IBC provided a chance to see the new TeliaSonera IPTV virtual set-top box app, demonstrated on the Samsung stand. This is running on selected Samsung Smart TVs to provide a full IPTV service to the telcoâ€™s broadband customers in a classic example of what has been termed the â€˜operator as an appâ€™ approach. This was not a concept demo; the TeliaSonera/Samsung combination will be launched in Estonia late this year (with Elion), with plans for a Swedish roll-out in Q1 next year and then Finland during 2013.
One of the important features with this Smart TV app is that it understands you are a TeliaSonera broadband customer automatically (via the IP address) when you first plug in the TV, and so launches the IPTV app and prompts you to sign in, after which you never have to launch the app again. More significantly, the default mode when turning on the television set is to launch into the TeliaSonera user interface.
Launching straight into the app is important because one of the main concerns for any service provider, when thinking about the â€˜operator as an appâ€™ approach, is that consumers will get distracted on their way to finding their service. Typically the Pay TV app is just one among many, even if it is given some priority or â€˜favouriteâ€™ status. The CE manufacturers have encouraged content onto their platforms that rivals Pay TV, including various VOD services, so these other apps could be competing directly for attention and dollars.
As the demonstration showed, you can quickly and easily move out of the IPTV user interface and into the Samsung UI and the Samsung SmartHub to access apps and other functions. But the fact that Samsung has given TeliaSonera primacy of the UI (where the television is in a TeliaSonera broadband home and the consumer has signed up for the service) confirms what the company has been saying for over 18 months: that it wants to be a partner to the Pay TV industry more than a rival. The Smart TVs act as if there were a set-top box actually attached, which could be a first. Obviously this partnership also confirms an interest in extending Pay TV services without deploying more set-top boxes.
When you are inside the TeliaSonera UI you are offered all the usual Pay TV services, categorized under Catch-up, Recordings, On-demand, TV guide and TV channels. Personal recordings are stored in the network, acknowledging the fact that Smart TVs do not have hard drives.