Operators are wary of ending 2017 without adding a 4K launch to their CVs; fearing being branded video laggards. The latest is Polish satellite TV operator nc+, which handed its long-term Swiss set top and software supplier ADB a big contract upgrade as the operator rolled out its new 4K UltraBox+ last week. In the process, it appears nc+ has found itself a mystery new hardware supplier, after ADB sold off its manufacturing business around three years ago.
A key reason for the wave of 4K set top announcements is the increasingly affordable prices of 4K TV sets, likely to drop even further in the coming weeks in the run up to the festive period. However, while operators are upping the stakes in 4K, much of the premium pay TV content such as live sports is still not available in 4K resolution. You can pick up a decent 4K HDR TV set for under $400 today, providing access to 4K HDR sports content via various streaming apps, but even a cable package from any of the US cable majors won’t get you any NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB content in 4K HDR.
That said, nc+ followed up its UltraBox+ unveiling by announcing it will offer UEFA Champions League and Premier League soccer matches in 4K UHD format, showing the first match next week, with plans to broaden its 4K content portfolio soon. It claims the launch of UltraBox+ is the first time Polish satellite TV subscribers can watch UHD 4K content, providing live channels, VoD libraries and internet services – so that’s two birds with one stone for nc+, nailing Poland’s first 4K set top deployment and first broadcast of a 4K UHD sports match.
ADB has had a contract at nc+ since 2006, supplying some 2 million set tops and software, but the latest deal for the new UltraBox+ clearly states that ADB is only on the software side, although ADB said it could not comment on which company is supplying set top hardware. We also believe that ADB handles decoding inside the set top, along with Cisco transcoding, packaging, recording, storage and playback, plus the Cisco Virtualized Video Processing suite for virtualizing VoD time shift workflows and to simplify video operations from live encoding to multiscreen playout.
ADB hardware at nc+, including the 4740SF set top, is kitted up with ADB’s multiscreen and cloud-based system, which it says is field deployable to any ADB set top. The latest announcement strongly suggests that ADB’s software is deployed on a third-party set top, which is not surprising as ADB continued shipping OEM devices after cutting off its hardware arm, but the fact that there was no mention of ADB hardware in the UltraBox+ release also suggests that multiple other ADB customers could be in the process of switching out legacy hardware but retaining ADB software. ADB has always said it has a set top and software integration deployment, whoever is making the hardware, which is why the UltraBox+ news strikes us as different.
In Poland, ADB also has set top deployments at Cyfrowy Polsat and Multimedia Polska, and elsewhere in Europe hardware is used by the likes of Canal Digital in Norway and Mediaset in Italy.
ADB was perhaps ahead of the curve in shifting its core business from hardware to software. This year has seen others, like Netgem, heading in a similar direction, as the French multiscreen technology vendor recently told Faultline Online Reporter about its heightened software ambitions and gradual exit from hardware.
The UltraBox+ provides subscribers with access to the nc+ Go TV service which offers 12,000 on-demand titles and 80 live channels on mobile devices, at no extra charge.
VP of Sales at ADB Jacek Galik said, “The 4K UltraBox+ product is an example of yet another joint success and our strong partnership with nc+. In fact over ten years ago, together with nc+, we introduced the HDTV standard to the Polish market and launched our first HD platform. We initiated the revolution in television reception and viewer experience. Since then, nc+ has applied many ADB solutions such as: PVR, pushVoD, Multiscreen, Internet TV, etc. to create an attractive, innovative and feature-rich offer. Together we are initiating the 4K era, once again ahead of the competition. This is the proof that we are a leader in the deployment and integration of modern technologies.”