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Innovations in App Flexibility Fuel Push by IPTV Suppliers ...


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Innovations in App Flexibility Fuel Push by IPTV Suppliers ...

  1. 1. Published December 2007 For More News from ScreenPlays click here>> Innovations in App Flexibility Fuel Push by IPTV Suppliers New to U.S. ANT, Espial, Orca, SeaChange Leverage Successes in Europe and Asia to Bring Cost-Effective Open Development Platforms to Stateside Telcos By Fred dawson I nnovative approaches to IPTV user inter- faces, program search and support for ad- vanced applications development are buoy- ing hopes among software suppliers that successes abroad can be leveraged to drive new business in the U.S. Haggai Barel, CEO and “It’s not so much a green-field situation in the U.S. as co-founder, Orca Interactive it is a replacement opportunity,” says Venkat Krishnan, director of marketing for IPTV solutions at SeaChange International, which until recently was focusing on IPTV platform sales outside the U.S. “A lot of people are unhappy with the solutions they are using at this point. We’ve developed a platform which we believe addresses the real needs of the market now.” Other suppliers are seeing the same thing. Orca Interactive, an Israel-based supplier with significant success outside the U.S., is now actively marketing its middle- ware and related solutions to stateside telcos with a message that suggests true service differentiation can be achieved via advanced recommendation engines and other process- es that can open an entirely new approach to services and how users access them. U.K-based ANT Software, a long-time mainstay in browser software for IPTV with a presence in 70 percent of IPTV deployments world wide, has brought its new Galio soft- ware suite to the U.S. in a close relationship with Cisco’s Scientific Atlanta division that also targets non-IPTV delivery systems such as Verizon’s FiOS and even cable. Espial Group, too, is touting the multi-network agnosticism of its next-generation Evo middleware platform as it begins to make inroads into the U.S. The cost savings message underlying SeaChange’s pitch to U.S. telcos is echoed by these other suppliers. Espial, in fact, has issued a white paper that amasses data from Page 1 Copyright 2008 Broadband Information Resources
  2. 2. For More News from ScreenPlays click here>> the company’s own experience and many third-party research endeavors to make the case that telcos are paying too much for first-generation software that eats up too much processing power on set-tops, forcing op- erators to spend more for set-tops while under utilizing set-top resources for support of advanced applications. “While operators are spending billions on network infrastructure and other IPTV ecosystem components, the right IPTV middleware can be the difference be- tween financial success or failure of the project,” says Brian Mahony, vice president of marketing at Espial. The research findings highlighted by the white paper suggest use of next-generation, thinner client middle- ware could result in a 39 percent savings on the costs Saleha Williams, EVP, of set-tops. commercial, ANT Software Greater scalability can also produce significant cost savings, Mahony notes. He says another 35 percent and 42 percent in savings, respec- tively, can be realized on the IPTV middleware itself and related IPTV ecosystems costs via an architecture that can support over 100,000 subscribers per applications server and provides easy-to-integrate adapters for operations support system components and data management. Over a five-year period in a deployment scenario involving one million sub- scribers these savings add up to over $195 million, according to the white paper. Tight integration between network-delivered content and DVR functionality for single TV and whole-home applications is an important strength of many new middleware systems, including Espial’s Evo. This is especially important now that the “start over” mode of time shifting pioneered by Time Warner Cable is spreading beyond cable into the IPTV space. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in start over,” says Meredith Dundas, marketing commu- nications manager for Espial. She notes “licensing is more relaxed” with start over, which allows viewers to view broadcast programming on the day it is aired at start times suited to their schedules, in contrast to “network DVR” service, which creates a more open-ended availability of programming for on-demand viewing. Integration of the in-home DVR with network-based on-demand alters the way service providers support and present viewing options. “Our software doesn’t care whether the content comes from local disc or outside storage,” says Robert Guest, a technical manager at Espial. The Evo middleware is also designed to support personalization of applications, includ- ing advertising, both in programming content and in the electronic program guide. Such targeting is geographic-based at this point, Dundas notes, but per-sub targeting, including insertion of ads into programming stored on DVRs, is in the works. SeaChange, which has had success with its TV Now IPTV client solution in Europe and Asia, earlier this year introduced a client, Multiverse, that has been optimized to operate Page 2 Copyright 2008 Broadband Information Resources
  3. 3. For More News from ScreenPlays click here>> on multiple set-tops in the U.S. IPTV environment at greatly reduced costs and increased performance in comparison to legacy systems, Venkat Krishnan notes. Most important, the company has organized its various end-point solutions under the TV Platform umbrella in a way that allows service providers of all stripes to more efficiently deliver linear and on- demand services and applications from an integrated back-office perspective. “The power of IPTV is in its personalization and portability of services,” Krishnan says. “To that end, TV Platform gives operators the crucial ability to extend a consistent user experience across all devices while managing a single identity.” For U.S. IPTV providers Multiverse is designed to support advanced electronic program guides and converged Session Initiation Protocol/IP Multimedia Subsystem-based person- alized applications that will allow operators to generate incremental revenue streams from VOD, targeted advertising, user-generated content, social networking applications, games and voice-related applications on the TV. Multiverse employs a hybrid client approach that supports the customization inherent in browser-based clients as well as enhanced perfor- mance and flexibility for third-party developers, Krishnan notes. “The value proposition lies in the platform’s ability to provide operators with the great- est return on a minimal investment,” he says. “Operators now have the service velocity to deliver the complete IPTV experience.” The key to giving service providers the flexibility they need to structure services and ap- plications efficiently is to be found in a common back office, Krishnan says, adding, “Our uniqueness is in the secret sauce of our back-office support.” This flexibility also depends on the fact that SeaChange has decoupled how the user navigates assets from how those assets are provided and where they are stored. This al- lows SPs to structure business models however they please, including wholesale models which are becoming increasingly popular in instances where larger telcos want to add a value-added IPTV support service for independent operating companies and ISPs who are leasing telco lines. “With our platform each deal represents a different service offering,” Krishnan says. “But the back-office system that powers an application for the set-top-box, such as progressive downloads of movies, will also run them for use on the PC.” As Orca steps into the U.S. market it is bringing one of the more radical innovations to the IPTV middleware space with its Compass Content Discovery solution, which employs “recommendation engines” to assist television viewers with finding content. The Compass application, which runs on Orca’s RiGHTv IPTV middleware platform, provides subscribers with personalized recommendations, tailored to their individual preferences, while allowing operators to promote premium and niche content in unique ways tied to customer prefer- ences. Employing a user interface featuring consistent language and visual cues, the Compass personalized content offerings are derived from data tracking personal tastes, user profiles and built-in and external recommendation engines using management tools that support a dynamic blend of recommendations under rules set by the service provider. Page 3 Copyright 2008 Broadband Information Resources
  4. 4. For More News from ScreenPlays click here>> “The only way operators and subscribers can benefit from the ever-increasing wealth of viewing content is by creating a proactive user experience that leverages the quality of rec- ommendations and ease of navigation in lieu of the vastness of a catalog or an EPG,” says Haggai Barel, CEO of Orca Interactive. “That’s where Compass steps in, revolutionizing the TV experience by intuitively concocting the perfect content mix for each subscriber.” Barel stresses Compass doesn’t need a thick client to achieve these goals. “In 2007 and 2008 we’re not talking about needing AI (artificial intelligence) at the set-top,” he says. “We’re talking about how you choose media. Today you get email or a friend’s recommen- dation that helps you decide what you want to see. This is what we’re introducing through recommendation engines.” Equally important, in Barel’s view, is the ability to customize applications to suit individual operator and customer needs in a universally open development environment that works with multiple digital rights management systems, video servers, set-top boxes and author- ing languages. “Each deployment looks completely different,” he says. “We’re trying to come to the U.S. with a refreshing message,” he adds. “You don’t have to be stuck with an out-of-the-box system.” Orca’s first U.S. customer for the RiGHTv middleware is W.T. Services, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of West Texas Rural Telephone Cooperative offering integrated IPTV services including live television broadcast, pay-per-view and VOD. Advanced applications include caller ID and direct alerts to the TV screen. Highly flexible customization is also a forte touted by ANT with introduction of its Galio client software and browser, which expand the firm’s position in IPTV beyond the wide de- ployment enjoyed by its Fresco IPTV browser software. “We’ve moved to high-speed per- formance with the Galio browser,” says ANT executive vice president Saleha Williams. “The entire Galio suite allows operators to easily reskin their user interfaces, add and change components, tailor advertising and branding in the EPG without going into native code.” ANT is supporting the open system paradigm through APIs it has fashioned into what it calls the Rich Media Access Interface (RMAI), which serves as the interface layer between the Galio suite and applications designed for virtually any environment, including DVB (Dig- ital Video Broadcast), cable and IPTV. “Any content developer whether in the over-the-top space, games or IPTV can connect their applications to the client in the home using RMAI,” Williams says. “They only have to develop the content once, and it will run on any client, including handsets and phones, that is RMAI compliant. It doesn’t matter if the application goes to a cable or IPTV set-top as long as the right client software is on the device.” Adding to the flexibility, she notes, the Galio client is designed to work “in minimum-spec situations. It doesn’t take a lot of horsepower.” As for ANT’s work with Scientific Atlanta, the U.K. firm’s engineers have been working on site in S-A labs for a year, testing a wide range of solutions with the Galio client. Wil- liams says. Part of this effort involves finding ways to utilize set-top processing resources to maximum advantage. “We’re moving beneath the client software stack at S-A to make sure everything is as economical as possible without compromising performance.”■ Page 4 Copyright 2008 Broadband Information Resources