Technicolor’s Brian Jentz Explains How Android TV is Evolving into a Mainstream Network Operator Strategy

05 January 2017

  • Android TV brings the benefits of an open ecosystem, large-scale infrastructure supported by Google and enables operators to roll out new OTT video services much faster and at lower cost than with current, proprietary technologies.
  • The launch of an Android TV device — the AirTV Player – signals an inflection point in the take up of Android TV technology by operators.
  • Technicolor developed the AirTV Player, providing Android TV and Netflix certification, tuner software integration to enable it to receive broadcast TV services and remote management, content security and Bluetooth voice remote control integration.
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  • Android TV brings the benefits of an open ecosystem, large-scale infrastructure supported by Google and enables operators to roll out new OTT video services much faster and at lower cost than with current, proprietary technologies.
  • The launch of an Android TV device — the AirTV Player – signals an inflection point in the take up of Android TV technology by operators.
  • Technicolor developed the AirTV Player, providing Android TV and Netflix certification, tuner software integration to enable it to receive broadcast TV services and remote management, content security and Bluetooth voice remote control integration.

Customer premises equipment (CPE) based on Google’s Android TV platform is rapidly gaining traction in the market because of its ability to help network operators rapidly launch and monetize consumer video services.

Brian Jentz, Senior Director with Technicolor Connected Home

Brian Jentz, Senior Director with Technicolor Connected Home

We caught up with Brian Jentz, Senior Director with Technicolor Connected Home, to get his take on the benefits of Android TV technology, his thoughts on how the market is developing and his perspective on Technicolor’s role in this rapidly growing market.

We’ve seen a lot of headlines generated around Android TV technology and specifically Android TV CPE. How do you see this particular approach to delivering video and other services into the home?

Jentz: I see it as being very much at an inflexion point. Telecom Italia launched its service earlier in the year [2016] in Europe. Dish Networks is the market leader in North America, and I expect the launch of its AirTV Player Android TV device to have a big impact on this market. I expect many other operators will roll out Android TV services in the first half of 2017.

How does this relate to what might be considered more traditional subscription TV offerings? Is there a zero sum game there? Are there appropriate places for one versus the other?

Jentz: It’s interesting. Pay TV operators are viewing Android TV rather differently depending on who they are. If you look at Sling TV, theirs is a completely separate offering to parent company Dish’s traditional satellite service, but both services remain intact, giving consumers more choice. Many operators are going down that route, adding a second parallel service targeted initially at cord-cutters or “cord-nevers.”

On the other hand, there are operators like Telecom Italia that are deploying Android TV their as their primary TV service. This includes operators that will connect Android TV devices to their traditional home distribution mediums, such as cable or satellite.

Is Android TV primarily a vehicle for responding to the over-the-top TV threat that has become a challenge to traditional operators, eroding their average revenue per user?

Jentz: I would say there is a growing acceptance by operators that services like YouTube and Netflix are here to stay and many operators are embracing Android TV as an opportunity to offer a seamless experience for both live streaming and video on demand.

Android TV is designed for exactly that application.  The AirTV Player, for instance, enables consumers to access the SlingTV OTT video service along with more than 2000 games and applications in the Google Play store.

This device offers a true TV service where content is immediately available for consumption. Moreover, unified voice search allows users to quickly and easily find the content they want to watch.

This is very much a case of an operator embracing where the market is heading and getting ahead of it. At the same time, Android TV provides a faster way to roll out new capabilities such as HDR, to generate new revenue streams and ultimately to lower the cost of operating a video service.

On that point, are there significant differences in how you would imagine a traditional subscription TV service versus this emerging category of Android TV services that appears to be gaining traction in the market?

Jentz: There are definitely some differences. Android TV leverages an open platform and — from that perspective — offers a very good infrastructure for firmware updates, application updates and remote management.

It creates a situation in which Google provides the baseline update infrastructure and companies like Technicolor can provides the remote management software on top of that. I think the big plus is that it is an open platform or ecosystem. You can leverage that to deploy a service much faster.  Typically, in traditional environments, deployment of a new video service may take 18 to 36 months. An Android TV service can be deployed in as little as six months, and at much lower development and deployment costs.

Are you seeing the opportunity to generate new revenue streams — even if operators don’t have the walled garden that has been a feature of network-operator-provided CPE until now?

Jentz: Absolutely. Operators see the opportunity to generate new revenue by selling games and other apps through the Google Play store. Also, they can generate additional revenue by rolling out new capabilities such as HDR much earlier in the cycle. And they get much better visibility of the end user, so targeted advertising is much more accessible in the Android TV environment.

Let’s shift focus onto the Android TV box itself. From a technical perspective what are the imperatives there? Is there a learning curve that operators will have to go through if they adopt the Android TV model for engaging with their consumers?

Jentz: That’s a great question. We’ve talked about some of the benefits when it comes to managing and maintaining the box: how it helps to be able to leverage the Android platform and the infrastructure that is available for firmware and applications.

On top of that there is the base Android operating system with its huge scale and enormous number of developers and there is a maturity to Android that makes it very easy to add new features quickly and to tap into that large developer community.

Things that took nine months before can be done in a few weeks now. A great example of that is the Netflix integration and certification we did for the AirTV Player we developed for Sling TV recently.

Tell me more about where Technicolor is planting its flag in this game and what Technicolor is doing to bring Android TV solutions to the service provider community.

Jentz: Technicolor has been in the connected home CPE business for a long time. We ship over thirty million set-top boxes every year. We have more than four years’ experience integrating Android technology into connected home devices. We believe very strongly that Android TV offers consumers the unified experience they want.

The combination of these things makes Technicolor a very good partner in the Android TV space. This is important, because more operators want to team up to pursue this opportunity aggressively

From our experience, once an operator has chosen Android TV they want to roll it out as fast as possible and we have been able to help operators hit some very aggressive schedules.

Technicolor has worked with operators and taken responsibility for handling the Android TV and Netflix certification; we provide broadcast tuner stacks for cable, satellite and over the air.  To do that we have to be on top of the key standards that are driving the industry forward.

The standards we support include DVB-T, ATSC, DVB-C and DVB-S. We also offer additional software for such things as remote management, conditional access security and Bluetooth voice remote control integration.

You mentioned earlier that you see Android TV as being at an inflection point. When do you think it will achieve mainstream status in people’s homes?

Jentz:  I think the launch of Sing TV’s AirTV Player will go a long way to accelerating deployment. So I would not be surprised to see 25 operators offering Android TV within the next 18 months, which would be a pretty impressive ramp-up for a new video platform.

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