What's the difference?

Motorola's Bob SchefflerSince the advent of home entertainment technology – from the phonograph to radio to TV – the living room has long been the gathering place for the family. But in today’s world, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has created an insatiable consumer appetite for anytime, anyplace content. One might wonder: Does this new, portable technology mean we are abandoning the living room?

Not quite. These trends offer new opportunities for the home and its respective service provider as an anchor for virtually all digital entertainment experiences. In fact, Motorola Mobility gathered global consumer insights last year showing DVR content is a living room staple, with 43 percent of respondents using DVR/on-demand viewing services.

These supplementary screens offer service providers yet another opportunity to connect with customers through a branded experience inside and outside the home. As a consumer, this means discovering, consuming and interacting with their media – on their own terms. This is a golden opportunity for service providers to make it easy for consumers while solidifying their network’s value.

In its simplest form, TV Everywhere (TVE) provides mobile access to linear TV content. However, providing mobile access to TV content in isolation is of limited value. Traditional “appointment TV” is not the norm anymore inside the home, and even less so outside of the home. Our mobile devices need to provide much more than just linear content viewing; they need to operate as part of a device ensemble to enhance the overall experience.

Enter the network DVR (nDVR) – the key to a true multi-screen, anytime and anywhere experience. By migrating DVR functionality into the network, consumers can now enjoy access to their content anytime, anyplace, on any screen. Think of nDVR as a network service like voicemail, providing device-independent access to my content. After all, what good is a home-based DVR to a person who wants to watch “Dancing with the Stars” on the train to work?

Combining the best of TVE and nDVR brings new revenue opportunities and greater efficiencies to the service provider for storage capacity and active tuner expansions. An unlimited number of tuners allows users to record as many programs as they want simultaneously and to access more storage space – thus eliminating the need to constantly delete old programs to make room for new ones.

Another gained efficiency surrounds transcoding for linear TVE content. An nDVR system delivers a flexible multi-screen platform, including MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 content delivered using multiple adaptive bit rate and streaming formats, depending on the end user devices it is serving.

Of course, there are many complex licensing considerations when we talk about multi-screen content acquisition, transcoding and delivery. License management, along with policy engines that act on the rights expressed in the license terms, needs to be leveraged to make a fully automatic content management solution. This ensures that programming is dispatched in a manner that complies with the contracts the operator holds with both the content owner and the membership level of the subscriber. For an nDVR solution, the policy engine ensures the content being accessed is part of the consumer’s subscription.

The combined TVE/nDVR solution offers additional opportunities for targeted advertising that ties meaningfully to content, context and location. Maximizing the time-shifting element offered by nDVRs could allow improved relevancy of advertisements to the time of day, viewing screen, specific content, location, and potentially even down to the exact viewer. Synchronized, multi-screen advertising could provide a substantial monetization vehicle, creating new revenue opportunities for everyone.

When does this vision begin to come into focus? As you know, the consumer is driving the multi-screen desire. Service providers have been dabbling in TVE for the past year now. And while DVRs are widely deployed and still excellent solutions for pure in-home recording and on-demand services, multi-screen is driving the need to feed this content appetite, and some are now testing nDVR. We might be looking at late 2012-2013 before we see numerous trials and regional service launches.

This consumer content appetite isn’t going to slow down. In the long run, nDVR will predominate because it brings functionalities and efficiencies that simply are difficult to be replicated with home-based gear. The technology is available to make all of this happen and allow service providers to deliver a truly personalized, branded multi-screen experience to their subscribers.

So who is the winner: TVE or nDVR? It isn't an either/or question, but together, the combination of TV Everywhere with network-based DVR capabilities brings the value of multi-screen linear content and policy-based time-shifting to the consumer in a way that benefits everyone in the ecosystem.


Next month, RFMD's Kellie Chong will write about GaN-based hybrid amplifiers.