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Open Mic - The future of TV Everywhere is here

Sat, 09/29/2012 - 5:39pm
Ramin Farassat, vice president of product marketing and business development at RGB Networks

JITP is just in time.

RGB's Ramin FarassatWhile not every operator has rolled out a complete multi-screen TV Everywhere service offering, there is certainly sufficient activity worldwide for us to say that TV Everywhere is truly here.

In fact, forward-thinking operators are already planning “what’s next” when it comes to TV Everywhere.

Thanks to work we’re doing with the industry’s leading operators, we’ve gained insight into what is coming next. Two very interesting – and, oddly, related – items on operators’ TV Everywhere “to do” lists are targeted ad insertion and network digital video recorder (nDVR) additions.

The desire to insert ads into their TV Everywhere programming is obvious, as ad insertion in their traditional terrestrial cable service (analog and MPEG-2) has earned MSOs many billions – $4 billion in 2011 alone. With TV Everywhere, operators can apply this proven moneymaker to programming delivered to PCs, tablets and the expanding roster of mobile devices. Delivering targeted ads to more screens equals more revenue.

The attraction of nDVR is equally strong, as it enables MSOs to offer the highly desirable service to TV Everywhere users viewing content on PCs, iPads, iPhones and other devices without requiring a DVR-capable set-top box (STB). Operators’ enthusiasm for nDVR is driven by the fact that it’s a “sticky” service that can reduce subscriber churn, while also generating revenue from subscribers who might not otherwise pay for multi-screen services.

So what do these seemingly very different applications have in common? The most cost-effective and scalable way to deploy them both is with just-in-time-packaging (JITP).

One of the keys to delivering TV Everywhere is the “packaging” of each program into Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), Microsoft Smooth Streaming, Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) and the newly ratified MPEG-DASH. Operators must support each of these adaptive streaming protocols to deliver TV Everywhere services to the exploding number of PCs, tablets, smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices – even Internet-enabled STBs.

However, before packaging, operators must first create a number of “profiles” of each program, based on the devices to which they’re delivering. Each profile is optimized for viewing on a particular type of device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC, etc.) and for a given bit rate. This is to ensure the best possible picture quality on all viewing devices and to accommodate fluctuations in available bandwidth. This requirement for multiple profiles of each program, combined with the need to save copies of every profile in various streaming protocols, requires a substantial amount of storage and forces MSOs to dramatically increase their storage capacity as they add new programs to their TV Everywhere libraries.

JITP overcomes this. Rather than prepackage all of the profiles of every program in each adaptive streaming protocol, MSOs simply package programs in real time into the appropriate protocol only when that content is requested by viewers on a specific device. This way JITP substantially reduces the need to add storage and enables operators to manage their storage and bandwidth costs as their multi-screen content libraries grow.

Defeating ad-defeaters
JITP is particularly useful in TV Everywhere advertising, as the packaged ads are indistinguishable from the packaged programs – unlike in the traditional terrestrial cable environment. This means that all current ad-skipping technologies are ineffective in defeating ads in the TV Everywhere environment. Operators can leverage this to attract more advertisers and continue to grow their ad revenues with the appeal of “unskippable” ads – regardless of the viewing device.

Scalable and cost-effective nDVR
JITP is equally attractive as the foundation of an nDVR offering in a TV Everywhere environment. It not only allows MSOs to utilize their entire programming libraries without requiring prepackaging, but JITP also enables operators to easily support any new packaging protocols as they emerge, ensuring that an operator’s nDVR architecture is highly future-proof and able to adapt to changes.

Additionally, JITP allows MSOs to adopt a “build as you grow” approach to their nDVR service. In this manner, they can add content and scale the service to accommodate subscriber growth, rather than investing heavily at the outset. This is a tremendous advantage, as operators must temper their service ambitions with the need to keep capital spending costs in line with subscriber take-up rates.

It’s all about monetization
Fundamentally, operators are focused on adding new services to their TV Everywhere offerings and fully exploiting the opportunities for monetizing these services.

However, simply increasing subscription fees is self-defeating in a competitive environment. Fortunately, growing ad revenues and limiting customer churn with sticky services can both grow and sustain TV Everywhere revenues without impacting subscribers.

Clearly, JITP is a solution that’s just in time.

Email: rfarassat@rgbnetworks.com

Next month, Bob Edwards, vice president of engineering for itaas, will write about the Comcast Reference Design Kit (RDK).

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