Harmonic wins Orange OTT upgrade – substituting Envivio?

US encoding firm Harmonic looks to have pinched the Orange contract out from under the nose of Ericsson’s Envivio business, but a quick sift through old press releases reveals that Harmonic was already working with Orange, née France Telecom, throwing doubt over Orange being an entirely new design win for Harmonic – and suggesting the French operator has actually been sourcing multiple encoder suppliers for years.

At IBC 2012, Harmonic partnered with France Telecom alongside French vendors Broadpeak and Viaccess-Orca on what they called a best of breed alliance, from which we can reasonably conclude that the CDN implementation came from Broadpeak, VO supplied a security system and Harmonic filled in the remaining parts of the video infrastructure – providing transcoding, content packaging and integration with legacy systems.

Harmonic declined to comment on what has been going at Orange over the past five years, but we reckon it has been working away behind the scenes at Orange the entire time, and this week saw it handed a bigger deal for its live encoding and transcoding platform to upgrade Orange’s IPTV and OTT video delivery architecture. Harmonic says it is enabling the delivery of 190 channels for OTT and 166 channels for IPTV to 6.6 million subscribers in France, centered around what is now described as a software-based Electra encoding product. Electra supports HEVC to enable Orange to deliver UHD and HDR services at low bit rates.

In the past Harmonic’s Electra range of products were reliant on particular ASIC hardware, but it now seems to be on a COTS server and is based in software.

To us this deal looks like an overdue merging of two separate systems, one for IPTV and another for OTT, into a single encoding architecture, so that they are both created at once from the same sources files. The weakness around Ericsson’s media business and the fact that it is now up for sale was almost certainly instrumental in this decision.

Orange published its Q3 results shortly after Harmonic’s press release hit the wires, showing a jump in TV subscribers in France to 6.84 million, adding 329,000 customers in the quarter. It also has 21.8 million mobile subscribers in France and an additional 49.2 million on mobile across its European footprint.

We know that Viaccess-Orca has led the Orange incursion into multiscreen with its Voyage software suite, amounting to a CMS, a service delivery platform, UI designer and content discovery technology. The tablet and smartphone applications we understand were originally written by Norway’s Norigin Media, a TV Everywhere company which offers what it calls Media Hybrid Apps. Norigin is now better known for Cloudncoder, a cloud-based encoding platform, but as far as we know this is not used by Orange.

Orange’s streaming service, La TV d’Orange, offers a live channel package for $23.50 a month, available only to subscribers of Orange Internet or Orange Mobile. It launched its new Livebox set top in mid-2016 and its own HDMI dongle the previous year.