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SyncTV, TVinci Talk OTT at TVNext

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The TVNext conference, held this week in Santa Clara, California, painted a picture of the co-existence of over-the-top (OTT) content offerings alongside traditional cable programming offerings, complementing rather than competing with one another. Unlike other conferences that explore the future of online video—including the defunct NewTeeVee Live and our own Streaming Media events— TVNext focuses heavily on the concept of OTT as a complementary option to live television, including two-screen plays that synchronize between the handset, tablet, laptop, and the television.

Two panels were of particular interest. John Gildred from SyncTV spoke on a panel titled “The Rise of the Next Gen Operator." Gildred, SyncTV's founder and chief technology officer, thinks that the next-generation operator will potentially be virtual.  Gildred espouses the concept of a virtual MVPD—multichannel video programming distributor—as a way to drive revenues for networks and other premium content owners.

Gildred's argument goes something like this: A cable company sells you pre-determined packages rather than ala carte channels, because the MVPD is required by the networks and other content owners to itself buy packages of channels. But what if there were a better way?

In Gildred's approach, the better way is a virtual MVPD, somewhat akin to the way that NBC took the international broadcasting center's raw feeds and placed them as streams on the NBCsports.com website and the NBC Olympics application on iOS devices.

"Think about what NBC was able to do during the Olympics," Gildred wrote in an early September blog post. "Every event had its own live stream so that subscribers could pick and choose which events they wanted to watch. NBC was able to quickly add or remove streams from their website, and were able to broadcast each event simultaneously."

While there is certainly merit to an MVPD approach, the basic premise is a bit flawed: By law, cable companies are required to offer a la carte subscriptions to premium channels—a vestige of the Telecommunications Act of 1996—although the cable companies neither advertise nor price these one-off channel subscriptions at equivalent prices to their base or premium packages.

In fact, subscribing to only one premium channel often comes to within five per cent of the monthly subscription fee for an entire package. In other words, it's a business decision, not a technical limitation, that keeps MVPDs from moving to a virtual model.

SyncTV was scheduled to speak at next week's Streaming Media Europe show but dropped out due to a scheduling conflict. The virtual MVPD concept, however, will explored in more detail with the other four MPEG DASH panelists: Anevia, Ericsson, Interlake Media, and Microsoft.

Ofer Shayo, co-founder and chief executive of Tvinci, spoke on another panel called "OTT 2.0: Personalized, Social Television for Every Individual." The Israel-based company is billed as "a pay-OTT platform provider" meaning that it focuses on a services that can be monetized. The company's platform consists of a MediaHub, a storage component called MediaStore, and several device applications.

The company has seen success in several international markets. One area where the company has focused efforts is the integration of both Widevine and Microsoft's PlayReady into a Tvinci integration for Elisa, a Finnish operator.

The TVNext conference marks Tvinci's chance to explore opportunities for OTT TV market in the U.S., as the company seeks customers to work with its "OTT 2.0" platform.

"We see the OTT market moving, now that the tablet is king," says Shayo, "to a personal opportunity, from households and lean-back devices to users with personal 'television' devices like the tablet."

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