Altice Labs recruits Utelly to make recommendations sexy again

In anticipation of going live with a large UK operator customer imminently, video search technology vendor Utelly has inked an intriguing deal for a project with Altice Labs in Portugal to dive into recommendations based on TV subscriber behavioral data. This technology might not sound groundbreaking in itself, yet the announcement has made some otherworldly-sounding promises.

Recommendations – remember those? The slowdown in coverage concerning content recommendation engines might well imply the technology has reached the end of the road in terms of how intelligent a recommendation can be. But the way we see it, content recommendations are becoming an increasingly integral pillar in a broader connected home ecosystem – while trendier technologies slide into the spotlight.

So why is the R&D division of a major European operator teaming up with a vendor practically unheard of outside the UK? Well, spearheaded by sponsorship money from the European Union’s research and innovation division, Utelly and Altice Labs say they aim to provide better collaboration between public and private sectors across Europe by breaking down barriers with world-class scientific innovations. That doesn’t sound like a market which has reached its peak nor does it sound like something which will arise through collecting TV viewer data.

Dubbed the Horizon 2020 project (no connection to Liberty Global’s video platform as far as we can tell), Altice Labs will provide an environment for which Utelly will collect and digest anonymized TV consumption data from Altice Portugal set top users. The announcement did not specify, however, how many of the approximately 1.2 million subscribers of Altice Portugal’s Meo TV business are taking part in the project or indeed which set tops specifically will be involved – as we know Arris supplies hardware for the Meo 4K platform while Samsung set tops are used for satellite services. We have reached out to Utelly for confirmation.

This is interesting since Altice Portugal licenses technology from TiVo which presumably includes the DigitalSmiths recommendation software, so bringing in a third-party recommendation engine provider for the Horizon 2020 project seems strange and for Utelly surely it will be praying for a full deployment at Altice Portugal as the ultimate prize. Perhaps then it can think about the American dream at Altice USA.

But until then, the focus for Altice is on how to improve the end user experience for its subscribers – and it seems to stretch way beyond the capabilities of a small vendor like Utelly. The announcement is naturally vague, not giving anything away to prying eyes. It talks about achieving “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges.” All very fluffy and inspirational stuff but nothing which helps us understand precisely where Altice Portugal plans to invest following the results produced by Utelly’s Horizon 2020 set top viewership data project. Perhaps neither party knows themselves yet.

Altice acquired Meo in Portugal in 2015 and for some brief background, we know a combination of Alcatel-Lucent and AuthenTec were revealed as core suppliers enabling the Meo Go TV Everywhere service, which is an extension of its Mediaroom IPTV system – using the MediaFirst TV platform now operated by new company MediaKind, which is partly home grown and partly inherited from Ericsson’s acquisition of Azuki.

Utelly CEO and founder Romain Eude commented, “We are beginning to understand how to deliver richer, more granular content to TV subscribers in ways that were not possible even five years ago, due to the growing sophisticated of artificial intelligence, and we have an ideal opportunity to advance the industry’s knowledge base for the greater benefit of TV viewers across Europe, and beyond. Utelly looks forward to jointly creating a set of data, with Altice Labs in Portugal, that offers greater insights into the delivery of curated content recommendations. We are grateful for this Horizon 2020 opportunity and see this as a natural extension of our expanding EU presence.”