are synchronized. Net Insight (which provided its ultra-low delay live OTT solution, Sye) partnered with STCC, Lagardère Sports (a leading sports and entertainment agency) and Storyfire (who were responsible for the studio and creative concepts) to create a truly immersive race viewing experience on mobile devices.

The second screen experience included driver cams, cameras from the pit crew, guest commentators and influencers to complement the public broadcast. Viewers could follow their favourite driver and view multiple feeds at the same time to follow parallel actions on the track.

This concept means users can enjoy real-time social media commentary, interactive gaming, in-game betting, voting and polling on the second screens, offering other potential revenue streams. The STCC app uses product placement for driver cams and branded sponsor channels to monetise the content beyond normal broadcast revenue.

View from the judges:

Net Insight’s ‘Live sport enthusiasts experiencing the future of television’ addresses a key stumbling block operators have been facing with multi-cam applications in the age of OTT streaming- namely stream delay and synchronicity, including for live 360-degree streams.”

Benjamin Schwarz, Consultant, CToic Consulting

 

 Medialaan & Yospace – Non-Linear Startover with Dynamic Ad Insertion

= SILVER AWARD =

In August 2017 the Belgian commercial broadcaster Medialaan revealed that it was using Yospace’s server-side Dynamic Ad Insertion platform to monetise live channels on its Stievie and Stievie Premium OTT services. With user experience given priority, the system ensures frame accuracy for a TV-like user experience, with none of the buffering or clunkiness that has long been associated with digital video advertising. One-to-one addressability is enabled.

Medialaan wanted to pursue a long-term vision to improve the quality of the ad experience in other ways, too, helping the broadcaster appeal to new generations of viewers, many of whom had grown used to ad-free video consumption. Yospace’s new Non-Linear Startover functionality lets viewers rewind a live stream, and when in startover mode the ad breaks are shorter, allowing the viewer to catch up with the live channel.

Potential ad spots are therefore sacrificed to improve the user experience. You can also skip a block of ads if you have already seen it.

View from the judges:

“Fully monetising online video is one of the great challenges of our age for commercial broadcasters. This solution demonstrates how it can be done while also boosting the viewing experience. Shortening ad breaks in replay mode, so that viewers can catch up with live, is bold as well as innovative.”

John Moulding, Editor-in-Chief, Videonet

 

 

Utelly – Cross-Services Smart Watchlist

Utelly provides a SaaS platform that delivers content recommendations and discovery searches across multiple sources at once (live TV, replay, SVOD, etc.). This technology feeds into Utelly-branded apps, white-label apps that service providers and content owners can offer consumers, or apps these companies build themselves.

Utelly has developed a cross-service watchlist for consumers to bookmark and track shows wherever they are listed. It aims to break down service provider centric silos and ease the user/viewer experience when tracking the availability of content from across their subscriptions (linear, catch-up or on-demand).

The platform surfaces and tracks content that has not yet been released for home entertainment, with users notified when it is available. Mobile users can be notified about TVOD price changes, if content is scheduled for linear TV or when it will disappear from services.

The feature has had a positive effect on key KPIs such as: A significant increase in plays per active user; Twice the shows tracked per active user; The percentage of pre-released shows being tracked has doubled.

 

 

CATEGORY: Video Technology Hero

 

Accedo – Accedo One

A modern video service needs to be updated regularly across all devices and Accedo One makes those updates faster, cheaper and more reliable. It allows the video providers to configure all their client applications from one dashboard, regardless of platform or underlying technology. It serves unique user experiences (UX) that adapt to the app version, device type and even time of day. It is a cloud-based configuration platform that gives the video provider absolute control over their consumer experience.

Video providers can create UX profiles and their service asks Accedo One, based on defined business rules, which profile is applicable at a given time for a given consumer. Each profile can be defined and configured – allowing for a completely adaptable and dynamic UX. Once the video service has been configured with Accedo One, it takes 1-2 hours to create new profiles. Profiles are changed in real-time.

This solution overcomes a fundamental challenge in a multiscreen world: managing the UX across diverse client apps. It is deployed with 80 service providers.

 

 Verimatrix – Federated Rights Management

= CATEGORY WINNER / GOLD AWARD =

= INTERNATIONAL GRAND PRIX WINNER =

The variety of codes, file formats and encryption mechanisms now used for video delivery means that in a hierarchical ‘wholesale/retail’ content distribution architecture, end-to-end protection often requires repeated content decryption and re-encryption. This is complex and costly and it reduces security because of opportunities for mismanagement and content theft at each intermediate point. Content owners also lack the tools to meaningfully enforce contracts and get consumer insights.

The Federated Rights Management (FRM) model from Verimatrix reimagines this workflow. It addresses these challenges using a single point of integration for both operators and content providers where they can encrypt just once and then allocate decryption keys across the distribution chain. Duplicated processes are eliminated, lowering costs.

FRM streamlines security workflows with persistent encryption, policy definition and enforcement, and automated consumption reporting and analytics. Security and fine-grained control of rights management are one core benefit. Content owners maintain control of the keys and playback policies associated with their content, so can enforce rules across the whole ecosystem from distributors through to end users.  

View from the judges:

“This helps reduce risks associated with content distribution, particularly where an operator has hierarchical distribution to serve multiple localities or tenant sites. Any time content is processed, there are risks that errors may be introduced into the content and risks that unencrypted content can be intercepted and pirated. The fact that this solution is cloud-based also helps reduce concerns about unplanned equipment expenditures associated with scaling and load-balancing.”

Steven Hawley, Principal Analyst and Consultant, tvstrategies

 

 

Harmonic – EyeQ Content-Aware Encoding Solution

= SILVER AWARD =

In the OTT environment, larger screens are driving higher bitrates and resolutions, demand for network DVR is driving up storage costs and consumers expect higher video quality without buffering. Video providers have little control over whether client devices transition to next-generation codecs like HEVC.

EyeQ introduces more advanced video compression technology to address these issues. It is fully compliant with MPEG-4 AVC and any AVC media player, and works across all HTTP devices without requiring additional subscriber-side software. It is a content-aware encoding solution that assesses and adjusts encoding parameters to leverage the mechanics of the human eye – taking account of video quality according to the Human Visual System (HVS). It does this without adding latency to the encoding process.

Software-based and codec-independent, EyeQ reduces bandwidth consumption by up to 50% – without relying on infrastructure or codec changes. It creates a reduced and variable bitrate stream for each ABR profile with zero buffering. CDN and storage costs are reduced and providers can reach more viewers on constrained networks.

View from the judges:

“EyeQ attacks a real operator issue head-on, applying AI to encoding to optimise content to a specific individual quality rather than bit rate, based on each piece of content, and without requiring client changes. Operators moving to IP and/or delivering higher bandwidth services like UHD/4K would welcome the chance to reduce costs without reducing quality.”

Ian Nock, Managing Director and Founder, Fairmile West

 

SoftAtHome – Programmatic TV

SoftAtHome’s Programmatic TV supports dynamic advertising replacement and ad targeting on live broadcast and multicast IP video distribution. It comes with AI-powered user profiling, with the profiles kept inside the set-top box to maximise data privacy. It replaces ads individually so targeted ads can be served even when users join a programme in the middle of an ad break. Ad replacement is performed in the STB.

Ads are served to the STB from a remote unicast server or pushed to the STB for local storage (optimising network usage and avoiding network congestion worries). SoftAtHome has developed a P2P architecture where each STB can become a server for others, creating a distributed CDN and so reducing platform investments.

The video player can start buffering the next ad (that will be inserted) while playing the current one, and can start a new video in under 200ms. This ensures seamless ad insertion that is transparent to viewers. The AI algorithms that STBs use to compare usage behaviour against profiles take account of device CPU and memory.

 

3 Screen Solutions – 3READY Rapid-Launch Android STB + Multiscreen Solution

= BRONZE AWARD =

3READY provides a unified cross-device UI/UX for multiscreen TV, OTT and VOD services, covering front-end and back-end. It delivers the highest native performance on each platform, provides real-time UI and content updates of all apps, enables A/B testing, and helps operators schedule and roll-out new functionality smoothly. Data analytics inform decisions on content, features and UI choices. 3READY can be integrated with any back-end and these can be changed without service disruption.

3READY is optimised for Android TV-based STB projects, which are becoming more popular with operators. The 3READY Rapid-Launch Android STB + Multiscreen Solution helps operators launch new services and features more quickly, including a fully customisable experience based on the new Android TV Operator Tier programme, like the one seen at Com Hem (in a world first deployment, using a hybrid set-top box, embracing features like Google Play Store, Google Cast and Voice Search).

The 3READY Custom Launcher is compliant with the latest Android TV Operator Tier Guidelines and features of Android, and is future-ready for upcoming Android versions.

View from the judges:

“Android TV is gaining traction among Pay TV operators as an open-source middleware/OS for their next-generation of STBs, giving access to features that help engage consumers. 3READY makes Android TV an easier choice and is clearly helping to drive its uptake among operators.”

John Moulding, Editor-in-Chief, Videonet

 

Massive Interactive – Massive AXIS

How much does a telco spend requesting UI changes every year? How about if you throw in five more channels…and on seven different devices? The average number is massive and that is without considering the time needed to implement modifications. Many operators and broadcasters employ costly engineering teams who do not have the resource or flexibility to update UIs across a suite of applications quickly.

Massive AXIS solves this problem. This next-generation user experience platform acts as an operator control panel that sits between the back-end stack and the front-end applications. It empowers non-technical product owners, content schedulers and marketers to change the UI themselves at the click of a button, in real-time, across any device, based on data-driven insights, and at zero cost.

A segmentation feature means you can create and deliver an infinite number of unique user experiences to distinct audience groups. This raises the bar when it comes to personalising experiences and responding to A/B testing and audience behaviour. Combined with real-time updates, video merchandising can be radically improved, too.

 

The judges

Mark Cross, Director of Chartroom, was the chair of judging.

The judges for the International Categories (Video Technology Hero; Best TV/Video Service Update or Launch; Contribution to User Experience – TV & Video) were:

  • William Cooper, Founder and Chief Executive, informitv
  • Steven Hawley, Principal Analyst and Consultant, tvstrategies
  • Ian Nock, Managing Director and Founder, Fairmile West
  • Benjamin Schwarz, Consultant, CToic Consulting
  • John Moulding, Editor-in-Chief, Videonet.

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