Converged Headends Open Path to Overcoming Hardware Barriers to Pay TV Migration

EnvivioService Providers Are Extending Benefits of Envivio’s Software Platforms Across all Screens

Introduction

As pay TV providers invest in technology essential to keeping pace with increasingly complex transcoding and distribution requirements it’s clearer than ever that reliance on proprietary hardware solutions is no longer a viable option.

This not only applies to operations dedicated to delivering multiscreen “TV Everywhere” services; it applies to distribution of legacy set-top service as well. As multiscreen service moves into the mainstream delivering high volumes of live and on-demand content to big-screen connected TVs as well as smaller devices, operators can no longer afford to operate separate processing silos for the IP and legacy versions of their services.

Such considerations underlie a growing trend toward development of converged headends, where the efficiencies and flexibility of IT-based datacenter operations offer a compelling alternative to the growing costs and complications of headend expansion. For example, among the large number of pay TV providers worldwide who launched their TV Everywhere services on the software-based Muse transcoding systems supplied by Envivio, Inc., many have decided to use the technology to support encoding requirements for legacy MPEG-2 or AVC in IPTV, DTH or cable distribution as well.

Many factors have come into play to overturn old assumptions about the usefulness of proprietary hardware encoding/transcoding systems, including the need for greater efficiency in the allocation of headend resources and the complexities caused by succeeding generations of codecs and devices. Critically, the introduction of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) with its power to cut bitrates by up to 50 percent represents a major transition that will be difficult and costly to support with continued reliance on traditional encoding systems.

Another development underlying new thinking about headend infrastructures is the need to leverage IP streaming technology in ways that lower costs even as the personalization, advertising and other functionalities that are applied with each unicast stream multiply. This requires implementation of distributed architectures that leverage sophisticated software to orchestrate what is happening in the transcoding process with the processes associated with streaming, transrating and fragmentation, no matter where those processes are physically located.

This cannot be done cost effectively with transcoders that hardwire all these processes into a single platform at the core. In contrast, such flexibility is intrinsic to datacenter architectures where coordination of applications across dispersed commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) servers is a staple of industrial operations worldwide.

Given the pace of technological change in today’s pay TV market, operators cannot afford to wait for new generations of proprietary hardware systems as new needs arise. Nor can they afford the costs of replacements and upgrades once such systems become available.

Arguments claiming that the processing power and quality output of “purpose-built” encoding systems set them apart are out of touch with how general-purpose microprocessors are designed today. The fact is, with decoding and rendering of video now a core function supported by virtually every type of consumer device, optimization of hardware for video processing is no longer the special purview of hardware-based encoding platforms manufactured for pay TV service providers.  Any manufacturer of enterprise-class servers hoping to compete in today’s market must deliver blades capable of encoding and streaming video at scales and densities commensurate with or superior to traditional encoding platforms.

Cases in point are servers that employ Intel’s Xeon™ processors. When used on COTS blades or with Envivio’s 4Caster Gen 4™ platform to run Envivio’s Muse Live™ and Muse On-Demand™ software transcoding systems, Xeon chips process video at performance levels matching or surpassing proprietary hardware systems. As a result, operators are able to realize great cost savings in current as well as future headend operations with no loss in quality or reliability, and with great gains in operational flexibility.

Across the board, the trends in premium TV service management are mandating implementation of highly flexible software solutions designed to accelerate responsiveness to market demand by optimizing use of processing power at all points in the network. The innovations introduced by Envivio ensure that these benefits can be applied with as much effectiveness in video distribution as in any other facet of pay TV operations.

Adapting to the Pace of Change

Multiscreen services are undergoing dramatic change as ever more pay TV providers feel compelled to expand the amount of programming available for both live and on-demand distribution across all device categories inside and outside the home. Research data underscore just how vital next-generation multiscreen services are to service providers’ long-term prospects.

Messages from the Market

As viewing of over-the-top content (OTT) soars, pay TV providers are experiencing an acceleration in video subscription disconnects. Convergence Consulting Group, in its latest report on pay TV cord cutting, says the year-to-year 1.08-million drop-off in U.S. pay TV subscribers recorded as of April 2013 exceeded its predictions by 150,000, bringing to 3.74 million the number of net pay TV subscription losses reported by the group since 2008.

Buttressing these findings, Leichtman Research Group in its latest quarterly report covering Q2 2013 said the 13 largest multi-channel video providers in the U.S., representing about 94 percent of the market, netted a loss of about 345,000 video subscribers, led by cable companies with a net loss of 555,000 video subscribers, followed by satellite providers with a loss of 162,000. Offsetting these losses was a net gain of 373,000 video subscribers on the part of Verizon and AT&T.

Meanwhile, OTT providers are racking up increasing levels of viewership.  In August 2012 The Digital Entertainment Group reported year-to-year growth in online subscription viewing of movies and TV programming hit 420 percent with revenues topping $1.1 billion over that period. In April 2013 Convergence Consulting Group reported such viewing accounted for 28 percent of U.S. movie and TV rental revenues in 2012 compared to 20 percent for traditional VOD.

Among pay TV subscribers aged 18-49, 71 million now regularly view movies and TV programming online, and 32 million are leaning toward dropping their pay TV subscriptions, according to a survey of 2,500 consumers in this age group released in June 2013 by Pivot, the new programming network subsidiary of Participant Media. The study found that 13 percent of 18-34 year olds are broadband-only consumers of video entertainment.

All of this has made broadband the future battleground for viewership, as evidenced in a study of 12,827 U.S. consumers conducted in June 2013 by J.D. Powers and Associates. Sixty-six percent of all consumers surveyed for the study, including 92 percent of those under 25, regularly use an Internet video service, such as Netflix, Redbox or Amazon, according to Powers’ 2013 Digital Lifestyle Study. Sixty-one percent of consumers now consider Internet service as the foundation to their future digital lifestyle bundle, while only 40 percent select traditional pay TV service as part of their ideal future bundle.

The good news in all this research is the extent to which pay TV providers can benefit from these trends by offering a compelling multiscreen service. For example, in the Pivot study, 87 percent of the 18-49 group considered to be at risk of cord cutting said they would consider keeping their pay TV subscriptions if offered programming streamed live and on demand to wherever they are. Similarly, in a report released in January 2013, research firm GfK Media reported nearly 25 percent of all pay TV subscribers were more likely to keep their existing TV services if they were offered multiscreen pay TV services.

Multiscreen pay TV is also a big draw among the “cord-never” generation. According to the Pivot study, 58 percent of broadband-only subscribers in the 18-34 group said they would consider subscribing to pay TV if such services were offered as a broadband TV subscription.

The New Technology Mandate

Such yearnings pose a major challenge to pay TV providers who want to deliver a full lineup of live and on-demand programming to users inside and outside the home on whatever type of device they’re using. With all the devices in play, comprehensive coverage to PCs, Macs, game consoles, smart TVs and every type of Apple iOS and Android smartphone and tablet requires up to 15 or more encoded profiles per live channel or on-demand file.

Moreover, there’s a lot of processing required beyond the basic encoding of each stream for each type of device. The transcoder must be able to de-interlace each encoded NTSC file to progressive mode, add IDR (instantaneous decoder refresh) frames to enable SCTE 35-based ad insertion and perform GOP (group of pictures) alignment to ensure smooth transition between fragments sent from adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming packagers. And it must be able to process and sync up ancillary feeds such as closed captioning and foreign language subtitles.

Adding to the challenge is the ongoing flux in device profiles tied to various ABR and DRM (digital rights management) formats. At the high end, operators have to contemplate the emergence of super HD or 4K and eventually even 8K TV sets. Among smaller device types, the outpouring of smartphones, tablets and smart TVs running on Android OS is especially daunting.

According to a report released in spring 2013 by OpenSignal, a provider of cellular signal coverage maps, there are now 11,868 distinct Android devices running on the eight versions of Android that have emerged since the original OS launch in April 2009. This compares to 3,997 distinct Android devices in operation a year earlier.

Compounding the complexities of serving all these devices is the onset of HEVC, the recently ratified successor to AVC (H.264) that promises to reduce the bitrate for delivering any given resolution of video by anywhere from 40 to 50 percent compared to AVC bitrates. Not only does this have the effect of nearly doubling the bandwidth for video transport across the aggregate fixed and mobile distribution infrastructures at a fraction of the costs that would be required for network capacity expansion; it also opens the way for reaching a new level of video quality envisioned with 4K and, eventually, 8K ultra-HD on ever larger screens with minimal impact on existing bandwidth allocations.

The Converged Headend Solution

All of the video processing requirements for next-generation multiscreen services discussed above would not be possible to achieve using traditional proprietary hardware-based encoding technology without incurring enormous upfront and ongoing expenditures that would undermine operators’ ability to ensure multiscreen services are a net contributor to the bottom line. This is why pay TV providers worldwide have opted to deploy Envivio’s Muse Live and Muse On-Demand to support their moves into multiscreen distribution of premium content.

By building their multiscreen service expansions on low-cost general-purpose processors they not only greatly reduce the initial expense of launching multiscreen service; they ensure that as the service expands to encompass ever more device types and new codecs they will be able to accommodate expansion on existing hardware.

There’s another, perhaps more surprising benefit as well, insofar as the same software achieves video quality enhancements never seen before in legacy MPEG-2 and AVC pay TV distribution. Given the processing power of Intel’s Xeon platform and the levels of encoding quality achieved in the algorithms developed by Envivio, operators are assured they can provide subscribers the premium-quality viewing experience they have come to expect with their service no matter what type of device they’re using.

The Intel Core Performance Record

Proprietary hardware systems simply cannot match the pace or scale of improvements achieved with each generation of Intel processors. Over the last three generations of Xeon development Intel has achieved transcoding performance improvements at rates of 50 to 100 percent per generation, and its prognosis for the newly released fourth generation makes clear this pace will continue if not accelerate as new innovations come on line.

One of the more recent measures of the general video processing advantage of Xeon over other systems came in a study by PA Consulting Group that looked into the OpEx and CapEx costs incurred by a service provider for performing transcoding and other media functions on a given portion of media traffic. The study compared the total cost of ownership (TOC) of custom hardware-based transcoding and video processing appliances running on DSPs with the TOC for COTS systems running on Intel’s third generation Xeon multi-purpose processor. The results showed TOC incurred by the media processing solution based on the Intel Core processors was about 50 percent below the costs of the custom-built hardware system.

Such savings rest on several factors that come into play with the use of microprocessors built on Intel Architecture, starting with the processing densities that can be achieved on a server blade, now reaching up to eighteen Xeon Core units per blade. Low power consumption is essential to achieving such densities. For example, a qualcore Intel processing array consumes just 15-47 Watts per processor, far lower than most competing processors. These power savings are preserved across multiple generations of core chips with use of the same power consumption envelop no matter how much more processing density is brought into play.

The biggest cost benefit of all, of course, stems from the multi-purpose functionality of the Intel Architecture (IA), which generates very high volume production at low per-unit costs. Even within the video processing arena, blades running on the Xeon core are used for multiple applications such as video conferencing, medical imaging and industrial surveillance as well as processing for pay TV services.

This flexibility also simplifies development of software for multiple applications across the video distribution infrastructure. Because Intel-based platforms are available for running applications from post-production design and encoding, to live streaming over IP networks, to decoding on set-top boxes, PCs and personal viewing devices, Envivio’s development team can quickly develop, verify and deploy interoperable end-to-end solutions.

Further enhancing performance in conjunction with the pairing of Xeon and Envivio technologies is the fact that, since 2008, Envivio video compression routines have been among the processor-optimized set of functionalities or “primitives” included in the Xeon Integrated Performance Primitives (IPP) library. This ensures that the underlying SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) and other features of the Xeon parallel processing architecture are used to maximum effect in performing Envivio transcoding and other processing functions.

The result is a dramatic improvement in cost-benefit ratios compared to monolithic, proprietary architectures based on digital signal processors (DSPs), application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and outdated MIPS (million instructions per second) processors. In terms of sheer processing efficiencies, comparative analyses conducted by Envivio researchers have found transcoding on Muse delivers an average of 20 percent greater efficiencies over leading hardware-based systems.

Envivio Transcoding Technology

To meet operators’ rigorous quality requirements Envivio has built its own encoders from the ground up rather than relying on commercially available codecs. The company’s patented Extreme ™, Premium ™ and Elite ™ codecs are tailored to provide the highest quality video on each device, from resolutions for smartphones to 1080p HD for big-screen TVs.

Quality and efficiency are also enhanced on Envivio’s Muse transcoding platforms through the Foresight ™ algorithm, which analyzes the structure and complexity of video inputs on a frame-by-frame basis to optimize use of transcoding resources. By monitoring all ingest and output streams, Muse also provides an objective quality score for all resolutions and bitrates, thereby avoiding the need for third-party equipment.

By virtue of its support for IP, ASI and SD/HD-SDI interfaces along with redundant power supplies and hot-swappable nodes, Envivio has enabled use of its technology for all premium service environments, including legacy pay TV operations. Through ongoing lab research, Envivio ensures that important new developments in compression and related technologies, including its own innovations, can be quickly delivered to customers through easily implemented software updates.

Envivio’s Muse Live transcoding software can be configured to run in a datacenter environment on HP BladeSystem™ and ProLiant™ blade server infrastructures or Cisco Unified Computing System™ blade servers. Or it can be used with the Envivio 4Caster G4 appliance in headend environments. Running on a 2RU 4Caster G4, Muse Live can transcode up to 12 HD or up to 72 SD channels with up to 15 outputs per channel.

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Envivio 4Caster™ G4 is a 2-RU high performance computing appliance for broadcast and multi-screen video processing that takes advantage of the latest Intel processor enhancements to signifcantly increase density, speed and performance while lowering CAPEX/OPEX for operators.

Muse Live performs real-time transcoding in all the major compression modes, including MPEG-2, AVC, Windows Media 9, VC1 and HEVC, for streaming with DRM protection to all device categories in the leading streaming formats. These include HTTP Live Streaming, Silverlight Smooth, Flash, Windows Media, 3GPP, 3GPP2 and MPEG-DASH.

Muse also supports a wide range of additional features such as automatic audio loudness adjustment, image insertion, picture-in-picture, alternative audio languages, closed captions, DVB-Subtitles and DVB-Teletext. To enable efficient distribution of content encoded for access over cable QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) channels Muse Live employs Envivio’s IP statistical rate control to deliver up to 30 percent more channels per multiplex than can be done with transcoders that only support constant bitrate distribution. These capabilities translate to enabling distribution of up to five AVC-encoded HD channels over a 6 MHz RF channel or up to four over an 8 MHz RF channel.

Envivio also provides support for processing multiscreen as well as traditional on-demand content through its Muse On-Demand platform, which cuts space requirements and costs by supporting transcoding in all major file formats at speeds up to 12 times faster than real time. This is up to 35 percent faster than proprietary hardware systems that employ hardware accelerators to facilitate processing of on-demand content. Muse On-Demand is fully integrated with leading content protection, content management and quality control systems to support automation of the entire process.

Critically, Muse Live and Muse On-Demand, whether operating on datacenter servers or the Envivio 4Caster platform, deliver a level of performance reliability that’s on par with or superior to any traditional headend encoding system. This demonstrated level of performance reliability frees pay TV providers to exploit the flexibility of Envivio’s transcoding solutions wherever needs arise.

The Emergence of Converged Headend Strategies

All these advantages over custom-built hardware systems have led growing numbers of pay TV providers worldwide to embrace the concept of a converged headend that leverages Envivio’s technology to meet all video processing requirements. Given the volumes of on-demand content that must be processed and the fact that an end user might be accessing live HD channels on a set-top or an Internet-connected TV, they see that maintaining separate processing domains for IP and legacy content makes no sense if all the profiles essential to serving every type of device can be generated from a single platform.

Envivio

The complete end-to-end multiscreen service architecture enabled by Envivio solutions includes all the mechanisms essential to encoding/transcoding live and on-demand content in all formats from all sources and edge management of packaging, protection and on-the-fly personalized components, including ad placements, through interfaces with third-party systems.

The transition to utilization of Muse for all video processing requirements also introduces the benefits of converging the IT datacenter with the video headend. This not only allows the operator to scale and reconfigure use of datacenter resources with maximum efficiency as headend requirements evolve. It also lowers operations costs by eliminating the need to manage separate facilities for headend applications.

The Impact of HEVC

The argument for a converged headend is also gaining strength by virtue of operators’ recognition that HEVC and the new ultra-high HD resolution format 4K are looming on the horizon, requiring still another potential headend transition that would entail introducing new hardware if operators remained committed to legacy solutions. Indeed, the fact that the Muse Live and On Demand systems have already been upgraded to support HEVC has become a key incentive to the purchasing decisions of many Envivio customers. By moving now to consolidate headend operations on the Envivio platform, these operators are assured they can introduce HEVC and 4K without hardware upgrades.

Taking such steps is especially important in light of the processing requirements attending HEVC. Not only will operators who continue using legacy headend system need to install new hardware, they will have to take into account the fact that HEVC, with more complex decisions and tradeoffs across a wider array of decision points in the encoding process, requires up to 10 times more processing power compared to AVC.

Operators employing Envivio transcoding technology will be able to accommodate these increased processing requirements using existing hardware by shifting resources to HEVC as they reduce resource allocations for AVC and MPEG-2. When it comes to net increases in the amount of processing required to accommodate HEVC as conditions evolve, their costs will be much lower than if they were adding proprietary hardware systems.

The need to introduce HEVC for encoding content delivered to IP devices is imminent. The expansion of multiscreen pay TV to include the full portfolio of operators’ content, or at least as full a portfolio as they can create under licensing terms with programmers, brings with it a huge expansion in the amount of bandwidth consumed by unicast streams.

The pace of HEVC rollout will be gated in part by the types of devices targeted, where, much as was the case with the transition from MPEG2 to AVC, legacy set-tops will slow implementation over traditional pay TV transport links. But IP devices are a different matter. The emergence of HEVC, already delivering bit rate reductions of 40 to 50 percent from AVC levels, provides a way for operators to unicast streams to all devices, including connected TVs, without sacrificing quality.

The processing capacity and power resources of targeted devices will be a factor in determining how fast HEVC-compressed video takes hold.  Consequently, being able to flexibly introduce HEVC in tandem with the pace at which the new codec can be processed on specific types of devices is essential to maximizing the benefits of the new technology early on.

While PCs and some tablets can handle the processing load, most of the current generation of smartphones, while capable of doing the decoding when equipped with an H.265 codec, will burn up too much battery power in the processing to make HEVC a practical option on those devices. Power, of course, won’t be a limiting factor for IP set-tops and smart TVs, some of which will have sufficient processing power to handle H.265 without adding accelerators while others won’t.

As Envivio customers begin to implement HEVC they will also be well positioned to begin extending their premium services to buyers of 4K HD sets as falling costs generate ever more purchases of these next-generation TVs. 4K, the successor to today’s HD standard, delivers four times the resolution of 1920 x 1080 HD with 4,000 pixels per horizontal line at 60 or 120 frames per second. Based on tests conducted by Envivio and others, the bitrate for distributing 4K-caliber video in HEVC mode will be in the 20-25 mbps range compared to about 45 mbps using AVC compression.

In this transition period, operators utilizing the Envivio platforms will be able to allocate resources to deliver the combinations of MPEG-2, AVC and HEVC encoding modes that continually achieve maximum efficiency in the use of bandwidth as device capabilities evolve. This is especially important, considering the growing use of connected TVs.

The Role of Connected TVs

While operators have been slow to make premium content available to customers without requiring installation of set-top boxes, the situation is rapidly changing. For example, in the U.S. some operators have announced affiliations with smart TV manufacturers that will allow purchases to access IP-delivered premium content. Time Warner Cable is making its lineup available to Roku box owners. In Orange County, Calif., Cox Communications is experimenting with delivering its channel lineup over broadband as a separate subscription service that would be accessible to any paying user on any type of device, including smart TVs.

Delivery of premium content without set-tops to smart TV owners using Envivio’s transcoding technology is already gaining traction in several parts of the world. While some of these launches have not been publicized, those that have point to the opportunities operators have to create compelling user experiences that will help drive subscription and smart TV sales to the mutual advantage of CE and operator partners.

South Korea’s LG U+, a provider of mobile and fixed broadband service that has been using Envivio transcoders to deliver pay TV over broadband for some time, is a case in point.  Recently the operator was certified by Korea’s Telecommunications Technology Association to deliver 1080p quality service to smart TVs supplied by LG Electronics and Samsung. A big factor in this development was the fact that bandwidth efficiencies achieved through Envivio’s Muse platform made it possible to deliver 1080p-quality unicast streams to large-screen smart TVs without requiring network upgrades.

The move follows the operator’s launch of a new version of its pay TV service, dubbed LG u+tv G, which augmented its 126-channel live TV and on-demand offering with Google TV apps and content for delivery to a special set-top box. The 1080p capability, utilizing de-interlacing in the Muse transcoding process to convert the pay TV channels to the higher quality progressive scan HD, has been introduced on these set-tops as well as the smart TVs.

Telstra of Australia is another Asia-Pacific powerhouse that’s now delivering its premium TV service, “BigPond TV,” to LG and Samsung smart TVs with the help of Envivio encoding technology. As in the case of LG U+, Telstra is using these transcoders to deliver live and on-demand services to primary and secondary screens. A number of Envivio customers in Europe and North America are preparing to follow suit.

The Power of Software-Based Edge Processing

With the increase in content volumes, types of devices served and usage rates on multiscreen services, operators are looking for ways to minimize the impact on their core network capacity by moving stream transrating and fragmentation to network edge points such as distribution hubs and private CDNs. In so doing they can use core transcoding to deliver each live channel or VOD file at bitrates suited to each major screen resolution category, leaving it to the edge platforms to format the content to the streaming requirements of each session.

At the same time, operators recognize in order to compete effectively in the IP domain they must go beyond simply mirroring content from subscription packages for delivery to authenticated subscribers on IP-connected devices. They must be able to support a vast range of third-party as well as operator-developed personalized applications that can be delivered on a one-to-one basis to each individual in the subscribing household. Some of these include individually managed time shifting and support for synchronized viewing of content from one device to the next, the implementation of second-screen/companion apps, support for social networking, personalized user interfaces and advanced search and recommendations and targeted advertising.

The distributed architectural capabilities of the Envivio software-based video processing strategy create an opportunity to put edge COTS resources to achieve the efficiencies and functionalities operators are looking for. Envivio’s Halo Network Media Processor, running on either HP or Cisco servers at the edge, allows content to be delivered from the transcoder in a single encoded video format for each bitrate profile by applying the specific DRMs and ABR formats to each user’s stream on the fly.

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Through the Halo user interface operators can set up the automated processes that manage personalization of the user experience on a per-session basis.

At the same time, the platform employs Personalized Index Creation (PIC) to enable dynamic asset creation in the network. Operators can set the conditions for delivering personalized applications so that the processor is equipped to trigger distribution of those assets throughout the session.

The execution of those applications on each ABR stream is performed by the Halo Experience Server. Operators deploying Halo Experience will be able to add rich new functionalities, including enabling viewers to pause and rewind live streams, record programs and watch them on any other device or receive personalized ads based on their profile. This client-facing platform scales with the number of users with the ability to react to requests from two million or even five million users at the same time.

The Halo platforms are designed to leverage the processes underlying ABR technology to make it much easier to personalize the user experience to greater levels of granularity than has been the case with traditional set-top based services. This is possible because ABR employs a “pull” mode in distribution that exposes the identity of the authenticated device in use and, by extension, the identity of the user.

Every few seconds an AR-enabled device, by referencing the bitrate options or “adaptation sets” listed for a given piece of content in a manifest file sent from an HTTP server, asks the server to send a fragment or “chunk” of streamed content at the optimum bitrate, depending on how much bandwidth is available at that moment in time and how much processing power the device has available for decoding the bit streams.

In the case of Halo, the media processor performs the packaging, encryption and delivery of the ABR chunks in accord with the ABR formatting requirements and also handles the archiving of live content tied to time-shifting applications. The Halo Experience Server leverages these capabilities by ensuring that various functionalities tied to each user’s session and personal profile are identified in the ABR manifests that are transmitted with each stream fragment.

When the manifest carries instructions for delivery of a particular personalized asset or message, the call for that asset is sent to whatever application servers or ad decision systems are involved in the transaction. The communication includes the information relating to the type of streaming fragment involved as well as other information essential to on-time and accurate delivery of the asset.

For example, in the case of advertising, the Halo Experience Server delivers the playlist with the ad content to be included in each fragment while the Halo Media Processor performs the in-band insertion of the SCTE 35 advertising triggers with each of the streaming formats. This allows accurate placement of ads on a per-session basis based on the personal profile of each user.

In instances when a user action, such as a time-shift instruction or transfer to viewing a stream on another device, is conveyed back to the edge, Halo delivers instructions to activate those processes on the cache servers. By leveraging the native caching capabilities of the CDN to create new services, the software is compatible with both on-net and off-net services.

The capabilities embodied in Halo’s platforms come in tandem with recent demonstrations of vendor interoperability with CableLabs’ new ESAM (Event Signaling and Messaging) standard, which defines how SCTE 35 triggers and blackouts are used in the multiscreen environment and what the interactions are between the packagers and encoders. The combination of Halo and ESAM capabilities have set the stage for transforming multiscreen service into a potentially major new source of revenue for cable operators.

Conclusion

Much as streaming and sophisticated new device technology have disrupted the old pay TV model by bringing multiscreen TV into the mainstream, major advances in processing and software technology have outmoded old approaches to video processing and distribution.

The decoupling of software capabilities from specific hardware implementations has eliminated once and for all the dependence of video processing innovations on hardware development cycles, ensuring that advances responsive to new needs can be implemented quickly without incurring massive hardware upgrade costs.

Through the early stages of multiscreen service implementation use of software-based systems to handle transcoding and streaming has been the norm. Now the question of whether operators can confidently abandon traditional headend technology to meet all their service expansion goals depends on whether the software platforms they choose can leverage general purpose processing technology to meet the rigorous performance requirements of premium HD TV service.

Clearly, as evidenced in applications of Muse Live and On Demand to deliver a full package of Pay TV content to high-end smart TVs, Envivio has met this standard. By bringing together all the functionalities that are required to deliver a next-generation IP multiscreen service with the high-quality encoding essential to satisfying viewing expectations in subscribers’ living rooms Envivio has opened the door to converged headend operations that not only will save money but will provide operators the tools they need to deliver a uniquely rich personalized viewing experience across all devices.