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TV Distribution In a ‘Golden Age’

NEW YORKSome have called this digital-focused era a New Golden Age of Television, and that same label can be applied to the new and innovative ways video and TV content is delivered to a variety of screens and consumer segments.

“We’re in the Golden Age of distribution now,” Brent Smith, president, chief technology and co-founder of Evolution Digital, said during a Next TV Summit New York panel.

While Evolution Digital is focused on helping cable operators, primarily independent MSOs, develop and launch next-generation, Internet protocol-delivered video services, others on the panel spanned the gamut of distribution, hitting on free, ad-supported services, a la carte OTT offerings, and even a “next-generation” cable operator that is targeting consumers who still love the big TV bundle.

For TVTibi, a global over-the-top provider that includes a la carte, pay-as-you-go programming options, securing worldwide content rights remains a key challenge, Andrew Goldman, company co-founder and chief strategy officer, said.

Typically, distributors acquire content on a territory-by-territory basis, he said. However, content owners are becoming increasingly open about selling global rights using revenue share models that help them gain viewers and presences in new markets, Goldman noted.

TVTibi relies on an app platform with geo-blocking functions to help get around some of the tricky issues involving global distribution rights, Goldman said.

And, thanks to a model spawned by the original iPhone, the video world is becoming increasingly app-based, noted Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, a company that aggregates free, ad-supported content on a wide range of smart TVs (as a native app platform), as well as on Roku boxes and mobile devices.

The challenge for content providers is that it’s expensive to build apps and app stores for various platforms. Xumo, he said, has taken a “fresh approach” by becoming natively integrated with the TV and to use video to help viewers discover content that matches their interests.

Rather than fragmenting content and brands, though, each partner on Xumo’s platform has its own “channel” that remains under its control, Petrie-Norris said. “Fragmentation is a big issue.”

Layer3 TV, the Denver-based next-generation cable operator, is taking a different approach. Rather than focusing on skinny bundles and only younger millennial audiences, Layer3 TV is going after a segment “that still loves television” and has lots of sets at home, Layer3 TV director of content partnerships David Rapson said. “They want a full, robust lineup of content.”

Layer3 TV, which recently launched in Chicago, aims to “super-serve that audience,” he said, noting that his company doesn’t have to use older, legacy platforms and can instead start fresh using new technologies, interfaces and devices to deliver a better experience.

Evolution, meanwhile, aims to break the old “holy alliance” that operators have with vendors that have prevented MSOs from innovating, Smith said.

Evolution, which works with operators such as WideOpenWest and counts TiVo among its technology partners, is trying to break that mold by helping MSOs migrate to IP-based video platforms that use new hybrid IP/QAM boxes alongside slick interfaces that can also integrate OTT offerings from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

And with so much focus on delivering content to mobile screens, new distribution systems and interfaces are “bringing the viewer back to the big screen,” Howard Horowitz, president of Horowitz Research, said.

Linear TV viewing remains “pretty stable” despite a small but growing cord-cutting trend, he added.