Wyplay sources SmarDTV hardware to complete Android TV puzzle

Some 16 months since its contentious but essential entrance into Android TV operator tier, Wyplay has teamed with SmarDTV Global, the former Kudelski Group conditional access module and set top division sold to Neotion for $20 million last year. This could so easily be cast aside as a “me too” announcement, were it not for the fact Wyplay perplexed us all back in June when it launched the self-proclaimed most exhaustive Android TV offering on the market. Crucially, SmarDTV now provides Wyplay with the hardware piece of the puzzle.

French technology firms are notorious for sticking together and the two vendors have reacted to intense demand for Android TV – which is disrupting the video vendor ecosystem as shown by the recent departure of Zenterio – by building a pre-integrated range of Android TV platforms supporting all OTT, cable, satellite, terrestrial and IPTV delivery methods (as Wyplay’s Frog middleware has traditionally done).

Wyplay and SmarDTV have developed a range of Android TV set tops pre-integrated with Wyplay’s flagship Frog middleware along with the ReactNative-based Premium operator tier custom launcher and other back-end software components. Whether or not an operator wants to take the Wyplay middleware alongside a custom launcher is down to them, and this is another example of Wyplay attempting to preserve the legacy of its Frog middleware by buddying up to operator tier – despite the two technologies doing much the same thing.

So, the underlying message is the same – keep Wyplay middleware components for some core functions while bringing all the benefits of Android TV to operator clients. But the difference is that Wyplay can now offer all this and more pre-integrated on SmarDTV’s hybrid DVB-OTT devices, running on silicon from Telechips and SoC powered by Amlogics.

The real juicy stuff comes from Wyplay’s new Android TV platform launched earlier this year, targeting a variety of rival vendors across the video chain. In its core middleware market, Wyplay recently told Faultline that it was coming for the lunches of iWedia, TVStorm and WeTek, while the likes of 3SS, Massive Interactive, iFeelSmart and Wiztivi are all targets in the custom launcher space. Wyplay also cited system integrators like TataElxsi and application managers which are often handled by operators in-house. Individually, these are great products but none – Wyplay claims – offer them all together in one exhaustive package.

Together, Frog and Premium (customer launcher) form the foundations of Wyplay’s 4-month-old Android TV offering, but these account for just 2 of the 5 total components comprising the new Android TV Video Solution, which itself makes up one half of the total offering. The remaining components are the Wyplay Apps Manager, a cloud-based system for managing apps independently of the Google Play Store, along with UX Manager, a revenue generating tool described as animating the subscriber’s journey across content and advertising. Last up is the Analytics Manager, monitoring the UX and devices to gather data geared towards improving QoS.

SmarDTV serves as the prime contractor and manages partners directly, including one final key component – Wyplay’s TV Professional Services. This isn’t as dull as it sounds and is essentially the adhesive of the entire portfolio – providing consulting, program management, software customization and system integration.

This is all well and good, but Wyplay’s timing is interesting, and we don’t believe in coincidences here. This week’s launch arrives days after Indian DTH operator Dish TV told Faultline that its new Android TV operator tier deployment did not include Wyplay in the build (see separate story in this issue). Wyplay remains a staple middleware supplier for Dish TV’s DTH set top footprint as far as we can tell, but the fact Dish TV did not see the company as part of its future plans is concerning.

With Wyplay surrendering a number of functions to Android TV, the vendor is being sure to cover all bases, last month stepping up its collaboration with RDK Management to support service providers with turnkey and hybrid RDK deployment models. Operators looking to deploy RDK can benefit from Wyplay’s engineering experience in the open source community. Again, this can be interpreted as another step away from its flagship Frog middleware roots, but arguably another necessary one.

SmarDTV has a star-studded tier 1 customer line-up, claiming to deploy some 6 million devices a year, although we believe the majority are for conditional access modules rather than set tops. These include Dish Network, Telefonica, Bell Canada, Cable One, Cable & Wireless, TV Globo, Liberty Global, Canal+, Vodafone, Sky Italia, Dish TV India and more.

Why then does Wyplay have all the makings of the most comprehensive Android TV offering on the planet but without the customer interest to match? Perhaps the house Wyplay has meticulously constructed is too expensive. But even if that is true, an operator must be wary that launching an offering based on Android TV operator tier without the correct structural support could lead to a crumbling video business.