Q&A with Netgem

Sylvain Thevenot_pictureWe chat exclusively with Sylvain Thevenot, Managing Director at Netgem. 

1. How many years have Netgem been attending TV connect? 

Netgem has been part of TV Connect from the very beginning. It’s interesting, when TV Connect started, the positioning of Netgem was already a leader in Connected TV – I think it became connected entertainment which is at the heart of what TV Connect is about, we have now embedded the Connected TV into a wider and more practical Telco TV solution (‘TV the Telco Way’). We’ve really been a big driver around the key players at TV Connect, partly because we have more than 12 operator customers around Europe. We are one of TV Connect’s gold sponsors and invest and believe in the event – it’s an important moment for us and for the whole industry


2. What are Netgem presenting at this year’s TV Connect event? 

This year we are presenting something very interesting and the next step in our evolution of Telco TV which we have dubbed ‘Multi Screen Like You’ve Never Seen Before.’ Last year we presented a number of innovations around TV multiscreen which made some headlines and we won a few awards in terms of being a leader in multi-screen user experience with a number of innovations such as ‘Flick-to-TV’, and since then some have been replicated by our competitors but we are not standing still. This year we are going to the next level, we call it Multi Screen Like You’ve Never Seen because we are seeing three main themes.

1. Multiscreen as we demonstrated in 2015 has been very successful particularly across most of our markets in Europe, and particularly here in the UK. We can talk about EETV as having the ability to enjoy live recorded TV, catch-up on another device in your home (Smart Phone, Tablet) connected to the EETV box. It allows flexibility for different members of the household to enjoy different programs at a time that suits them. In addition there are other uses that need be fulfilled, including: such as when people take their devices outside of the home and they enjoy fast connectivity over a 4G network. What we’ve just launched with EE in the UK is the ability to connect to the EETV box to set and record and view the guide and start preparing your selection of programs, but also offering the ability to take recordings to go, these are essentially recordings which are made with the sole purpose of being watched on devices outside of the home. They are recorded by the individual because they decide that they want to watch an episode of East Enders on their commute to work – so they transfer the recording to that device and they take it with them and watch it on the go. It’s a different dimension, we’re taking it to the next level and that’s very exciting.

2. The second aspect of Multi Screen you’ve Never seen is the further development of further relevant user cases. A lot of people have talked about the companion device which is the application that supports on your smartphone or tablet your living, viewing experience. In this case we have enhanced this application to bring more relevant functionality, such as the follow me functionality where you can actually take what’s on your TV Screen on your phone and finish watching it in another room – just in one click. Such as the ability to share with your friends on social media, what you’re watching – by simply clicking from your phone. This allows people to be more social in the TV viewing. We continue to develop more social media functionality in this environment – watch this space in the coming months…

3. We are also launching in conjunction with Post Telecom in Luxemburg a full out of the home (including recordings out of the home) catch up experience, based on network PVR capability. In effect this means that anything that can be done in the home will be able to be commanded through your device. If you want to select a program through EPG, you can.  If you want to watch any of the live channels –some in 4K quality- when you’re out of the home you can as well. If you want to watch any of the recorded programs that you made on the box at home, you can enjoy these and if you want to watch the replay episodes (replay of the last 7 days of programs across more than 70 channels) you can also do this. It really takes the full experience outside of the home and completes the picture, we believe this is very innovative and it’s done with the same intuitive, award winning user experience so it’s taking multi screen to the next level – thanks to our powerful Cloud-based TelcoTV solution


3. Late last year (November 2015) Netgem announced its partnership with Simplestream. How has this partnership assisted in Netgem’s delivery of OTT (Over the top content)?

Simplestream is one of the many partners we have in the content space; we have now reached more than 50 partners and have continued on our journey. What is interesting is that we initially started as a set box provider, we do continue to do this very well with very performant IP and Hybrid STBs, but we’ve also evolved to create a much more integrated user experience through some very smart software across set top box, the iOS and Android devices.

Increasingly what we’ve seen is that is critical for the operators to bring more content, not just for mainstream areas, but increasingly to address specific audiences. To be able to roll out content very quickly, we are facilitating this by pre integrating with a number of content partners, this has allowed EETV to launch another 25 premium channels with one Partner –Simplesteeam- in a cost effective PAYG model. Typically the pace of innovation means there is no limit to how quickly you can add channels, which is very different to the traditional pay tv model where typically content providers have to go through a number of specific technical integrations and here we use a HTML 5 standard and DRM and other standards. Which means very quickly we can provide content to many of our customers in different countries.

4. Why it’s important that you’re attending this year’s event?

It’s a very important event; we have a number of our customers in Europe. They are always watching what we are doing and what we want is to show that we continue to be a leader and innovator in TV multiscreen so it’s an opportunity to share this with our customers and the rest of the industry. We have a number of partners who will be at the event; they are part of the end to end TelcoTV solution which we provide.


5. What are your forecasts / predications for the rest of 2016 in the connected TV space?

We will see three big themes:

1. A number of PayTv and telco services will aim to provide multiscreen as we do, they will increasingly integrate the services the way Netgem already does. This will lead to much more consistent user experience and making the end to end experience and the ability to enjoy any Video content a little more natural – across all devices, thanks to powerful Cloud-based solutions.

2. There will be a rise in 4K, particularly for live sports events and some top quality movies, not so much for traditional day time TV or series. It will be interesting to see how much adoption there is and there’s always a bit of chicken and egg between what’s available in terms of 4K content and how many devices are supported. I think this year is probably going to be an acceleration of 4K.

3. Business models. It has become very clear over the past 6 months that a lot of operators are realising that they need to evolve the way they innovate in terms of connected TV. Moving increasingly towards a model of cloud based TV as a service, this is something which we have invested in, this allows rapid deployment, the ability to share infrastructure with a number of different operators to reduce their costs. This is something that operators are really keen to benefit from and that means not completely moving away from the network elements that they own but for new services, like embracing OTT services, how to build mufti screen services, opening up to those new ways of delivering solutions, rather than systematically trying to build it within their network and spending a lot of capital. We are seeing this with our customers; we are seeing this with other players in the industry from the trend we started last year.


6. What do you think the future of Smart TV / OTT Content / video on demand looks like?

With the growth of OTT, what role do the traditional free to air operator play in this context? We strongly believe that both have a role to play but we also believe that they need to be better integrated; they need to work hand in hand. Rather than having a choice of either or – to benefit from what the large broadcasters in continental Europe and the UK can provide, and also offering access to similar on demand content, possibly from other sources. It means that the TV service itself has to have the ability to bring them together in a simple and consistent way and not just putting one next to the other. We are developing a number of bridges. Through HTML 5 technology we are able to create the ability to access an on demand program from a live broadcast coming from say the BBC and going to another episode from the same series, available On-Demand. It was called hybrid TV at some point, but it’s really the complete integration and seamless discovery between OTT and traditional and live free to air TV.

With the rise of this large amount of content, there is clearly the need for a better personalisation model with the ability to opt in to provide viewer recommendations, through an algorithm. Bringing OTT and live together means that the breadth of content is enormous. Therefore there needs to be a layer on top that brings the relevance of selection to the viewer. The challenge that we’re still facing is that a viewer in the context of a living room TV is actually several individual viewers; we are currently working with a number of partners to bring the dimension of multiple users of a shared TV. The current stance is that increasingly the starting point to make a selection of content is actually on a personal device because in developed economies and in developing economies almost everyone has a smart phone and the first reflex is to search for something on your phone. We believe that if there is a form of personalisation it will start on the smartphone – this is what we have already deployed with EE TV, and will continue to enhance with further Social Media features in 2016 for our Telco customers.

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Chris Read is a freelance journalist and an exclusive contributor to IP&TV News.

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