TVConnect 2015: News And Emerging Trends From London

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At Booxmedia, it’s our whole raison d’etre.

Europe has been saying it for a long time as well. And finally in the last 9 months even America has woken up to the reality that TV everywhere, cloud TV, OTT services and entertainment on-the-go is not only the next evolution for our industry, but is actually here to stay (and can generate revenues!)

So it was no surprise that all the major European OTT and connect TV vendors – including Booxmedia – were in attendance at the TV Connect event at London’s Excel Arena last week.

The exhibition bills itself as “the world’s leading event in connected entertainment”, and features technology from network solution providers; as well as content management solutions, middleware and gateways to quality and security improvement. There was also a parallel conference focusing on monetizing TV Everywhere content.

From our perspective, the London exhibition was a great opportunity to meet with numerous service providers such as TeliaSonera and Tele2 along with our partners like ConaxVerimatrix, Sofia Digital and VisualOn. Several broadcasters and content owners were also present including Finland’s MTV Group and SoccerHubb from England.

A lot of the discussions we had in London focused on the steadily increasing adoption of cloud-TV and OTT services, and we identified three main emerging themes at the TVConnect exhibition:

OTT / cloud-TV has gone mainstream:

Everyone seems to be in the process of scaling up their investments or running / finishing their pilots with more plans to follow. And almost every mainstream broadcaster you can think of is either getting in on the act, or already made some announcements. But it’s not all going to be plain sailing, even for big, established names in the market.

“Building an OTT audience is very tough” says Ed Barton, analyst at Ovum – a research and consulting company that focuses on converting IT, telecoms and media markets. Barton has been looking specifically at HBO’s new #TVEverywhere offerings (something that Booxmedia has written about before as well) and was also a moderator at the London event.

“Going directly to the audience is tough” says Barton. “The audience is promiscuous and isn’t willing to pay a lot of money… and there is a lot of very aggressive competition. So you have to have unique content… which is shows like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Walking Dead and, of course, sport. Without a strong brand, digital expertise and unique content it is very difficult to build a visual entertainment business online” he concludes.

DRM continues to provide headaches for everyone:

The fact that Google are dropping Silverlight support from Chrome browser creates a need for multi-DRM solutions, which adds costs and complexities for all parties involved.

“Content thieves – let’s not use that fluffy term pirates – are increasing the routes for an illegitimate viewer to access content” says Paul Hastings, Europe Director for Friend MTS, a company at the forefront of retransmission protection services, who were exhibiting at TVConnect.

“So who has the task of ensuring exclusive access to content in market?” asks Hastings. “Is it the content owner, who is being paid a very significant sum by pay-TV operators to gain exactly that? Or is it the pay-TV operators themselves, who are already investing very significant amounts in content security such as CAS and DRM?”

Hastings concludes that “the most effective solution is probably a hybrid effort” with the content owner and content broadcaster working together to protect the work from thieves.

Set top-boxes are not going away anytime soon: 

Getting the content to the big screen is a major use case for OTT solutions, too, and set top-boxes provide a robust, proven technology to accomplish this. While Chromecast, Apple-TV and other dongles facilitate the big screen experience, there are drawbacks in each of these. For example, some of the content owners request separate fees for Apple-TV rights, which makes completing the Apple-TV consumer experience more expensive.

“Channels work with pay-TV operators because they are good at building subscribers, marketing, billing, customer support and a host of other relatively unexciting but necessary functions which most broadcasters simply do not have the expertise to do themselves” says Ovum’s Ed Barton. And of course the ease of working with a pay-TV operator means the set top box is not going anywhere soon.

In a nutshell, the TVConnect exhibition demonstrated increasingly stronger OTT adoption across all markets. The next pulse check comes next month at Angacom, which takes place in Cologne on June 9th-11th. See you there!

— Jaakko

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