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September 25, 2014

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Navigating the Transition to IP and Software-Empowered Pay-TV-Part I

For the third consecutive year, our Multi-network Forum at IBC 2014 proved that despite the gruelling demands of the five-day IBC show, delegates are prepared to get up early (at least once) to listen to operators and industry partners illuminate important trends – this year, the IP transition and the rise of the software-empowered operator.  

In a three-part blog series, I highlight some of the key points discussed with moderator, Nigel Walley, and Forum panelists. The first being with Dario Vieceli, Head of TV Software Development at Swisscom.

Swisscom – The IP Purist

As a world leading telco, we are all closely following the Swisscom transition from a legacy Mediaroom offering to a Andoid-based multi-screen platform. Dario shared some valuable insights about leverage of cloud and “thinner” set-top box (STB) clients to offer a more engaging and energy-friendly TV 2.0 service, that emulates the fluid user experience of a mobile phone. 

Key to the new service has been the ability to offer cloud-based PVR and a blue-tooth remote control that, anticipating the introduction of HDMI dongle-type clients, still emphasizes service accessibility. Also crtical was to work with Verimatrix to ensure that the new service supported all  revenue security requirements across multiple devices. 

Already boasting 100,000 new TV 2.0 customers ahead of it most recent  marketing push, Dario explained that Swisscom has gone to great lengths to manage a smooth transition of subscribers onto the new service. The new features of seven-day replay and the uniquely Swiss ability to record programs onto their mobile devices and watch them anywhere in the world, are unsurprisingly proving very popular. More advanced users are also enjoying their iPads as a richer remote control. 

Virtulization – putting innovation (back) into the hands of operators

Dario made it clear that owning the living room is vitally important to the future of all pay-TV services.  He also reiterated several times the advantages of an operator owning the last mile delivery network, including not having to bear the cost of CDNs deliver the content to local subscribers. He does appreciate the shift to virtualization of resources however; and this led to an interesting debate around cloud-based services.  Wojtek Makowski, Chief Technology Officer of SoftAtHome explained some of the misconceptions of using the cloud to reduce CAPEX when perhaps operators should look closer at the risks of losing control of the home network. 

Also on the benefits of virtualization, Tom Munro, CEO of Verimatrix, echoed Dario’s comments about the importance of being able to rapidly scale and deploy new, interactive and personalized services to customers across multiple devices and networks. Other panelists addressed the cost-savings of “not owning all that iron.” 

Thierry Fautier, VP Solutions & Strategy at Harmonic, which has been working to support Swisscom in both prior and new TV 2.0 services, provided the interesting example of how through virtualization operators are now able to manage high volume traffic “spikes” - such as that those round this year’s World Cup across connected devices where the scaling necessary would not have been possible a few years ago. In addition to being able to offer services such as cloud-DVR and storage, virtualization can not only simplify the lives of operators but also enable them to drive innovation and create truly competitive services. 

You can view the entire event and highlights from the panelists at www.multinetworkforum.com/ibc2014. Let us know what you think about the discussions on Swisscom’s TV 2.0 service.

You can read Parts II and III of this blog series.

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