When Faultline chatted with Vewd CEO Aneesh Rajaram back in 2017, his conviction that smart TVs would not only hold their own against Android TV, but eventually prevail, certainly raised some eyebrows. It was seen as hugely hypocritical then that several months later, Vewd poached one of Android TV’s most pivotal engineers, Sascha Prüter, from Google as the streaming technology specialist’s new CPO.
In fact, Prüter tells us, it was through working on Android TV that he first became aware of Vewd back in 2015 (then known as Opera TV), when the vendor began shipping its technology on early Android TV devices. What was initially seen as a U-turn when Vewd pre-integrated its smart TV modules with Android TV chipsets from Realtek last year, is in fact a development of an early Opera TV strategy which is now being emphasized and fine-tuned under Prüter’s watch to frightening effect.
Since joining in September 2018, Vewd has been pursuing its silicon strategy relentlessly – picking up signatures from Amlogic, ALi Corp and HiSilicon to go with its smart TV-dominating deal with Mediatek and its subsidiary MStar.
Crucially, these chipset relationships aren’t exclusively for the company’s popular Vewd Core SDK which handles the core technical implementation of smart TV experiences, but the chipset majors are also integrating Vewd’s Atom software to bring OTT functionality to entry-level set tops, rendering app UIs in the cloud. Its newer Vewd Go product – a streaming media player targeted at operators – is also attracting silicon attention. Vewd says unlike off-the-shelf streaming media players, Vewd Go can help maximize the value of connected TV app investments.
Prüter was keen to remind us though that Vewd is not blinded by the Android TV phenomenon. “Some people call us the Switzerland of the smart TV space,” Prüter jested. The vendor is keeping its options wide open, covering plenty of bases as seen in its product portfolio and partner ecosystem. Despite the spotlight on Android TV, Vewd is instead seeing Linux-based systems growing at a faster rate than the Android TV market.
“We will not just focus on one product area. We will continue to offer our SDK which is expanding with licenses to manufacturers, as well as adding turnkey technology to others who are not interested in Android TV,” said Prüter.
Nevertheless, Vewd has built its own Android TV operator tier launcher to complement Vewd OS and integrated modules, with a full HTML5 application environment equipped with key services spanning local and regional apps. Vewd now supports 7 or 8 major chipsets for Android TV, we are told.
In less neutral Swiss-esque moves is the Vewd Go product, a white-label HDMI dongle developed by Korean manufacturer Inobia installed with Vewd OS. Vewd Go is targeted at providers of multiscreen OTT services who want to own streaming device hardware, like Sky’s Roku-made Now TV devices for example.
As well as the big chip makers, Vewd boasts a number of tier 1 operators integrating its technology. Verizon and T-Mobile US both use Vewd’s SDK to render UIs on set tops, while Swisscom is a notable major European operator supporting the Vewd App Store. In the Asia Pacific market, Vewd has tied up a huge smart TV deal with Alibaba and more recently added support for popular Asian streaming platform iflix, with some 15 million subscribers, to smart TVs and set tops running Vewd OS.
The 240-person Vewd team has been churning out some crazy growth metrics – adding some 40 million new devices a year to boast deployment on 300 million devices the world over today. It claims the world’s top spot in smart TV operating systems and boasts relationships with 80% of global set top manufacturers.
Just as a final example of the diversity of Vewd’s partnerships, another notable 2018 deal saw its OTT video delivery system integrated with video ad serving platform SpotX, to power monetization of OTT products and services. As its first programmatic video advertising partner, Vewd will leverage SpotX’s ad serving and video supply side platform (SSP), allowing media companies to optimize video advertising strategies and maximize revenue.
“We have about 1,000 content provider partners now and are shipping content on platforms with their own app store. Just having an app icon in a store is not the be-all and end-all of TV,” commented Prüter, taking a slight dig at his former employer.