tivùon! is the innovative new OTT (over-the-top) TV service announced by Tivù, our partner in Italy. If you are a lucky consumer in Italy, there’s a lot to love about tivùon!, such as a unified guide listing content from tivùon! as well as the sister satellite and digital terrestrial TV services run by Tivù. Now, if you miss episodes of a favorite TV show that is broadcast on one of Rai, Mediaset or La7’s channels and in tivùon!‘s catalog, you just press a button to bring up tivùon! and can watch them. What is also a very important aspect of tivùon! is that it represents a continuation of Tivù’s strong support of open standards. In a world where companies continually try to stifle markets and innovation through control of proprietary infrastructure technologies, tivùon!’s embrace of OTT TV open standards such CENC, DASH, MHP, Marlin and HbbTV (coming next year) signals that not everyone is willing to accept this control.
For those not familiar with Tivù, a bit of background is important to understand the importance of the tivùon! announcement. Tivù is joint venture between three pillars of the Italian communications industry, Mediaset, Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster, RAI, the Italian state broadcaster and Telecom Italia, Italy’s largest telecommunications company. tivùon! is expected to reach 3 million households by the end of 2016 but its goal is to be available on every Internet connected TV set in Italy. With market trends going the way they are, tivùon! will reach a sizeable share of the over 25 million TV households in the Italian market. tivùon! is not only a new innovative OTT TV service, it will be a part of the infrastructure touching the lives of most every Italian citizen.
As with most national infrastructure projects, the decision to use open standards in building tivùon! is a natural one. Open standards mean tivùon! can reach the largest number of devices currently on the market as well as new ones in the future. Choosing proprietary technologies could lead to a dead-end should the technology provider decide to stop support for the technology or raise the cost beyond what the market can afford. Going with open standards gives tivùon! the confidence they can choose from a variety of vendors for the infrastructure it runs on and this infrastructure will continue to be supported even if the vendors’ strategies change. Open standards also provide assurance to tivùon! that, should they choose to do so, they can give input into the standards development process instead of begging a vendor.
tivùon! also works to ensure that open standards directly benefit their customers. tivùon! takes the basket of open standards they support and launched a labeling and compliance program. This means they work with their set-top box and television set vendors, namely ADB i-CAN, Humax, LG, Sagemcom and Samsung (and many more to come), to ensure their devices properly support these standards. When a device passes, the manufacturer then can place the tivùon! label on it, giving assurance to the consumer that they will be able to enjoy the tivùon! service on the device when they purchase it.
In the OTT TV business, focusing on open standards also has shown some very real business benefits. The streaming video business actually started off as a fractured market using a number of proprietary video codecs, each with their own slice of the client base. For video streamers, the practical result of this fragmentation was a need to maintain multiple files of the same content to reach the widest possible number of clients. Maintenance of multiple files means increased server and storage costs for the streamers just to serve the same piece of content. The market settling on the open standard H.264 video codec was one of the reasons behind the quick growth of the OTT TV market.
Unfortunately, proprietary DRM (digital rights management) technologies are causing the same sort of issues for OTT TV services today. OTT TV is no longer just about reaching the browser. It has to address all the various connected devices today’s consumer enjoys video on. Some of the major device platform developers, notably Apple, either limit support of competitive DRM technologies on their platforms or refuse to license their DRM technologies to other platforms. This brings us back to the days where OTT TV service providers have to incur greater costs to maintain multiple files of the same content yet again.
Two standards in particular promise to help change this. DASH is a dynamic adaptive streaming standard that works with CENC, a standardized way to allow encrypted videos to work with multiple DRMs. Google’s Widevine, Marlin, and Microsoft’s PlayReady support DASH and CENC and news reports indicate that Apple is moving in a similar direction for FairPlay. Again, by choosing to work with open standards, tivùon! is future proofing its technology platform to reduce costs while ensuring a smooth user experience across the vast majority of the devices its customers will be using.