The last panel that was developed during the past Nextv Series South America’s virtual edition on November 5th was called ‘Pay TV operators: the road to OTT’. During its development, the topics discussed focused on OTT Pay TV and competition with cable operators; TV apps and full hybrid STBs deployment; and whether this path should be implemented through streaming devices, Android STBs or with less STBs, and other related issues.
For the debate, Dataxis brought together a team of industry executives who are experts in the matter, including Gustavo Morande, CEO at Zapping TV; Jose Luis Jacquet Matillon, General Manager at El Cuatro TV; Gabriel Forenza, Engineering Director at Grupo TV-SA; Gustavo Lerner, Regional Channel Manager at Verimatrix; and Mario Carranza, Vice President of Content and Television at CABASE.
‘We are moving forward with the implementation of our own platform because we believe that customers want us to offer them the same quality of products and services that are offered in large cities’, said Jacquet regarding the ‘El Cuatro GO’ platform. ‘The experience we offer to our customers has to be the same as that offered by large operators, with VOD services, Everywhere content, with an easy-to-use application and friendly content’, he added. In addition, he stated that ‘the platform has applications for iOS and Android, hybrid decoders and a web platform. In addition, we offer STBs with more than 100 HD channels, VOD content including Fox, Turner, and we are finishing the implementation of HBO, to also offer its content. The iOS and Android apps have 60 live channels and VOD content, and we have even included local content’, he completed.
In relation to Now Express, Forenza defined it as ‘an OTT platform that we implement to be as similar as possible to Cablevision, which has always been our competitor. Strategically, it involves putting together a product similar to Cablevision. We have CDN and ingest content, and we put together an IPTV headend, which helps us deploy IPTV in areas where we launched FTTH in the last mile’, he reported. On the other hand, Morande said that ‘we decided to develop all the technology for Zapping TV ourselves, without external suppliers. That allowed us to focus a lot on the user experience, and be in compatibility not only with iOS and Android, but also with Samsung, LG, Sony, Philips, AOC, Android TV, Apple TV smart TVs, Roku, Chromecast and others, and thus cover as many devices as possible. In terms of the business model, we follow the logic of all cable operators and we have agreements with all the great programmers (Turner, Fox, Disney, Discovery, AMC), with 100 live channels and catch-up and interactive features, and we are also planning how to grow to other countries soon’ he assured.
‘The OTT concept itself is not new. What we have been following at Verimatrix is the evolution of technologies that allow us to broaden the horizon in the markets for these businesses’, said Lerner. “Fundamentally, we follow the development of different types of networks, devices, encoding and others. Verimatrix is focused on security within this entire ecosystem. So, we are faced with very dissimilar stages in terms of networks and operators and, therefore, we focus on offering a solution that can satisfy all the needs, as well as the evolution of the needs of content providers’, expressed the executive regarding the migration implemented by pay TV operators in Latin America and how Verimatrix helps in this process. According to Carranza, ‘we have taken advantage of the linear TV experience to be able to help all the ISPs in Argentina that are in the Argentine Internet Chamber so that they can enter the world of pay TV by integrating a live content offer, because we have all developed many FTTH networks in Argentina, and we arrived with very good internet, but we did not have a TV product that integrate it. We have developed what we call ‘Fiber Optic TV’, which means not only having a live TV application with more than 100 HD channels, but also being able to integrate all the entertainment platforms and live content that are available in one Android TV STB available to the user ‘(YouTube, YouTube Kids, Disney+, Pluto TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others). ‘We integrate platforms and live content, and that makes a universe of entertainment, news and music in a single device, turning any TV into a smart TV, and allow customers to improve their user experience and watch content on multiple devices’ he explained.
Regarding the main challenges of this process from now on, Jacquet reported that ‘in our case, the main challenge is to keep up-to-date with technology and offer the same services that the big players offer. Mainly, the challenge is based on having a very strong network. We are close to completing 100% of the FTTH laying in our coverage area, which allows us to provide a very good internet speed with a stable service, but, mainly, we aim to be very close to our clients. We know that this is our differential. In addition, we have been working very hard on the implementation of platforms to serve customers online, because we know that the most important thing is the customer-company relationship, and, with this new social distancing period, we had to readapt ourselves. An important challenge will also be based on commercial items. Today we live with multiple offers of traditional and OTT services, but customers cannot pay for everything, and they look for alternatives, but they cannot hire all of the ones that exist. I see a lot of potential in platforms that concentrate multiple contents, where clients pay for them in a single invoice’, said the executive. Also, according to Forenza, ‘from the point of view of the challenge to implement the platform, we had to integrate many different providers. Getting all of that to work was quite complex, and that was the main challenge we had from an implementation point of view. In the future, the challenge is to make all this work in an STB that also allows access to other content, such as YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. I see it a bit complicated. The technology that would solve this issue would be Android TV, which is being deployed, but it is difficult to achieve an Android TV STB that works with DRM and the middleware that we need to work’, said the executive. In addition, Carranza added that ‘the biggest challenge that we see and that we had is the commercial part: how our salespeople explain this new way of consuming TV, with multiple devices, to clients’.
‘I have no doubt that we are all going to migrate to a pure OTT format, although I do not think it will be in the short term. The competition is raised, but I still do not think it is that strong. OTT providers are going to have to debate how the owners of the infrastructure are going to face the costs involved in investing in technology so that they can deliver their products through our network’, said Jacquet.
Also in relation to the main barriers of the migration, Lerner assured that ‘one of them is historical for us, and is linked to the integration with the different parts of the ecosystem. That is why Verimatrix is focused on being a partner company. We have integrations with more than 200 STB manufacturers, the main players in the field of middleware, encoding, and others. We are also facing a new challenge, for which we are developing and have new tools, which is the issue of where piracy is heading‘, said the executive, and later explained that ‘traditional piracy of STBs is becoming more difficult today, because our security keys already come inside the chips. Hackers are going towards live content redistribution, and it is very difficult to combat that. We orient ourselves with watermarking. The other area, which is very new and not being paid enough attention, is that hackers are attacking mobile devices a lot, to get user data and offer gateways to head ends, causing very significant damage. For these reasons, we are trying to offer within our products tools that allow us to develop apps that are more robust and more difficult to be hacked’.
‘I consider that we were cable operators, and today we are internet providers. If content is no longer within our reach and becomes available as D2C, we must focus ourselves in being the largest and most professional local providers of internet service. Undoubtedly, TV is going to become a format on the Internet, which will work mainly with big data. We will have much more knowledge of customers. Audiences will be more demanding, but we are all going to compete for clients’ money. The alliances between cable operators and content providers will be very important’, said Jacquet regarding his vision of pay TV for the next few years.