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April 24, 2017
Estimated reading time - 9 min
  • New devices like the Android TV-based AirTV, whichintegrates over-the-air (OTA) and over-the-top (OTT) content, are being well-received by consumers because they overcome some of the limitations with OTT content.
  • The upcoming ATSC 3.0 broadcast standards will bring significant improvements to OTA broadcasting, especially in HDR, and support for ATSC 3.0 in OTT/OTA devices will create many new opportunities for OTA broadcasters.
  • Technicolor, known as Vantiva, is in a unique position to help both OTA and OTT players make the most of these developments because it has strong expertise in both HDR and Android TV technologies.

Brian Jentz, Senior Director of Product Management with Technicolor’s Connected Home, explains how a new generation of set-top boxes that bring together OTA, broadcast, and Internet delivered video services will create new opportunities for traditional broadcasters, especially when the forthcoming ATSC 3.0 broadcast standards are implemented.

Hybrid OTA and OTT services – such as those offered by AirTV – are getting a lot of attention.  How is this value proposition being received in the marketplace?

Jentz: AirTV is a new brand from Dish Networks introduced at CES that is dedicated to integrating over-the-air technology into the entertainment experience.

The AirTV Player is their first product. As I go around and talk to people in the industry about the product, the first thing they mention is the over-the-air piece. I think that is what really stands out for everybody.

One of the biggest concerns consumers have with streaming services is the lack of local channels.  So the integration of over-the-air technology really addresses that gap in content. That is what is so exciting for everyone.

OTA is a technology that has stood the test of time. It is what the broadcasters have traditionally used to send programming to consumers. Is there a solid awareness of the impact that the much-talked-about ATSC3.0 standards will have in the kind of hybrid environment you have on the network service provider community?

Jentz: Most pay TV operators using Android TV, whether they have already deployed it or are expecting to deploy this year, are including OTA. So, for those operators, OTA is pretty well understood as a channel that fills in the gaps in pure streaming technology.

I think ATSC 3.0 is just coming on the radar for a lot of people in the industry and once those standards are finalized I expect ATSC 3.0 to gain traction very quickly. It is targeted to do a couple of things that are really important to this market: such as improving indoor antenna reception and bring in advanced HDR technology.

A streaming-plus-OTA hybrid is really the ideal scenario for deploying HDR because it is always easiest and quickest to deploy a new technology like HDR over a streaming service.

It is no surprise that Netflix is leading the way in terms of HDR content and delivery today, but that content is primarily based on HDR10 technology.

ATSC 3.0 brings in advanced HDR technologies that are optimized for higher quality and for efficient delivery of linear content, which is key to what the broadcasters care about.

In addition, ATSC 3.0 enables three to four times more bandwidth than is typically available using streaming technologies. You can get a much higher quality signal. That combination of technological factors is really a great “one-two” punch for HDR. Streaming enables operators to get HDR to market quickly and make it pervasive, then ATSC 3.0 adds in another layer.

From a broadcaster’s perspective, what new opportunities does this create? How does having the opportunity to deliver over the Internet or over the air change things for them? What effect does this have on their HDR strategy?

Jentz: Broadcasters will be able to start streaming advanced HDR in the second half of this year, riding on top of Android TV technology, leveraging this hybrid capability.

Android Nougat* includes a new set of APIs that make it easier to deploy and integrate HDR. The industry is coming out with new Android TV set-top boxes that will be based on Android Nougat and system-on-chips (SOCs) that integrate advanced HDR technologies from Technicolor and Dolby.

[*EDITORS NOTE: Android Nougat is Android 7.0 — the seventh major version of the Android operating system]

The availability of these set-top boxes, which are designed for OTT providers but which also have ATSC capability, really enables broadcasters to start streaming HDR in the second half of 2017 and then add ATSC 3.0 distribution when that becomes available.

It sounds straightforward, but obviously, it is quite complex. Are there any specific challenges or risks that traditional NSPs need to take into account, whether they are in the satellite, cable or telco space? Are they left out of this hybrid discussion, or can they be included in this opportunity?

Jentz: I think the challenge for them is that it typically takes time for a new technology to be distributed over the satellite or cable networks. So if an NSP sticks to only those means of distributing content, it is difficult for them to be at the leading edge of HDR and other new technologies. That is the biggest challenge I see.

What causes that delay, or adds more cycles to incorporating some of these innovations that are becoming available from some of the upstart OTTs and from some of the old guard over-the-air providers? Is it the proprietary nature of some of the infrastructure and devices they put into people’s homes?

Jentz: I think it is a combination of two things. One is the proprietary nature of the technology, especially the set-top box technology. It takes longer to do that integration. The second is there is more infrastructure that has to be updated to enable delivery of the technology. With streaming technology, you are taking advantage of the traditional IP network that is available and very efficient. It makes it possible to leverage an open platform in Android TV to get the product out very quickly.

It seems there are some disruptive things coming. ASTC 3.0 really brings in the ability to do both broadcast and broadband activity so you can use the Internet to listen to the home team announcers while watching an away game, or listen to a game in different languages or use data to tune the broadcast to your personal tastes. What impact do you think that combined with the Android TV will have on the competitive dynamics of the service provider market?

Jentz: I think it will have a big impact. MLB TV does that today with streaming technology. If you are watching a baseball game, you can pick whether you want the radio or TV commentators. I think bringing that to ATSC 3.0 with all its other advantages really gives the broadcasters a unique capability.

It has the advantage of being the highest quality video you can deliver to the home, but then you can add in all these things that are very compelling but today available only over streaming. I think it is going to be very powerful.

What needs to happen for the different players to really optimize the opportunities associated not only with bringing Android TV based solutions to market, but combining them with these new ATSC 3.0 capabilities?

Jentz: What I see happening in North America – with a lot of traditional NSPs – is that they can offer two services. DISH and AirTV, for instance, have their traditional services and the new Sling TV — which is the basis of the AirTV player. By having two services, they can tailor to different audiences, and the new streaming services coming online enable them to deliver HDR very quickly.

There are a lot of other advantages, and combining streaming services with the over-the-air services based on ASTC 3.0 is going to make for a competitive offering to what has traditionally been only traditional networks. So, I think it is going to improve the level of service that is available through purely OTT or streaming technologies.

What are the bottom line issues that need to be resolved for the market to get the most from offerings like AirTV?

Jentz: One is just an awareness challenge. Many consumers are not aware of what is available over-the-air. I think it is more a case of education on this capability, which has been around for a while. Streaming really can breathe new life into OTA, so you will see a lot of emphasis from AirTV and other tech companies rolling this technology out, just in terms of awareness.

The second thing is just getting good OTA reception. Sometimes you plug in the antenna and it just works. At other times, you need some help and companies like AirTV provide an antenna install service in which customers can get a technician to come out and figure out the best place to put the antenna and wire it into the system.

I think those are two things that will happen in the near term. In the future, there will be more tools coming out to help with self-installation, such as finding the best place in your home for the antenna, as well as new architectures for streaming that content throughout the home. And of course, ATSC 3.0 is clearly targeted at improving signal reception.

What is Technicolor doing to be a player in this arena to support the rapid deployment of these technologies and accelerate a path to positive cash flow and better ARPU?

Jentz: Technicolor is in a unique position because of our focus on both HDR and Android TV. We are in a really good position to help accelerate deployment of both these technologies. All our new Android TV set-top boxes have either a single or dual integrated ATSC tuner option and in several of our Android TV product lines we are offering advanced HDR capability, which will be coming into production in the second half of this year.

Today our ATSC integration is based on the existing ATSC 1.0 standard but we aim to be at the forefront of ATSC 3.0 integration.

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