Magyar Telekom: “Why not integrate STB functionality into the TV?”

Matthias Linder, CTO of Magyar Telekom

Matthias Linder, CTO of Magyar Telekom

Matthias Linder, CTO of Magyar Telekom

Matthias Linder, CTO Network Technology at Hungary’s Magyar Telekom, gives five predictions for the IP video industry in 2013, including some big changes ahead for the vendor landscape, the delivery of IPTV directly to smart TVs, and the improvement of TV-related APIs.

Matthias will be speaking at this year’s TV Connect show, the world’s leading event for connected entertainment, which takes place in London on 19-21 March. For more information and to register, please visit www.tvconnectevent.com

We will start to see significant changes in the vendor landscape

What we see now in the vendor environment is that there are strong players at the moment, but the relationship will shift – some of the big ones have a pricing methodology which is driving more and more operators to look for alternatives.

As a result, certain new vendors or smaller existing vendors should grow their footprint in the IPTV industry over time.

Smart TV functionalities will support further integration to reduce the importance of dedicated set top boxes

We have to constantly strive for innovation at the lowest possible costs. One of the biggest cost factors for operators today is the set-top box.

TV sets are becoming more and more intelligent – many of them are just Linux computers, like a set-top box, so if a customer already has a smart TV in the home, why put another Linux computer in front of it?

Why not use the capabilities that the smart TV has to integrate the set-top box functionality into the TV directly?

We are working on these solutions, however there is always the question of content protection.

There are two possibilities that we are analysing here – the CA+ module, which can be put into the smart TVs, but there are other possibilities regarding digital rights management which have more IP-based solutions.

That is what we are doing within Magyar Telekom, and we are playing an important role in innovation leadership the European footprint of Deutsche Telekom Group, and a lot of that activity is shared in the group.

The development of second screen applications is going to gain momentum

This is what you hear and see across the board: a lot of customers have smartphones or tablets, after we have expanded our TV offerings to the triple screen experience it is now time to work on expanding the offering to be able to use a second screen simultaneously to watching TV on the TV set.

Often you see a family sitting in front of the TV nowadays where someone is always playing with a tablet or smartphone while the rest of the family is watching TV, or people are typing interesting topics into the tablet that they hear on the TV – so why not integrate the two?

We have applications which extend the services of the TV, but then you interrupt the TV services. If you shift these applications to a second screen, you continue watching live TV and enrich the experience with the additional information and applications on the second screen.

I’m sure that this is going to become much more important in the future, and whenever you walk across industry fairs right now, you see people working on it.

The integration of telco services into IPTV is still in its infancy. We will begin to see more of this.

For the past two years we have been trying to push the interactive TV vendors to enable and show us this integration of telco services on IPTV, but we haven’t seen it, so we have started to work on it ourselves, done our own demos, integrating our intelligent network platforms with the TV applications.

These applications can give notifications of who is calling the landline or mobile phone, or set up a call directly from the TV remote control, for example to a company that is advertising at that exact moment, a user can press a yellow button and a call is set up for a user’s phone.

All that is possible provided that the APIs are well documented and powerful, but we haven’t seen that integration being driven by the vendors so far.

However, we are going to continue to push for it, and we have now demoed some of our own applications in our labs, showed them to the vendors to show them what we expect from them.

We need to see more evolution and standardisation of the APIs for the development of new services as well as a further standardisation of recommendation engines for more personalised video and advertisement content

As indicated I think the APIs will have to evolve, there is still a lot of work that has to be done to get third parties to be able to develop on top of those platforms similar to the way they are developing for iOS or Android. Ideally a whole ecosystem will evolve.

I can see two approaches to it, on the one hand you could use Android running natively on the platform, or you can have a higher level of standardisation of the APIs that can be used by third-party developers.

The interactive TV market still offers plenty of opportunities, we just need the right tools and a lot of determination to unleash them.

On the other hand TV operators still need to learn how to monetize the information about customer behaviour much more efficiently.

This can obviously be about more personalised offerings but also about cooperation with the advertising industry to exploit the information about customer behaviour in general.