Some cable community members are still not ready to hear about open set-top box platforms. With their customers spending increasing time on them, it is time for cable to give platforms like Android TV some serious attention.
Cable conference tries to block Android TV discussion
I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on bringing Android TV to pay TV at Cable-Tec Expo in Denver last week. The panel was originally scheduled to take place as part of the official conference. However, at the last minute, the conference organizers decided it was “inappropriate” to include such a detailed discussion of Android TV. Amino, the sponsor of the panel, hurriedly relocated the discussion to its booth on the show floor. Clearly, some cable executives are not ready to even discuss using Android TV.
It was a shame the full conference did not get to hear the informative discussion. Cable operators should be seriously considering an open platform for their set-top boxes, and Android TV is an excellent candidate to fill that role.
Panel participants Jon Stewart, Head of America’s Partnerships at Google, Mark Evensen, Chief Technology Officer at Amino Communications, and Petr Peterka, Chief Technology Officer at Verimatrix, provided a great deal of practical advice on moving to an open platform to the standing-room-only crowd at the Amino booth.
Easy to combine QAM with IP at the set-top
Most cable set-top boxes are QAM only devices, and operators loathe the idea of replacing all of them. Mr. Evensen had a cost-effective alternative. Gradually migrate to an open platform without changing the existing QAM headend.
“If you are using cablecard you can just drop in an Android TV device. All of the access to linear content will still be through your traditional billing system. If there’s some backend middleware involved there is some integration for things like parental control and billing. But it’s a fairly straightforward integration that we’ve done many times.”
Android TV morphs into CableCo TV
One of the biggest problems for operators is that their TV customers are spending increasing amounts of television time away from their service. Many of the 29 million active streaming media homes are streaming video to their television upwards of two hours a day.~ Seeing customers spend TV time away from their pay TV subscription is dangerous ground for operators. Consumers are spending increasing amounts of time away from HDMI 1, on a streaming media player on HDMI 2. Mr. Stewart says that the Android TV team has crafted a version of the product specifically to help operators combat this trend.
“With the operator-tier <of Android TV> we turn over the entire UX to the operator. The services that are pushing people to switch to HDMI 2 to consume, we want that to be operator-only controlled so that they can keep them on HDMI1. Android TV does have all these other apps available to it from the Google Play store, and there are a few requirements to expose all the apps to the end users. But the rest of the experience is 100% controlled by the operator.”
An open, secure platform for cable television
One of the concerns that many in the traditional television industry have had about open platforms is security. With frequent stories in the news of successful hacks of premium content, operators need to be sure that their systems do not facilitate these security breaches. Mr. Peterka says that operator grade security is built right into the hardware.
“We worked with Google to make sure that we addressed the security concerns. We also applied security techniques that are really independent of the platform, the middleware, and the operating system. Most content security is based on personalized chipsets providing hardware content protection and key protection. We extended it to use the trusted execution environment which really isolates those sensitive DRM or conditional access components away from any operating system, including Android TV.”
Why it matters
Cable subscribers are spending increasing time on open television platforms.
To be competitive, operators should consider adopting an open platform for their television service.
Android TV has been crafted with the operator in mind and is a worthy candidate to consider.
~comScore reports the 75% of the 38 million homes with a streaming media player use it to watch video on the television. Roku says its 14+ million active users stream 2+ hours per day to their television.