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January 23, 2013
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HEVC will boost Connected TV and fulfill multi-screen promise

The new HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression standard will give Pay TV operators like Danish cable operator Stofa the opportunity to increase the quality of multi-screen video and that could have important implications for Connected TV. According to Thomas Helbo, CTO at Stofa, “It is an interesting idea to have high quality TV provided as a multi-screen solution to the big screen TV in the living room. Over the next 5-10 years we will see more services change from DVB-C (classic cable television) to IP and at the same time see an increase in the quality requirements for IP video streams.”

Helbo was speaking this week during a Videonet discussion about the impact HEVC could have on the television market. ‘HEVC as a game-changer for HD, ultra HD and multi-screen’ looked at how a leap in compression efficiency will affect TV and VOD services by potentially halving the bit rate needed for video or dramatically increasing the quality or reach for video over different networks.You can hear the full one hour discussion on-demand here (free).

Stofa launched multi-screen TV in 2010 and Helbo believes the big opportunity presented by HEVC is to increase the quality of services out of home. The majority of that viewing is on Wi-Fi and the Danish mobile operators provide good connections so the reach of services is not an issue. “What we could do is increase the quality in the available bandwidth and make more HD content available for multi-screen viewing,” he said.

Boris Felts, VP Products at Envivio, whose headend solutions are used for the Stofa multi-screen services today, agreed that improving out of home viewing will be a priority with HEVC encoding. “Connections for multi-screen viewing inside the home are pretty good, using WiFi, so the next step is to fulfill the promise of providing the same experience when you go outside and you are not connected to the home network.

“What was lacking in the past was QoS over mobile but now you can reach 2Mbps on 4G networks and if you combine that with HEVC you can achieve something close to HD. Operators will be able to offer new services with higher quality on their networks. If you offer on-demand, the downloads will be faster and if it is live you will be able to achieve pretty good quality.”

David Mercer, VP and Principal Analyst at the research company Strategy Analytics, highlighted how Orange will be using HEVC to start delivering VOD to Samsung Smart TVs in France (read more about that here) as an illustration that the early HEVC activity will be in the OTT/multi-screen arena. He believes the most interesting market could be mobile, given their concerns about bandwidth. “They will look very carefully at HEVC and how they can deliver video more efficiently,” he commented.

Mercer also highlighted the potential impact of HEVC for Connected TV, noting how its arrival could encourage the use of virtual set-top box apps.  “HEVC is another step towards a greater prominence for OTT and there is no question that traditional, managed Pay TV operators are looking seriously at how to deploy OTT and what part it plays in the overall delivery landscape. OTT is being considered much more seriously by the major Pay TV players,” he observed.

The impact of HEVC on the multi-screen and OTT market was one of four key discussion topics during the round-table. The panelists also tackled the likely affect of the new codec on HDTV, including for telcos, and how it could prompt the arrival of ultra-HD and how that market might evolve. Finally the discussion turned to how the wider coding ecosystem will be affected, like whether a mature HEVC standard would prompt a migration away from standard-definition TV.

You can hear the whole discussion free. All you need to do is register and then you can listen on-demand. More details here.

If you are tracking HEVC you may also be interested in these two stories:

Still early days but UltraHD has moved into the limelight

HEVC is game changer for multi-screen and IPTV