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28 November 2019

Zappware comes up for air to find zombie apocalypse

Belgian video software supplier Zappware emerged from hibernation this week to announce a small contract upgrade at existing operator customer Wind Hellas in Greece. While coming up for air, Zappware was faced with a market in which most of its competitors and partners have been obliterated.

With its Unitymedia contract on the ropes following Vodafone’s takeover of the Liberty Global cable operation in Germany, and subsequent switch out of Horizon TV with GigaTV, Zappware needs to knuckle down and come up with something extraordinary. Otherwise, it risks doing a Zenterio, or an Ooyala, or a Massive Interactive, or an Arkena, to name just a handful of companies who blossomed with the OTT video boom, but ultimately stood still – or invested in the wrong places – and suffered the consequences.

Let’s take a look at the positives first. Zappware has just powered the launch of new cloud-based recording service for Wind Hellas, built on the existing Android TV multiscreen system, for which Zappware was first tapped to build in early 2017.

This launched well behind schedule, eventually rolling out around April 2018 after being pushed back from late 2017, and it has inexplicably taken an additional 19 months for Wind Hellas to add cloud-based recording functionality. It was therefore a little rich of Zappware to say this week it “deployed the initial service from scratch in a record time and brought it live 1.5 years ago.”

Time travel was apparently achieved in this week’s press release. “The feature that I particularly like is our new Series-function: click record once, and we build a box-set of all episodes,” reads the review from Wind Hellas’ CSO & Digital Transformation Officer, Hermann Riedl.

Admittedly, Wind Hellas is a small fry operator serving a market still recovering from the depths of recession. But by the same token, Wind Hellas was ahead of many operators when its Android TV plans were made public in early 2017, so there’s that.

Called Wind Vision, the video offering is built and operated by Zappware using its NeXX 4.0 suite which includes the multiscreen UI and back-office operator tools, as well as the newer marketing console feature for cross-team UI management and delivery of personalized content.

For personalization software, Zappware has traditionally worked with XroadMedia, most recently winning a deployment deal at Amplia, a subsidiary of video service provider TSTT (Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago), rolling out the XroadMedia Ncanto technology pre-integrated with Zappware.

This all runs on AWS cloud-based back-office infrastructure, distributed to set tops and a bunch of IP devices are supported too. Wind Vision combines DVB and OTT into a single Android TV device, making for efficient integration of third-party content such as Netflix.

A sliver of hope for Zappware comes from Riedl’s testament to “innovate further with the enrichment in terms of features with Zappware,” while Zappware says it will be “moving ahead with the feature evolution launching nPVR.”

That said, despite not being a publicly listed company, Zappware issued a rare announcement in October last year claiming it had clocked a record revenue growth of 56% for the last fiscal year at the time. It says this growth was based on the success of NeXX 4.0 since its 2016 launch, claiming it has a number of tier 1 operator contracts in the locker which it cannot disclose. It is this sentiment alone which makes us wary of writing off Zappware just yet.