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In Perspective: Flexinets

Wed, 06/05/2013 - 11:39pm
Brian Santo

TV Everywhere isn’t quite, as Michael Willner points out in this month’s Open Mic.

But it’s getting there.

Most companies are happy to oblige customers who want to consume more video in more places. Sometimes the technology isn’t up to the task, it’s true, but hardware is less and less frequently the gating factor.

Case in point: people are consuming more and more video on their smartphones and other 4G-enabled devices.

The technology has been more or less ready for the task. The first big hurdle was legal: MVPDs and programmers had to negotiate the rights for mobile distribution and viewing.

Some technology had to follow. 

The next hurdle is business models. When people watch video on cellular networks, the meter is running, and that’s a severe inhibitor to increased consumption.

Wireless carriers are understandably reluctant to stop running the meter. Some MVPDs might have the same reservation; a few of them think that’s the way they’ll eventually have to make money too.

So what to do? Subsidize the minutes, somehow. The idea of subsidizing or sponsoring data consumption has been percolating for a few months, long enough for ESPN to finally float the idea publicly with The Wall Street Journal recently.

You can see why ESPN especially might be interested.

Imagine the dent in your data allocation made by catching a couple of football games on your mobile.

Shannon Bell, director of marketing, data experience business unit at Amdocs, says that if a carrier has deep packet inspection (DPI) already installed and also has a flexible back office system, then the only issue is picking a business model and hammering out the agreements.

Some service providers are already using DPI for zero-rating Facebook traffic, Bell pointed out. Keeping track of subsidized video would be no more difficult.

“At some point we should expect to see hand-picking of items in a package,” she said.

“My kids are really into Instagram right now. It would be nice to choose to zero-rate that.” The short of it is that MVPDs have a lot more flexibility built into their networks than ever before. The challenge is making use of it. Once again, it appears to be consumers pushing the issue.

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