|Topic:||Headline: Content for the masses|
Zdeněk Gerlický is the CTO of ‘nangu.TV’ where he oversees all areas of development. Mr Gerlický joined Alnair a.s, the intellectual property owner of nangu.TV, as a Middleware System Developer for the IPTV platform. He later became Team Leader of the Java Development team iand recently assumed the position of CTO.
Zdeněk Gerlický completed his graduate studies at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague, majoring in Computer Networks and Internet.
A consumer-driven multi-screen revolution is growing quickly. OTT (over-the-top – i.e. delivered by Internet) content threatens the pay-TV business. Mobile is the screen of choice for 11–18 year olds, adults are increasingly using screens interchangeably, and many young children get tablets for presents nowadays. OTT adaptive streaming technology lets service providers/content aggregators deliver all their services to any device via a single platform. Operators adopting OTT can now deliver quality television services to expand their markets and revenues.
In the last decade the way that we send, receive and view information has changed exponentially. Twenty years ago we were marvelling at the capability of the internet and how it could potentially change our lives. We could never have imagined the technological breakthrough that smartphones and tablets would bring and what a difference they would make to how we operate both at work and at play.
In 1983, when Madonna released her debut album and shoulder pads were all the rage, the first – very sizeable – mobile phone was launched. Motorola’s DynaTAC ‘Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage’ had 30 minutes talk time, could go eight hours between charges, was 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches in dimension, had eight hours of standby time, took ten hours to recharge, featured an LED display and memory to store thirty numbers. All that for a price tag of US$3,995!
In 1993 the mobile phone was entering its second decade and a new phase in its technology; models were just small enough to fit into the palm of the hand, having shrunk from the size of a house brick, and features were beginning to include PDA capability such as a calculator, pager, address book and email. Fast forward to 2013 and the change is incredible with people using their (small) device to search for content, watch content or interact either directly or via social media applications almost anywhere.
A plethora of content consumption reports and studies support the huge rise in multi-screen viewing habits in countries across the world. Digital TV Europe recently highlighted The Mobile/Tablet TV & Video: Content, Broadcast & OTT Strategies 2013-2017 study. It stated that in 2017 the Western European market will account for over a fifth of mobile and tablet viewers, at more than 430 million people. The report says that the success of online and multi-screen services like Netflix has begun to affect the pay-TV business, with the threat of consumers ‘cutting the cord’ resulting in many pay-TV providers, such as Sky in the UK, fighting back with multi-platform strategies of their own.
In May 2012, Nielsen’s Global Survey of Multi-Screen Media Usage reported that more than 28,000 internet respondents in 56 countries indicated that watching video content on computers has become just as popular as watching video content on television among online consumers. Over 80 per cent reported watching video content at home on a computer (84 per cent) or on TV (83 per cent) at least once a month. By contrast, in 2010, more online consumers reported watching video content on TV (90 per cent) than on a computer (86 per cent) in a month-long period. Since the report was published these figures are likely to have swung further with the trend for tablet and mobile applications growing rapidly.
In the Europe the Orange Exposure 2012/2013 annual independent study by TNS published in November 2012, examined mobile media habits across UK, France and Spain for the advertising industry. It showed mobile as the primary screen of choice for 11–18 year olds with a very high penetration of smartphones and highlighted the power of social networking and social TV in this demographic. The study also showed that adults are using screens more interchangeably than ever before with less preference for one over another. The trend doesn’t just apply to adults and teenagers. Many young children wake up to find a tablet amongst their Christmas or birthday presents these days. These figures are being mirrored in countries across the world and as such operators need to be able to provide a combined service offering that’s simple to navigate with high quality services.
There are three parties involved in the delivery of content to consumers: network owners/operators, service providers and third-party content aggregators (Hulu/Netflix etc). The development of Over-the-Top delivery (OTT) means that service provision can be separated from network ownership/operation allowing a much faster rate of service deployment and growth helping to satisfy the demands of the modern consumer. As we can see from the reports, audiences don’t just want the freedom to view content anytime, anywhere; they now expect it – they are truly network-agnostic.
For ISPs, along with cable, mobile and hospitality TV service providers to survive in this highly competitive market they need a complimentary mechanism to deliver value-add additional features including: non-linear TV, VoD, triple- screen, hybrid boxes and mobile applications. That mechanism is OTT. OTT delivery – where the service provided is separated from the network – allows consumers to access the same content on their mobile, tablet and TV provided that they have a good enough internet connection and a service provider(s) that understands the pitfalls and the quality that’s expected. Not all OTT delivery is created equally as many of us know: video drop-out and buffering are common problems. Sometimes a complete loss of service is the result.
The key to the success of OTT is the quality of delivery and this is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Adaptive streaming technology is the driver in this arena. Adaptive streaming frequently checks the connection type and strength for both linear and non-linear content and adapts accordingly for quality optimisation. Therefore it allows service providers/content aggregators to deliver all their services to all devices (multi-screen delivery) via a single platform reducing resources and operational costs and providing a pay-as-you-grow model.
With the integration of apps on mobile, tablet and smart TVs, watching OTT content across multi-screen devices has never been easier. Users simply purchase the application via the App Store or Google Play and access content on their platform using the pin number provided by their operator. The high level search functionality technology on smart phones and tablet devices provided by the delivery platform allows users to select and view content quickly and easily. The operator can also offer universal recommendations, increasing social TV interaction and advertising revenues.
Recommendation technology is an important addition for viewers. There’s so much content available it can be frustrating to sift through the content that you’re not interested in to find content that’s relevant. Finding the right key words that describe what the user is looking for so that they get to the correct information is challenging. Having to fine tune those words and then filter through the content takes time and patience. Television continues to be a lean-back experience and as such the process of searching for content that will satisfy should not be a struggle – in fact it should be the exact opposite if operators and content owners want to drive loyalty and therefore revenues. The key for content owners is how best to present content to the user in an orderly fashion.
Remote viewing capability is also important as well having the ability to use the smartphone or tablet as a remote control for the television with significantly increased search capability. Remote applications enable simple browse capability whilst pop-up push notifications on the second screen alert the user that content is starting and a single click plays it on the TV via the set-top box. Search optimisation is highly advanced, enabling filtering based on chosen criteria. Users can search, record, bookmark or play content on the TV then freeing up the second device.
Unlimited devices can be connected to the server allowing operators to set their own parameters. High-level security settings mean that subscribers can put in place strict parental control where necessary. Users can check which devices are connected to the platform and are able to disable or switch devices without having to purchase another application or connection.
The multi-screen revolution is being driven by the consumer and is developing quickly. It offers huge potential and a bright future for operators adopting OTT across multiple devices. By delivering quality television services operators are expanding their market potential and thereby significantly increasing revenue and meeting the ever increasing demands of their customer base.