Nagra's OpenTV middleware UI
Smith-Chaigneau of Nagra: As we move to a ‘wired’ TV landscape, we have returned to the client server era albeit that the ‘thin-client’ is no longer the driver as it once was in the early days of IPTV, especially if you consider the silicon and memory requirements that are needed on a modern set-top box for an efficient quality of experience.
BroadcastBridge: Will fragmentation become better or worse?
Smith-Chaigneau: Fragmentation has not completely gone away since it was the ‘hot topic’ in 2012, it has simply morphed. It is no longer a pure technology issue, as we now have content fragmentation and business rules fragmentation (e.g. streaming transport rights issues) amongst other complex TV production and licensing aspects that affect the pay-TV landscape.
Does middleware still have a key role to play in new digital video platforms?
Middleware has always had a role, however the discussion has moved to services, solutions and mobile, with TV Everywhere as the requirement. Client-server and all-IP based discussions taking top-of-mind. Nonetheless, a managed pay-TV service has always been required by many operators and remains important to many large pay-TV players. Let us not forget the hybrid scenario in a transitioning market that must also be carefully considered, as middleware plays a very important part therein. Also, we must, as an industry, remember that the market transition is not running at the same speed across the globe. The move from analogue to HD is still happening in some quarters of the TV industry.
How is it evolving to help meet new consumer (and service provider) requirements?
The consumer has never been so well off for TV solutions and they have no need to concern themselves with any of the technologies. However, ‘the fit-for-purpose’ aspect is where the consumer is being let-down. Smart TVs are witness to a growing problem of devices that quickly stop functioning as their ‘middleware’ can no longer support required functionality of the software.
Anthony Smith-Chaigneau is senior product marketing, Nagra.
Will Android become the de facto pay-TV middleware of the future?
We are no strangers to Android and its underlying technology, it has been with us in one form or another for the last eight years. In fact, it remarkably resembles the DVB-MHP middleware that was touted as the solution to proprietary and fragmented middleware some ten years ago. IP was not as strong back then; however, the TV gurus of the time had already seen that we would need a homogenous middleware for TV. Android has ironically resurrected the middleware discussions in the last two years, and now that it has given up a particularly stubborn stance on certain elements (that also saw it stumble early-on in the marketplace), we can see that it is becoming the de-facto choice amongst many pay-TV operators.
What commercial factors are influencing development in this field?
Notwithstanding the recent issues that befell it at the hands of the EU Competition Council that made Google subsequently threaten its position as a ‘free’ product, (this is what killed the earlier attempts at a Java-based middleware from the DVB) it is flourishing. The cost of devices, at this juncture in the market, make it attractive, also allowing for a BYOD scenario, which is another attractive proposition for a pay-TV operator who wishes to off-load the Capex aspect of STBs. There are many developers for apps, albeit TV related apps are also settling to a potentially finite number.
While the future of licensing, middleware support and the longevity of the solution is placed in the hands of a single company, it is an attractive commercial model that is influencing how the operators want to see their business develop.
Can we ever have a single supplier of a technology in the ‘media and information’ space? The regulators certainly might beg to differ, however, this is an additional layer to consider in the ever-changing world of TV middleware.
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