Finding answers to the big questions about Android TV

Amino CTO Mark Evensen looks at what people need to know about making Android TV truly ‘operator ready’ ahead of Cable-Tec Expo 2018

The emergence of Android TV as an innovative way for pay-TV operators to deliver modern TV experiences is certainly exciting the market – but it also raises a number of challenging questions about deploying the Google platform. At Amino, we see Google as a key partner going forward, working together to ensure Android TV works as a smarter, more cost-effective technology solution that gives operators a competitive advantage. Over the last year, I have met with senior executives across the industry and, in this blog, I try to answer the questions top-of-mind for most operators when it comes to Android TV.

How do we source and implement a true ‘operator ready’ Android TV service?
It’s important to understand that Android TV, as it’s released from Google, does not fully address most operators’ needs. For example, operators are often obligated to support accessibility features such as subtitles, closed captioning and described video, which require extensions to standard Android TV. Operators are often required to support emergency notification systems, also absent from standard Android TV. Compatibility with existing DRM and CAS systems is another critical feature that can’t be overlooked.

Android TV is an open platform, thus it is possible to enhance and extend Android TV yourself. However, it’s often more effective to partner to shorten time to market and reduce software development and ongoing supporting cost. The key is to find a partner with the expertise, track record and technology to help you deliver a fast, easy-to-implement deployment – and avoid the cost, complexity and risks associated of skilling up internally.

Can we fully integrate Android TV with our existing systems in a seamless way?
Yes, Android TV is well suited to integration with existing provisioning, billing, subscriber management and customer relationship systems. The impact of Android TV is primarily on the in-home aspects of service, rather than back office systems. In fact, many operators are using Android TV to headline multiple enhancements to the in-home experience such as Ultra HD, wireless distribution and customer self-install. It’s a significant benefit of Android TV that the primary beneficiary of new investment is the customer directly, and with minimal cost, impact and investment to back office systems and infrastructure that the customer never notices.

It’s popular to deploy Android TV as an enhancement to an existing middleware deployment rather than a replacement. Android TV offers enhanced features customers want like voice navigation, OTT apps and federated search. Many subscribers are willing to pay a premium to have the enhanced user experience Android TV provides. Android TV enables operators to easily offer a premium experience to subscribers willing to pay a premium price while continuing to offer a basic service to their existing subscriber base. Subscribers can enjoy the enhanced service without operators having to migrate to a new back office system, eliminating the overhead and training required to maintain two systems.

Can we bring a full Android TV offering to market quickly?
Android TV can be deployed across a wide subscriber base in a matter of months provided you have the support of an experienced partner that has an enhanced version of Android TV, compatibility with existing CAS and DRM systems and experience with back office integration. Being able to do this quickly and efficiently can have a transformative effect on your service as Android provides an instant ecosystem of around 150 TV and media apps – with more being developed on almost a weekly basis.

How do we make sure we continue to deliver the best customer experience?
Consistent delivery of a great customer experience is critical for customer retention, particularly when new services are being deployed. A service assurance platform that offers remote device management capability, self-install and real-time customer analytics can play a crucial role in enabling operators to efficiently and proactively support and improve their quality of service. Recently we worked with a large European fiber operator on their subscription TV roll out including our AminoOS service assurance platform. We helped them achieve a 90% self-install rate, resulting in an estimated $3.6 million in savings on truck rolls in less than 12 months.

Will an Android TV deployment positively impact our business?
Without a doubt – as our own experience with operators confirms. When we supported Finnish operator DNA, one of Europe’s fastest-growing telecoms providers, with the world’s first Android TV deployment, the benefits were clear. DNA management can now test and rapidly bring to market innovative new services via a fully integrated content and feature-rich Android TV offering. Enhanced customer data insight is also driving cross-selling and upselling, with improved pull-through rates on premium broadband and content packages. DNA now is acquiring customers faster than planned, more effectively moving existing customers onto premium broadband packages, and increasing average revenue per user (ARPU).

Do we really need to deploy an STB to gain the advantages of Android TV?
Android TV is available integrated within smart TVs and retail third-party devices. Some operators, particularly virtualized operators, find it appealing to not purchase and distribute STBs. Amino supports third-party Android TV devices, but operators should be aware of the related challenges.

Unmanaged devices are exactly that, unmanageable. Operators can’t prescribe when the device software is patched or upgraded, which can frustrate the ability to roll out new features and services. Unmanaged devices are also more difficult to support. It might be necessary to train specialist customer service representatives to support specific devices from various vendors. Finally, some features, specifically related to content security, cannot be met by generic retail devices. Operators might be unable to offer services consistently across a subscriber base in these instances. In short, operators who are accustomed to operating a managed service will face challenges with unmanaged device deployment.

Where can I learn more about how to deploy an operator-ready Android TV service?
Feel free to visit the Amino booth (#1715) at SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo to ask questions specific to your own challenges and needs – we are happy to look at what you can do and how we might help you. You can also book an appointment with us by contacting us at sales@aminocom.com.