NAB teaser trailer – time to shine for Operator Tier in US?

ATSC 3.0 and SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) are two distinct and arguably opposing technologies expected to star at next week’s NAB show, but who will be the key vendors drawing battle lines in the sand in Las Vegas? We’ve swept up and dug into a handful of pre-NAB announcements to whet the appetite here before Faultline Online Reporter reports directly from the ground next week.

Unlike at its more fashionable younger brother CES, video technology vendors have more of a voice at NAB and the show’s importance to the TV ecosystem therefore cannot be overstated.

First off is a product launch from compression company V-Nova, rolling out an updated cloud-based SaaS transcoding and delivery platform for its enhanced Perseus Plus h.264 and native h.264 encoding platform. As always, the release references offering higher quality video at up to 50% lower bitrates, so nothing specifically new there, but it emphasizes the importance of shifting transcoding services to the cloud for live streams in what remains a significant challenge for operators.

Four years since unveiling its flagship Perseus technology and under pressure from the emergence of AV1, V-Nova is more desperate than ever to prove a point and we understand there is finally some significant progress being made in the V-Nova camp (see separate story in this issue). That said, V-Nova and its infamously ambiguous nature is why we are very much looking forward to our meeting with the company next week. V-Nova also announced a joint FPGA-based encoding system with fellow video compression company NGCodec – offering Perseus Plus enhanced HEVC, with – interestingly – VP9 and AV1 “coming soon”.

Next up, video experience software developer Accedo is hoping to make its mark in the sports sector at NAB with the introduction of a new product for launching OTT and D2C services featuring live, catch-up and on-demand video to all major platforms. Building on the Accedo One cloud platform, the Swedish vendor’s sports push drops in an element of AI to power features such as clipping, social sharing, A/B testing and data-driven design, as well as new capabilities for AR and VR experiences.

Accedo already claims to have powered more than 8 million daily users during major sporting events last summer, mainly soccer and cricket, and its emphasis on sport’s this week makes a change from the company’s Android TV-focused announcements, although we get the impression it might be saving an announcement of that ilk until next week’s main event.

Speaking of Android TV, Amino Communications is a vendor of merit showcasing products relating to the popular operator tier technology, hoping to gain recognition at NAB in what we see as hugely significant given the expectation that a tier 1 or 2 operator in the US will launch an Android TV offering at some point this year. Powered by its Google-certified AminoOS software, Amino will showcase its “Operator Ready” Android TV solution at NAB. For the sake of prospective customers, we certainly hope the OPERATOR TIER product is OPERATOR READY.

The Amino announcement initially doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of individuality but that shouldn’t take away from its credibility and given the surge of products in recent years, vendor differentiation is no mean feat. But just as we prepare to say “same old, same old”, Amino then lists four differentiating operator ready features. These are legacy middleware platform integration, legacy network integration (e.g. IGMP multicast and multicast ABR), fast channel change, and engage service assurance. The latter is described as a cloud-enabled platform delivering device software, firmware and configuration management.

Amino emphasizes managing delivery of linear and streaming video services while supporting integration with legacy network environments, exactly what many pay TV operators are looking for, bringing over 150 OTT apps to subscribers along with voice-activated remote control. Amino describes an extended and enhanced version of the platform with cloud-based service management tools plus additional specialist back-end support.

There might well be a resistance to Android TV operator tier in the US but with European counterparts enjoying much success through embracing the open TV ecosystem on offer, we feel NAB 2019 has the potential to set the stage for the start of Android TV operator tier’s US invasion – therefore providing vendors with a substantial opportunity to make their mark.

Hybrid TV delivery technology ATSC 3.0 will again be a hot topic at NAB and an announcement of note came not from the open test bed the Phoenix Model Market initiative but from video app developer 24i Media, launching a new product. The Dutch vendor mentions enabling advertisers to better target ads based on parameters such as channel, genre and location – an important feature for the uptake of ATSC 3.0 in an OTT world.

24i Media says its software is designed to improve OTA services while combining broadcast and broadband, technology which has been tipped to be superior to Europe’s HbbTV yet is in danger of missing the boat. This year’s NAB show might well be make or break time for ATSC 3.0 and Faultline Online Reporter has dug into this topic in more detail in a separate story in this week’s issue.

There was also a spot of pre-NAB M&A action this week as visual storytelling tools provider Vizrt acquired live IP video production firm NewTek for an undisclosed fee – creating a sizable broadcast production entity. Consolidation in the production space is perhaps fitting given the cross-industry consolidation seen in recent years with major operators buying major studios and the enormous sums being set aside for live sports rights as well as original content strategies. So, the creation of a production powerhouse expert in the transition to IP video, with a focus on live events, could be just what the doctor ordered for the broadcast industry.