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October 1, 2014

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

In this second post of a three-part series from our Multi-network Forum at IBC 2014, I highlight some of the key points discussed with moderator, Nigel Walley and panelist Ron Paans, Technical Director at M7 Group. 

M7 – The Ultimate Multi-network Operator

Despite operating multiple brands, across multiple networks, markets and ecosystems Ron Paans at M7 Group still manages to sleep well at night! 

Owner/operator of CanalDigitaal, TeleSAT, TV-Vlaanderen, Skylink, AustriaSAT M7 Germany and Online.nl (originally Online Euronet platform), M7 is getting creative on how it manages its partner and vendor relationships. The company is actively strategizing on the best ways to enhance set-top box (STB) functionality to provide the most engaging experience possible; launch more interactive and personalized services and to enable its long-term amibition to have a single, IP-centric network topology. 

Central and Eastern Europe is one of M7’s most rapidly evolving markets, but one unique with its STB retail market that challenges M7 when it comes to ensuring a consistent user experience. To address this, Ron outlined the new business processes M7 is establishing, including a STB certification process to ensure they offer consistency in areas like menu structure and conditional access (CA). They company is also defining its growing role in providing customer support with consumer provided STBs, especially as advanced network services, such as expanded PVR, pause-live, forward and backward electronic program guide (EPG) and network PVR, are introduced. 

Even when these services are widely available, Wojtek Makowski, Chief Technology Officer of SoftAtHome, was quick to point that operators are often unable to fully support universal access to content across devices—not because of the technology, but because of the complex business model constraints that rights owners have created around content.  The uneven user experience felt by consumers in such an environment does not positively reinforce an operator’s brand.  

According to moderator, Nigel Walley, a technically savvy family who subscribes to a UK cable company can potentially access a service like the popular BBC iPlayer in no less than 14 different ways—each with a subtly different user experience.  Thierry Fautier, VP Solutions & Strategy at Harmonic, also sees this challenge, but zeroes in on the big screen experience of a TV as the killer application, which is supported by figures showing that this accounts for 50% of the UK’s Virgin Media traffic. 

Whichever way the content is accessed—through managed or unmanaged systems—operators have to give assurances that revenue streams can be protected in a comprehensive manner. As Tom Munro, CEO of Verimatrix reminded us, there is no place for smart cards in an iPad! Security solutions have to be innovative, flexible and agile to enable the growing distribution ecosystem—and as dynamic as the threats that are facing the operators systems! 

In keeping with the theme of the Forum, Ron described how M7 is leveraging the IP layer around it latest acquisition, Online.nl, to offer multi-screen media services while undertaking the daunting taks of gradually migrating customers onto an entirely new infrastructure. 

M7’s IP transition is being aided by its affiliated company, the Stream Group based in the Netherlands. Its Solocco Service Delivery Platform (SDP) and Content Delivery Platform (CDP), that features integrated security with Verimatrix’s VCAS platform, has become the blueprint for M7 moving forward. 

You can view the entire event and highlights from the panelists at www.multinetworkforum.com/ibc2014, or watch the panel sessions below. Let us know if you have more questions or comments on M7’s IP consolidation strategy.

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