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Android TV chief: pay TV can ‘control the home’

IBC: Pay TV operators will be best placed to manage the smart home on behalf of consumers, according to Sascha Pruter, head of Android TV programme management at tech and web giant Google.

Speaking at forum organised by content security provider Verimatrix at the IBC conference, Pruter said the pay TV operators were best placed to expand their services beyond TV to “taking control of the house” because they have the customer relationship and can provide customers with a single number to call.

“I think branding of pay TV operators will go towards a household brand rather than just a video brand,” he said.

Addressing Google’s relationship with pay TV operators, Pruter said the first pay operators using Google TV as their platform of choice had launched Google Play stores on their TV services.

“If we can come up with the right revenue model, [operators] can give consumers what they want while maintaining [their] own brand. For Google this is a partnership opportunity. Operators approach us and want to talk about these partnership opportunities,” he said.

Pruter said that the user expectation had changed and consumers were used to going to app stores and getting things quickly. He said that one of the key requirements for operators is to be able to react quickly to trends. “The industry now seems to realise that reacting to changes has to happen fast to compete with the web and mobile,” he added.

However, TV is still distinct from mobile, he added: “I don’t think all the principles from mobile apply to TV. Expectations of quality are very different. I’m much less tolerant of jitter on TV than when watching a YouTube clip while waiting for a bus.”

Pruter said content regulations as well as rights issues needed to be challenged in many cases. “On the content side, yes, it take time to get rights but content owners are getting more used to things. They are realising that things in the way of consumers getting the content are harming them,” he said.

Also participating in the session, Verimatrix CEO Tom Munro said that “one thing the operators can sell is trust” and that this would give them a role even in an app-centric world.

Munro said that “the cord would become more difficult to cut” as operators move beyond video to applications such as home security.

Speaking on the same panel, Francisco Saez Arance, service development director, global video unit Telefonica, agreed that OTT technology is enabling operators to innovate faster while maintaining the value of pay TV through legacy technologies. “We have to deal with complexity in the most open way that’s available,” he said.

“As a pay TV operator with different operations, we are trying to leverage the existing assets and provide some unified layers that we brought from the OTT arena to provide unified experiences.”

Saez added that the operator had “enough magical glue” coming from the OTT world to enable it to deliver consistent experiences.

He also said that Telefonica was leveraging cloud technologies to enable viewers to consume linear content in a non-linear way through features enabled by the cloud such as DVR and pause, leading him to use the phrase “flexilinear” to describe what is happening. He said that commercial agreements and contract rights are more challenging than technology restrictions in enabling all this to take place.

Saez said that there is an issue about who controls user data and provides the user experience, including content search and discovery.

“Some content providers are only providing access to services in a not very integrated way, but we are always looking to provide more value and looking at how to gather knowledge of their content assets and how to provide better recommendations. We integrate third party portals and their catalogues to provide value to their customers and it’s a question of the willingness of the content owners,” he said.