Triple win for Insight TV threatens established channel dominance

The release of three customer wins in a single day from UHD content producer Insight TV is certainly testament to the demand for high-resolution titles right now – and we can therefore expect shipments of 4K UHD TVs to soar in the coming months. At the same time, Insight TV also came out and part-credited its rise in popularity to Technicolor, using its HDR Intelligent Tone Management (ITM) technology to up, down and cross-convert titles from SDR to HDR, which boosts the dynamic range of legacy content by adjusting the image on a localized basis and adapting it for new display technologies.

Swiss ISP Salt is the most noteworthy name on Insight TV’s list, which also features Indonesian mobile streaming app Oona and Russian service provider JSC ER-Telecom Holding, mainly because the Swiss ISP rolled out an outrageous 10 Gbps symmetrical broadband service earlier this year for FTTH premises. This includes the Fiber Box WiFi router and Salt IPTV platform running on Apple TV devices, which Insight TV has described as perfectly adapted for 4K UHD content.

Salt (a buyout from Orange by Iliad founder Xavier Niel) first teased the launch of a new triple play package back in March, costing CHF 49.95 ($52.40) a month, and the new UHD Salt IPTV service is launching this month. It offers over 300 channels, 150 in HD, initially reaching 30 cities in the country, supported by FTTH provider Swiss Fiber Network. The Fiber Box will support 2.2 Gbps ultra-low latency connectivity.

Local streaming software vendor and internet TV provider Zattoo was brought in to power the 4K UHD platform, handling ongoing development and the apps – built from the ground up around Apple TV. Interestingly, Salt is also the first case of using operator login on Apple TV outside the US, meaning Salt TV apps are installed automatically on the device, much like on Android TV Operator Tier.

Like Salt, rival operator Swisscom offers Apple TV in front of its set tops for sports content and third-party channels, running on software and services from Zattoo, although peculiarly Swisscom’s main set top is Android-based. This contradiction leaves us slightly perplexed about Swisscom’s strategy, so it will be intriguing to see how this pans out and whether the operator is merely testing how the market responds to each before dropping either one of Android TV or Apple TV in favor of the other, or whether it will continue to give subscribers the luxury of choice.

As Salt has moved up the ranks, it has caught the attention of none other than Liberty Global, with rumors circulating earlier this year about an acquisition of either one of Salt or Sunrise, another independent Swiss operator, once owned by Denmark’s TDC. Shortly after rumors emerged, UPC Switzerland CEO Eric Tveter came out in September declaring desire for a merger, so there remains questions around Salt’s future, although Niel is unlikely to sell out to Liberty Global, so think Sunrise the more likely target.

Salt has not said how many subscribers are on the 10 Gbps broadband service or new IPTV platform, but Salt CEO Pascal Grieder said, “The launch of our IPTV platform has been very well received by our subscribers. The fact that we can now also offer original 4K UHD content from Insight TV allows us to meet the growing consumer demand for high-quality programs.”

Indonesia’s Oona, a new OTT name on our radar, could be one to watch. The free live and on-demand mobile-first TV service has been busy building up its portfolio of English language and Arabic channels, implying an international expansion effort on the horizon. However, Oona is launching an HD channel from Insight TV, not UHD for now. There can’t be many 4K UHD channels on offer in Indonesia, particularly internet-delivered, but getting friendly with Insight TV means Oona could be ahead of the curve and it claims 185 million registered users in a population of about 268 million.

The third and final name, JSC ER-Telecom, the owner of Russian operator brand, will offer Insight TV’s 4K UHD channel to subscribers of its cable and satellite TV services. With a growing broadcast presence in Russia and now a significant streaming deal in Indonesia, the ninth and fourth most populous countries respectively, Insight TV’s rapid rise must be envying even the established channels.

Insight TV attributes its growth to the cloud-based transmission feed it has built to match local programming time zones, which would not be possible with a satellite feed. It has also kept costs down by adding “pseudo-HDR” technology to existing content, thereby avoiding the expensive process of producing in UHD then down-converting to HD, helping to offset costs associated with the huge number of dubbed and subtitled titles in its catalog.