nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Google, Amazon, TiVo help pay TV redefine its role

Future of TV banner

Just a few years ago, pay TV was the world of TV entertainment for consumers. Those days are over, and operators are scrambling to define their role in the entertainment lives of their customers. Google, Amazon, TiVo, and others think they have the answer.

SVOD aggregation the new operator role

One potential option for pay TV operators is to help simplify the increasingly complex business of watching TV. Many pay TV subscribers also use Netflix, Hulu, and other online TV services and struggle to figure out what to watch and where to find it. Operators can help aggregate all their customer’s TV services and remove some of the complexity.

However, success in this aggregator role requires operators to bring the world of Internet entertainment to their set-top boxes and integrate it with their pay TV offering. To do it, they need to jettison their old, closed, proprietary set-top software and replace it with something more open. There have never been more options to do it.

140 operators using Google’s Android TV

According to Google, Android TV is now in use by 140 pay TV operators worldwide. Adoption of the platform appears to be accelerating as Google said at the end of 2018 100 operators were using it.

Google has prepared a special version of Android TV, called operator tier, that provides special features to help operators deliver a branded experience. For example, operator tier allows the set-top box to boot directly into the pay TV operators guide. However, using operator tier requires more development by the pay TV provider to integrate the solution. Because of the increased integration time, about half of the 140 operators have opted to use straight Android TV.

Most importantly, Android TV provides access to most online video services commonly in use by consumers. There are currently 5,000 apps available for Android TV, up from 3,000 in the first half of 2018. It also provides advanced features like voice search and control and an open recommendations platform.

Amazon prepping “operator tier” of Fire TV?

To date, Amazon has focused its Fire TV efforts around retail streaming media players and smart TVs. However, Android TV’s success with operators has not gone unnoticed by the retail giant. According to MobiTV’s President and COO Bill Routt, Amazon is working to create a version of its Fire TV platform to deliver an “operator forward” experience. For example, it may allow the operator to prioritize it’s services ahead of others in search results.

Details of exactly what Amazon has planned are not clear. For example, operators will be keen to know if Fire TV will work on an STB of their choosing. However, any version of Fire TV for operators would likely bring along advanced features like Alexa integration and cross-service search and recommendations.

TiVo on Android TV for RCN, Armstrong

TiVo has been working with operators for many years to help them deliver a multi-screen experience to pay TV subscribers. Now the DVR pioneer is providing support for Android TV. Operators deploying TiVo’s Next-Gen TV platform can move functions like on-demand, DVR, restart, and catch-up into an IP cloud environment. They can also opt to put Android TV on their set-top box, and TiVo will provide the operator app for a branded experience.

Two operators have announced they plan to roll out this solution: RCN and Armstrong.

There are still more options for operators to open their set-top boxes to allow SVOD aggregation. Roku licenses its popular interface and platform to pay TV operators bringing access to 10,000 or more channels. As well, operators can integrate Metrological’s app platform and store into existing set-top environments.

Why it matters

Many operators are redefining the role of they pay TV service to encompass aggregation of SVOD services.

To do it they need an open app platform on the set-top box.

Google, TiVo, and possibly Amazon can provide an open STB app platform to the operators.


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