MediaKind, the video technology company spun out of Ericsson in 2018, has claimed credit for its customer Altice Portugal’s MEO becoming the country’s leading pay TV service with 39.8% of subscribers.
This has been reported by the country’s national regulatory authority for communications ANACOM in the wake of several recent upgrades to MediaKind’s legacy Mediaroom IPTV platform used by MEO. These have enabled video storage for network PVR, HD, live OTT streaming and app aggregation including Netflix and YouTube.
MEO has been a Mediaroom customer for over a decade when the platform was in Microsoft’s stable as one of the world’s first widely deployed IPTV platforms, attracting a number of tier one telco customers such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and BT. The platform then stagnated somewhat as Microsoft diverted resources towards OTT and its Xbox gaming platform, with a few of the major customers such as BT defecting to other platforms or taking video service development inhouse.
Meanwhile Sweden’s Ericsson, which had been expanding its presence and investment in video services, swooped in 2013 to acquire the Mediaroom business from Microsoft, which had managed to hold on to most of its top tier customers and still had over 25% of the global IPTV platform market, with 400 staff. But Ericsson itself lost focus, partly also through ambition to become a major force in the burgeoning field of cloud based multiscreen video services.
With this aim, Ericsson purchased video analytics technology provider Azuki Systems in February 2014, bringing the crucial capability to account fully for the varying content rights associated with different connected devices. The point was that unlike IPTV or cable Set Top Boxes (STBs), connected devices were not preregistered or preconfigured to receive given subscribed services. The need was for services to be detected dynamically, authenticated and controlled on demand, according to the entitlement associated with each end device. To gain revenues from OTT services therefore, the definition of monetizable endpoints had to be expanded to include these devices, which was provided by Azuki’s platform.
As part of this thrust, Ericsson developed MediaFirst as its multiscreen platform with the aim of migrating its Mediaroom customers over to that in time. But Ericsson failed to convince many of its customers to embark in that direction and after being buffeted increasingly by financial headwinds in its core markets finally decided to exit media services. This led to rebranding of Ericsson Media Solutions as MediaKind, with Ericsson divesting a majority 51% stake in the business to private-equity firm One Equity Partners.
MediaKind set about reinvigorating Mediaroom to make it more of a hybrid platform that would enable customers to incorporate streaming and cloud-based delivery within a comprehensive package that supports aggregation more like Android and RDK do. Evidence of progress has come from various announcements and customer developments, such as the collaboration unveiled in March 2019 between MediaKind and Telefonica Brazil to integrate Netflix into the latter’s Mediaroom interactive menu system, avoiding the need for a dedicated device.
Vivo again was a longstanding Mediaroom customer that had survived the two periods of uncertainty over that platform’s future under Microsoft and Ericsson.
Ericsson’s competitors had sought to exploit the earlier stagnation around Mediaroom by offering alternative migration paths towards their platforms rather than MediaFirst. Foremost here was Cisco, which in October 2017 launched its assault on the Mediaroom base with an initiative to move those customers onto its own Infinite Video Platform, a multiscreen service delivery platform based on adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming, spanning back office to front-end applications.
The enticement here was the promise that legacy Mediaroom STBs could be plugged into the platform in effect as multiscreen end-points just with software upgrades. But in practice this only applied to newer Mediaroom STBs since original ones lacked the resources to operate as such end points, with Cisco keen to move these operators forward to contemporary Android devices in any case after announcing that Google software would be the primary middleware for Infinite Video.
So there was confusion in Cisco’s strategy, which let Ericsson off the hook and then left MediaKind with some slack to repair the damage before facing intensifying competition resulting in turn from Cisco’s exit from video infrastructure. From this arose Synamedia as a more potent force led by Abe Peled resulting from purchase of Cisco’s video services business by European private equity firm Permira Funds to create a new company called Synamedia led by Abe Peled.
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