Last week saw the prestigious TV Connect convention take place at London’s ExCel centre. Casting a spotlight on some of the Connected Entertainment industry’s most dynamic products, companies and developments, this year’s convention offered a particularly immersive experience and a tremendous range of guest speakers.
Lumina was happy to attend the OTT/IPTV Industry Breakfast event, held at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Speakers from ABox42, Verimatrix and Zattoo discussed the numerous challenges for operators in 2016 – at a time when trends and technologies are developing with ever-increasing speed.
Matthias Greve, CEO and Founder of ABox42 – a smart set-top box provider – discussed the numerous challenges of the current market including legality issues around local recording of TV content in some territories; the desire of operators to have different set-top boxes for specific audiences at varying prices; and the ever-demanding (and increasingly rapid) life cycle of platform services that require constant improvements.
Matthias’ presentation was followed by Steve Oetegenn, President of Verimatrix – a company specialised in video content protection, and used by many of the largest IPTV providers in the world. Steve reaffirmed Matthias’ comments about the increasing rapidity and demand of evolving technology within the sector, highlighting that only those companies willing to embrace new technology are able to flourish. He commented on a trend in the industry that the primary concerns of video operators have shifted from closed smart cards to “content redistribution” – secondary streaming of content over piracy sites, and the increasing complexity with which such pirating services operate. From a consumer perspective, he discussed such technical (DRM) issues as the recent decision by Google to take away support of the Silverlight plugin (meaning services such as Now TV are no longer supported on Google browsers), an issue that operators are increasingly in need of solutions to.
The session was capped off by a speech from Julian Hens, Director of Business Development at Zattoo, which operates the largest OTT/IPTV platform in Europe, with two million monthly viewers. Julian highlighted three major trends that Zattoo have experienced in the sector – “TV goes multiscreen” (25-30% of content usage is now via 2nd screens); “TV goes mobile” (the notion of ‘TV Everywhere’, though the main area of usage is within the home – via iPads etc); and “TV goes non-linear” (the fact that consumers no longer obey channel schedules and watch a growing proportion of content via catchup or paused TV. In fact, non-live TV accounts for 50% of usage in Switzerland).
A Q&A session saw the discussion of topics such as the ongoing issue in the US market of the push for “open boxes” – generic set-top boxes that would allow customers to receive content from all operators, rather than needing to purchase a specially-designated set-top box. The speakers also emphasised the enduring nightmare of catch-up rules – that not only are there different restrictions on catch-up services across different territories, but also restrictions specific to particular programs.
Certainly it is clear that operators in the IPTV market continue to face down huge challenges. However, the speakers were inspiring in explaining the ways in which they meet and overcome such hurdles. Zattoo alone supports roughly 140 app releases a year to continue to meet demands from developing technologies and third-party services.
The session had opened with a quote from Comcast’s Brian Roberts from 2011 – “I believe that television will change more in the next five years than in the last 50”. Five years since these words were uttered, the general consensus in the room was that he was quite right. And what of the next five years? Given the insights shared and issues discussed, the evolution is far from over.