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3 October 2019

Zenterio pays ultimate price for Android TV failure, Oregan scoops up what’s left

Android TV Operator Tier, pay TV’s new best friend and beneficiary to back door vendor contracts at tier 2 and 3 accounts, is coming for the scalps of video technology suppliers who were too slow off the mark. In what is likely the first of many, that’s precisely what happened while Faultline took a brief break last week, as Swedish TV platform developer Zenterio collapsed into the arms of Oregan Networks in an exit we foresaw months ago.

In a blaze of ‘Secure Connection Failed – an error occurred during a connection to www.zenterio.com’ and the grand honor of a one-line announcement, even a supposedly resolute OS and middleware deployment at German giant Deutsche Telekom couldn’t salvage some severe errors of judgement at Zenterio.

Only last quarter, Faultline jumped on the phone to Zenterio’s CCO & Head of Business Development, Rutger Reman, after noticing several new faces on the company’s executive team. “Our Android TV ambitions began last year and until recently we haven’t won any deals. We admit there was not enough emphasis on this technology,” admitted Reman in mid-June.

Some 15 weeks later, that quote is an even more powerful admission of a company on the verge of ruin. At the time, Reman spoke confidently about investing a significant sum in product development, which admittedly dented its financial position (we now know irrecoverably). Designed for faster delivery and to prepare the vendor for a future focusing on product sales and services, Zenterio shot itself in the foot with its own prediction about onboarding a load of new customers in the second half of 2019.

Zenterio also hoped to turn the ship around by re-establishing its external consulting business, which inexplicably involved assigning 10 engineers to third party technology companies in Sweden.

It’s ironic then that Zenterio, a company well off the pace in Android TV technology by its own admission, ended up being acquired by UK-based Oregan Networks which fancies itself as a bit of an Operator Tier aficionado.

In another slap in the face to Zenterio, Oregan recently began working with Accedo, which has experienced a distinctly opposite trajectory to its Swedish compatriot Zenterio. Oregan and Accedo have been working on a pay TV product combining the Accedo One video viewing experience platform with the Oregan Networks SparQ middleware for Android TV Operator Tier.

SparQ was unveiled by Oregan in May last year, pitched as software designed to capture the trend towards open source distributed development and cloud-based content delivery platforms. Purpose-built for Android TV, it delivers near real-time device data gathering capabilities, passed to either a cloud-based or on-premises data aggregator to be used in areas including usage reports, error condition info, hardware resource reports, media event reports (i.e. start, stop, trick modes, buffering, ABR performance and channel change times), and user behavior monitoring.

Oregan is probably best known for its work at Telefonica, where its set top software stack combines digital terrestrial and OTT video delivery capabilities for DVB-T in Spain, as well as ISDB-T in Argentina and Brazil. Oregan was also the prime integrator for BT on the client-side software back in 2012, when the British telco dumped Mediaroom, allowing it to gain back control over software so it could load Linux and have a middleware version of the Oregan software written for existing set tops, as well as newer hardware with ABR support.

In later life, Zenterio began focusing on providing tools for content aggregators with an analytics suite spanning business KPIs and statistical analysis as part of its entertainment platform Zenterio TV – powered by Zenterio Cloud. This was about allowing operators to compare viewing data across subscribers, and even compare this data with figures from rival operators. Zenterio was particularly shady regarding this last point. In hindsight, perhaps the vendor wasn’t supposed to tell us that it was essentially leaking information from customers – existing and previous – to current customers.

As well as its Android TV shortcomings, Zenterio had recently fallen out of favor at its flagship customer, as the vendor failed to land any slice of Deutsche Telekom’s full OTT version of Entertain TV which launched in October 2018. Deutsche Telekom had been the glue holding Zenterio together for too long. You cannot simply rely on a single tier 1 account for survival and refuse to change your spots, all the while expecting to survive changing tides.

Long-term leader Jörgen Nilsson saw the writing on the wall long ago and parted ways with Zenterio before the company went kaput.