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Pay-TV operators are undertaking various initiatives in order to retain, secure and expand their subscriber base against threats of competition from different platform service providers. The operators believe these initiatives will improve their ARPU and consolidate their positions. The initiatives include:
• Triple/quad play service offers
• Broadband solutions offering speeds up to a few hundred Mbps
• TV Anywhere deployment with a few thousand hours of VOD content & Catch up TV services
• Innovations in user interfaces and powerful search & recommendation applications that provide the best experience to explore and choose amidst exploding volumes of content
• Multi-platform DRMs and conditional access
• Applications targeting various platforms like tablets, smart phones etc., that enable users to watch and interface with the content anywhere anytime
• Companion device applications that enhance the user’s involvement in a program.
However, these initiatives are to a large extent not implemented on open architectures and mostly remain as vertical market solutions. Examples are UPC Horizon and similar initiatives from Virgin Media, Sky, Ziggo etc. In all these vertical solutions, the customized STBs provided by the operators play a key role in the middle in bringing these services to the television.
The companion devices like tablets and smart phones do not pose a challenge in such a pay-TV environment as the applications listed can be downloaded on these retail devices, which render the services offered by the operators. However, there is a challenge to address, in the context of integrated digital televisions (iDTVs).
Most of the iDTVs deployed in Europe are pan-European in behavior. To be more specific they implement the broadcast features to a large extent complying with horizontal standards, thus enabling them to work across the various countries and operators. Some amount of specifics is indeed addressed towards certain operators. The main challenge that these iDTVs face is how they can run the operator specific applications (user interface, search & recommendation engines) that enable the user to explore and watch the exploding volumes of content provided by the pay-TV operator. While the iDTVs render all the broadcast content from the operator, the VOD and other online services content from the operator are not rendered by the iDTV to the user.
This does no good to the iDTV user, who loses a significant part of the content which is offered by the operator for a meager increase in subscription. This does no good to the operator as well, as his efforts towards gaining the subscriber loyalty are dented and eventually there can be a risk to subscriber retention. With the constant increase in the sale of iDTVs, this issue requires certain attention which is in the interest of operators as well as the CE manufacturers. Both together need to work towards narrowing this gap and explore the possibilities of deploying applications using open architectures. There are many possible solutions, like choosing one among the existing horizontal solutions or defining an open API framework, but the initiatives to promote discussions are the key.
Hemakumar Kasala, Senior Lead Engineer – Digital Broadcast, Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Bangalore, India