OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Qatari TV network beIN Media pulled out all the stops this week in its vehement allegations against the state of Saudi Arabia for condoning the illegal distribution of its channels by pirate imitation network beoutQ. beIN launched a website describing “the industrial scale theft of world sports and entertainment” and claims to have solid evidence that satellite operator Arabsat is the guilty string puller behind the pirate activities. The debacle has been ongoing now for around 18 months. A panel has been set up by the World Trade Organisation to investigate the case of intellectual property theft.

Earlier this week, the President of public broadcaster France Televisions declared it was no longer necessary to sell programs to Netflix, following an agreement between the country’s public TV institution and producers of French series involving the acquisition of new digital rights. The share of in-house productions for France Televisions was increased from 12.5% to 17.5% of investments, from its €450 million total annual programming spend.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has rolled out an OTT video platform called STIRR, offering about 20 channels covering sports, news and entertainment in a free, ad-supported service. STIRR is available on smartphones, PCs and connected TV devices. The move could potentially mark a setback for the digital TV standard ATSC 3.0 – for which Sinclair’s continued involvement is pivotal.

A few days prior, Sinclair signed a new multi-year deal with its long-term video transmission technology supplier LiveU, upgrading its stations in 80 locations in the US to LiveU’s flagship model of HEVC field units for newsgathering. As well as enhanced video quality and lower bandwidth, it brings higher efficiencies and reliability.

ITV Studios, the production arm of the UK broadcaster, says 5 out of the 10 most watched programs in the UK last year were produced by its associated labels. Over in the US, it claims ITV America is now the largest independent producer of unscripted content in the country, clocking up 600 plus hours of original content.

US video distribution network firm Wurl has launched a new turnkey server-side ad insertion product called ApSpring, designed to insert mid-roll ads into linear and VoD programming on multiple devices – allowing for pre-integration with Roku, Apple TV, and Samsung TV Plus. It says AdSpring requires no engineering and it can schedule the location and duration of mid-roll breaks while Wurl handles ad markers for targeted ad requests, as well as stitching, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Orange-owned broadcasting company Globecast has teamed up with Brazilian network Guigo TV for a new OTT video service, offering linear channels and live events from the world over. Guigo TV will offer multiple nice packages at low price points for mobile devices and PCs.

Apple Music is landing on Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited mobile plans, the MNO’s most expensive two tiers, giving subscribers free access to the music streaming service at no extra cost. It builds on the six-month promotional partnership between the two, inked back in August.

After acquiring video technology vendor NeuLion for $250 million last year, entertainment group Endeavor has created a new streaming unit called Endeavor Streaming – powering content from the NFL, NBA, UFC and Euroleague.

Sports streaming service fuboTV said engagement in December tripled to record levels, driven by viewers tuning in on connected TVs which surpassed 70 hours per subscriber for the month. Surprisingly, entertainment content was top dog with a 47% share of viewing, followed by sports with 33%, and news with 20%.

Telefónica’s Movistar brand is poised to sell its operations in Guatemala and El Salvador for $600 million, with América Móvil’s Claro currently the bookies’ favorite, according to Spanish daily El Economista. It’s no coincidence the news emerged in the same week mobile operator Millicom confirmed it had entered discussions for a sale to Liberty Latin America (see full story in this issue).

Greek telco OTE, owned by Deutsche Telekom, has sold its stake in Telekom Albania to Telekom Albania Invest (easily confused) for €50 million ($57 million).

Niantic Labs, developer of augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go, has secured a $245 million Series C funding round – valuing the company at almost $4 billion. It comes in anticipation of the new Harry Potter: Wizards Unite mobile game, and Niantic also said it plans to invest in machine learning. The financing was led by IVP, with additional investments from aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV, and Samsung Ventures.

US cableco Cox says internet traffic totaled 29.33 TB during the first three days of the CES trade show last week, including 3.55 TB of WiFi traffic and a total of 759,465 internet sessions on 223,128 unique devices. Cox fitted the event with 2,100 WiFi access points, with redundant 10 Gbps backbone connections and a distributed antenna system.

Spain added 2 million FTTH lines last year, peaking in October with 203,000 connections, to total 8.2 million FTTH lines, while DSL lost 1.3 million lines, according to a report from Spanish competition regulator CNMC. Approximately 90% of these connections are operated by Movistar, Orange and Vodafone, led by Movistar with a 46.9% share.

HEVC royalties should be comparable to or less than the current licensing rates from the main patent pool for AVC, the MPEG-LA, suggests a study from video technology vendor Unified Streaming. It concludes that the total per unit HEVC patent royalty should most likely fall between $0.08 and $0.28 per unit, depending on use case and device type. The 35-page study claims some licensors are grossly overvaluing HEVC, causing unsubstantiated royalty stacking over multiple pools.

Dubbed the “American telco in Europe,” Vodafone-owned operator TKS has selected an analytics platform from US supplier OpenVault for its broadband footprint serving Germany and Italy. OpenVault’s cloud-based Operations & Analytics module gives TKS insights into broadband usage across its networks, enabling better management and forecasting of bandwidth capacity, as well as subscriber metrics.

Software-defined networking (SDN) managed service provider SDNbucks has tapped Nokia’s Nuage Networks SD-WAN 2.0 product to provide connectivity for sports data intelligence firm SciSports – focusing on deep learning and computer vision technologies in sports. Nokia says its SD-WAN 2.0 product interconnects sports stadiums, research and data centers. Its cloud-based application engine is hosted on Google Cloud Platform.

Belgian TV software vendor Zappware has poached Verimatrix’s VP of Sales EMEA, Pierre Hunter, to serve on its commercial team.