While video service providers new and old have embraced a multiscreen distribution to accommodate viewers’ preferences to stream video content to any and every device that has a screen, the OTT market still has one glaring blindspot: multi-network distribution.
So says Aaron Keogh, VP of business development at MatrixStream. MatrixStream claims to offer end-to-end IPTV and OTT video solutions which are truly multiscreen, and network-agnostic. He said that MatrixStream’s streaming video solutions can deliver HD content at low bitrates over multiple forms of network, including wireline, wireless and mobile networks.
“Your platform should work seamlessly, whether the customer is watching over the mobile phone, over the tablet, over the PC, over the set-top box, over the smart TV,” Keogh said. “If you can’t deal with the environment, you’re not going to scale. If you’re built to go on the road, you’re not built to go on the water. MatrixStream is a car and a boat and it could also be a plane.”
Keogh is critical of how legacy pay TV providers have deployed their own OTT and IPTV services, and suggests that tier 1 service providers don’t have a great track record. He cites glitchy interfaces, poor content options, limited device support and at times even limited network support.
Take AT&T’s recently launched DirecTV Now – a service that AT&T promised would be truly network-agnostic, available to consumers to stream pay TV on AT&T’s mobile network and its U-verse broadband network to the home. The launch was met with some criticism by users, due to technical glitches. AT&T by contrast says that the criticisms were only aimed at its EPG, and even then, only across a low number of users, and for a short time.
“Technical issues within a launch, integration issues with third party equipment, whether it’s set-top boxes, encoders, transcoders, third party devices – that can take time from a launch, and gum up a service,” Keogh said, and that will ultimately prevent companies from delivering the experiences they want to their customers.
AT&T’s release of DirecTV Now is just one example. Dish Network’s Sling TV suffered bouts of outages and other technical glitches when it first launched; Foxtel’s iQ3 set-top box was so buggy that the company had to completely re-build it after receiving a tidal wave of complaints from users about glitches; CenturyLink in the US and Rogers Communications in Canada have both recently announced plans to move away from their respective IPTV platforms. Rogers took a $525 million hit in Q4 2016 for its IPTV service, which had been in development for five years, before deciding to license Comcast’s X1 platform instead.
CenturyLink, similarly, is considering reselling DirecTV Now as its OTT offering, and will move away from its Prism TV IPTV product. “We have deemphasized Prism TV and are moving more toward an over-the-top product,” said CenturyLink President and CEO Glen Post at the company’s earnings call this month. “If you look at the margins, sometimes they were actually negative margins. We have to make a truck roll and the cost of provisioning really makes it difficult from a returns standpoint for driving the kind of returns we expect,” Post said of the Prism TV product.
Those are exactly the issues pay TV providers are facing in their IPTV and OTT launches, Keogh said. High content prices, coupled with costs associated with deploying a new service, eat into the thinner margins of these new video streaming services, while issues with integration of the various components of the service with devices, third party hardware, billing, etc, can quickly turn a possible revenue stream into a capital guzzling black hole.
“A lot of these companies should be picking up systems off the shelf, and not building them; because it’s a huge cost in resources, staff, time,” he said. “And it’s not a simple thing to do. There are a huge number of aspects to building in these systems, it’s not simple.”
Keogh believes MatrixStream’s end-to-end, network-agnostic solutions are well positioned to help pay TV providers make headway in the new world of video consumption. Matrix offers a number of video solutions, including a 3G/4G IP set-top box, and an end-to-end MatrixCloud IPTV solution that the company claims can go to market in as little as 60 days. It leverages SaaS models to help further bring down CapEx for operators. “We want to solve this issue for the industry,” Keogh said. “We want to break down barriers, we want to streamline processes, and we want to get clients to market as quickly and effectively as possible.”
The company’s solutions are already deployed in parts of Africa, where mobile operators are taking advantage of its 3G/4G set-top box solutions to deliver video services in the home. Keogh noted that MatrixStream’s solutions would fit nicely with any operator looking to expand video services beyond a wireline footprint. “Even tier 3 providers will be able to go up against the biggest players, and actually beat them,” with MatrixStream’s solutions, Keogh claimed. Of course, we’ve heard that before, from other end-to-end solution providers.
What’s clear, however, is that pay TV providers who want to compete in the next generation of multi-screen, multi-network video distribution business will need to nail down these launches with cost-effective services that deliver superior QoE and QoS to consumers.
“If pay TV operators don’t figure this out, they are going to stagnate, terribly,” Keogh said. “They’re going to waste money, in the billions of dollars, and ultimately they’re not going to get a piece of the action.”