Hybrid Platform OperatorLast month, Videonet released its report on The Hybrid Platform Operator, which looks at the market implications of the hybrid platform operator and considers the challenges in creating what should be a unified service through multiple networks and devices. Issues addressed include matching broadcast quality of experience (QoE) on streaming services, the user experience, integrating over-the-top (OTT) video into the set-top box (STB) offering, the role of adaptive bitrate STBs, and streaming versus broadcast.

Our partner, Verimatrix, had the pleasure of sitting down with John Moulding, the editor of the Videonet report, to discuss the evolution of hybrid network offerings, and the challenges facing hybrid operators today. Following is a transcript of the conversation.

VMX: How has the definition of a “hybrid network” evolved over the last couple of years? How would you define a hybrid network today?

JM: The most important change is that we have to account for OTT video services — including managed broadband delivery — now. When the industry started talking about “hybrid” it meant a DVB broadcast mechanism plus classic IPTV. An example of this is an IPTV service using their DSL network for video on demand (VOD), but the local DTT bouquet as the linear channel offering.

This kind of hybrid service is not that common but it is becoming more commonplace to see a broadcast service combined with OTT/broadband. An example of this is a satellite operator using their satellite DVB-S/S2 signals for linear TV and broadband to deliver VOD into IP-connected DVRs.

The really big change, now underway, is that even platform operators who already have a two-way network (like cable) are adding broadband/OTT delivery into their STBs to further enrich the service. Virgin Media in the UK is an example: they offer classic cable VOD, but they are also dedicating DOCSIS bandwidth to broadband video that is delivered into their TiVo DVRs. The broadband is used for catch-up TV, YouTube and for streaming video that is accessible via channel partner apps, among other things. So OTT is not just a way to enable two-way services, it is a way to enrich existing two-way services.

It is probably worth drawing a distinction between a hybrid service (what we would call a hybrid platform operator) and a hybrid network. There are some hybrid networks where an operator uses both cable and IPTV footprint to reach homes, but as a customer you only sit on one footprint or the other. To be defined (by us) as a hybrid service/operator, there needs to be more than one network input into the customer premise equipment.

VMX: What are the biggest challenges facing hybrid platform operators?

JM: If we are talking about OTT/broadband delivery as the second part of the “hybrid” (by far the most interesting version of hybrid today), a key challenge is to ensure that the services you offer via this “pipe” meet the high expectations that TV viewers have when turning on a STB. We are all used to television just working, for pictures to look great (especially if you get HDTV) and for them to remain consistent.

You need to ensure that the service blends easily into the overall television package, so that people can access streaming video (including catch-up TV) easily. This user experience is where platform operators can differentiate themselves from pure-play OTT services and smart TV vendors, so it should be (and is) a major focus area. And depending on what content you want to deliver via broadband, the content protection must be up to the job.

VMX: How can operators overcome these challenges and position their company for success?

JM: While operators might not be able to offer the same quality of experience (QoE) as classic TV today when using OTT, they must make that an ambition. Guaranteeing the bitrates for the OTT services is a good start and clearly the quality of the content delivery network (CDN) arrangements and video compression are going to impact what is possible within the bandwidth that is available.

The new generation of pay-TV platforms (e.g. Virgin Media TiVo) and indeed the next-generation free-to-air platforms (like YouView and Freesat’s in the UK) are all addressing the user experience (UEX) challenge. They are using backwards-facing electronic program guides (EPGs), Now/Next, Search and apps, etc. to help people find streamed on-demand content easily. There is a distinct feeling that all the content is in one place — and the source of the content is hidden.

When it comes to content protection, you need studio confidence in the quality of the digital rights management (DRM) implementations on broadband, and the best solutions seem to manage conditional access (CA) and DRM in one place and translate business rules into entitlements for multiple DRMs while removing most of the complexity from the platform operator. Unified content protection management becomes even more important once you start throwing in multiscreen services, which also use OTT and could well use the same video streaming that is delivered to a STB.

VMX: How can operators differentiate their pay-TV offerings from those of their competitors?

JM: When it comes to the broadcast/OTT hybrid, the most obvious way to differentiate is the addition of VOD and catch-up TV if you are currently relying on a one-way broadcast network, like satellite. This is a potential game-changer if you are in competition with two-way providers like cable and IPTV.

If there is a level playing field, in the sense that all providers now offer VOD (including any broadband delivered content) then you can differentiate by the volume and quality of the content available via OTT, whether that is the number of catch-up TV channels or the number of compelling content-rich apps.

The more important the OTT delivered content becomes to consumers (and catch-up TV, if nothing else, will ensure we do start to rely on it more) the more important QoE becomes. This can be a differentiator, assuming competitors neglect it, although there is clearly a point where ‘good enough is good enough’ and a triple-play consumer is not going to churn in order to get a 10% improvement in their catch-up picture quality. But if only one provider in a market can give you a reliable catch-up TV service on a 32-inch screen and everywhere else it pixelates, then this could be a competitive weapon.

VMX: What was the most surprising discovery when talking with industry experts for The Hybrid Platform Operator report?

JM: We have been excited about ‘Pay-TV Lite’ services since they started to appear. These are OTT bouquets offered by existing pay-TV operators and targeted at new homes, rather than existing subscribers. NOW TV from Sky in the UK is a great example, offering movies and sports on a per-month (and even per-day for sports) subscription basis.

One surprising insight was that in the U.S. a cable operator is looking to offer an OTT subset of its normal bouquet to persuade cord cutters to come back to them in some form, with the eventual aim of upselling them back to the full ‘traditional’ package. That means they will only use the Pay TV Lite service within their current footprint (because that is the only place you can offer the full package), even though you can, in theory, go off-net with OTT.

I was also surprised at how forthright Guy Bisson, Research Director for Television at IHS Screen Digest, was when he told us that Pay TV Lite platforms like NOW TV are a marker in the sand for pay-TV operators who are hedging their bets in case the world becomes increasingly OTT. We always thought these services were more than just a Netflix-busting movie service, but did not look upon them as a parallel platform that could accommodate an OTT migration.

I was also surprised by the amount of interest there apparently is in using IP/ABR-only (adaptive bit rate) STBs as the primary receive device in pay-TV homes. We were told about one cable operator that is looking to provide a replica cable TV offering via an ABR STB. Ironically this would take us beyond “hybrid” and back to a single delivery system into the customer premise equipment, only this time that single stream is going to be OTT/ABR rather than DVB-C, for example.

To view Videonet’s full report on The Hybrid Platform Operator, sponsored by Verimatrix and RGB Networks, please click here.


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VMGWe’ve been touting the virtues of ‘Multiscreen 2.0’ for a while now. If you’re still not sure exactly what it is, please take a look at this video for a great explanation. Diving deeper into this next-generation solution, this posting highlights the first key component of a true next-gen multiscreen solution – high-density, high-capacity, highly scalable live transcoding.

As outlined in a recent report from TDG, live TV Everywhere services are critical in order for pay-TV operators to differentiate themselves from OTT competitors who only offer on-demand video viewing. The report states that approximately 61% of pay-TV subscribers are, to varying degrees, interested in signing up for live linear TV service for an additional $5 per month. While consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile and other connected devices for video services, clearly they aren’t willing to give up their live TV viewing.

Whether it’s sports (have you seen the record-breaking live streaming numbers for March Madness?), news, reality shows or just the latest crime drama that viewers don‘t want to miss while on the go, it’s evident that live multiscreen services are something operators should be focusing on, both to attract and retain subscribers, as well as to monetize services.

However, in order to support the delivery of a growing number of live channels to thousands, or possibly millions of subscribers, VSPs require a robust solution that can scale to meet demand without compromising on video quality. For just this reason, RGB Networks developed the Video Multiprocessing Gateway (VMG), a modular, carrier-class live transcoding platform that uniquely offers the density, capacity, scalability, flexibility and reliability to meet the challenges of delivering video in today’s multiscreen world. And today, we’ve introduced our second generation platform – the VMG Gen 2 – which more than doubles the transcoding density for live streaming applications without compromising on video quality.

If you’re heading to Las Vegas next week for NAB, stop by and see us at booth #SU5924 to see demonstration of the video quality from the VMG Gen2 and to learn how you can integrate the newest generation of IP video technology into your network, resulting in streamlined operations, lower expenditures, new sources of revenue, and most importantly, happy subscribers. And check back soon for more on Multiscreen 2.0.


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TV ConnectAt last week’s TV Connect show, RGB’s VP of Product Management, Nabil Kanaan, spoke with Digital TV Europe about ‘Multiscreen 2.0’ and how its next-generation innovations can solve challenges for video service providers as they look to deploy, expand, streamline and/or monetize their TV Everywhere or OTT services. Take a look at the video and let us know what you think.

Check back next week for more details on this topic. And if you’re attending the upcoming NAB show in Las Vegas, put us on your “must see” list of exhibitors to learn more about Multiscreen 2.0 straight from the source – you can find us at booth #SU5924.


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Fierce Innovation 2012 Finalist AwardWith multiscreen TV Everywhere and OTT video services growing in popularity, adaptive streaming is a hot, hot topic. To help you sort out the differences between the various formats, we’ve assembled a list of past postings on the four major adaptive streaming protocols. Take a look and let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

If you find this information helpful, please share with your friends and colleagues using the social media sharing buttons at the top of this posting.


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Fierce Innovation 2012 Finalist AwardAnyone in the video delivery business should be aware of the CALM Act – a US regulation that took effect in December and requires video service providers to take action against the very annoying practice of commercial volume exceeding that of the programming content. With the deadline now behind us, are you in compliance?

Responsibility falls on the video service provider to ensure that the loudness correction takes place. However, as all of us TV-watchers know, loud commercials are still a big problem. The good news for consumers is that they can now report violations to the FCC – and the service provider will face fines. So, if you haven’t done it already, it’s time to get that loudness correction solution in place!

To help with the problem, RGB just announced a joint solution with DTS – a leader in high-definition audio technology – that will not only ensure compliance with the CALM Act (and other similar regulations around the world), it also ensures that the subscriber’s listening experience isn’t degraded with overly aggressive loudness correction tactics. And the kicker is that it extends to the multiscreen environment.

Utilizing DTS Neural Loudness Control (NLC), RGB’s TransAct Encoder/Transcoder can now deliver a superior audio experience across multiple screens, while ensuring CALM Act compliance – a win-win!

For more details, download our white paper now: Loudness Correction in Compressed Streams: Solving loudness problems while maintaining a dynamic audio experience

Please get in touch if you have any questions or need additional information.


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This blog was originally posted on Videonet’s IBC Official Blog.

Multiscreen nDVR VODThis blog looks at one of this year’s key themes – the issues surrounding content creation and innovation. As the marketplace swells with competition, and consumers become more fickle than ever, the issue of how to proactively tackle the content challenge has returned with vigour.

To keep up with subscriber expectations, video service providers (VSPs) must address the twin challenges of video content explosion and device expansion. Most recently, the record numbers of viewers worldwide who watched the London 2012 Olympic Games have highlighted how imperative it is for providers to establish a TV Everywhere strategy that can deliver premium quality video content to a diverse range of devices, both in real-time and across time-shifted viewing options. Significantly, this huge broadcasting event also revealed that the rise of second screen viewing is currently not only redefining how viewers engage with content, but also how they source and discover it. As such, the processing of content to operate seamlessly across multiple screens is integral to the evolution of the multiscreen experience as a whole.

Complementing the requisite live video services, VSPs are confronted with the challenges of satisfying the diversifying consumption behaviours of today‘s ‘on-demand’ culture – they must expand the reach of their video libraries while delivering a more encompassing selection of content. In order to get ahead of the competition, providers need access to a flexible set of tools capable of supporting a host of idiosyncratic viewing habits across VOD and nDVR services.

A critical element in this toolbox is the ‘packager,’ which prepares files for delivery to a specific end user device. A complete and versatile packaging solution is required to ensure the most efficient delivery of both popular ‘short tail’ content, as well as ‘long tail’ content that is requested less frequently by on-demand viewers. And now these traditional definitions for the popularity of content have a new dimension – how popular the requesting device and packaged protocol is. For short tail programs, providers can pre-package this content by transcoding all assets into every bitrate, resolution and adaptive streaming format to reach any device, whether TV, tablet, PC, laptop or smartphone. For long tail niche content, VSPs can transcode video, creating a set of mezzanine format files, that can later be packaged ‘on the fly’ into multiple formats for just-in-time delivery, eliminating storage of vast amounts of unused files. Implementing such a flexible video processing architecture not only enables providers to progressively build up their VOD libraries, offering a more diverse range of content, but also significantly alleviates other persistent complexities of video distribution, such as costly storage and bandwidth issues. In doing so, operators can cost-effectively provide a video service that is not only flexible and reliable, but meets subscribers’ diverse viewing preferences across a variety of content and devices.

In an increasingly connected media world, it is essential that providers implement future-proof architectures and technology to support evolving trends and innovations. By installing the appropriate infrastructure capable of supporting the streaming of video services to multiple screens on the schedule deemed appropriate by the consumer, VSPs can be confident in their ability to satisfy market demand, to grow their subscriber base and ultimately boost their bottom line.

At Cable-Tec Expo booth #443 and TelcoTV booth #819, RGB Networks will be showcasing its eVIA multiscreen delivery solution, highlighting how it helps VSPs tackle the challenges of content delivery in multiple formats, across multiple screens in live on on-demand applications. Come visit us to see this advanced technology in action!

Nabil Kanaan


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ZiggoAs we continue to expand our customer base (recently tallied at over 400 video service providers worldwide!), we’re excited to be able to share the story of one of the premier operators in Europe—Ziggo in the Netherlands.

Take a look at this case study for an overview of their multiscreen deployment and close partnership with RGB Networks. If you’re interested in more details, please get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss how we can help you with your multiscreen and other digital video needs.


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File-to-File TranscoderVOD transcoding is getting a lot of attention these days. Not that it ever went out of style, but lately it’s become front and center again for many video service providers (VSPs). I am on several customer calls and meetings per week about the topic.

Why all the attention on VOD transcoding? Simple answer – adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming. Tablets, phones, even set-top boxes are getting in the act. The new iPad “3” (even though Apple just calls it “the new iPad”) is taking ABR streaming capabilities to a new level. The new iPad’s 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) is double the ppi density of the iPad 2. Analysts predict that Apple will sell a mind boggling 70 million of them this year.

And Apple isn’t the only game in town – the Samsung Galaxy tab and Amazon Kindle are two other hot devices that VSPs want to reach. Not to mention connected TVs and new adaptive streaming capable set-top boxes.

Providing VOD content to these devices is an entirely new revenue opportunity that has opened up to operators – and they want to capitalize on it.

Unfortunately however (there’s always a “but” isn’t there?) it’s not that simple. The traditional VOD transcoding that is done to deliver content to MPEG-2 and H.264 capable set-top boxes doesn’t work for newer over-the-top (OTT) devices. The content needs to be coded into several different profiles (bitrates and resolutions), segmented, packaged and encrypted. Plus, different packaging is required depending on whether you want to deliver content to HLS, SS, HDS or MPEG DASH clients.

That’s where file-to-file (F2F) ABR VOD transcoding comes in. With an ABR capable transcoder (like RGB’s Linux software-based TransAct Transcoder), you can transcode all of your VOD content into every bitrate, resolution and package type to reach any device. Plus, with built-in encryption capabilities that are integrated with leading DRM providers, our TransAct Transcoder allows operators to encrypt content and push to the CDN for distribution to end devices. In fact, we have several customers doing this today – packaging and encrypting latest release movies and making them available over a CDN.

A few key advantages that customers appreciate about our offline/VOD transcoding capabilities:

  • Multiscreen VOD enablement
    • ABR VOD transcoding to all adaptive streaming formats
    • Manifest/index file creation
    • HLS and SS DRM encryption
  • Plug-and-play into VOD ecosystem
    • Watch folders and drop folders on NFS, CIFS or WebDAV mounts
    • F2F XML-RPC API signaling with call back
  • CableLabs-compliant output including interlaced output for MPEG-2 and H.264

Plus, one of the really cool things you can do with our VOD transcoder is create a set of mezzanine format TS files that can then be packaged later for delivery “just-in-time” to ABR devices (take a look here for more information on this application).

If you want to learn more about our VOD transcoding capabilities, visit our File-to-File Transcoding page where you can download a detailed solution overview.

Andy Salo

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2012 is set to be one of the most notable years in sports broadcasting history. We’ve already seen America’s biggest sporting event – the Super Bowl – streamed live to a record-setting 2.1 million viewers, and here in London at the IP&TV World Forum, we have heard much buzz surrounding the upcoming high-profile European events, including Euro 2012 and the greatly anticipated London Olympics – already being heralded as the “first truly digital Olympics”. These must-watch events, with their inherent time zone challenges that accompany their global audience, offer video service providers a tremendous opportunity to increase subscriber appeal and loyalty by providing access to high-value content whenever and wherever the viewer desires.

With the scale and international reach of these landmark occasions, content will not just include the coverage of the events themselves, but will also encompass analysis, as well as supporting documentary and entertainment-value video, presenting a 24/7 treasure trove of content primed for live and on-demand viewing anytime, anywhere over the duration of these multi-week competitions. However, with the importance of an event like the Summer Olympics, viewers are not going to tolerate any delay or jitter, especially in races where a difference of milliseconds can separate gold and silver medallists.

As such, providers will have to ensure that their network infrastructure is ready and able to support high consumer demand to play out these IP video services to such high numbers of viewers across their growing array of devices.

Given the speed at which video-enabled devices have become a consumer necessity, any provider without a plan to deliver video beyond the television will certainly get left behind. Even the traditional television is going IP, with 80 percent of all TVs shipped in 2014 expected to be smart devices, compared to only 27 percent in 2011 (Futuresource Consulting, TV Market Report, January 2012).

Most providers have legacy infrastructure originally intended to target only one type of device. But with the right knowledge and the latest technology, they can easily and cost-effectively integrate IP infrastructure that will give them a future-proof multiscreen solution without major infrastructure overhaul needed, allowing them to provide their subscribers with the ultimate flexibility in terms of how and when they view all the action of this year’s premier events.

With the granddaddy of all TV viewing events going digital, all providers should be looking to reach as many viewers as possible with both live and on-demand content, to fully capitalize on such a huge opportunity. And as such, the IP&TV World Forum is a great opportunity for us to meet with you to discuss how to do just that. See us at stand #236 to learn more.

Or if you’re not in London this week, please let us know here how you’re looking to capitalize on the digitization of TV’s biggest sporting events. What are your biggest challenges?


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mpeg-DASH promoters groupIt was bound to happen at some point. MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) has been ratified and is on its way to becoming an industry-accepted standard. There will still be a few bumps along the way, but it seems that streaming industry vendor development is moving along well. Adobe and Microsoft are active participants in the DASH Promoters Group, along with Netflix, Akamai, Samsung and many others (including RGB Networks!), and in fact Microsoft chairs the group.

What is MPEG DASH?

MPEG DASH is the MPEG standardization of Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP. DASH is described by document ISO/IEC 23009-1. For those already familiar with the three prominent adaptive streaming protocols – Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and Adobe HDS – DASH can be thought of as an amalgamation of the three (for a comparison of these protocols, download our white paper).

At a high level, DASH works nearly identically to the other adaptive streaming protocols. Available stream content is presented to the player in a manifest (index) file. In DASH, the manifest is called a Media Presentation Description (MPD) file, which is in XML format. The MPD is analogous to an HLS m3u8 file, a Smooth Streaming Manifest file or an HDS f4m file. After the MPD is delivered to the client, content – such as video, audio, subtitles or other data – is downloaded to clients over HTTP as a sequence of video files that is played back contiguously.

The MPD describes the content that is available, including URL addresses of stream chunks, byte-ranges, different bitrates, resolutions, and content encryption mechanisms. The task of choosing which adaptive stream bitrate and resolution to play, and changing to different bitrate streams according to network conditions, is done by the client (again, similar to other adaptive streaming protocols). In fact the MPEG DASH standard does not prescribe any client-specific playback functionality, rather it pertains to the formatting of the content and associated MPDs only.

There are two file segment types allowed in DASH – MPEG2 TS and ISO Base media file format (ISO BMFF). MPEG2 TS is what HLS currently uses, and ISO BMFF is what Smooth Streaming and HDS currently use. This allows for a relatively easy migration of existing adaptive streaming content to MPEG DASH, as the media segments can often stay the same, and only the index files need to be migrated to an MPD format.

MPEG DASH defines and allows for different profiles to be created. A profile is a set of restrictions of media formats, codecs, protection formats, bitrates, resolutions, or other aspects of the content. For example, the DASH spec defines a profile for ISOBMFF basic on-demand.

What capabilities will MPEG DASH offer for video service providers?

MPEG DASH offers a standards-based approach for enabling a host of services that operators have traditionally offered in IPTV and broadcast environments, and extends those capabilities to adaptive bitrate delivery, including:

  • Live and on-demand content delivery
  • Time-shift services (NDVR, Catch-up TV)
  • Targeted ad insertion

MPEG DASH enables these features through a number of inherent capabilities, and importantly, flexibility of design and implementation:

  • Multiple segment formats (ISO base media FF and MPEG-2 TS)
  • Codec independency
  • Trick mode functionality
  • Profiles: restriction of DASH and system features (claim & permission)
  • Content descriptors for protection, accessibility, content rating, and more
  • Common encryption (defined by ISO/IEC 23001-7)
  • Clock drift control for live content
  • Metrics for reporting the client session experience

One of the most important features of DASH is its use of Common Encryption (a topic for another blog post), which standardizes a number of different, widely-used encryption methods. This allows content owners to distribute content, and allows service providers to have access to an interoperable ecosystem of vendors.

What aspects of DASH could hinder widespread adoption?

First, there are some unresolved intellectual property rights with DASH. Normally, IP introduced into MPEG standards is accepted only if the IP owner agrees to Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) terms. In the case of DASH, it is not clear that all IPR in the standard is covered by RAND terms. Second, while DASH has one name, it is a collection of different, non-interoperable profiles. So DASH doesn’t solve the problem of different, non-interoperable implementations unless DASH clients support all profiles. And this is basically equivalent to having a client that supports HLS and HDS and Smooth Streaming (which incidentally would also address the interoperability problem).

Time will tell if MPEG DASH will coexist or supersede existing adaptive streaming formats. Certainly, DASH provides quite a flexible framework for delivering streaming media content. As usual, it will depend on what the major vendors do, and whether VSPs see the benefits of augmenting or changing trajectory of in-process deployments and content offerings.

Andy Salo


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