Superbly insightful, post-CDN World Summit interview with Tom Cape, Director of Connected Solutions at Arqiva…
IP&TV News: What kind of experience is the modern audience looking for on their TV, and what are the main challenges this presents to operators?
Tom Cape: As well as a strong content proposition, today’s modern audience is looking for better functionality from their TV service. At the moment this is particularly focused on enhancing the way content can be discovered and consumed more interactively over IP – encompassing areas such as catch-up TV (where well-known brands such as iPlayer are driving take-up) search, recommendations, PVR and so on.
To support this additional level of two-way interactivity between audience and platform, devices need to be equipped with an internet connection, which could entail new device/hardware costs for either the operator or consumer. This may be financially challenging to provide.
Another potential challenge is that of ensuring end-to-end quality of service when the network provision could fall outside of the capability and control of the operator (i.e. consumers using the open internet).
Many operators (and broadcasters) lack internet technology skills and the knowledge from which to develop and manage these new services, which is where companies like Arqiva (Connected Solutions) come in. We are currently helping many of our operator customers to move services over to new hybrid platforms.
How can TV in the cloud expand the horizon of the TV experience?
Many people focus their attention on video content from the cloud, however more interesting to us at this stage (as it requires less bandwidth) is the metadata and discovery element of a hybrid solution.
Related to IP-based metadata and discovery services, cloud technology supports the development of a number of interesting hybrid TV consumer propositions. These include the ability to have one account across multiple devices, to be able to set up a single profile and connect that to a set of preferences and recommendations etc., access to better and more engaging (web-based) interfaces, and improved content discovery.
As bandwidth and storage sizes continue to rise and prices continue to fall, video management and delivery over IP will also increase in importance. In the future, potential capability could include portable PVR (available on the cloud and to view from any device) and linear streaming channels, affording a greater range of content.
Thanks to these new cloud services, consumers will have the flexibility to access a far greater breadth and depth of content, where and when they want it – and all as part of a multi-device proposition.
What are the main innovations Arqiva can offer in this area?
While services are now moving more towards the cloud, in many cases this is still only a partial move and we therefore expect to be in a hybrid TV phase for a long-time to come, if not forever. Our view of the future is one where services make use of both broadcast and IP capabilities to deliver the optimum end-view experience.
With the recent acquisition of Capablue, Arqiva is now a genuinely ‘hybrid TV’ services company – combining the heritage of Arqiva’s deep broadcast services capability with Capablue’s cloud and internet TV development experience.
We can provide the full range of traditional broadcast and newer IP services to both broadcasters and operators in order to deliver an end-to-end hybrid TV ecosystem.
For our broadcast services customers we have a unique relationship and deep involvement in managing broadcast infrastructure which allows us to holistically marry-up both broadcast and OTT services to provide really compelling and robust hybrid solutions. An example of this is the ability to launch IP apps from broadcast streams through the use of red button on our Connect TV platform.
How should operators differentiate between Cloud TV, OTTtv and IPTV strategies?
Ultimately all the different offerings are working towards the same aim – to provide greater content and interactivity through a two-way pipe. This can be via a closed, owned and controlled network (IPTV) or using the open internet (Cloud TV and OTTtv).
Differentiating between the latter two – Cloud TV implies that more of the service is managed ‘in the cloud’ whereas OTTtv implies that it is delivered OTT but would still be managed ‘off the cloud’ i.e. from the operators and broadcaster premises.
No matter the strategy, the key point is that more elements of a TV service are moving from being broadcast- to IP-delivered.
We don’t think, however, that all services will move to IP but that instead linear TV will remain at the heart of an operator’s service for many years to come.
The ancillary elements, such as content discovery, catch up etc., are the ones which seem to be moving to IP on the shorter term and will continue to evolve with IP enhancements. These are fairly new in the history of TV, being largely only recently introduced to support the core digital TV broadcast service.
Over time, more video may move to being managed and delivered from the cloud as we evolve towards a straight ‘Cloud TV’ model but this will be additive and a slow process.
What can TV in the cloud offer operators that want to maintain their legacy infrastructure?
As above, moving customer-facing elements of an operator’s service to the cloud will lead us to more of a hybrid consumption model but this will only be on a partial basis for a long time.
Moving internal broadcast and operator systems ‘onto the cloud’ should and will continue, but this shouldn’t really affect users – it is more about the provisioning of cheaper and more cost-effective systems through a shared (cloud-based) facility.
Operators will need to add infrastructure to bolt on IP services to their solutions and they may be able to decommission some infrastructure along the way but this will be piecemeal, possibly at the end of life phase or when the economic benefits of the cheaper hosting out way the cost of the transition. We are unlikely to see more wide scale ‘big bang’ infrastructure replacements any time soon.