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3 September 2020

OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Five years ago this week…

There was potential trouble ahead for HEVC as competing patent initiative, Project Thor, recruited Google and Microsoft. HEVC was already weathering a licensing war from a faction intent on driving up its prices to suicidal levels, so the star-studded cast of Project Thor looked like it could derail the codec. Led by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) and already hosting the likes of Cisco, Amazon, Intel, Mozilla and Netflix, Project Thor aimed to build a codec based largely on its members’ own patents that would be royalty free, announcing with immaculate timing that the codec would be ready in 18 months. Upon considering that Google owned Motorola’s patents, we felt at the time that Project Thor was now potentially powerful enough to pull off the heist of HEVC implementation. Although AOMedia told us that the timing of the announcement was not intended to damage HEVC, we weren’t having any of it. Another example of how dramatically the tectonic plates of the Faultline can shift in half a decade.

Altice USA is throwing the cat among the cable pigeons, masterminding a bizarre deal that involves submitting a disruptive $7.8 billion offer to acquire cableco Cogeco and then immediately – if successful – sell Cogeco’s Canadian assets to Canada-based operator Rogers Communications. Altice USA would therefore keep hold of Cogeco’s US footprint which includes Atlantic Broadband. What is most notable about Cogeco from a video viewpoint, is how it totally abandoned its shift to IPTV back in 2014, and then resurrected them again in 2018 with a new platform powered by technology from MediaKind. Rogers, meanwhile, licenses the RDK platform from Comcast, so we could see Cogeco shifting to RDK if this deal proceeds.

Verizon Media’s demand-side programmatic advertising platform is providing automated access to Dish Media’s household addressable ad inventory – connecting advertisers to OTT media and linear channels together. Importantly, this includes Sling TV.

A free video app streaming some 66 local TV stations, called Locast, has just launched in Detroit, and is already claiming in excess of 1.5 million active users. This brings Locast’s footprint to 23 US TV markets and 145 million users.

Meanwhile, another ad-supported streaming service focused on broadcast TV channels arrived in the US this week. Showing more than 200 TV stations, VUit is the brainchild of veteran TV technology vendor Syncbank, working with stations including Meredith Corp and Gray Television.

 

Despite being available in Russia since 2015, Netflix’s support for Russian subtitling and dubbing has been rather limited. That is about to change following an agreement between Netflix and Russian holding firm National Media Group that will see the launch of a dedicated Russian language platform, according to Broadband TV News. It comes in the same week that Netflix is attesting a new free-to-view feature to reel in non-subscribers, which is currently comprised entirely of Netflix original titles.

Vivendi-owned video streaming platform Dailymotion is providing premium content and supporting video technology to Mi Video, the video streaming app from Chinese electronics company Xiaomi. Monthly active users on mobile devices running Xiaomi’s MIUI OS totaled 330.7 million as of March 2020.

US cablecos Grande Communications, RCN and Wave Broadband, part of the Astound group owned by private equity firm TPG, is being put up on the market for a reported $8 billion, according to Reuters.

Telecom Italia Mobile has all-but confirmed the arrival of a national broadband network in Italy after selling a 37.5% stake in its fixed access unit FiberCop to KKR Infrastructure for €1.8 billion. FiberCop will reportedly be merged with wholesale operator Open Fiber to form a new national broadband network business called AccessCo. FiberCop’s FTTx services already reach approximately 85% of the Italian population.

In-flight broadband connectivity firm Gogo is being snapped up by Intelsat for $400 million, despite the troubled satellite fleet operator being in a state of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Gogo connects over 3,000 commercial aircraft. It comes days after Intelsat asked the US bankruptcy court that is currently handling its Chapter 11 proceedings to keep the identity of a firm that Intelsat wants to buy secret. Intelsat says, in a court filing, that it has entered a two-week exclusivity agreement with the target company, but Intelsat still needs the court to sign off on the purchase.

 

Australian operator Telstra has rolled out Zixi’s Zen Master control plane to distribute high-quality video content over IP to customers and partners on the Telstra Global Media Network (GMN), a purpose-built video contribution and distribution network made up of fiber networks and satellite capabilities. Zixi’s software-defined video expertise connects on-network media rights holders to off-network media buyers by transporting linear video over cloud infrastructure with the Telstra GMN.

Unsettled OTT sports streamer DAZN is experiencing a rebirth, landing on Vodafone’s GigaTV platform in Germany in what is set to be the first of many partnerships between the two companies.

Google’s new streaming hardware, dubbed Sabrina, could cost around $50, according to 9to5Google. The forthcoming Android TV dongle is not positioned as a Chromecast replacement.

Samsung has parted ways with its China-based LCD panel manufacturing center in a $1.1 billion sale to China Star Optoelectronics Technology, according to local news reports. It is widely known that Samsung is shifting from LCD production to OLED panels.

Line Corporation, a business messaging app established in South Korea, has tapped the ExpressPlay DRM from Intertrust to secure its new VVID entertainment digital trading card platform. VVID is targeted at the Japanese market for fans to purchase or trade digital cards featuring their favorite content.

Google Fiber has found its third streaming TV partner in virtual MVPD Philo. Philo holds around 750,000 subscribers and as of the first half of this year claimed to be the fastest growing MVPD on the market, so this is a much-needed addition to Google’s modest IPTV offering.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service has been trialing voice-powered ads, with brands such as Unilever and Target testing out the format. Voice activated ads encourage immediate responses from the user, which allows easy metrics on engagement.

Edge Networks has announced that Enensys is behind its new converged ATSC 3.0-based network. Called Evoca, the network will blend ATSC 3.0 and ATSC 1.0 signals for OTA video delivery of linear channels, complemented with a broadband connection for bringing desirable third-party services.

With the handover date for Apple’s new mobile ad identifier, the IDFA, fast approaching, Facebook gas warned that iOS 14 could cripple its Audience Network advertising business, potentially halving its revenues. DMG Media has also said that iOS 14 stands to cripple monetization from its various apps.

TiVo is swapping around its OTT offerings. The company announced that the HBO app will be leaving its DVR devices, while Fox’s AVoD service Tubi will now be available on the new TiVo Stream 4K device and the TiVo+ content streaming network.

AdLedger has announced its CryptoRTB protocol. The open source technology injects cryptographic tools into OpenRTB protocol to identify illegitimate ad supply, create a verifiable chain of custody, and allow data access and validation across the digital advertising industry.

 

United Group has chosen Irdeto’s cardless conditional access (CA) system to protect its DTH services across South East Europe. The CA system has been integrated into United Group’s latest satellite HEVC-enabled STB zapper content.

OneWeb has secured FCC approval for an additional 1,280 satellites, which will operate in the V-band at around 8,500 kilometer orbits, and support the 720 Ka and Ku band satellites that OneWeb already has approval for. Its new owners could alter this strategy.

Tenet has recorded a $54 million opening weekend globally, across 40 countries. The EMEA region accounted for $37 million of that total, and the film will launch in China this week. For some context, China’s The Eight Hundred has passed $270 million within its first two weeks, and is expected to pass $300 million shortly.