Traditional pay TV operators have been slow responding to the rise of OTT operators such as Netflix and must now act fast to prevent further erosion of their subscriber base, according to Norwegian content security vendor Conax. â€œThese new OTT Service Providers are starting to steal customers and some of the revenue, because some consumers are going directly to them, while others are cord shaving,â€ said Tor Helge Kristiansen, VP Product Management at Conax. â€œMost have been offering VOD, multiscreen and linear as almost parallel services rather than creating the ultimate joined up user experience.â€
However if operators do provide a fully integrated experience across all devices and distribution outlets, they are then well placed to capitalize on their one big advantage over most OTT players, their rights to premium live and linear content, rather than second and third window material. â€œAudiences want the benefits of both live and on demand content,â€ said Kristiansen. â€œThe operator has the ability to build a completely united experience, with the same platform, the same remote, and the same UI (User Interface) for everything.â€
They can then launch new features around the linear service, such as common search and recommendation across all platforms, network PVR for multiscreen access to recorded content and follow me functionality so that users can pause watching on one device and resume where they left off on another.
At the same time pay TV operators can neutralise the pay TV threat to their status as the aggregator of choice by embracing leading OTT services rather than regarding them as competitive. Kristiansen cited cases such as Liberty Globalâ€™s UK cable TV subsidiary Virgin Media, which offers access to Netflix programming as part of its pay TV offering. â€œWe are starting to see more such third parties interested in doing revenue sharing and coming onto pay TV platforms,â€ Kristiansen added.
One of the major constraints over deployment of integrated multiscreen services is the growing complexity for content security, given that users naturally want to connect their own devices such as tablets and smartphones, requiring support for different DRMs. This is not helped by the major OTT players all trying to propagate their own proprietary DRMs as part of their competitive strategies, notably PlayReady in the case of Microsoft, Widevine for Google and FaitrPlay for Apple iOS devices.
â€œSo for the operator to reach all devices it needs to support different DRMs,â€ said Kristiansen. â€œIn addition to that there is the complexity of the content rights, relating to devices, geographic regions, number of concurrent streams allowed and so on. On top of that you have your broadcast system.â€
Conax has come up with a unified backend, which was demonstrated at the TV Connect show in London, as its solution to this problem of having to support multiple security regimes, especially DRMs.
Kristiansen argued that MPEG DASH, developed in an attempt to unify the fragmented adaptive bit rate streaming field, has not addressed the issue of multiple DRMs or the complexity of content rights in a multiscreen world. According to Kristiansen other content security vendors are therefore also migrating towards unified solutions that support multiple DRMs, accepting the reality that there will be no consensus among the major players anytime soon. He contends that Conax will have an early mover advantage after having spent several years working on its unified backend development.