Gaëtan Delcroix, Vice President of OTT Product Management and Engineering in Technicolor’s Connected Home, has been doing cutting edge work bringing Android TV technology to the network service provider community.
We caught up with him to get his take on how recent developments and trends are helping a growing number of NSPs move rapidly into the OTT market and respond to the emergence of OTT-only players like Netflix.
Delcroix: It is true. We have seen rapid adoption. We signed up our first network service provider at the end of 2015. We closed the second and third deals in Q1 of 2016 and by the end of the year we had eight operator deals. Then, between CES 2017 in January and Mobile World Congress 2017 at the end of February, we went from seven to 15 operators embracing Technicolor’s solution, which is an incredible acceleration.
What we see is that more and more operators are becoming convinced by the Android TV market. They see the value. They see that the market is picking up and that gives them trust in the future.
The technology itself is evolving. We have seen rapid movement from Android TV versions five to six -- and now seven is coming. Google has relaxed the specifications and become much more open to operators’ concerns on how they configure the user interface and the customization capability. All that is increasing adoption.
A lot of operators were thinking about whether or not to go with Android TV, but they all need an OTT play and Android TV is clearly giving them the opportunity to quickly bring a product to market.
Delcroix: We have signed a huge mix of operator types, from classical telco operators that you would expect to have an OTT play, to cable operators and satellite operators that want to expand their offerings. We also see mobile operators getting into OTT. One of our customers in Latvia, for instance is implementing an OTT solution over their LTE network.
What is interesting is that we see, on one side, people embracing Android TV and really wanting to go for that solution for OTT. We also see traditional broadcast and cable operators – that have traditionally had closed ecosystem solutions from established software vendors – suddenly facing competition from pure OTT players like Netflix and Amazon.
Many of these players need to act quickly and bringing an Android TV device to market is the best way to achieve a much faster time to market than is possible with any of the software solutions available.
Delcroix: We launched last summer with Telecom Italia and today they have an offer that combines the full free-to-air service over DVBT (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial), complemented by their OTT solution that is mostly about VoD and specific content. They are aggregating a set of services using OTT to value-add to their broadband access.
In January of 2017, DISH launched AirTV in the US market. They are offering a pure OTT play with their Sling TV service.
As previously mentioned, we recently started our journey with LMT, the mobile operator in Latvia, by building an LTE set-top box. We also have another operator we are working with to combine a pure OTT set-top box with an LTE router, delivering video over the LTE network. That solution is specific to their region because of their huge bandwidth.
Delcroix: The move to Android TV is interesting for operators because previously they had to develop an app to be able to offer their services on a smartphone or on a tablet. But suddenly the set-top box is no longer a device that needs to have a specific user interface, specific development, or a specific ecosystem. With a single app, an operator is able to address all the screens where people are consuming content, and that makes the introduction of a new service much simpler.
Traditionally in the set-top box market we would make a bespoke product for an operator. Usually an operator would contract an OEM like Technicolor and the project would take 12 to 15 months to get to a stable product that could be deployed to consumers. With Android TV technology, we can cut that development time way down.
Now that we have 15 or 16 operators that are embracing Android TV, we are changing our way of working and moving towards hardware platforms that permit an operator to have an easy upgrade to the new Android TV releases. That is one of the benefits of sharing our hardware with several operators.
Also, we are changing our software to have one single stream of software development that runs across the entire value spectrum. Operators are benefiting from this roadmap of development because they are getting predictability about when Android TV software releases will become available.
Finally, they are benefitting from a software roadmap that is being built very quickly for 15 operators today and, hopefully soon 20 or 25 operators. This means each of them can have all the features and can maximize re-usability. It also means they can get a much more complete offer by coming to a one-stop-shop like Technicolor.
Android TV is a trademark of Google Inc.