Pay TV operators can get rid of set-top boxes, to be replaced by apps on connected TV devices, but only once a long list of requirements have been met. That was one of the conclusions from the â€˜Connected Home: Bring Your Own Deviceâ€™ panel at Connected TV Summit yesterday, where two major U.S. platform operators, Cox and DIRECTV, were open minded about replacing STBs but laser-focused on the need to deliver a great Quality of Experience.
Alan Smith, Senior Product Manager at DIRECTV, agreed that if channel change times matched those of STBs in an app, and if there were no DRM issues, the user interface was identical whether you were watching a Sony or Samsung Smart TV, the app fired up automatically rather than consumers having to open it from an app store each time they wanted to watch Pay TV, and there was feedback on QoE, then STB replacement was viable.
Answering an audience question, he said that if these and other caveats were met there was no strategic preference for keeping a device in the home. But he made it clear that it was a long-term consideration for his company. DIRECTV is currently harnessing Smart TVs as clients on its whole-home DVR solution, which users the server/thin IP client architecture, but this is to reduce reliance on STBs for secondary televisions rather than to replace the primary device.
John Civiletto, Executive Director of Technology Architecture at Cox Communications, talked about the need today for a gateway device of some kind to bridge between the home and the network. However, he also made it clear that there is no philosophical objection to losing even the primary STB if the conditions for this were right.
â€œIf you can provide a robust, compelling and high-quality experience and protect the content, and can do that without a device in the home then all of us, as consumers and distributors, would embrace that. But there are a lot of caveats along the way,â€ he told the London conference.
As one example of where apps need to start replicating todayâ€™s STB experience, he said they need to allow consumers to return to where they left the TV experience when they turned their TV off, whether that means relaunching into the same linear channel or even to a live pause position.
The role of the connected device app versus the STB will be an important theme for Day Two at Connected TV Summit. The morning session focuses on â€˜The operator as an Appâ€™ and there is an invitation-only session, hosted by Swisscom, that looks at â€˜Ending operator reliance on set-top boxesâ€™ starting at 1600. Find out more here.