March 23, 2017

Fragmented OTT Player Ecosystem for Connected TV

by Ritesh Kumar Surana (Manager, Media Client Technologies)

Recent trends in online video consumption show that Connected TV devices have become the primary platform to watch high definition long-form content. Indicative data for increased connected TV installed base[1], rise in SVOD subscription[2], growth seen in Ad spends[3], and new OTT services launched by traditional broadcasters confirm this trend further. And if that isn’t conclusive, we don’t have to look further than statistics that attribute 70% of Hulu viewership and 83% of Netflix viewership to connected TV devices[4].

OTT service providers who haven’t yet deployed Connected TV solutions can no longer ignore this ecosystem with a sizable user base. A viewing pattern that is similar to that of prime-time linear TV shows that Connected TV users enjoy the big screen experience and are highly committed to this medium.

However, reaching out to users over this medium is not straightforward for an OTT service provider due to multiple contributing factors. Let us take a look at the most relevant ones.

1. Multiple device and middleware combinations Unlike the mobile ecosystem that has only two major software platforms today, the Connected TV ecosystem is highly crowded with almost every OEM deploying a unique flavor of middleware. Developing apps that target each of these platforms with a consistent feature set is very challenging due to the level of investment required in time and resources.Table 1 below lists some of the well-known platforms to indicate the extent of fragmentation in the ecosystem.

Table 1 Connected TV Device Fragmentation

2. Lack of standardization Standardization initiatives like HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) Association for IPTV delivery and STA (Smart TV Alliance) for OTT delivery, mandate use of web technologies (HTML, JavaScript, CSS etc.) for application development. However, these specifications require mandatory support for only baked-in OTT players which cannot be customized for service driven workflows. HTML5 MSE support required for creating custom adaptive streaming player is left to OEMs to implement it.Recently, many TV OEMs working on thin margins and lean teams, have started adopting third-party middleware platforms like Roku, Android TV, and Opera TV for their faster upgrade cycles, wider customer acceptance, and the presence of a larger app store. Although this has raised the hope of containing the fragmentation, a majority of Tier-1 OEMs are still stuck to their own software platforms.

3. Closed development environment Software middleware platforms can be further categorized as either closed or open based on the flexibility and control they provide to app developers to create custom media workflows. Most of the connected TV platforms fall in closed category. The lack of standardization has created platform silos that make app development a difficult proposition. Restrictive APIs and inadequate developer support further inflate the time and resources investment.

4. Digital rights management 
DRM requirements are often dictated by the OEM vendor due to closed nature of its development environment. Android / Android TV allows use of any DRM but the same level of flexibility is not available in other Connected TV platforms.

5. Stringent app approval process 
In the absence of a unified app store, developers need to target multiple OEM app stores for publishing. Due to the large number of device and OS variants for an OEM ecosystem, approval processes take a long time (often running into months) due to the rigorous process involved in certifying the app for multiple versions.

6. Multi-vendor engagement 
Rolling out OTT service spanning prominent connected devices requires managing multiple vendor relations, who are engaged in app development for each middleware platform. Ensuring consistent app behavior across platforms in such scenario becomes difficult.

So how can Ittiam help in addressing this fragmentation nightmare? Ittiam provides a one-stop-shop media player solution – vividPlay SDK, which targets the majority of the connected TV devices today. We’ve already invested the time and resources (and some intelligent engineering) to minimize the impact of fragmentation. Our suite of applications not only bridge the current issues of fragmentation but also pave the way towards industry defined standardized implementations as they evolve in future. In addition, Ittiam also provides mobile apps to create second screen solutions for device discovery and content casting using Google Cast and Apple AirPlay.

Table 2 lists all the Connected TV devices where our solution is available. And this list is constantly growing.

Table 2 Ittiam Connected TV Applications’ Target Platforms


[1] IHS Markit, More Than Half of All Households in Japan, US and Europe Will Have Smart TVs by 2019; Feb 2016
[2] Nielsen, Milestone Marker: SVOD and DVR penetration are now on par with one another; Jun 2016
[3] Innovid, 2016 Global Video Benchmarks: Advanced Video Performance across Every Screen; Feb 2016
[4] Business Insider, Most people watch online TV shows on this one device; May 2016

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