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17 December 2020

MediaKind confirms Android TV client; Accedo says jump aboard, the weather is fine

Six months after Faultline’s exclusive scoop and at least one month ahead of schedule, MediaKind has entered the Android TV arena with Mediaroom Play. The launch comes just in time for MediaKind – but will this be the final evolution of the Ericsson spin off’s once much-adored Mediaroom technology?

Mediaroom being on the ropes is not exactly an industry secret. Many operator customers could simply not afford the jump to MediaFirst, the fully virtualized cloud-based TV platform technology for pay TV operators. This gulf between the two technologies has drawn the gaze of Mediaroom customers to Android TV Operator Tier as an alternative and a natural next step in the evolution of in-home entertainment. This culminated in the creation of Mediaroom Play to stem the flow of losses from Mediaroom to Android TV, which we believe has been brought forward (from the originally cited 2021 launch for an Android TV client) by the arrival of the Google Broadcast Stack onto Technicolor CPE – slashing deployment times and undermining suppliers of broadcast software stacks developed in-house with proprietary functions.

Mediaroom Play comes with all the usual bells and whistles, promising a rich pool of over 1,000 streaming content providers and over 7,000 applications via the Google Play Store. The reason for not blessing the new product with a standalone name is because Mediaroom Play is built on the core components and primary services of Mediaroom, including live streaming, VoD, time shift TV, presentation framework, and Mediaroom video/audio delivery. Enhanced DVR features and additional data analytics capabilities are also part and parcel of Mediaroom Play, based on Release 10 of Android TV OS and Widevine DRM.

Significantly, Mediaroom Play is another win for CommScope, pre-integrating the platform on its VIP7802 set top running Broadcom 72180 SoC, controlled by a ruwido remote with voice search functionality via Google Assistant.

Hardware aside, Mediaroom Play is a serious entrant into the increasingly crowded Operator Tier scene – with its end-to-end clout proving an easy option for operators and therefore potentially problematic for the smaller software suppliers in this market.

Mediaroom Play therefore doesn’t paint the multi-vendor picture we are accustomed to seeing from pre-integrated Android TV Operator Tier platforms. Avoiding vendor lock-in, while having the freedom to pick and choose from a variety of vendor technologies on offer – from the custom launcher at the front-end to recommendation engines and analytics supporting the back-end – is part and parcel of the Android TV appeal for operators looking to freshen things up. But with MediaKind doing so much of the leg work, why bother taking a multi-vendor approach?

That said, it was less than three months ago that MediaKind deployed the new Engine 6.0 technology from Canadian UI developer You.i TV, to speed up application development. You.i Engine 6.0 also brings the open source Hermes JavaScript interpreter to the table, developed by Facebook engineers as a drop-in replacement for JavaScriptCore on Android, which You.i TV has brought to Android TV (including Operator Tier), Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Tizen, and LG webOS.

Despite the initial walled garden-type launch, MediaKind may be open to integration opportunities to improve its nascent offering. One option is via vendor communities like the Accedo One Marketplace or the 3Ready Entertainment Ecosystem from 3SS. Even though it would not really make sense for a multi-faceted vendor like MediaKind to join such partner programs, we did some double checking and can confirm that MediaKind is not a member of either.

This brings us to a bigger issue. Both Accedo and 3SS insist these marketplaces are about putting vested interests to one side to better the wider TV ecosystem for everyone involved, allowing marketplace customers to try out different technologies and select what works best for them. Win-win-win for vendor-operator-subscriber, right?

Ever since Faultline was first introduced to an Android TV marketplace feature as part of the Accedo One cloud platform, which was in beta mode at the time of IBC 2019, we have seen these exclusive clubs as a way of shutting out larger threats. Both Accedo and 3SS have claimed their stances are strictly Swiss, yet we have said from the beginning that huddling together would be the best form of defense in the long-term, and the absence of bigger beasts from these ecosystems, such as MediaKind, could be testament to that. MediaKind might have other plans, to undermine their very existence.

Faultline touched base with both Accedo and 3SS to get some final words from the two Android TV experts into our final issue of the year. Accedo CEO Michael Lantz came straight back with a speedy comment, “Accedo One Marketplace is open for everyone and we would love to discuss with MediaKind if it would want to enter the marketplace. Historically, MediaKind has been known to always want to do E2E deliveries, which for obvious reasons would be meaningless in the Marketplace context, but if the strategy is more flexible in the future, we think it would be a great addition. We already have more than 50 companies in the Accedo One Marketplace and we’re adding new solutions all the time.”

Unfortunately, timing was not on our side in sourcing a comment from 3SS, but we’ll be sure to reconvene in the new year.

It was June 2020 when, following a tip off about Mediaroom customer Bell Canada requesting an Android TV client, MediaKind confirmed exclusively to Faultline that it will continue to invest in the Mediaroom program and its innovation roadmap, as the vendor embraces the Android TV ecosystem and adopts the technology as part of Mediaroom’s ongoing development.

The pay TV operator was apparently threatening to scrap the Mediaroom platform that Bell’s IPTV business has relied on since 2007. Our source said Bell Canada had requested an Android TV option for its legacy Mediaroom-based infrastructure, although MediaKind contested this report at the time – assuring us that it continues to partner with Bell Canada in the development of TV platforms across both Mediaroom and MediaFirst.

Getting Bell Canada to sign up for MediaFirst must surely be MediaKind’s priority, although there could be scope for the Canadian operator to deploy both Mediaroom Play and MediaFirst, which would be a real statement.