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Not so over the top

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Not so over the top

  1. 1. OTTTV Not so over the top hen online TV pioneer Joost W arrived in a blaze of publicity earlier this year, closely followed by rival Babelgum, it heralded a Despite doubts surrounding quality of service, video over IP is challenging the IPTV business model and telcos new form of content delivery; one which are worried that video will go the way has got IPTV providers nervously glancing over their shoulders. of voice, discovers Adrian Pennington The distinction between IPTV and Internet TV is a little opaque. Where IPTV technology from the CE industry - Apple still lack true control of the access uses a proprietary network managed by an TV being a prime example - it makes the network,” he says. operator (and commonly to a set-top box), prospect of streamed content for sit-back For certain services though, this may not Internet TV is delivered over-the-top (OTT) viewing attractive. Finally, there is content matter. Babelgum and Joost aren't offering of those existing networks, bypassing the availability. “None of these services are pay-TV so would hope to be immune from service provider network to reach anyone worth anything without content,” he says. consumer backlash. In any case, OTT with a broadband connection, which “There's now acceptance from the industry operators would argue that their codecs potentially includes 300 million people. about showing content off in this way.” are robust enough to deliver more than Instead of a scheduled bouquet of paid-for Philpott outlines three challenges OTT adequate quality. Vividas, for example, a content the vision is to stream an infinite providers must overcome to gain mass B2B provider of OTT technology, promises choice of programming, free (Joost and market adoption. “First, they have to get live full screen streamed video at speeds Babelgum are advertising-funded), to every their content onto the TV since only then above 400kbps. screen in the house. does viewing become mainstream. Only And while both Babelgum and Joost A key difference is that 'traditional IPTV' then will it affect the economics of cable intend to distribute only professionally (things are changing so quickly that IPTV is and broadcast TV. Secondly, without made content, it's clear from the YouTube now labelled that way) is a fully managed content, the service won't take off. They experience that viewers will tolerate lower service where the telco is also responsible may target niche interests or generate resolutions provided the content is right. for acquisition, encoding, distribution and revenue from the long-tail, but without VeohTV, which is still in beta, intends to licensing of all content and services. premium content it will be difficult to attract grab content from network TV sites like Services like BT Vision offer transactional the mass-market. Why would a content CBS and Fox combined with combined user- VoD and can guarantee quality of service. owner risk putting their content exclusively generated content. Apple TV, meanwhile, will With the arrival of P2P file transfer and on unmanaged OTT services?” stream YouTube content to the living room. greater broadband speeds, services such Then there is QoS. Philpott concludes Andrew Wilding, European managing as Joost are able to cannibalise some of that OTT providers cannot close the quality director of Vividas, dismisses the QoS that revenue but crucially, argue IPTV gap unless they take wholesale services criticism. “Because we send our video providers, cannot guarantee QoS since from a telco or cable player. “If pixelisation data as HTTP files over TCP/IP, it's identical they have no control over the network. occurs due to limitations in the broadband to traditional Internet traffic, and is fully The distinction shouldn't be over- network, there's currently little an OTT optimised to take advantage of all of the emphasised, argues Ian Walker, vice provider can do about it. Pre-downloading bandwidth that the Internet can offer, president of new business development onto hard disc is one solution (adopted by not just bandwidth that is partitioned or at set-top box vendor Advanced Digital Apple TV) but then you lack a true on- engineered for specific video protocols. Broadcast (ADB), since OTT has not been demand service. P2P tries to get round this While in principle we still can't guarantee developed as replacement technology to by adding more and more peers to the QoS, the chance of buffering is minimised. IPTV. “OTT services simply offer new network to spread bandwidth load or insert In comparison, IPTV companies operate features and applications that are more accelerators (servers) into the network to closed wall environments when suited to the immediacy and dynamism become part of the peer group, but they users actually want to flip around of the Internet. IPTV has so far largely followed the linear pay-TV model offering TV, VOD, web browsing and email. OTT services are different because they truly offer interactive and personalised channels including, for example, video and iTV services.” Michael Philpott, a principal analyst with Ovum, believes OTT is taking off now because there's been a major shift in the delivery of content at reasonable quality. When that technology is coupled with ADB-3800TW Cable & Satellite International sept-oct 2007 www.csimagazine.com page thirty seven
  2. 2. OTTTV and interact with content in the open “One of the challenges is to get OTT Internet environment.” onto the TV set without a PC at all.” PC-to-TV integration also believes the problem for Internet video requires broadband speeds of 800kbps, Mark Mitchell, vice president EMEA at is unreliable connectivity to other devices. Joost is more expensive to operate than Ruckus Wireless, contends that only once “The PC has a role in OTT services, but Babelgum, which can deliver quality services the wireless link between the PC and TV fundamentally TV can now be any type of at 350kbps.” has been stabilised, will OTT providers video content either on the PC, mobile or Babelgum's 'prefetching' to local cache really be able to reach a wide and profitable TV set. One of the challenges is to get OTT will be more than sufficient, according to consumer audience. “While products such as onto the TV set without a PC at all. Zingarelli, to counteract delays or glitches Apple TV have successfully eliminated the Downloading a piece of content to your in its services. Zingarelli will also lay down need for wires when streaming pre- iPod, for example, and then to the TV is plans to transition Babelgum to multiple downloaded and pre-recorded programming, often more irksome than people can be and mobile devices. “The first step will be WiFi at present simply cannot support TV bothered with.” to present Babelgum content on the shows as they are broadcast,” he says. Ant is a member of HANA (High PlayStation portable, which has WiFi “Using these services to catch up on Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance), connectivity,” he explains. “Then we'll begin missed programmes or watch films, jittery a cross-industry consortium promoting to present content through the TV set and pixilating images just won't cut it. home connectivity. It has worked with using the PC as a modem or decoder. Equally, consumers won't stand for messy Samsung to develop a prototype two-room Finally, when new mobile broadcasting wires, however reliable, cluttering up their solution showing how the networked standards have emerged, we will move to homes, nor will they want to be confined home could be achieved comprising a mobile handsets. The important thing to to watching TV on the PC,” he adds. STB, HDTV PVR, media adapter and audio understand is that all video will eventually Ruckus, which counts Belgacom among system, connected to a second TV with a be delivered over IP. The spread of the its customers, has successfully provided TV adapter that allows any digital TV to Web is the driver for media itself.” zero packet loss IPTV and multimedia connect to the network. OTT providers can look forward to next- connectivity to service providers' home “As long as operators, CPE manufacturers generation TV sets for which Ethernet users at a consistent 20Mbps over WiFi. and software suppliers work together, OTT “Since OTT providers have very little can easily overcome quality of service “OTT can easily control over their data, they are typically issues,” believes Woodward. “There are overcome quality of more thoughtful about bandwidth some technical questions, but much of this service issues. There requirements,” adds Ruckus technical is trivial to solve if you take business and director Scott Reeves. “It's quite easy, politics out of the equation. are some technical for example, to get Joost at 500kbps. While OTT providers are making questions, but much The problem with WiFi in the home is headlines, it's still very early days. of this is trivial to not speed, it's consistent coverage to Babelgum will only launch commercially overcome interference and obstacles.” next March, by which time it aims to have solve if you take Simon Woodward, CEO of Ant Software, stockpiled 100,000 hours of professional, business and politics largely independently out of the equation.” produced content from the likes of connections will be as standard as HDTV Shine, 3DD and Gong. has become. Sony, for example, plans to Joost has opted to include an Ethernet sidecar to its Bravia accumulate high-profile display. Clearly, however, the TV/PC broadcast quality integration is not yet here. Wireless home content through deals routers are not ubiquitous and the STB with Viacom and Warner. remains the hub of Internet delivered This has prompted new services to the living room. But that Babelgum CEO Valerio could change. Zingarelli to claim “Running IPTV in a lab is one thing; that its rival is offering making it work for mass market deployment “IPTV-lite”. for delivery over a network is another,” says “Joost has a number ADB's Walker. “History is littered with CE of key shareholders companies trying to play and very few are including some large successful. One of the reasons is the sheer media companies who complexity of pulling all these different are influencing its content technologies together to offer not just strategy. Babelgum has a single Internet TV, but linear broadcast, DRM, TV with Ruckus Wireless WiFi kit owner [Scalia], so we are quite free encryption and so on.” and set-top box and independent. Also, since it Could consoles prove more of a threat? page thirty eight www.csimagazine.com Cable & Satellite International sept-oct 2007
  3. 3. OTTTV Forecast of Consumer Electronics (CE) device shipments, 2005-2011 party niche operations over their services direct to the consumer. “They could offer to 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2001 2011 enable a quality managed service to niche Millions of Units 160.77 225.33 313.20 401.87 497.09 601.77 732.85 clients and deliver their data to the network and to convert that to the appropriate format iSuppli Figure: Forecast of Consumer Electronics Devices shipped for delivery to its STB,” considers Microsoft with Networking Capabilities, 2005-20(Millions of Units) TV's Pethryn. “They could adjust the 800.00 interface to take account of niche content. 700.00 They could negotiate revenue from niche operator access, and also take revenue Millions of Units 600.00 offering that service to subscribers.” 500.00 One of the core components of Microsoft's recently revamped IPTV Edition platform, 400.00 now called Mediaroom, is the release of a 300.00 developer's kit designed to enable telcos to deploy browser based applications on the 200.00 STB. “Version 1.0 of the ADK will enable 100.00 access to Web services and enhanced video content to fit around existing IPTV video,” says Pethryn. “We are already in 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2001 2011 advanced conversations with telcos about Source: ISuppli Corp. July 2007 integrating this toolset.” One thing is for certain; if operators have paid billions of dollars to develop the Microsoft and Disney have a fresh deal for outside the “walled garden” of their pay-TV infrastructure and OTT suppliers want earn the distribution of movies (notably children's services on their TV sets. There were no millions dollars, then the two need to work entertainment, making it attractive to the major differences in terms of service together. Operators, naturally, need a way family) and future undisclosed digital media provider type, or whether respondents of recovering their costs. This can only be to Xbox Live. But traditionally consoles had a broadband connection. done in one of two ways, according to have sold to gamers. “The jury is out on Having invested huge sums building and ANT's Woodward: through charging end- whether a console's IPTV capabilities will launching their own IPTV services, telecom users via a monthly bill, or as a dividend attract a wider audience,” observes Walker, operators are understandably worried that from the OTT suppliers' revenue stream. somewhat understandably. Consoles do have two advantages, “There will be a trend of iPlayer or however. They are already in the living room YouTube-style channels appearing on and their demographic (18-25 year olds) might be suited to certain types of provider - cable or IPTV systems. Users won't particularly those offering social networking. go to BT Vision for social networking “The question is whether OTT content can so it makes sense for such brands to be fed successfully into the gaming experience,” notes Stephen Pethryn, EMEA partner with OTT services.” content marketing manager, Microsoft TV. video will go the way of voice, which is The OTT market is currently very A role for cable, satellite and IPTV being picked off by VoIP services such dispersed, with content owners waiting for OTT hardly registers in the coffers of major as Skype. a few lead brands to emerge that could be content owners. Adams Media Research “At one time, IPTV was a closed the greatest strength of an Apple, Microsoft finds that Internet-delivered movies operation,” says Ovum's Philpott. “Now or Sony service. represented less than one-tenth of 1% of broadband network operators have begun “Traditional satellite and cable TV groups studio revenues in 2006. Nonetheless, as to take note. We're starting to see change will proceed to work with these types of Vividas' Wilding points out, one tenth of as systems open up and partnerships player,” concludes Philpott. “You will then 1% of movie distribution is business worth appear. Ovum believes there will be a start to see separate IPTV, satellite and fighting for. And it's set to grow. iSuppli has trend of iPlayer (the BBC's on-demand Apple TV style STBs working together.” predicted that overall Internet TV Services TV service) or YouTube-style channels Wilding believes the OTT potential is revenue will grow from $422.7 million in appearing on cable or IPTV systems. Users enormous. “The younger generation 2006 to $5.79 billion in 2011. A recent won't go to, say, BT Vision for social doesn't make the distinction between survey of more than 2,500 pay-TV networking so it makes sense for such entertainment over Internet or PC or TV.” customers by iSuppli found that nearly two- brands to partner with OTT services.” Entertainment delivered by IP is the future, thirds of US consumers want to be able to IPTV operators have seen a need to set and users will want to use any device to view Internet content that originated from up managed infrastructure to enable third interact with it. CSI Cable & Satellite International sept-oct 2007 www.csimagazine.com page forty one

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