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16 February 2023

OTT Video News, Deals, Launches and Products

Five years ago this week…

US CDN provider Limelight Networks began bundling the three popular browser-based DRMs, making it unnecessary to engage with a CAS or DRM specialist in order to launch an encrypted OTT video service. All of a sudden, investments within the OTT video marketplace seemed less certain, as a once $3 billion industry – independent Conditional Access and DRM – was being cannibalized by a neighboring service. A CDN major offering to take out a cost from a neighboring service, purely to give its own service an edge, seemed to be a clear indicator of slimming margins in OTT.

Roku added 9.9 million active accounts in 2022, to end the year with a base of 70 million users globally. Total net revenue grew 13% year on year to $3.1 billion, with gross profit up 2% to $1.4 billion. In Q4 2022, streaming hours spiked 23% to 23.9 billion hours.

Orange Group closed 2022 with almost 12 million IPTV and satellite accesses, after a boost of 20,000 subs in Q4 that brought full-year video gains up to 220,000. The biggest TV gains came at Orange Spain, where the operator’s accounting method now includes the addition of IPTV accesses through OTT services without TV set tops.

Quelle surprise. Apple has kicked the launch of its first mixed reality headset down the road, from April to June 2023. This is to coincide with Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, not – heaven forbid – because of any technical setbacks, according to Bloomberg sources.

The closure and subsequent liquidation of French streaming platform Salto has been confirmed by co-owners France Télévisions, M6 and TF1. The three partners have criticized most of the country’s operators for refusing to carry Salto, while these same ISPs were more than happy to distribute the mainstream US video offerings.

DAZN has completed its acquisition of US sports networks group Eleven and the US social media agency Team Whistle. The double-dip deal enables the billionaire-backed streaming business to pool premium sports rights with gaming, e-commerce and social experiences.

French middleware provider Wyplay has revealed a 21% year on year turnover increase to €11.3 million ($12 million) for 2022. Wyplay credited customer successes including Nuuday’s RDK set top in Denmark, and Sky New Zealand’s hybrid Android TV platform.

EdgeNext, an edge cloud service provider specializing in the Chinese marketplace, has acquired the overseas business of CDN firm ChinaCache, for an undisclosed fee.

US data analytics outfit MarketCast has landed a coup at NBCUniversal to create a new measurement index that identifies how the quality of entertainment content and advertising experiences contribute to advertising performance. MarketCast’s Brand Effect platform combines smart TV data and always-on research to isolate the influence of ad platforms and content quality on ad recall with audiences. Full market introduction with the Comcast-owned company is expected in 2024.

BeIN Media Group has belatedly revealed that it added a 4K UHD channel to its beIN Connect OTT platform during the 2022 World Cup that was powered by Synamedia Quortex’s just-in-time processing, plus head-end QoE optimization from Cognacq-Jay Image. BeIN is previously a customer of these technologies, while a new addition for the World Cup saw Synamedia’s Vivid compression module installed.

Liberty Global has snared an opportunistic 5% stake in Vodafone Group, to which Liberty Global has sold several key assets in recent years. With some £225 million ($270 million) of equity funding, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries stressed that Vodafone’s current share price does not reflect the underlying long-term value of the operating business.

Netgem, the French set top maker come network operator, has sold its fiber business to Nordnet, a subsidiary of French giant Orange.

Four of Europe’s largest operators are launching an ad tech platform that should be future-proof when it comes to encroaching privacy regulations from the European Commission (EC). Joining forces against the duopoly of Meta and Google in digital advertising, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone will each hold a 25% share in the venture. The unnamed platform, which has already been trialed in Germany, requires consumers to opt-in to active communications from brands and publishers, while only providing advertisers with an anonymized and secure digital token for targeting. It has now received the stamp of approval from the EC.

Yahoo will shutter its ad sales arm, turning to Taboola to sell ads on its digital inventory. Things are looking shaky at the internet veteran, which has also announced plans to slash 20% of its workforce by the end of this year, including 1,000 employees within the next week.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is preparing to take the reins on 14 of its local broadcast agreements if current rights holder Diamond Sports Group (DSG) is unable to continue operating. DSG is preparing for bankruptcy, although its owner Sinclair Broadcast Group is attempting a restructure that would keep its right contracts in place while suspending all payments.

Fox has turned down multiple offers of over $2 billion to acquire its AVoD platform Tubi, according to Bloomberg. The video service was acquired for $440 million in 2020, and has since seen healthy growth in revenue, from $98 million in 2019 to a projected $700 million in 2022, while monthly active users on the service grew from 33 million January 2021 to 61 million in November 2022.

BeIn Sports has acquired exclusive rights to the South American Conmebol soccer tournaments across its TV channels in 24 countries in the MENA region for the 2023 to 2026 period. Already, BeIn Sports broadcasts the tournament in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Contextual ad platform GumGum has been accredited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) to offer content-level classification and URL reporting via its Verity API for connected TV targeting, expanding GumGum’s MRC accreditation beyond targeting on desktop and mobile. A recent study from GumGum and Magna Global found that ad campaigns that rely on data from content analysis – rather than traditional metadata – create a 12% stronger alignment between a publisher’s content and ad creative.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has sold its broadcast services arm Eurovision Services to German private equity firm Dubag Group for an undisclosed amount. Eurovision Services was spun out from the EBU in 2019 so that the organization’s business arm – which serves a global client list of sports federations, rights holders and publishers – could compete more fiercely and innovate faster.

The Video Services Forum (VSF) has added the option of using Wireguard VPN alongside contribution protocol RIST, in an update to the TR-06-4 Part 2 spec. The off-the-shelf VPN is more suited to some encrypted traffic applications. The VSF notes that Wireguard VPN can support IP Multicast.

Xperi spin-out Perceive has unveiled details of its second-generation AI silicon. The Ergo 2 chips use the same footprint as the Ergo 1, but claim a 4x performance improvement. Object detection in video analytics applications is one use case, but video processing and compression using the neural networking technology appears due in short order.

Intel has asked for an additional $2 billion from Germany, to subsidize construction of a new semiconductor fab in the country, having previously agreed on an $8 billion figure. The EU has a 2030 target of producing 20% of the world’s “cutting-edge semiconductors,” and Intel’s recent quarterly slump will have damaged its credit lines.

Comcast has announced that 10 million of its residential and business customers will be live on its DOCSIS 4.0 network by the end of February. A footprint of 50 million premises will be passed by 2025, Comcast said.

Lionsgate has posted quarterly revenues of just over $1 billion, with net income of $16.6 million. Content library revenue hit $277 million in the quarter, up 55% year-on-year. It has also sold a minority stake in its Starzplay Arabia division, which hit 2.1 million subscribers.

The FCC has officially granted permission for Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite constellation. The Ka-band low-earth-orbit (LEO) deployment has clearance for 3,326 satellites, sitting at three orbits of 590, 610, and 630 kilometers. It appears new collision-avoidance requirements have been specified. Amazon is still to launch a pilot satellite.

Amazon is rumored to be considering the purchase of Indian AVoD service MX Player. Current owner Times Internet acquired MX Player for $140 million in 2018. It has a claimed 300 million global userbase, of which 200 million are in India. Zee Enterprises, which is currently merging with Sony’s Indian operations, has also been linked to MX Player.

Sling TV has launched Sling Freestream, a FAST service that is separate from the Sling pay TV service, which houses some 210 channels and 41,000 on-demand titles. Now available on Roku devices, the service will soon come to all Sling-supported platforms.