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AngaCom 2013: Cable’s prospects brighten at Cloudy outlook

by David Mercer | 6月 14, 2013

Appropriately in a country ravaged by record rainfall, clouds were the dominant theme at this year’s AngaCom show in Cologne, Germany. The event, formerly known as Anga Cable, evolved to support the cable industry, but here, as at so many other TV events, a dominant theme was the threats and opportunities from OTT or cloud services.

Dutch cableco Ziggo was the centre of attention after its commercial launch in March of ActiveVideo’s Cloud TV technology to support network-based UI and VOD guide rendering to multiple connected devices. Ziggo’s Eric Meijer noted that the main motivations for launching cloud services were the ability to reach many more devices than previously possible, to upgrade the service easily with new features, and to minimise CPE (set-top box) costs. One unexpected benefit was the ability to monitor network performance more effectively than before.

Ziggo confirmed that the major hurdle with the cloud TV approach is response times, since the chain from remote control to cloud has to be fast. Meijer described the performance as “OK”, suggesting that this is the one area which needs to be watched carefully for any performance issues as the service expands.

The strategic issue for cable operators is whether they should use cloud and OTT technologies to expand beyond their legacy footprints. I put this question to both Ziggo and Unity Media, the German operator, and received different responses. Ziggo believes that this would certainly be a way of increasing competition in the Dutch market and could see few obstacles. Unity’s Daniel Hesselbarth, however, suggested that such a move would come across regulatory obstacles in Germany. He also noted two main business problems: 1. Content rights and 2. The need to build a national brand.

Critically, however, both cablecos agreed that there are now few if any technical hurdles to delivering a fully fledged OTT pay TV service across multiple networks, and specifically that QoS is no longer a problem. Even in the US Cox, according to Johannes Eckert, is at least considering whether OTT offers it an opportunity to compete on rival operators’ networks, although no plans have been made.

It seems increasingly clear that cable operators in particular could grow their businesses significantly by using cloud and OTT technologies. At the same time they will be aware that the first mover will be putting the cat amongst the pigeons because it would shake the foundations of the cable TV business, and of course there would be losers as well as winners. As usual, politics and regulation will play a key role: if regulators want to stimulate competition in the pay TV market they need to start getting to grips with a world where last mile access control will no longer be a critical factor in determining who competes in this market.

David Mercer

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