OTT Platform Providers Join Up the Dots

The year has begun with a spate of OTT technology announcements mostly aimed at unifying the different screens and content sources within a consistent and intuitive User Interface (UI). Two of the leading players, Nagra and Kaltura, highlight the different approaches being taken around the common theme of enabling any OTT service provider including traditional pay TV operators to bring flexible cloud based services to market as quickly as possible.

Nagra has focused on the big screen with the aim of unifying linear, on demand and subscription VOD (SVOD) content within a coherent UI, while Kaltura has emphasised consistent experience across multiple screens with an app accelerating deployment time for its existing OTT platform. This distinction reflects the two companies’ origins, with Nagra, part of the Swiss based Kudelski Group, extending into pay TV middleware from its roots in revenue security, while Kaltura is privately held and a dedicated end to end OTT platform provider.

Nagra argues that other OTT technology vendors and many operators have missed a trick by failing to concentrate on the big screen where most people still watch while allowing the experience to become fragmented and less enjoyable. This observation inspired the development of Nagra’s new IntuiTV managed cloud based platform featuring an innovative swiping remote control, according to its Senior Director of Product Marketing Anthony Smith-Chaigneau. “Most pay TV operators ignored the OTT market for too long and only recently moved in to try and reclaim some of the lost ground,” said Smith-Chaigneau. “Meanwhile a small group of devices from the likes of AppleAmazon, Roku and Google with the Nexus Player, have come in with thousands of apps, leading to fragmentation of the market. So the consumer is faced with a hard job getting content buried beneath all these different sources and the UI is becoming very iPhone-like, very “computery” and cold, just a dashboard of tiles.”

Nagra’s Anthony Smith-Chaigneau wants to fold OTT properly into the big screen experience.

Nagra’s Anthony Smith-Chaigneau wants to fold OTT properly into the big screen experience.

With intuiTV providing a more immersive experience with the ability to deliver a full line-up of advanced TV services including live TV, VOD, SVOD, PVR and social TV with touch-screen remote-control and ultra HD where available, Nagra was putting the big screen back together, Smith-Chaigneau insisted. “We have put together a package which will allow the pay TV operator to concentrate more on its business while combining existing services with Netflix, YouTube and many other online offerings,” said Smith-Chaigneau. “This can be in a box which can be plain streaming, ultra HD and HD capable, using our swipe technology.”

Nagra says it has worked with leading design academies to develop the swipe-to-tune remote control for intuiTV, allowing users to sweep up or down to access recently viewed channels, or left to right to seek new ones, while incorporating gesture and voice control for general navigation and search. It remains to be seen whether this will become a carrot that will lure new customers, as the history of pay TV is littered with the corpses of previous remotes that were billed as game changers at the time. Indeed Nagra will have to persuade operators that its version of hybrid TV really is better than what has gone before, for example the TiVo box first deployed by Liberty Global’s UK cable operator Virgin Media in 2010, combining OTT and broadcast content. The difference according to Nagra is that intuiTV blends popular SVOD services like Netflix more seamlessly with the broadcast service within the program guide and makes navigation far more intuitive, so that the user sees all content as part of a single coherent offering.

Kaltura also has to convince potential customers that its offerings like OTT Now, an end-to-end ‘OTT platform in a box’, confer significant advantages over its competitors. Kaltura has been trading on speed to market, having promoted OTT Now for its ability to bring on services within two months when launching the platform at IBC 2015 in Amsterdam last September. But Kaltura clearly saw there was more to do, for it has just announced it has integrated the SmartTemplate UI from 24i Media into its platform to provide a new front end. Kaltura now claims that with 24i Media’s app on board it can now launch a full OTT service “in a matter of weeks”, with the assumption that this is a bit shorter than the two months promised four months earlier.

However the new app provides more than just speed to market, according to Kaltura. It also helps unify the experience further across all screens and ensure that future enhancements can be rolled out at a stroke across the whole ecosystem, benefiting all users and devices simultaneously. Kaltura is more easily able to adapt the platform after it has been deployed with operators and cater for different target audiences, all through templates that come with 24i’s app.

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