UPC Hungary Brings YouTube To The Set-Top

UPC Hungary, a unit of Liberty Global, is using a cloud-based delivery system from ActiveVideo Networks to deliver YouTube and a range of other apps to legacy set-tops that don’t speak the language of IP.

The operator, GigaOm reported Wednesday, is offering access to more than 20 apps, including YouTube, Google Maps, Picasa, Flickr, as well as games to its legacy boxes. According to an announcement made by UPC Hungary in May, the operator expects to enable the new feature, called UPC TV Apps, to all 1.5 million homes in its footprint by the end of 2014.

ActiveVideo chief marketing officer Murali Nemani followed up in this blog post that UPC Hungary is using the vendor’s CloudTV StreamCast platform to bring the entire YouTube experience, including its “Leanback” user interface, along with dozens of apps from Metrological that were originally written for Liberty Global’s high-end, IP-capable “Horizon” boxes --from the cloud to hundreds of thousands of legacy “D4A” set-top boxes that don’t speak IP.

Introduced in April, StreamCast is a new component for ActiveVideo’s CloudTV platform that converts user interfaces, video and other content from Web formats to formats that can be rendered and displayed by non-IP set-tops. That conversion and bridging process covers elements such as content protection and content delivery.

Liberty Global has not announced further plans to integrate YouTube on the set-top in other markets, but UPC's approach in Hungary comes into view as cable operators continue to seek out ways to blend OTT content with their traditional pay-TV offerings.

Of recent note, several operators, including Liberty Global’s Virgin Media unit in the U.K., Com Hem in Sweden, as well as RCN, Suddenlink Communications, Grande Communications, and Atlantic Broadband have integrated Netflix’s streaming service on IP-connected, TiVo-powered boxes they’re leasing to customers. Comcast, meanwhile, is using the IP capabilities of its X1 platform to integrate apps from sources such as Facebook and Instagram.

ActiveVideo, however, touts the fact that its cloud-based approach enables operators to deliver apps to both IP-capable and older, QAM-only devices.

“[W]hat really sets UPC Hungary’s YouTube deployment apart is this: the truly global potential of making online video content available on pay-TV systems at scale—without the cost and time-to-market obstacles of rolling out expensive new, PC-like STBs,” Murali wrote. “UPC Hungary’s success in bringing YouTube directly to D4A boxes has broader implications for Liberty Global and the pay-TV industry,” he added, noting that Liberty Global could use the same “virtualization of CPE functionality bring YouTube to its entire footprint of millions of D4A boxes throughout Europe and Latin America.”

UPC Hungary is the first announced customer for CloudTV StreamCast.  ActiveVideo’s customer roster includes Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Ziggo of the Netherlands, Time Warner Cable, Deutsche Telekom, and another Liberty Puerto Rico (another Liberty Global unit). Comcast, meanwhile, has been testing ActiveVideo for a VOD interface that runs on QAM-only boxes.