The migration of telco TV services from classic multicast IPTV to adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming is inevitable, according to Conrad Clemson, Senior VP and GM, Service Provider Platforms and Applications at Cisco. And one of the factors that could hasten that migration is Cisco’s own initiative to move Microsoft Mediaroom customers onto its Infinite Video Platform, which is a multiscreen service delivery platform spanning backoffice through to front-end applications where any set-top boxes plugged into the system are effectively multiscreen end-points. Moreover, there is a reasonable chance that new set-top boxes in any ‘classic IPTV to ABR IPTV’ migration will be Android TV devices after Cisco announced that the Google software will be the primary middleware for Infinite Video.
Clemson was holding nothing back at IBC last month when he revealed Cisco’s Mediaroom ambitions. “We have created a special project for Microsoft Mediaroom migrations. We have heard from a number of Mediaroom customers who have expressed an interest in an alternative. We have built a specific programme around this market segment and we are open for business.”
Clemson said a number of those customers have ‘seen’ the Infinite Video platform, and one company is committed to a migration onto it from Mediaroom. “It is compelling; it is real,” the Cisco executive declared.
Second, third and fourth-generation set-top boxes running Microsoft Mediaroom, going back around ten years, can be re-used after a migration to Infinite Video, Clemson says. Cisco is working with Amino and Zenterio (and possibly other vendors) to bring the older and weaker set-top boxes onto the Infinite platform, dealing with what Clemson terms the ‘extreme legacy’. Cisco thinks it can cover most of the installed base using the existing STBs but generation one boxes will need to be swapped out – which could therefore be an early opening for thin-client Android set-top boxes.
Clemson stresses: “This is not a cap-and-grow migration. You turn the lights off.” In other words, telcos following this path would not keep some customers on Microsoft Mediaroom while moving new customers (or even some existing customers) onto Infinite Video. Everyone makes a complete transition from the original IPTV platform onto the new one.
How much of the Mediaroom market does Cisco think it can attract? Clemson would not be drawn but did say: “We are very excited about the opportunity.”
Cisco is bullish about the prospects for Infinite Video Platform overall, having added another new customer recently in the form of Sky New Zealand (for its multiscreen services). “We believe you need 10 million subscribers [sitting on a system in total, across all customers] to create a viable platform and ecosystem,” Clemson reveals. “With the Sky New Zealand announcement we have 14 million subscribers committed to this platform and we are adding a new customer every six weeks.”
Sky New Zealand is the largest Pay TV provider in its country and is introducing multiscreen TV experiences to existing subscribers via phones, tablets and connected set-top boxes. This is part of a general shift towards more IP-delivered video that will include multiscreen cloud DVR and VOD over IP into set-tops. Other Infinite Video customers include Televisa ad NET Brazil (including for cloud DVR).
Cisco Infinite Video Platform is a cloud-hosted, managed service (SaaS), with functions related to the video experience usually run on Amazon Web Services (as Cisco’s preferred deployment option). Harnessing managed ABR streaming, the system goes hand-in-hand with a collection of innovations designed to deliver on the Cisco promise of ‘IP Video Better than Broadcast’, which is best described as a company mission statement that defines product roadmaps, and which tackles scalability and reliability as well as picture quality and other user experience issues.
Under this ‘IP better than broadcast’ banner you will find multicast ABR, fast channel change, unicast session starts that switch seamlessly to multicast as programmes become popular, edge-of-network formatting (for different device types) and technologies that lower video streaming latency to sub-second figures (relative to true live). On this last point, Clemson emphasises that a consumer watching a TV service that is based on Infinite Video Platform will not hear neighbours who are watching on satellite or terrestrial TV cheering a goal before they see it.
In IBC-related press materials, Conrad Clemson exclaimed: “Our customers have big goals for streaming video, and Infinite Video Platform is the ticket to delivering better-than-broadcast IP video experiences across any screen.” When announcing the Sky New Zealand deal, he said: “While the bulk of the premium video today is over broadcast networks, the world is rapidly moving towards a new normal, where the future of video will be the IP network.”
Last month, Cisco announced cooperation with Adobe Experience Cloud to improve the content monetisation opportunities on Infinite Video Platform, helped by advanced viewer analytics and dynamic advertising insertion.
The decision to make Android TV the preferred middleware for Infinite Video Platform is a significant development in its own right. Cisco is already working with RDK and remains a strong supporter of this open/shared source middleware initiative, but Clemson points out, “We have seen a pretty significant shift in the market towards Google in the last 12 months.
“We are seeing a lot of customers across different market segments and geographies expressing a stronger interest in us being able to support Android TV. Google have a great platform and are fantastic to work with.” As with RDK, the Cisco UI/UEX would be built on top of the underlying open source middleware.
Microsoft Mediaroom is no longer officially known by this name, of course, as it is now the Mediaroom platform provided by Ericsson. Cisco is chasing those customers who may not want to develop their IPTV platform with Ericsson moving forwards.
The original Microsoft Mediaroom middleware/platform became the preferred choice of major telcos after moving into IPTV and Mediaroom remains the No.1 IPTV platform worldwide by market share. The Canadian telco, Novus Entertainment, selected the latest version of Ericsson Mediaroom in September 2016 for an end-to-end IPTV service.
Mediaroom is pre-integrated with Ericsson’s cloud-based PaaS TV Platform, MediaFirst TV, allowing a gradual and seamless evolution to next generation technology. Sasktel, the Canadian telco, selected Ericsson MediaFirst earlier this year to power its next-generation IPTV service. MediaFirst is not only aimed at the IPTV industry – one recent customer is the Japanese cable operator J:COM, which is deploying a next-generation TV service, with RDK-based set-top boxes.
On its Media Solutions website, Ericsson says Mediaroom “offers a uniquely comprehensive and graphically rich user experience to managed IPTV set-top boxes… Mediaroom’s market domination stands as testimony to its rock-solid performance in large-scale international IPTV platform operations. Boasting more features than any other IPTV platform on the market, Mediaroom leaves no STB behind – with full adaptability to all ecosystems supporting Linux, Android and WinCE.”