MediaKind (formerly Ericsson Media Solutions) has established a migration path that enables a large swathe of Pay TV operators to adopt MediaFirst as its next-generation TV platform without shipping new set-top boxes. At IBC last month, the company unveiled two software-only solutions that will upgrade even very old and low-powered legacy set-top boxes to the MediaFirst user experience and hook those devices into the MediaFirst cloud-based SaaS and its BSS/OSS and analytics capabilities. Operators will be able to use MediaFirst across their STB and multiscreen offer, where appropriate.
MediaFirst Client for Mediaroom enables existing Mediaroom middleware customers to move their ‘legacy’ devices to MediaFirst. MediaKind is also targeting non-Mediaroom operators with software from Zodiac and this option can be used for cable (QAM) networks and IPTV. Thus, IPTV providers who did not choose Mediaroom have a way to adopt its successor, MediaFirst, without even implementing new hardware.
MediaKind declared that it was pursuing a ‘No set-top box gets left behind’ policy for any Pay TV operator wishing to use the MediaFirst next-generation platform. The set-top boxes used for Mediaroom are considered high-quality and robust, and well capable of supporting the full MediaFirst experience using the new MediaKind for Mediaroom client software. The Zodiac client (for migrating non-Mediaroom populations) is optimised to upgrade even ‘deep legacy vintage’ set-top boxes with 175 MIPS of horsepower – as demonstrated at IBC when the two companies ran MediaFirst on a 2003 Motorola DCT-2500 standard-definition set-top box featuring a Broadcom 7115 chipset and 16Mb of memory.
The Zodiac solution is tiered. Demonstrations also showed MediaFirst on a current Humax HD-DVR that has a Broadcom 7241 chipset, 1Gb of memory and 5,000 MIPS, and on a ‘vintage’ 2010 Samsung HD set-top box built around a Broadcom 7405 chipset and offering 1,100 MIPS and 256Mb of memory. Whereas the Motorola ran a native version of MediaFirst via the Zodiac stack, the Samsung used Zodiac’s Zebra lightweight browser-based client and the Humax ran MediaFirst in Zodiac’s HTML5 browser.
Mark Russell, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer at MediaKind, says there will be a meaningful number of MediaFirst clients on Mediaroom set-top boxes by the end of this year. Three existing Mediaroom customers are committed to this roadmap, having all introduced MediaFirst on next-generation STBs for a subset of their subscribers. The MediaFirst Client for Mediaroom is viewed as the means to bring all subscribers onto the same next-gen UX (and backend capabilities).
The MediaFirst Client for Mediaroom harnesses the core stack that has always existed in Mediaroom set-top boxes, including its markup language, to support the upgraded UX – and there is little of MediaFirst that cannot be reproduced on the older Mediaroom boxes. The bottom line is that coding has become more efficient and MediaKind can get more capability onto a smaller compute footprint. Meanwhile, more of the business logic and processing has been moved out of the box and into the cloud.
For the non-Mediaroom world, the Zodiac client provides a near-identical experience as you will get on a Mediaroom STB. “It is hard to distinguish a cable set-top box running Zodiac from a native MediaFirst client,” Russell emphasises.
On a cable network, the Zodiac client abstracts the set-top box from underlying cable functions so that the MediaFirst backoffice effectively sees an IPTV set-top box. For those legacy STBs that cannot support a browser, like on the Motorola DCT-2500 in the IBC demonstration, the Zodiac client uses what Russell describes as a hyper-small footprint markup language and highly optimised native runtime.
As with the MediaFirst for Mediaroom solution, the Zodiac offering partly relies on removing processing tasks from the on-premise hardware. Metadata translation, multi-protocol support, BSS/OSS orchestration and other strenuous STB functions are handled by the Zodiac cloud and messaged to set-tops via any network ‘pipe’ that is available.
There are over 40 million Mediaroom STBs in the field and this is therefore the target market for MediaFirst Client for Mediaroom, minus the homes where a next-gen device is installed (like for UHD upgrades). Using Zodiac, around one billion STBs could accommodate a MediaFirst upgrade, MediaKind estimates.
MediaKind says operators can save over $150 USD per STB replacement that is avoided. MediaFirst supports third-party app integrations including Netflix and YouTube and these can be hosted on the legacy boxes regardless of whether they are using the ‘MediaFirst for Mediaroom’ or Zodiac clients.