Amitabh Kumar, President-Technology, Zee Network
The satellite and cablesat industry has been the mainstream of TV delivery into homes, and has been at the forefront especially with increasing digitization reaching Tier-III towns and rural areas. Equipment and solutions have conventionally been designed toward providing these services more efficiently and include Playout systems, Headends, and STBs for end-user delivery.
New technologies which have been sniping at the market, such as casting of mobile-delivered video or VoD services like Netflix, Hooq, and others, were considered to be sideliners due to high data charges and unavailability of end devices in sufficient numbers to impact the market. Many dramatic disruptive changes have taken place in 2016, whereby the entire scenario has changed. With the launch of free data on RJio handsets, which has been extended till March 2017, the data rates of all carriers have fallen by up to 300 percent and are now a fraction of previously available rates. At the same time, while there are no regulatory restrictions on streamed content or VoD, the regulations have steadily turned adverse toward satellite and cable TV with uplink, downlink policies, tariff regulations on channels, and interconnect regulations between operators, end-customer pricing, and a host of others. The two worlds of Internet-delivered TV and video, and satellite or cable TV have been split wide apart with advantage going to the streamed TV. RJio, for example, had expanded its offering to over 400 channels encoded in HD format, which are available free via its App Jio Play. However, those who merely compared the new players as competing for delivery of TV channels alone could not have been more wrong. The new digital is about entirely new products, the early examples of which are YouTube 360 or Netflix VR and many more.
The newcomers are not looking at replicating the traditional C&S markets. Rather, they are more focused on bringing new experiences such as 4K, virtual reality, and AR, and 360-degree experiences. It is now established via many research reports in the Indian market that OTT is set to grow massively in 2017. As Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, explained in Mobile World Congress 2016, over a million viewers were already watching 360 Video.
As 2017 begins, this is now dramatically changing the equipment which is being ordered to deliver these new services such as OTT services, VoD, social media, etc., in all sectors of the industry. The new paradigm is to order innovative products to offer hybrid television and content discovery solutions via broadband, STBs, and other devices. The capabilities of these devices go far beyond mere linear TV channels, as one would expect. Media players such as Plex® and broadband devices such as TiVo Bolt+ with six 4K tuners are mere examples of devices which operate in the new landscape.
This places onus on solutions providers to engineer products, which will process video into new formats. Examples of this type of deal are the Sony Pictures decision to use Nokia’s OZO solution for creation of VR production and distribution. Players in India that can overstep intermediate steps and go to the latest technologies will clearly have an edge. Of course VR, 360, etc., are only one small part of the entire ecosystem, which is developing where the traditional technologies will have little role, if any.