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Operators Can Help Tame the Tyranny of OTT Choice

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Consumers are truly living in a golden age of content in the connected home. The exciting entrance in 2019 of major over-the-top (OTT) players—including Apple, Disney, AT&T/HBO, and scores of others—have combined with a vibrant cloud gaming sector to introduce an unprecedented diversity of shows to watch and experiences to enjoy. The high-quality production values now available are impressive and address a wide variety of consumer tastes and interests.

It should come as no surprise that this inflection point in the supply and demand for streaming content has taken place as we enter the new decade. Major network service provider investments in gigabit-speed access technologies by cable (DOCSIS 3.1), telco (GPON), and wireless (4G/5G) operators have provided consumers with a robust infrastructure capable of accepting the deluge of bandwidth-intensive content that is flowing into today's connected home—often simultaneously.  

Consumer Frustration Means Opportunity for Operators

The main questions now revolve around helping consumers manage the growing array of options in an effective, cost-efficient, and intuitive manner. These are especially pertinent questions for cord cutters who—only a few years ago—thought they were streamlining their options and reducing their home entertainment expenditures. As new compelling content providers compete for the hearts and minds of consumers, many subscribers are adding to—rather than rebalancing—their portfolio of OTT providers.  

While there are cost implications to these behavioral trends, the really big story emerging in 2020 will be about complexity management. The different subscriptions have their own apps, their own login credentials, and sometimes even their own dedicated device. For many consumers, navigating this new environment is inconvenient and frustrating. Aggravating the situation is inconsistent performance of consumer electronics (CE) that have been purchased by consumers to support home entertainment needs. 

Most end users made their device decisions in a simpler time when fewer streaming options and services were available. As the OTT field gets more crowded, there is a growing realization that smart TVs and set-top boxes are not all created equal. As a result, we are seeing growing anecdotal evidence of consumers who are wrestling with CE devices that cannot handle the load of apps and services, creating technological glitches and conflicts that prevent services from running correctly. Resolving these issues has not been easy since there is no central source to contact for resolving application conflicts. 

Emerging Role for NSPs in Robust Open CPE Strategies

It turns out that there is one player in the ecosystem that is in a position to offer relief to consumers, while ensuring that OTTs of all stripes deliver the best version of their services.

We expect networks service providers (NSPs) to play an increasing role in providing value-added managed services to subscribers by deploying open customer premises equipment (CPE)—at both the gateway and set-top box (STB) levels—that integrate and optimize the delivery of high-quality streaming services to consumers.

The growing popularity of open platforms like RDK and Android TV are making it possible for offerings from multiple providers to share common infrastructures. But being open is not enough. The new generation of CPE supporting the growing spectrum of services must integrate openness, computing power, and intelligence to dynamically manage the experiences consumers want in an intuitive, efficient and secure manner.

For STBs in particular, this combination will make it possible for NSPs to offer a whole new generation of value-added services—such as targeted advertising, next generation gaming and smart home applications—that will produce new revenue streams while improving customer engagement and satisfaction.

However, one size will not fit all. Different NSPs will require their own mixes of services and capabilities depending on the technological, economic, and geographic realities of the markets they serve. As a result, the winners will be determined by how well they pre-integrate services and features into their CPE deployment strategy. At the center of this strategy will be complexity management, with the goal of making it as easy as possible for consumers to access the streaming services they want in an intuitive manner.

Executed effectively, this strategy will significantly tighten the relationships that NSPs have with consumers as they look to access the content and services they desire and require.  

[This is a contributed article from Technicolor. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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