By Fred Dawson
March 26, 2013 – Cloud-based activation of HTML5 to support advanced navigation, ad placement management and a multitude of other applications is proving to be a game changer in the pay and OTT TV world.
There’s no better evidence of this fact than the many ways the ActiveVideo’s CloudTV H5 platform has been put to use over the past few months, including the recently announced move by Motorola Mobility to leverage CloudTV H5 to support broader availability of its DreamGallery advanced navigation system. Rather than limiting availability of the innovative UI to advanced set-tops equipped with HTML 5 browsing capabilities, Motorola is now able to support operators’ implementation of DreamGallery on legacy set-tops and new low-power companion boxes as demand for better navigation escalates.
“Our service provider customers are eager to address this demand with rich DreamGallery experiences, but are constrained by the cost and complexity of upgrading their set-top boxes,” says John Burke, senior vice president and general manager for converged solutions at Motorola Mobility. “Now this cloud-based virtual module lets them deliver this next-generation experience to more subscribers.”
As previously reported, DreamGallery is a highly customizable cross-platform navigation system designed to allow operators to import programming information from an existing EPG or any other source for processing in an advanced discovery environment. Using HTML5 to support rendering in the browser on any device, DreamGallery allows operators to add features and change guide formats quickly and launch at scale.
“With the CloudTV platform Motorola can enable its service provider customers to implement navigation with ubiquitous and common branding across every device they want to deploy now and into the future,” says Michael Taylor, senior vice president of business development at ActiveVideo. The CloudTV H5 platform utilizes highly optimized HTML5 browser technology running in remote servers to execute and render fully formed user experiences that are streamed with minimal latency to consumers’ devices via MPEG-2 or H.264 in response to prompts on remote controls, he explains.
Such capabilities are especially important during this transition phase to HTML5 when the standard is still evolving, Taylor notes. Many IP devices aren’t running HTML5 browsers, and even when they claim to be HTML5 compatible “there’s no telling if that particular device is equipped with the full WebKit browser,” Taylor says, in reference to the open-source template widely used for HTML5 browser development. “A lot of these devices slice and dice their own versions of WebKit to make it fit with the physical constraints of their processors.”
The disruptive potential of the cloud-based solution also can be found in The Netherlands where, as previously reported, the country’s largest cable operator, Ziggo, is leveraging the ActiveVideo platform to enable access to VOD and other new services on legacy set-tops. Ziggo, it turns out, is also putting Cloud TV 5H to work for another application that promises to expand the advanced service customer base without requiring use of new set-tops.
This entails use of what is known as CI+ modules to deliver the full capabilities of the operator’s premium service to smart TVs and other connected devices with CI (Common Interface) slots. CI was developed under the DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) standard to support the separation of conditional access functionality from the digital receiver-decoder but failed to provide for securing handoffs of descrambled content to IP devices. CI+ provides a trusted channel between the CA module inserted into the CI slot and the host TV receiver, allowing smart TVs to receive pay TV services.
But while CI+ has been widely introduced by the likes of UPC, Orange, Belgium’s Telenet, Eutelsat’s German subsidiary KabelKiosk and many other operators to facilitate delivery of their services over IP broadband to devices they certify, the solution does not allow them to provide the advanced navigation, interactivity and other bells and whistles common to their high-end services. Ziggo, Taylor notes, has overcome this limitation by using the cloud solution to support those features on its new OTT premium TV service.
“Ziggo wanted to continue their growth with support for all the feature sets, which CI+ doesn’t support,” Taylor says. “When they use our client the service works the same as it does on any high-end set-top box.”
Noting that CI+ modules tied to specific services are being introduced by the millions, he says the cloud-based solution is positioned to create a set-top-free advanced service environment that could have a major impact on operators’ capital costs and the costs of subscriptions. “We’d suggest this is a much more efficient way of growing out the user experience,” he says.
ActiveVideo’s platform is also making it easier for pure OTT players to develop smart TV service strategies. In December, a new provider, Net2TV launched Portico, a service that leverages ActiveVideo to provide an advanced TV-like service offering free shows from recognized brands, some of which are short-form professional productions that are repackaged into TV program-length presentations from entities like CBS Interactive’s CHOW.com food site, Popular Science, The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Live and Discovery’s recently purchased Web video outlet Revision3.
“We create an experience for viewers who want to sit back, relax and watch,” says Jim Monroe, co-founder and senior vice president of programming for Net2TV. “Our program partners have good-quality, short-form pieces. We work with them to curate these pieces and package them into program-length shows.”
Net2TV launched on Philips smart TVs in the U.S. and is lining up three more CE partners, Taylor says. “We’re working with them on putting our client in those devices,” he says. “They expect to have several million TV screens displaying the new navigation system.”
That navigation system, delivered from the cloud, is one of the distinguishing facets of the service, he adds. “They’re deploying a user interface that employs a multi-tile mosaic – very sexy, fast and informative,” he says.
Another Net2TV application supported by CloudTV H5 is advanced advertising, where the provider is dynamically placing interactive banners in the UI and pre-roll ads to run with the programs. “Net2TV is a fully ad-supported service,” Taylor notes.
“What we’re doing for Net2TV is the same thing we’re doing for traditional service providers and other players in this game,” he says. “The theory here is that whether you’re Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Net2TV or one of our other customers, you can create a navigational UI in HTML5 to run on our platform so that, once it’s written, it can be served to any device that’s using our client.”