10 February 2012
Picture a typical living room. On one side of the room a couple is sitting on a sofa, watching a program on a flat screen television that is hooked up to a cable or satellite Set-Top Box.
On the other side of the same room is a teenager who is looking at an iPad. She is also watching video content—but a different program than her parents. Sounds typical?
Let’s consider how the pay television industry—the major cable and satellite platforms—are dealing with this ordinary 2012 household situation in terms of delivering content to both that television set and the iPad.
For the past 20+ years major cable and satellite pay television platforms such as Sky, Virginmedia, UPC, etc. in Europe; Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, DirectTV etc. in the USA; and others around the world have invested countless millions in creating formidable infrastructures to supply television programs and channels from their operations centers to your home via cable, fiber, satellite, and broadband.
They provide hundreds of channels in many cases over digital distribution networks and continue to invest millions of dollars, pounds, and euros in the upgrade and maintenance of this capability. They also spend a fortune in marketing and selling the delivery of all this information and entertainment to subscribing households.
The infrastructure costs of these investments in distribution are amortized over their useful lives and are a significant part of the cable or satellite television bill we pay.
So let’s go back to our household picture. The couple on the sofa is watching a program delivered to them through the benefits of decades of advances in cable and satellite technology. They are accessing it through a set-top box/PVR that is stuffed full of wonderful choices of content and information.
Go across the room, or for that matter anywhere in the home. How does the teenager get the program on her iPad? What is being done to provide a selection of content to her?
Well, in most cases, they aren’t using any of the content that is available across the room in the set-top box. Instead, they ignore the entire distribution system that has been built over the decades and send a selection of separate content, configured for the iPad, over the Internet “cloud” so it can be accessed by our teenager.
In order to do this, they have to:
- Have a special “app” developed that can be downloaded to the iPad that permits access to the content
- Transcode and reconfigure the content that is going to be made available to the iPad so it can be viewed by that specific type of device
- In many cases, purchase additional content rights that permit this type of distribution which were not included in their cable or satellite rights contracts
- And pay for the data center management and distribution costs through third parties
The first two of these steps could need to be duplicated for each different type of device that was going to view the content, i.e., android tablet, each type of smartphone, each type of computer platform, and so on. Once this is done, the teenager could log on and “authenticate” herself to the pay platform and then be able to select a program. Or, alternatively she could go to iTunes and pay again for the same program that her family already bought from the pay TV provider.
Okay, so let’s review. Instead of making what is available on one side of the living room in a box filled with everything that the pay television provider has, the cable or satellite provider is starting from scratch—as if they were a startup—and creating a new distribution system over the Internet to provide some of the same content on the other side of the room or the home to a portable device like an iPad.
Now the pay television platforms are marketing this capability to their current subscribers as TV Everywhere and a wonderful new benefit—an example is “Sky Go”. And in some cases, the ability to watch what you are already paying for in your home on a portable screen is being described as a “free value-added service” for those who already pay for a monthly subscription to the main pay television service that feeds the set-top box.
However, this “free” service doesn’t use the set-top box in the case of cloud-delivered content, nor does it use any of the infrastructure that gets the content to the STB.
So let’s look at the situation again with a bit of common sense.
If a huge amount of content is being “piped” into the home by a pay television cable or satellite operator, and resides in the box in the living room, wouldn’t it make common sense to be able to tap into that in-home selection rather than build a new system to re-send it again? How are pay-tv providers going to pay for all this duplicated infrastructure and delivery cost if, in most cases, this service is offered for “free”? The answer is clear; it will be amortized by the pay service operator into future bills to the consumer.
The seemingly obvious question is, can the same TV Everywhere service be offered in a different way? Can the content already resident in the smart black box in the living room be used for viewing on iPads, computers, smartphones, etc. in the same home? The answer is yes, of course from a technical standpoint.
One way to do it is with Motive’s Television Anywhere—a software solution where additional software application is downloaded into the set-top box which then pairs with authorized devices over Wi-Fi in the home and makes anything that is available on the main television viewable on the iPad or other device.
At Motive, we believe that ultimately common sense will win out, and that pay television platforms will opt for what we believe is the more economically justifiable alternative. Or perhaps consumers will make the choice for them, unhappy with paying the cost of ever-increasing monthly fees due to building of excessive, redundant, infrastructure.
We will see.
CEO Motive Television