Multichannel providers are in the midst of the most fundamental change to their networks and operating systems since the move from analog to digital in the mid- 1990s—the transition to IP networks that will make it much easier to deliver a wide array of content to multiple devices beyond the TV set.
The transition will take years. But these upgrades are already raising a number of important business issues for programmers and broadcasters, making it increasingly vital that they pay close attention to some of the obscure changes that are occurring at cable and telco networks around the country.
One key issue will be how quickly bandwidth becomes available for more multiplatform content distribution. One of the driving forces behind the move to IP is the need to deliver content to a plethora of IP-connected devices like PCs, tablets and smartphones. Sending individual TV shows and movies on demand to several different devices in a home obviously requires greater bandwidth, and a network capable of handling IP delivery.
Compounding that challenge is the pressure put on operators from financial markets not to increase their capital expenditures. “They are trying to look at this as a flat, neutral activity for their cap ex [payments],” notes Ken Morse, chief technical officer in Cisco’s service provider video technology group.
The difficulty of dealing with a multitude of different smartphones and tablets presents another big problem. “We had 70 or 80 new tablets launch at CES this year alone, so that world is getting a lot more complicated,” notes Marty Roberts, VP of sales and marketing at thePlatform, which is working with a number of operators on TV Everywhere initiatives.
Still, operators have been making significant progress. Major vendors offer a number of tools that operators have been using to expand their bandwidth, and a number of companies—including Cisco, Motorola, thePlatform, SeaChange and Technicolor—are offering systems for multiplatform delivery of content that work with legacy devices.
“We’ve made sure that our technology works with legacy environments,” says Basil Badawiyeh, VP of product management for MediaNavi solution at Technicolor.
That means operators won’t have to immediately tear up miles of cable or install new set-top boxes in millions of homes to achieve their goals of making TV Everywhere platforms available in 70% to 75% of U.S. homes by the end of the year.
Most of these solutions are tied together by sophisticated software systems that work in cloudbased systems. That will make it much easier for operators to deal with hundreds of different devices and very quickly add new devices or services as they come onto the market. This will significantly reduce costs for the operators while improving their competitive position versus over-the-top providers, argues Buddy Snow, senior director of product marketing for converged experiences and home devices at Motorola Mobility.
“It allows the operator to provide a true converged experience and do things an over-the-top operator can’t do,” Snow says.
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