TV Everywhere a Monstrously Complex Undertaking

Carl Weinschenk

Cable operators have shown a great tenacity during the past several years. They have morphed from being one-trick video ponies to providers of voice, video and data. At the end of the day, however, cable operators’ main product -- the one they really depend upon -- is video.

And video is changing. The movement of video from traditional television sets to smartphones and tablets is a big challenge to multiple system operators (MSOs). Heavy Reading, in a study sponsored by broadband equipment vendor Arris Group, suggests that the use of alternative devices will accelerate. The study, according to Light Reading, found that operators and vendors think multiscreen video – TV Everywhere (TVE) – is still in its infancy.

To date, cable operators have been in the technical and marketing test and tinkering stages. During the next two years, the study found, two-thirds of the surveyed operators actually will start trying to make a buck – quite a few, in fact -- on multiscreen. The money is expected to come from some combination of advertising, mobility charges, transactional charges or simply higher subscription fees.

The challenge for service providers of all stripes is monumental. Jan Ozer at Streaming Media offers a highly technical overview of what has to happen for all the operating systems and formats that underlie modern mobility to be supported.


Ozer offers a graphic that illustrates the confusion. On one axis is the distribution formats: DASH, HLS, Flash and HTML5. On the other is the potpourri of devices that must be served: set-top boxes, smart TVs, retail OTT devices (such as Roku), operating systems and computers/notebooks.

These elements were not built to fit together snugly. It truly is a Tower of Babel. The rest of the article describes the intense level of complexity involved in the effort to support all devices that consumers will buy.

Securing and controlling authorization to the content sent to all these devices is a vital, deeply related topic. Security and service assurance – both in terms of keeping hackers from stealing programming and ensuring that only authorized end users have access to it -- must be an integral element of the distribution scheme.

Bill Rosenblatt, founder of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, points out in a guest blog at IPTV that people now are accustomed to getting their media whenever and wherever they want it. Video must be just as accessible, and it’s up to the industry to make it happen. Rosenblatt pushes the idea that HTML5 and a centralized digital rights management (DRM) server may be the best approach to solving the riddle.

TVE and over-the-top distribution are easily understood concepts: Give the people what they want, regardless of where they are and what device they are using. Complexities always emerge, however, when industries add to the universe of techniques and technologies in an ongoing and disorganized fashion.

In other words, the cable, wireless and cellular industries have evolved according to their unique business and technical needs. Now, however, they are being called on to work together, in a sense, to provide a unified experience to subscribers. That task is nowhere near complete.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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