Keeping Cable Current: Pay TV’s Key to Adapting to the BYOD Shift

By Charlie Nooney, MobiTV

Fueled by technological advancements and amplified by consumer demands, change has been a constant in the pay TV business. However, at no other time in the industry’s evolution has change occurred at such an accelerated pace as we see today.

Millennial viewing habits have been the primary catalyst, leading to consumers wanting to seamlessly watch live and on-demand entertainment, on any device, anywhere. This multi-device world has affected the entire ecosystem, from content creation, to content delivery, to content consumption.

Pay TV operators are now faced with the task of servicing these devices and demands for rapid innovation from a multicast infrastructure – which has created concerns around future investments, particularly in the set-top box (STB). This iconic piece of equipment has been the gateway to premium entertainment for years but is now coming under some scrutiny. The STB, which has provided the in-home foundation for the pay TV industry, is now being challenged by some surprising sources.

For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is singling out the STB as a catalyst for bloated monthly bills. Pay-TV providers are frustrated by the glacial pace of innovation of user experiences and technology, like HEVC decoding. Even consumers are moving away from their STB by watching on phones, on tablets and even on new digital content boxes, such as Roku or Apple TV.

Supporters of the STB are admirable, as they promote continued investment in the existing ecosystem. But, if the pay TV industry follows in the footsteps of other industries affected by Internet Protocol (IP) technology, the writing's on the wall.

But What’s the Right Alternative?

Before we quickly jump on the bandwagon of "Unlock the Box" or "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD), it is important to understand the impact such initiatives would have on the existing pay TV market. The entire infrastructure is not ready for multi-rate adaptive video streaming over HTTP. Network investment (which still needs a return) has been directed toward optimizing multicast traffic over high-bandwidth networks. Perhaps the larger operators can invest and transition to a different infrastructure, but the small-to-midsize operator is not able to justify large, new investments in encoders, content distribution networks (CDNs) and other back office components. Sure, divesting the costs of sourcing a STB is enticing, but not if the other costs are higher.

Adopting a BYOD approach has other implications that must be considered as well. Engineering factors (such as replacing the traditional remote control with something that looks like it was designed with only five buttons) cannot be changed lightly. Moving to an app-based approach offering a full pay TV experience means coexisting with other potentially competitive services on the same device. Living with App Store restrictions and taxes must also be considered in making this transition.

So, what is a reasonable path forward for the small-to-midsize operator who wants to stay in the pay TV business and not succumb to the pressures of OTT? The wisest answer is: balancing the existing infrastructure and services with an introduction of new services, based on a BYOD approach.

This may take on different expressions for different broadband providers. Some may want a cap-and-grow deployment, which is a bold, line-in-the-sand approach and fully embraces the move towards IPTV delivery with HTTP methods. Others may want to launch in currently inaccessible markets (due to capex or bandwidth limitations) and run a different TV service for those markets based on new platform capabilities. Others still may want an overlay approach, where existing markets are given a choice of services – perhaps a skinny bundle with a BYOD offered at a lower price point.

No matter which path is chosen, the pressure is on to make this transition. It is imperative to make a choice, and it is wise to choose a technology company who is familiar with all aspects of delivering live TV using HTTP methods and can provide delivery solutions to the customer-facing clients on a wide array of devices and operating systems.

It’s also time to think about a virtualized head-end source for both live and video-on-demand assets that can be shared among operators, which can result in significant capex and opex savings. Delivering these services on a multi-tenant platform is key to these cost savings.

It is clear that technical and business model decisions are setting the stage for a new generation of pay TV. However, it is important to realize that with major change comes great opportunity. Companies like DirecTV, Hulu and Netflix have all been created from technical innovation that addresses the changing needs of consumers. The move away from an STB creates an opportunity that levels the playing field between big and small size operators, as consumer expectations and industry innovation continue to raise the bar of video delivery to the end user.

Charlie Nooney is CEO and chairman of MobiTV.

Get the Broadband Technology Report Newsletters Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to email newsletters today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • Video Technology
  • Network Technology
  • Technology Alerts
  • BTR LATAM (Latin America)

SCTE-Cable Tec Expo 2016 Video Show Dailies

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

In our Video Show Daily for Day 3 of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy covers trends in distrib...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

In our Video Show Daily for the second day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy highlights furt...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy reviews the hot technologies and announcements from the first day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016 in P...

Diamond Technology Reviews - 2016 High Scores

2016 Diamond Technology Reviews Slideshow

2016 Diamond Technology Reviews Slideshow

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

BTR's Diamond Technology Reviews, now in its twelfth year, is a technology recognition program wherein vendors serving the broadband cable ...

Related Articles


VITEC to Show Compression, Streaming Gear

October 20, 2016

VITEC will exhibit a lineup of encoders, decoders, and IPTV streaming so...

Status Report: Full Duplex DOCSIS

Status Report: Full Duplex DOCSIS

October 19, 2016

By Monta Monaco Hernon - Specification development for Full Duplex DOCSI...


2016 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo Wrap Up

Whether you couldn't make it to Cable-Tec this year or want to see if you missed anything while you were there, you'll want to join BTR editors Stephen Hardy and Ron Hendrickson as they reveal their picks for the...

October 12, 2016
Sponsored by

Counting the cost: Efficiently transitioning from HFC to FTTH

HFC networks are uniquely positioned to provide compelling and competitive services, and are also uniquely positioned to transition to symmetrical FTTH as commercial requirements demand.  This webinar will d...

Date:September 22, 2016
Sponsored by

Maintaining High Quality of Experience in an Adaptive Bitrate System

This webinar will look at the many points in an ABR system where the video is touched.  From ingest (satellite, file, and IP), to egress, each point should be qualified for compliance to help maintain a high...

Date:August 25, 2016
Sponsored by

White Papers & Special Reports

Cable VoIP 2.0: Voice Moves to the Cloud

October 2016

Cable providers led the charge on the VoIP evolution and won customers and market share. Now voice networks are evolving again. The cloud voice platform has ...

Understanding Ultra High Definition Television

October 2016

Over the last 10 years, high definition television (HDTV) has been replacing standard definition television as the expected viewing format for television pro...

Are You Ready for DOCSIS 3.1? The Future of Cable Technology and How to Prepare Your Network

October 2016

DOCSIS 3.1 promises 10x capacity throughput and a range of technical benefits for cable providers and users alike. Are you ready? Discover the technical adva...

BTR Blogs

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

FCC Rethinks Set-Top Plan

September 10, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - The FCC has reworked the "unlock the set-top b...


In Memoriam: Richard Covell

August 18, 2016

By Rob Stuehrk, Publisher - We at Broadband Technology Report were sadde...

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

Court Overturns FCC Municipal Broadband Order

August 11, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - You win some, and you lose some, and the FCC just l...

Featured Hangouts

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this inf...

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

Watch a 30-minute video chat of experts from a variety of related disciplines discuss how close deployments really ar...

Featured Hangout

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this informative Hangout on demand by clicking the link above.

Sponsored by Verimatrix.