How Can OTT Providers Battle for Space on the Operator Set-Top Box?
How do OTT providers battle for shelf space on the operator set-top box? The short answer is that they no longer need to face that battle. The slightly longer answer is outlined below, but let's first set the scene...
For an OTT content provider, maximizing the reach of their content, cost effectively, is just as important as creating or licensing the video content itself. To get the attention of as many eyeballs as possible and hit revenue targets, OTT providers want to ensure their app can reach as many screens as possible, via a direct-to-consumer (DTC) route to consumer devices or as part of an operator's service offering. To do this could involve hitting many different devices with various different operating systems and capabilities, which means multiple versions of their application.
For the purpose of this article, I will take a closer look at distribution via the operator which offers OTT providers a potential reach of tens of millions of customers who have an operator's set-top in their home. Currently, the first step is to consider how the OTT application gets onto the operator's set-top box. The largest app providers—such as Netflix, YouTube or Amazon—port their application natively to the set-top through integration at the chipset level. The great thing about this approach for the app provider is that any operator with a set-top device that runs that chip will be able to offer that application.
That said, for the device manufacturers, this approach is complex and can be time consuming, and it means the application takes up memory on the box and requires other resources. This limits the number of applications that the operator can offer from the set-top before the "application shelf" is fully stacked. When there is a finite amount of storage and memory on the operator's set-top this approach doesn't scale well, which will become an increasing issue when we consider the huge number of OTT applications launching around the world.
If an OTT provider does manage to get onto the operator's set-top, the process doesn't stop there. An application needs to be kept up to date (that applies whether it's on the box or not), and this update process needs to be supported as quickly as possible to make sure the app experience is current and consistent across all distribution platforms. Depending on how many operating systems or proprietary platforms exist in the operator world, this presents a veritable maintenance headache. Is it realistic to keep an OTT app updated on this diverse array of set-tops over their lifetime? This is clearly desirable for consumers and OTT providers, but for many apps this could amount to more than 400 updates over the life of the device.
So what's the alternative? It would be short-sighted to ignore the potential audience that's on offer via the operator's distribution channel. We're advocating an alternative approach that can leverage any OTT provider's pre-existing Android TV APK, which means no new app development is required. By hosting any APK in the cloud, it can be made available to operator subscribers without the process I outlined above, and without the maintenance headache. This approach lets any app provider gain access to the tens of millions of operators customers around the world. By removing the hurdles of porting and certification to different devices, maintaining multiple versions and taking out of consideration any hardware limitations, we're giving all app providers—big and small—the chance to reach millions of operator set-tops and many viewers previously unavailable to them.
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