Personalized TV is the Future

Personalized TV is the Future

Sandeep Arora, Regional Manager, Service provider, Cisco India and SAARC

Thanks to the proliferation of Internet-based content via Internet- enabled devices, today's consumers expect to access content anytime, anywhere and on any device. They demand personalized media experiences whether they use the web or watch television, without the limitations of a hardware-based device (ex: digital video recorders (DVR)). One way to enable that is the digitization of cable networks.

Out of the near 150 million homes in India that have a television set, around 100 million are connected on a cable platform. With digitization of cable networks becoming mandatory by 2014, these households will convert from analog to digital. Once that happens, two-way communication capabilities (where consumers demand and get a particular type of content) will be enabled, raising the consumer entertainment experience one notch higher.

Consumers can access personalized TV content via devices of their choice and record the same to be viewed later. Cricket lovers for example will no longer have to miss their favorite match because of an important presentation in office. They can record the match and watch it later as per their convenience, on any device not just the television set. This phenomenon commonly referred to as 'time-shift TV', is gaining traction and will only get better in the coming days.

The business case for digitization

According to a Ficci-KPMG report, the television industry in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18% from 2012-17, to reach INR 848 billion in 2017. Aided by digitization and the consequent increase in ARPUs, the share of subscription revenue to the total industry revenue, is expected to increase from 66 percent in 2012 to 72 percent in 2017. This is testimony to the huge potential that cable digitization offers to service providers.

Globally, time-shifted TV viewing (recording of TV content and viewing it later) is growing faster than all other kinds of TV viewing, even more than "over-the-top" (OTT) video services like Netflix and Hulu. Nielsen reports that 144 million viewers watched nearly 12 hours of time-shifted TV per month in 2011, up 12.3 percent from the previous year. Contrast that with online video viewing (viewing any video content online on any other platform - YouTube / Netflix etc.), which captured about the same number of viewers (147 million) but a lot less attention span (about four and a half hours per month) and grew at about a third the rate.

The trend in the India market has not been different. We are increasingly seeing DTH subscribers in metros watching time- shift TV and with pan India digitization of cable networks this trend will spread to other parts of India as well. This implies that time -shift TV is clearly the way forward as far as personalized TV experiences go.

Service providers (SPs) who can offer end consumers these capabilities will not only stand up well against competition but will also be amongst the first to capitalize on the growing wave of personalized TV. This is because offering personalized TV will mean more customized video services and hence more profitability for the SPs, besides happier subscribers.

Challenges enroute

While SPs may want to deliver the kind of personalized, flexible, time-shift TV capabilities that consumers' ask for, many are hampered by the limitations of video infrastructures designed for a simpler environment (a TV which works with only one STB). These limitations include:

  • Reliance on DVR hardware: Most SPs currently provide recording facility via DVR hardware in customers' homes. This hardware-based approach however limits customers' viewing flexibility, as it has constraints on simultaneous recordings and storage space, besides the fact that they function only with a single connected TV.
  • Lack of infrastructure for multiscreen recording and playback: Many SPs now offer TV -everywhere services that extend live TV and VoD services to new devices. But conventional hardware-based DVRs offer no means to give subscribers personal control over their video experiences beyond the TV.
  • Inefficient video delivery systems for time-shift TV: Traditional video infrastructures are optimized for delivery of broadcast TV and VoD storage and streaming. In order to support a massively expanded catalog of time-shift TV content (theoretically, every program that airs on TV), there is a need for a highly scalable "live-capture" delivery mechanism that can automatically record TV programs as they air, in real- time.
  • High costs and complexity when delivering video to new devices: HTTP adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming (format which enables efficient delivery of video services basis consumers bandwidth) is standard for ensuring quality of experience when delivering video content to IP-connected consumer devices across networks where bandwidth is variable (example, over an unmanaged Internet connection or cellular network). However, implementing ABR streaming in existing video infrastructures requires encoding and storing content in multiple bit rates and formats. It is expensive, complex, and inefficient.

Addressing the challenges

The multiscreen phenomenon (delivering TV content across multiple devices) is expected to boost the STB market growth in the future. However addressing the infrastructure challenges is important for delivering an enhanced viewing experience. A cloud based DVR infrastructure can play an important role here because it helps scale, record, manage and deliver any type of content, over any network, to any device. It also provides a framework to allow subscribers schedule and manage personal video recordings via the cloud, and play back their recorded content on any device.

The cloud platform enables SPs to support full-featured DVR capabilities, as well varied content (linear, VoD, and time-shifted TV), to both managed STBs and unmanaged consumer devices (tablets, smartphones, and game consoles), whether delivered on-net or off-net using a single infrastructure. The need of the hour is for such integrated solutions which offer next-generation video services so that SPs can build unique and compelling experiences around premium content, increase subscriber loyalty and monetize those experiences in innovative ways.

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