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Opera TV Sings A New Tune for OTT

As video streaming keeps growing rapidly and an app-based economy continues to evolve, building, testing and deploying apps remains relatively time-consuming and rigorous for programmers and device makers.

One company that is trying to accelerate and simplify the process of establishing these new over-the-top beachheads is Opera TV, which recently launched a new certification program for its HTML5-powered apps ecosystem.

But unlike many of the online video-publishing startups that have come on the scene, Opera TV, a company that’s been at it for more than a decade, already has some significant scale to build from. Last year, the company shipped its software development kit on more than 40 million devices, according to CEO Aneesh Rajaram.

Though smart TVs remain its largest general platform, OperaTV is also present on a range of Blu-ray Disc players from suppliers such as Samsung, as well as OTT devices, including TiVo DVRs.

And while distribution on retail devices is a big piece of its business, the pay TV sector was Opera TV’s biggest growth area in 2015, Rajaram said, pointing to partnerships with TiVo (which complements its retail strategy with one focused on MSOs such as Virgin Media), Arris (with Verizon Fios) and with U.K. satellite-TV provider Sky for its new Sky Q platform.

Though Opera TV has already enabled hundreds of apps for those partners, it found that the process to launch apps like YouTube, Pandora and Hulu “was getting a bit more cumbersome than it should have been,” Rajaram said.

The new certification program is intended to streamline the process for Opera TV’s device and content partners, he said.

“We truly believe this will be a game-changer to bring HTML5 applications to our audience of 40 million devices each year,” he said. “It [HTML5] can prove to be an even more effective way for anyone to reach scale with OTT.”4

Rajaram acknowledged this process has traditionally taken months, but Opera TV hopes to reduce it to a matter of days with the new, streamlined approach.

Though OTT publishing platforms are seemingly coming out of the woodwork, Rajaram sees Opera TV’s main competition as coming from TV makers that have large enough engineering teams to develop their own in-house platforms.

“We can coexist in any ecosystem, and that’s now we’ve been able to reach the scale of 40 million devices,” he said.

For example, Opera TV is included in almost every smart television equipped with Google’s Android TV platform, including Android TV models from Sony and TP Vision.

Roku, meanwhile, has made significant progress toward expanding beyond its core streaming player business with a licensing-focused approach that has led to its apps platform getting integrated with a broad range of smart TV models from brands such as Hitachi, TCL, Haier America, Sharp, Insignia (Best Buy’s in-house brand) and Hisense.

“We’d like to co-op with them,” Rajaram said of Roku, but he said he doesn’t view Roku’s integrated TV strategy as a prime competitor at this stage, given the difference in deployment scale between the two companies.

Opera TV estimates that more than 20 million smart TVs ship each year with its platform. Opera TV’s new certification program follows other recent moves aimed at accelerating the pace of OTT deployment, adoption and content engagement on its supported connected platforms.

For example, Opera TV 2.0, introduced in January, surfaces individual content to the front of experience (rather than just the individual apps) by taking better advantage of underlying metadata. It also updated its “Snap” app system to enable content partners to unify access to their live linear streams and on-demand fare.