Over-the-top services have long been considered as a threat for network service providers (NSPs) and more specifically TV players. Cord cutting was expected to be so strong that NSPs were seen by many to be returning to the so-called “dumb pipes” strategy.
Yet this did not really happen. Broadcast TV continues to perform strongly, with social TV features now giving it an attractive new power. The multiplication of OTT services has expanded beyond video services, to include music, pictures, radio, home automation, health monitoring, gaming, video surveillance etc…
Several players have already embraced OTT video services: social networks have done it to evolve towards a monetization platform and take a share of the OTT revenues; content creators and broadcasters are also looking to OTT for additional opportunities to monetize their content; even consumer electronics manufacturers have embedded OTT services into TVs, phones, Blu-Ray players, and other gadgets, allowing for more personalised devices.
Then it looks like there is evidence that the one who is the entry point for data at home, the one who can manage it, who can make sure the home network is optimised for these new services – the NSP – must also create the necessary conditions to ease the access to these new services, optimising their consumption and usage by the different people and devices in the household.
This will give operators the opportunity to generate more consumer loyalty and more brand awareness: it is a lot easier to get access to several services through one single login/password than several ones, a lot more user-friendly to aggregate all of these OTT services under the same user interface even on different devices (and under the NSP brand graphical style), and a lot simpler to have all of these services appearing on a single bill.
Added to these points are the fact that operators are recognised for security and quality of service when dealing with complex deployments like multi-screen, and the role of the NSP becomes very clear.
Getting ahead of the game
Integrating OTT services is therefore a priority for some. So what do NSPs need to do to stay ahead of the game and generate revenues from OTT?
Our first recommendation would be to offer enriched and seamless user experiences. To ensure consistency when accessing all OTT content and services, operators have the opportunity to federate them all under the same user interface. They should use the same UI to both navigate into their devices menus and into the app.
To embrace the multi screen world any connected device should be able to connect to a server set-top or gateway and get this UI as well, through a home portal accessed via a browser for instance.
Take a tablet, connect it to the home portal and access OTT videos that you have put in the wish list created on the set-top box, for instance. If this is done with the same friendly and well-known NSP user interface it must be a matter of few clicks.
The same goes for applications that synchronise TV content with complementary information on a tablet: give it the same graphical universe, the same look & feel. If the user is looking for a specific piece of content, the NSP can help by providing a global search result, taking into account local content, cloud based content and content from the proposed OTT services, still in a consistent way, still with the same user interface.
On top of that, will the user want to access these same OTT services when out of home? Just give him the opportunity to connect to a home portal and to be presented with the same user interface as well. This is how we think OTT integration can be made seamless. But there is a lot more…
Provide an open platform environment to integrate OTT services in to the heart of the system, not only on top of it. For instance, the NSP can adopt wonderful OTT services by developing the right hardware and the right piece of software to propose global solutions that work superbly.
Moreover, why bother with a home automation external box that collects data, connected to the gateway, when a well-designed tablet can play this role? NSPs can look at turnkey solutions via pre-integrated OTT partners, to facilitate installation, usages and management of those services.
Make interoperability a priority
Federate external developers and dynamic OTT companies around a partners’ alliance program. This can be a place where anyone can submit a service that will be evaluated and for which all necessary SDKs, test and validation processes will be proposed to make sure it works perfectly with the NSP’s platforms and within its network. By doing so, the NSP can keep control of the proposed apps and their monetization versus a model à la Apple/Google.
Make interoperability a priority. When an OTT service creates an app for its great service, what could be more annoying than compatibility issues with device manufacturers’ various systems? We think OTT apps should be developed once, used everywhere.
We at Technicolor believe end-users feel the same: download once, use everywhere. That’s why software platforms used by the NSP must be made in such a way as to be able to run multiple execution environments. Android, HTML5, Flash etc.. it must work!
Changes are certainly happening fast these days – OTT services are expanding and evolving quickly. But they also need to adapt to the technologies they are using, such as execution environments, browsers, security… And users cannot change their devices each year.
The operational performance of the network must be maximised to cope with this increasing number of services and technology evolutions. A modular software approach is exactly made for this.
Software components can be added, changed, upgraded, without interrupting the full operator service, so that users can continue to video call when a VOD service is upgrading to the next version.
Build stronger home networks
With so many OTT apps, the home network must be intelligent enough to deliver the most satisfying quality of service. When children are watching VOD, when the front door camera is in use and when a video call is placed in the desk area and the music is streaming in the background… Some issues may happen.
Several solutions exist to keep peace of mind : 5 Ghz, bonding/vectoring, LTE, transcoding, reframing… And if something is really wrong with the wireless connection, or the internet access or any other technical issue, products must be able to help the end-user with a step-by-step assistant in order to avoid call centre expenses, especially if the OTT service is not developed by the NSP.
These numerous OTT services are in the end a chance for consumers, as they offer them more choices, more added-value services, more possibilities to enrich their digital life.
NSPs cannot themselves develop all these services, and need to rely on strong partners to be able to offer the greatest experience for their customers, while developing their own strategy to carve a slice of this business.
Without NSPs these services would certainly not be so popular, so well distributed, and so well used, as they depend on strong, powerful and efficient high-quality networks.