02/09/13 update : this article has been pirated by A. Velikiy. While this person deserves only public disgrace, you may find it useful if you read russian easier than english. Читайте здесь


Now that you intensively crawled through part 1 of this blog-post and asked yourself all the right questions intended to avoid common OTT-traps, we can safely presume that you are ready to spend some (or a lot of) time and money on launching your own multiscreen OTT service. So it’s definitely time to choose your bricks, mortar and trowels…

As multiscreen OTT/TV Everywhere offers do proliferate while each video tradeshow approaches and connected devices multiply, it’s difficult to monitor all of them and get a 100% accurate idea on who’s got the best offer. Basically your ideal technical partner will most likely be a unique target depending on your background (telco/content owner/TV channel…), your needs (target devices, business models, time to market…), your workflow constraints (CMS, billing, deployed transcoding engines, already deployed apps…) and your budget. Nevertheless, what I tried to do first is to isolate a list of actors whose offer is end-to-end and sufficiently versatile to cover the most common use cases and devices, then provide a complementary list with actors who provide less information but are also known in this market, and then wrap up the post with a bunch of ideas on how you could DoItYourself with less integrated/locking-in solutions. This way, you will end-up with a complete panorama of available technical solutions in mind.

 

The Shortlist

OK let’s go first through the shortlist of 6 end-to-end actors. My criterias to establish this list were :
- full features coverage : from ingest to front-end apps, including full catalog/offer/user management and payment gateway/billing integration
- extensive API
- significant end-user device support and app templates/SDK
- sufficient DRM integration to cover a wide range of devices
- precise technical information availability
To fulfill this first panorama, I strongly advise you to crawl through next chapter (“The Challengers”) and examine other industry actors’ offer to decide who to meet during next IBC…

 

SUPPLIERAzukiEndavoKIT Digital
PRODUCT/SERVICE NAMEMedia PlatformOTT Video Services Platform powered by PHXX REACH OTT PlatformKIT Connected Device Framework, KIT VOD Store, KIT Cosmos
LICENCE TYPESaaS / LicenceSaaSSaaS
HOSTING TYPEHosted / AppliancesHostedPublic/Private/Hybrid Cloud
INGEST (transcoding)YesYes (supports Harmonic solutions)Yes
INGEST (DRM)YesYesYes
CORE APIs (ingest/catalog/
offer/subscriber)
YesYesYes
DEVICE MANAGEMENT API/MODULEYes
RECOMMENDATION ENGINE/INTEGRATION APIYes (3rd party)
LOGGING/ANALYTICS/
REPORTING
YesYesYes
PAYMENT GATEWAY or BSS API/INTERFACEYesYesYes
CDN COMPLIANCYYes (advanced)Yes (advanced)Yes
DRM SUPPORTYes (at least PlayReady, Flash Access)Yes (Verimatrix, PlayReady)Yes (WMDRM10, PlayReady, Flash Access)
ADVERTISING SUPPORTDynamic insertion, can be disabled for premium usersYesYes (3rd party integration)
CATCH-UP SUPPORTYesYesYes
LIVE SUPPORTYesYesYes
VOD TYPE SUPPORTSVOD/TVOD/DTRSVOD/TVODSVOD/TVOD/DTR
HBBTV SUPPORT
SOA ARCHITECTUREYes
ABR SUPPORTYes (HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming)Yes (HLS, Smooth Streaming)Yes (HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming)
DEVICE SUPPORTiOS/Android/BlackBerry/Windows Phone 7, PC/Mac streaming, PC download (Mac support unknown), Roku/Boxee/D-Link, Xbox 360 (unconfirmed)iOS/Android (Nextreaming player), PC/Mac streaming, AirTies STB, other STB (Opera browser), connected TVs (exact list unknown)iOS/Android/Blackberry/Nokia, PC/Mac streaming (Flash, HTML5, Silverlight), PC download (Mac support unknown), Roku/Boxee/other STB, connected TVs (Google TV, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Yahoo widgets), game consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
REFERENCE APPSiOS/Android/BlackBerry/Windows Phone 7Mobile SDK (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Nokia), Web client SDK (Flash/HTML5)
MULTILANG SUPPORT
SUBTITLING SUPPORT
SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATIONYesYes
API TYPE (REST/SOAP)REST?REST
PLATFORM LAUNCH DATE200820092011
KNOWN CUSTOMERSShowTime, HBO GOEtisalatSky Italia, BSkyB, Mediaset, AT&T, Channel 4

Azuki Media Platform architecture

Azuki Media Platform architecture

 

Azuki Media Platform

While Azuki seems to be a very US-centric company with shiny deployments like ShowTime and HBO GO, they nevertheless present one of the most interesting offers with advanced CDN load-balancing (based on premium status, proximity, or ISP – with burst CDN option), download and side-loading client features, interactive time based reference points in videos and an App Factory for mobile apps rapid development with optional SDK for local build, test & deploy. They developed their own DRM umbrella solution which embeds PlayReady and Flash Access, exposes an OMA 1.0/2.0 interface for mobile, provides a unified management approach for all devices and a client-side DRM framework featuring DRM hardening and custom policy enforcement. They claim to provide a managed OTT/TV Everywhere video delivery experience through a specific media client (handling monitoring, analytics, bandwidth management and DRM) – so if it’s working as well as they pretend (alongside their 90 days time-to-market promise), it’s probably the best option for pushing QOS near the IPTV level. Managing their own client stack allows them to bypass usual platform limitations as the lack of HLS support under Android 3.2. As regards IPTV, they offer an OTT extension for Microsoft Mediaroom and seem to be pretty well in place as a helpful partner for MSOs needing to extend their offer to OTT services (with integration capability into existing DOCSIS and IPTV infrastructures). With a $24M venture funding since its inception, Azuki Systems took a strong market position on mobile video services, so they may be the best pick if smartphones and tablets are your top priority target devices.

 

Endavo OTT Video Services Platform architecture

Endavo OTT Video Services Platform architecture

Endavo OTT Video Services Platform

Endavo is a kind of joker in this shortlist, as it doesn’t seem that Endavo deploys many platforms these days (since Etisalat deal). Still, the Atlanta-based company’s offer covers the OTT features scope needed for telcos and broadcasters. As the information available online doesn’t go very deep in technical details, it’s difficult to make a definitive opinion on this solution without seeing it in action. If you have implementation feedback to provide, don’t hesitate to post a comment !
[UPDATE : it seems hat PHXX Reach OTT platform is powering Endavo's offer. First look at information available on PHXX indicates interesting OLAP reporting module and intelligent CDN routing upon price/proximity/device type. More information to come as details are available.]

 

KIT Digital Cosmos / VOD Store / Connected Device Framework

KIT Digital solution architecture

KIT Digital solution architecture

KIT Digital is strong on client-side libraries and tools, providing a Connected Device Framework with native application templates (configured using the KIT App Studio authoring tool) as well as a SDK offering API connectors and DRM modules. The App Studio also leverages all the features of OSMF so it’s a really good pick for Flash player developments. KIT is also very well positioned in social TV integration and community features with Dual-screen Interactivity (watch a show with friends) and very interesting Civolution technology integration. Its Cosmos Cloud platform provides a solid basis for building you service and KIT VOD Store’s recent integration with IBM Smarter Commerce sends out a good promise as regards monetization robustness (although it may add some management complexity and cost to the overall solution).

KIT/IBM joint architecture

KIT/IBM joint architecture

Although KIT’s client references are very good, some doubts still fly over the company finances states after its huge row of external acquisitions, so it may be wise to wait their recovery or KIT’s buy-out by a bigger actor (IBM ?) before choosing their platform. Nevertheless, the company’s innovation potential seems still entire.

 

SUPPLIERSyncTVthePlatformTvinci
PRODUCT/SERVICE NAMESyncTV Platformmpx, mpx Dev Kit, player Dev KitTvinci MediaHub, Tvinci MediaStore
LICENCE TYPESaaSSaaSSaaS / Licence
HOSTING TYPEHostedHostedPublic/Private Cloud
INGEST (transcoding)Yes (3rd party transcoders supported)Yes (internal or through 3rd parties)Through 3rd parties (Harmonic)
INGEST (DRM)YesYesYes (Tvinci module integrated into the client's platform)
CORE APIs (ingest/catalog/offer/subscriber)YesYesYes
DEVICE MANAGEMENT API/MODULEYesYesYes
RECOMMENDATION ENGINE/INTEGRATION APIYes (internal engine)
LOGGING/ANALYTICS/REPORTINGYesYesYes (advanced)
PAYMENT GATEWAY or BSS API/INTERFACEYesYesYes
CDN COMPLIANCYYesYesYes
DRM SUPPORTYes (WMDRM10, PlayReady, Marlin, Widevine)Yes (Flash Access, WMDRM10, PlayReady, Widevine)Yes (WMDRM10, PlayReady, Widevine, NDS, Verimatrix, Flash Access)
ADVERTISING SUPPORTYesYesYes (targeted upon video metadata)
CATCH-UP SUPPORTYesYesYes
LIVE SUPPORTYesYes
VOD TYPE SUPPORTSVOD/TVOD/DTRSVOD/TVODSVOD/TVOD
HBBTV SUPPORTYesYes
SOA ARCHITECTUREYes
ABR SUPPORTYes (HLS, Smooth Streaming, DASH)Yes (HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming)Yes (HLS, Smooth Streaming)
DEVICE SUPPORTiOS/Android, PC/Mac streaming, PC/Mac download, Roku, connected TVS (Samsung, LG, Philips), Xbox 360iOS/Android, PC/Mac streaming, PC/Mac download, connected TVS (Samsung), game consoles (Xbox 360, PS3)iOS/Android/BlackBerry, PC/Mac streaming, PC/Mac download (in the works), STB (exact list unknown), connected TVS (Samsung, Philips, Panasonic), game consoles (Xbox 360, PS3)
REFERENCE APPSiOS/Android, PC/Mac download, connected TVS (Samsung, LG, Philips)iOS/Android, PC/Mac streaming, PC/Mac downloadiOS/Android Tvinci App SDK & customizable applications, PC/Mac streaming (Silverlight), Samsung TV
MULTILANG SUPPORTYesYesYes
SUBTITLING SUPPORTYesYes
SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATIONYesYes
API TYPE (REST/SOAP)RESTRESTSOAP/REST
PLATFORM LAUNCH DATE200720072007
KNOWN CUSTOMERSNBC Universal, M6, Avail-TVN, TF1Comcast, CBS, Time Warner, Telstra, NBCUOrange, Viacom, Elisa (Finnish telco)

 

SyncTV Platform

SyncTV engine

SyncTV engine

SyncTV is one the most historical actors on this market, and they have secured some interesting clients like NBC Universal or M6 and TF1 in France. While their platform in its current version is a bit raw by some aspects, it offers a comprehensive API to handle the various aspects of the service and a good coverage in terms of supported devices (and customizable apps) and DRMs. They are quite active and proficient as regards supporting recent devices and SDKs – that was indeed a key factor for M6′s quick time to market on Xbox last year. For Avail-TVN they have developed a re-linearization solution which you may find useful for building up live channels from file playlists. As regards their upcoming new features/projects, John Gildred (SyncTV’s CTO) just told me that they are “working on a national multi-channel OTT live TV service with network DVR for a U.S. customer”. During last NAB they were partnering with Harris who since decided to sell its broadcast activities, so the future of this broadcast integration remains unclear now – but it has a potential. Keep them on your radar, they support DASH and HbbTV, and there is a good chance that their feature set boosts up after their current VC funding round completes.

 

thePlatform mpx / mpx Dev Kit / player Dev Kit

thePlatform SOA services

thePlatform SOA services

If thePlatform clearly comes from the OVP world, they have managed to integrate a good choice of DRMs and diversify their client support beyond the PC. With their SOA-based approach and extensive backend API, they provide an interesting perspective for workflow evolution and integration of new standards like FIMS. They have partnered with Alcatel Lucent and this integration provides interesting services like Alcatel’s AppGlide Video analytics. Very recently, they announced a streamlined version of their service – thePlatform Essentials – which targets middle-size projects : it may be a good option to prototype services for a reasonable budget…

 

Tvinci MediaHub / MediaStore

Tvinci Platform architecture

Tvinci Platform architecture

In the value chain, Tvinci concentrates on the API features and relies on strong partnerships for frontend developments (for example with Accedo Broadband) and ingest chain (with Harmonic) but still provides an end-to-end approach with its ecosystem and numerous integrations already in production (for example with Ericsson or Alcatel-Lucent CMS). They have extensive experience with DRM integration (they even made a project with HLS+PlayReady on a Discretix player basis) and they now offer an iOS/Android App SDK (with customizable app templates) which nicely complements their MediaHub/MediaStore platform components and reduces time-to-market compared to a from-scratch development on top of their API. They also support HbbTV. It seems that they have several big projects going live during the next 10 months, like the recent EPIC TV project on Samsung TV/PC/iPad/Android. I had the chance to see a complete demo of their backend tool, and I must admit that it was quite impressive, especially in the offer management and analytics area (mind-blowing OLAP cubes based dynamic reporting tool!) – and the overall level of features is simply amazing. Tvinci is definitely a must-have actor in any RFP you shall organize – and my personal number one choice if I was to launch a new service now.

 

The Challengers

Here you will find other actors for which it was difficult to have a clear overview of their covered scope, or which clearly cover only a sub-part of the scope. So that’s a wide array of options to explore by yourself and a good reservoir of solutions if you intend to build a best-of-breed platform with several technology providers or want to extend an existing infrastructure.

AccessMyTV

AccessMyTV overview

AccessMyTV overview

Access has a long track of product development for mobile and embedded markets, with their flagship product “NetFront Browser” which includes HbbTV support. Their “AccessMyTV” is a very young offer as it was launched in last January, but still it can be an interesting option – especially if you’re searching a full SaaS solution with quick bootstrap delay. Its interesting features are the targeted advertising, the client-side HbbTV support and the syndication approach with channels customization per user, but the overall solution seems a bit “light” (like in content preparation area). So far only one integration reference can be found, with StrongTV STB product line, therefore it’s a solution which next evolutions have to be monitored.

 

Cisco Videoscape

Cisco Videoscape reference deployment diagram

Cisco Videoscape reference deployment diagram

Cisco has made the necessary efforts to properly ingest its acquired Inlet and ExtendMedia technology portfolios, so they now can sustain such kind of projects up to the catalog management – they still lack solutions to handle the e-business part of the service, the users management and the multiple frontends but you can interface their existing solutions with other providers’ ones. As Videoscape is an always evolving offer, it’s an actor who will certainly provide a one-stop shop in some months : the acquisition of NDS is still in approval process from the various regulation authorities, but once it’s completed, there will be an interesting potential coming through with the NDS Infinite TV technology portfolio – I would say a quite complementary one…

 

Conax Contego Xtend Multiscreen
Content-protection specialist Contego just announced a new partnership initiative with MPS Broadband and Cubiware to provide an end-to-end multiscreen solution. As of now, the exact features list and covered scope/devices is unclear, so it needs a further digging (more info here)… A good booth-stop to do @ IBC !

 

Ericsson MDMS

Ericsson MDMS components overview

Ericsson MDMS components overview

MDMS stands for Media Delivery Management System. It provides components to handle catalog/offer/assets/subscribers/sessions management as well as the bridge to billing systems and monitoring capabilities, in an heterogeneous IPTV/OTT environment. A nice evolutionary backbone toolbox for big projects.

 

mobiTV Converged Media Platform
This service platform is designed for wireless carriers, MSOs and cable operators (powering services like AT&T U-verse Live TV, NFL Mobile, T-Mobile TV…). It seems to be a complete solution although technical details are carefully hidden…

 

mPortal Springboard Media
Yet another offer for wireless carriers, MSOs and cable operators – even fewer details available than mobiTV…

 

SeaChange Adrenalin

Seachange Adrenalin architecture

Seachange Adrenalin architecture

SeaChange is offering an interesting SOA backend workflow tool aimed at upgrading existing SeaChange IPTV  platforms. While the future of Seachange (and hence the end-to-end aspect of its offer) is changing a lot these days with the resell of all the hardware business line and the focus on pure software, the Adrenalin solution itself seems to be future proof. I’d be interested to know how difficult/possible is its standalone integration with other providers’ products.

 

DIY options

For the remaining valiant readers, here are finally some technology options that could be interesting to cover missing/weak parts of your service architecture :

Cloud transcoding with DRM support
For your content preparation workflow, you could be interested by hybrid cloud transcoding/DRMization deployments offers with burst out option to public cloud from Digital Rapids (on Azure Media Services) and Elemental (on Amazon EC2 GPU), as well as private cloud deployments offers from Espial MediaBase and Huawei Media Cloud Solution which are more telco/MSO oriented.

 

Frameworks/Apps

Joshfire Factory workflow

Joshfire Factory workflow

Joshfire is a french company running Joshfire Factory, a hosted solution based on their framework which lets you build cross-platform applications (iOS/Android/Blackberry, PCs, Samsung/Philips/LG Connected TVs) on a HTML5 shared basis. The resulting code is open-source and you can modify it as you wish, and you can integrate add-ons developed by the Joshfire ecosystem partners or your own add-ons as well as standard or custom data sources. It won’t solve the very specific challenge of having a DRM-enabled player running on each native platform SDK, but it can solve at least all the rest of the issues linked to developing and maintaining a reusable code basis for app interfaces (80% of the workload). This technology offer is a real game changer for time to market and maintenance criterias – so in my opinion it’s an option to consider more than seriously before launching your project.
If you want to outsource your cross-platform apps development, you could take a look at development services from Accedo Broadband, Floatleft Interactive, Hubee, Joshfire, Junction TV, Tapptic or Wiztivi. There are many other actors around the globe on this market segment so it’s impossible to name them all here.

 

P2P delivery / Hosting optimization
Octoshape and Giraffic provide solutions to offload video traffic to clients via P2P (and multicast, as regards Octoshape) delivery technologies. That’s a very good bandwidth-savior option for your popular live streams (with bandwidth saving around 80-90%), and it even works for VOD on the most popular titles (with bandwidth saving around 50%). To produce Octoshape compliant live streams, you will be able to use Digigram Aqord live encoders which incorporate the technology (it prevents to deploy another packager chained to the encoder) once they will support DRM. Beware that this delivery options will profitable only if your service generates very heavy traffic : the cost of these technologies is high and therefore you need to pass a high consumed bandwidth threshold to justify the economics of such an architecture. As regards hosting optimization, you can safely grab a Cedexis Openmix service subscription which will allow you to combine several CDNs or Cloud hosting spaces under just one DNS entry – having your users directed to the most economical or responsive hosting zone depending on your dynamic routing criterias (they have a lot of them available) and guaranteeing a 24/7 service SLA. The nice thing about it is that it’s a transparent improvement over your application layer, requiring only action over DNS setup, that it works for both API and video delivery, and that it can definitely prevent you from suffering of cloud outages like the ones Netflix went through recently on Amazon Cloud (on this topic, read their blog entry It’s time to say good bye to Single Cloud of Failure).

 

Recommendation engine

Motorola Medios Merchandiser overview

Motorola Medios Merchandiser overview

There are many actors on this market now, like ThinkAnalytics, CogniK, RedDiscover, Digitalsmiths, Taboola or Spideo. I will just add a few words about Spideo which I discovered this year at NAB : this French company (like CogniK) offers an interesting recommendation mode based on the end-user’s mood, combined with recommendations generated by your social network friends taste with a weighting coefficient favoring your closest friends by taste. Many observers of the industry think that recommendation is the next frontier for OTT services a an efficient recommendation algorithm is the only way to maximize customer engagement when the volume of content explodes. Combine it with 2nd-screen real-time social discussion features like KIT Digital offers and you’ll get the ultimate bounce mechanism. With a slightly different feature set, Motorola Medios Merchandiser will handle recommandations alongside offer management and DRM licence issuance (see this article describing its implentation by Bouygues Telecom).

 

Rights management
BeBanjo Movida provides a solution to manage the VOD rights windows and business models with visual scheduling, as well as catch-up scheduling – a useful complementary tool for your backend as your catalog will grow to several thousand titles needing industrial management.

 

Subscription and billing

Junction TV Platform

Junction TV Platform

I just came across Junction TV who provides a set of modules including an advanced multi-device framework, an multi-cloud delivery platform and a subscriber management/billing system. This API based service could be used to externalize the subscribers management as I recommended in part 1 of the blog-post. They also offer frontend apps development for various STB (Roku, Boxee, Netgear), connected TVs (Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Google TV) and Tablets (iPad, Kindle fire, Samsung Galaxy and other Android devices). So it seems that Junction TV is definitely an actor to consider.

 

Now that you have all the needed tools pointers, here is a final advice to avoid later frustrations : take your time before choosing your service providers (the tougher your RFP is, the better), prototype the maximum end-to-end platform features you can (so that you can evaluate the real time to market of your project, the features coverage and the evolution potential) and most important… NEVER trust the marketing guys ;-)

And if you happen to become the new Netflix thanks to this bootstrap article, don’t forget to send me a lifetime free subscription !

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Nicolas Weil

Nicolas Weil

Digital Media Solutions Architect, France, World.

Hungry for : OTT architecture challenges, MPEG-DASH experiments, hybrid video services, scalable production/distribution platforms, video-centric innovations & Junglist vibes.

Proud member and co-founder of OVFSquad !

I'm working at Akamai, but this blog reflects strictly personal views, and isn't endorsed in any way by Akamai.

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