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23 July 2020

Ateme elevated to Movistar+ Spain – in shock blow to AWS Elemental?

While numerous video technology switch-out jobs occur on a weekly basis, few ever make it into the public eye, and even fewer involve replacing technologies from the AWS empire.

Yet that appears to be the surprise case this week, as French encoding expert Ateme slid into the main Movistar+ account, the entertainment arm of Spanish giant Telefónica, which is a long-term user of AWS Elemental. Arriving in Telefónica’s core Spanish market is the real cherry on the cake for Ateme, having worked with Telefónica outside of Spain for a number of years.

But is this the end of an era for AWS? Not a chance.

Movistar+ has gone live with Ateme’s flagship Titan platform for distribution of live DTH and OTT video services, which includes transitioning to a virtual head-end. Ateme talks up the benefits of Titan being a pure software-based encoder that can run on any common off-the-shelf (COTS) or virtualized server, featuring a broad spread of supporting input and output formats for rapid high quality live channel launches. Movistar+ can implement bandwidth savings in MPEG-2 and H.264 through Titan, which can massively cut satellite transponder usage, while delivering high quality video at the lowest possible bitrate.

What this symbolizes is the blunting of the double-edged sword that slashed encoding vendors during the pandemic, where the total shutdown of live sports for several months saw these high-value contracts replaced with a boom in file-based encoding tasks as SVoD viewing skyrocketed.

While Elemental pioneered the encoding scene ahead of its landmark acquisition by AWS in 2015, the multifaceted nature of AWS has kept Elemental technologies busy powering cloud-based services the world over, and so the importance of being the incumbent software transcoding supplier for a converged DTH/OTT head-end at an entity like Movistar+ is of less importance today. In the broader scheme of things, Telefónica continues to rely heavily on AWS for other – arguably more lucrative – services, if indeed there is any accuracy behind our assumption of AWS Elemental no longer being deployed here.

Another interesting element in the story is Telefónica’s decision to develop its own AI assistant, called Aura, which was created in partnership with Microsoft. So not only did Telefonica snub the easy option of integrating Alexa and/or Google Assistant into its various platforms, but it decided to use technologies and services from a fierce cloud rival in the process. Unveiled at MWC 2018, customer care, single billing, cross-selling and advertising are also part of Telefónica’s customer management circle along with the Aura platform.

Telefónica has initiated a number of change ups at Movistar over the years, notably the project to build its own set top middleware in late 2016, based on the Frog Source software from French pay TV player Wyplay. Frog Source provides the code which 200 set top software components are built on, and this effectively provides operators with a cheaper alternative to proprietary software – by allowing them to create their own products. This replaced Oregan Networks’ set top software stack combining digital terrestrial and OTT video delivery capabilities for DVB-T in Spain.

Ateme will be powering Movistar+ Lite, the shiny new OTT video service unveiled by Telefónica under the Movistar brand in Spain a year ago. Movistar+ Lite costs €8 a month, with a healthy selection of sports content covering 20 competitions, plus more than 4,600 fiction series and access to 350 entertainment programs.

Telefonica’s core TV service was branded in March 2015 as Movistar Fusion TV, available on smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs. Also off note is how Telefonica took on the Yomvi OTT service when it acquired the Canal+ pay TV business in Spain in 2015, which is free to Canal+ satellite TV subscribers.