How the Cloud Can Help Deliver a Multiscreen TV Service

Mon, 18 Apr 2016 | By

One of the main problems that the TV industry has had to face in recent years is that of the unknown. And almost everything currently is unknown. From the impact of the cloud at all levels of the business to the way audiences are demanding and consuming content, to what devices the next generation that comes after the Millennials will favor, trying to predict the near to medium range future of the industry is constantly like trying to hit a moving target.

However even in this changing landscape there are sure bets that can be taken to minimize risk, and one of the most long-standing payouts over recent years has been that associated with the launch of multichannel services. Monetization is not assured, it never can be, but in the majority of cases operators have found it an effective means of generating new revenue streams. And the cloud is making it easier all the time.

It’s worth rewinding briefly though to how it used to be only a short few years ago when the deployment and operation of any such service would be a huge undertaking requiring significant amount of capital expenditure. Different vendors and their products all have to work together in a coherent whole to deliver content to different screens being watched by different people at different times.

All in all there are four main types of TV providers — cable, satellite, broadcasters and the newest entrants to the field, the telcos — who have all found themselves having to erect monolithic infrastructures to provide these services. It has not been easy and it has been expensive, but the cloud and the approach exemplified by our newly launched Voyage – TV Everywhere as a Service (TVaaS) solution looks set to change the way that this is done for good.

But how was it done? Can we detect weaknesses in the old approaches that will inform our strategic decisions in the future?

The short answer is: yes we can. The first old method was to implement traditional TV service delivery platforms that resided within the video provider’s facilities. The second was to adopt appliance-based solutions that utilized the same kinds of components as on-premises platforms but resided in outside hosting facilities. If you like this was a precursor to the cloud, but not one that delivered on its full promise. That hadn’t happened until we launched Voyage.

Method One: Premises-based

TV Service Delivery Plans (TV SDPs) could probably be considered the front-running method over recent years. Typically they are on-premises systems from before the cloud era that run every aspect of a multichannel service that involves getting video in all its different forms out to a range of devices and subscribers.

They have become very capable systems along the way and can nowadays deliver video content in a variety of ways: to traditional TV set-top boxes over managed networks in what we can think of as a traditional TV ecosystem; and to unmanaged devices (these include the burgeoning mobile sector) that take delivery via IP. They are also capable of a wide range of other functions, being able to package content and track its usage, utilize external content protection, undertake video processing and storage, cue up advanced advertising, search and discovery, and oversee content management systems.

In other words it would be a mistake to think of their functionality as old-fashioned and lagging behind. However, their physical deployment is. The tendency is for all major elements of the overall solution to reside at an operator’s premises, including the server side components of the operator’s Pay-TV security systems such as conditional access and DRM, content management, and network management.
There is even a temptation for some of these systems at the Tier 1 level to be described as integrated, though this is being economical with the actualite to say the least, these systems typically being agglomerations that have taken years to become integrated, still feature some third party component, and are yet to be fully productized.

Method Two: Hosted and Hybrid

As can probably be easily surmised, the Method One approach is an expensive one in terms of both equipment and supporting that equipment. Therefore in recent times another proto-cloud approach has evolved that seeks to reduce the amount of equipment held at an operator’s premises by hiving off some of a solution’s multifarious components to data centers run by a combination of systems integrators, network service providers, and online streaming platform service providers. Meanwhile, at the same time, vendors have rebranded their systems as stand-alone appliances that integrated with extant hardware with the aim of making service hosting more convenient.

To a degree, this has worked. These Hybrid platforms use a combination of public cloud, appliances on premises in the data center running virtual service instances, and video processing equipment in the headend to achieve their results. However, it has to be said that most of this still comes under capex, and there is also an additional problem of maintenance cause by geographic dispersal.

A variation of this approach sees the entire service creation and management infrastructure hosted offsite with a single service provider. However, most service-based solutions to date have been developed for OTT delivery and struggle to service the traditional television ecosystem of providing content to managed devices.

Another weakness is the lack of a single, over-arcing tool to manage all this with. What there is tends to either fail to feature the breadth of options that a pay-TV operator needs or is in fact a combination of separate management platforms for separate parts of the process.

Method Three: Using the Full Cloud

Recent advances have made it possible to utilize a completely cloud-based TV ‘Platform as a Service’ that exists wholly in the cloud wherein no equipment at all is maintained on the operator’s premises and control of all aspects of the service is via a single interface. It is an entirely virtualized solution which runs under an open model, and, not only that, but leveraging the power of the cloud gives it an admirable flexibility.

Using this approach, operators can evolve rapidly to handle new services, new business models, and new types of end-devices without disruption. Unlike the On-Premises and Hybrid/Hosted systems, everything takes place in the cloud and there is nothing to maintain on the operators premises, meaning that changes can be made swiftly and decisively.

Our Voyage – TVaaS presents this new form of service. A complete, cloud-based service powered by our own award-winning products: RiGHTv service delivery platform, COMPASS content discovery and personalization platform, and Connected Sentinel DRM, which includes our secure video player, it offers everything from content management and best-in-class security to delivery from a single platform.

It is the first product in the industry to truly harness the power of the cloud to its full potential, allowing operators to quickly and easily launch the multichannel TV services that will help to safeguard their futures and cement their place in the market.

Download our white paper TV Everywhere as a Service: A Voyage to Delivering the Promise to find out more about how the cloud can help your business.