This year’s OTTtv World Summit left us with lots to think about. IP&TV News touched upon a number of the main issues in the course of the following engrossing chinwag with Thijs Bijleveld.
IP&TV News: Thijs, hi. How did you find the OTTtv World Summit?
Thijs Bijleveld: I think it’s a very interesting conference: it provides a reach to a relevant OTT interested audience among telcos and operators.
Something that got a lot of headlines was the Liberty Global set top upgrade for UPC Hungary. Could you please tell us something about Metrological’s involvement in this?
Metrological provided the cloud based app store, which in the specific case of UPC Hungary required a slightly different approach, since there wasn’t a browser on the legacy set top boxes. Therefore we used the ActiveVideo solution to render the HTML content in the cloud and basically stream back the app store (which we would normally do directly), as a live channel, to the set top box.
So, ActiveVideo basically provides the cloud rendering service and we provide the same solution as we are providing for all the Liberty Global subsidiaries – which is a cloud based app store.
There was a lot of debate at the OTTtv World Summit this year concerning the future of the set top box (although the conclusion seemed pretty unanimous – it definitely has one). What’s Metrological’s position on this topic?
What we believe in is the fact that solutions should be hardware agnostic. Customers can then decide on the best or the most efficient way to get in all their content. Besides, we believe it’s actually not relevant which content comes from where. The user interface and apps are server based, which means they reside in the cloud and they should have the functionality to pick up live broadcast content, video on demand content and OTT content and present it in a personalised and relevant way to the end user on the device, where it’s needed at that specific moment in time.
Where does the App Store service fit into this approach?
On the content side we provide a service, which is basically twofold: we have over 200 apps available for publication (international and premium apps, but also for each and every regional market). But more importantly, we provide an open SDK. Based on that SDK, anyone can have a relevant app, free of charge, which can run in the operator app store. So basically anyone can build a straightforward app like a news or gaming app, but it can also distribute live content, video on demand, or OTT content seamlessly, in a way that can be contextual to what’s shown on the big screen. From that perspective, what we bring, and what we try to support, is also a source or a platform independent app store that is integrated on the big screen.
Where do you see social TV going next?
We see a couple of implementations where you can activate your Twitter or your Facebook account and operate it on the big screen. For us, that’s not the way to go. What we do believe in is an interaction between the big screen and for instance the second screen. Your mobile device – we think it’s the best device, at this point, to run and operate your Facebook or your Twitter account.
We think connection to the big screen is relevant as well to the merge of contextual OTT content to the TV experience. We believe you can run a contextual app that displays the Twitter feed relevant to the program you’re watching. Or, if you’re watching a game show or a football match, and you want to chat with your mates about that, you can simply use the content on the big screen, go to your second screen and post a comment to your friends.
So those are the next steps: integration and contextuality.
What do you think is the most overlooked source of revenue for operators?
I imagine you would expect from me a sort of plea that in the short term OTT apps will bring in a lot of money… but that’s not going to be my answer.
I do believe that apps are now very relevant, but more in an indirect way. They help you offer a service that is significantly different, better or richer than the competition. From the perspective it helps you to reduce churn – it’s money. But it’s not a business model or a price model, it’s more like an indirect.
However if you really want to challenge me, I would rather say that the monetisation of the UI would be a bit of an underestimated area. For instance, right now if you want to apply a very dynamic UI it will cost you a lot of effort and also a lot of money. The average middleware company takes a couple of months and some significant money. But what if you put the UI in the cloud, and you add it to a sort of content management system, where you can simply change and instantly publish your new UI, and use it for monetisation? Then you can apply your UI to package your content to specific user profiles. That means you can make interesting combinations of personalised TV and a personalised UI.