Technicolor’s Doug Strachota Explains Why Latin American Service Providers Need Android TV

16 November 2017

  • Latin American service providers are seeing significant competitive pressure in video services with the rise of OTT (over-the-top) offerings from players like Netflix, Blim, and Claro.
  • While special events — such as the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and a digital transition in Mexico — have helped to slow the uptake of OTT offerings, the adoption of new services from third parties is picking up steam.
  • Android TV offers a powerful path for enabling service providers to combat the OTT threat by allowing them to easily port video content services they offer via smartphones and tablets to the TV via an Android TV set-top box.

Doug Strachota, Director of Product Management for OTT Solutions with Technicolor, believes network service providers in Latin America face significant challenges from OTT content providers, but Android TV technology offers a means for them to effectively respond to this threat.

We caught up with Strachota, and asked a few questions regarding the matter.

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  • Latin American service providers are seeing significant competitive pressure in video services with the rise of OTT (over-the-top) offerings from players like Netflix, Blim, and Claro.
  • While special events — such as the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and a digital transition in Mexico — have helped to slow the uptake of OTT offerings, the adoption of new services from third parties is picking up steam.
  • Android TV offers a powerful path for enabling service providers to combat the OTT threat by allowing them to easily port video content services they offer via smartphones and tablets to the TV via an Android TV set-top box.

Doug Strachota, Director of Product Management for OTT Solutions with Technicolor, believes network service providers in Latin America face significant challenges from OTT content providers, but Android TV technology offers a means for them to effectively respond to this threat.

We caught up with Strachota, and asked a few questions regarding the matter.

Latin America is a market with some very interesting dynamics. Do you see in Latin America a tremendous appetite for different types of video services?

Strachota: OTT is a booming industry in Latin America mostly due to the young population. Brazil and Mexico combined have a population with an average age of 29. A lot of these people can access content when they want, where they want, and that’s a big change from a traditional direct-to-home service.

This population is quickly adopting Netflix and other services such as Blim and Claro that are specifically targeted to the Latin American market.

Has the rapid rise of this new behavior by consumers in Latin America, particularly that youthful group, caught service providers by surprise, and is it affecting their business?

Strachota: I think it is. We’ve seen declines in the direct-to-home service portals that the operators traditionally provide. They’ve been caught by surprise. I don’t think they’re reacting quickly enough to these trends.

One reason for the surprise is that the inroads of OTT providers were partially masked by events like the Brazil 2016 Olympics – which created very strong demand for linear content.  So, during this time many people were probably not ready to cut the cord then.

In Mexico, the big transition to digital kept people connected to traditional service offerings. People were unsure where and how to get their content, so they stayed with their traditional providers.

But the fact is that OTT growth is occurring, and will continue. Unless network operators react quickly and start integrating over-the-top services combined with their linear content, they will see further declines.

What does it mean for Latin American operators to integrate OTT with their existing services, and how might they pursue that strategy?

Strachota: Consumers have a lot of different options: watching content on their laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and game consoles is very popular. The challenge for service providers is integrating that experience with traditional linear content.  Here NSPs in the region have the opportunity to take advantage of that trend.

Android TV is a solution that was designed to specifically target this integration of content within a single user experience.  There are operators around the world that have already adopted Android TV…and they are seeing the benefits.

For example, Telecom Italia’s TIMvision is a unique service that combines into one experience off-air linear content via a DVB-T type of tuner, a pay service, and other resources the customers might want.

TIMvision gives Telecom Italia “ownership” of the HDMI1 port: It provides one component that customers can hook up to their television that will enable them to watch all the different types of content.

So, what conversations are being held in the LATAM region to do just that? What does moving in this direction entail if I am a service provider in the region?

Strachota: Technicolor has had an Android TV conversation with nearly every major network provider in the region. We have taken our story and our solution to them.

But some hesitancy still remains as to how real the trend is, and whether other options for maintaining the customer base may continue to work, such as bundling a broadband service with a traditional direct-to-home TV service.

That seems to be maintaining some of the customer base.  That said, we are seeing interest from NSPs in the region that go beyond mere curiosity.  We are seeing real tests and trials with customers in the region. So, activity is really picking up.

How would you describe the role of Google certification in this Android TV strategy? Is that something that should be looked at seriously by the Latin American network service provider community?

Strachota: Google will implement a specific set of minimum requirements for a television platform to be Google-certified. These requirements are essential to maintain a common performance level: to ensure that any application downloaded from the Google Play Store will function properly.

Technicolor understands these minimum requirements. We build all our road-map devices to meet these video requirements. It’s really important that customers interested in the Android solution look for a provider that can meet and surpass these Google requirements, and for a partner that has experience going through the certification.

The certification has well over 100,000 unique automated tests to validate the platform. Technicolor has gone through this process more than any other integrator or solution provider in the Android TV space. We have more customers worldwide on this Android solution than anyone else.

It’s really important for our Latin American partners to look at who is in the leadership position, who has the most experience and who can deliver the most timely product for their needs. This will ensure a smooth operation and a less expensive implementation than the one they might be currently looking at.

You mentioned a more cost-effective implementation. What does Android TV – as an OTT strategy – do to the economics of bringing services to consumers?

Strachota: Everybody is looking to deliver content to different platforms, a mobile and a tablet, say. Most operators have a service that extends the viewability of their content beyond a set-top box and the TV.

What Android TV does is to reuse that effort. Many operators have an application that users can download to their mobile phones. By using an Android TV set-top box, they can reuse the software developed for a mobile device and put it onto a TV device.

The infrastructure needed to supply that content — as well as the software resources needed to deliver it — can all be reused on an Android set-top box.

Technicolor brings its extensive experience and integrates this Android TV technology into the set-top box, validates that the digital rights management – or conditional access – is compatible with the systems on a chip and brings Android TV to market for the service provider in a very efficient manner.

We act as the integrator for Google and Android. We are the interface between Google and Android, and we enable the operators to focus on the user experience.

What is your message to organizations in the region that want to take that next step? What are some of the levels of engagement they can have with Technicolor to begin experimenting and bringing these products and services to market?

Strachota: I would start with understanding the Google message and the intention of bringing Android to a set-top box device and the Android TV experience. It solves issues in much the same way as Android has solved issues with mobile phones.

Every phone manufacturer had its own operating system until Android and Apple each provided a platform. Now those are the two major platforms you see on all cell phones, with Android being the most popular.

Google has a similar strategy to create a usable platform that allows operators to integrate their own solution. The first thing operators can do is to evaluate that product strategy and look at the different solutions that are available today worldwide.

In the United States, satellite provider DISH has a product called AirTV. It incorporates Sling TV, which is an over-the-top service that includes terrestrial free-to-air TV. So AirTV provides a unified experience that includes terrestrial broadcast, games and digital video.

Technicolor has products we can demonstrate that highlight the differences between Android versions — such as those developed under the code names Marshmallow and Nougat — and that talk to the Android road map.

We can show NSPs in Latin America our software road map as well: the items we support in our current products and the items we’re looking to support in future products.

We offer plenty of opportunities for operators in the region to dip their toe into the pool, and then jump in.

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