The US cable TV industry is multi-faceted, encompassing nationwide giants and small local players that meet the needs of regional communities and everything in between. In fact, the 600-plus independent US cable operators outside the five big national operators serve thousands of communities and millions of subscribers across the country. They are often the primary conduit for internet access and TV, and many have built great reputations for customer service within their customer bases.
These small and medium operators, with subscribers ranging from a few hundred to several thousand subscribers, have varying network architectures. While discussion of replacing legacy QAM-based infrastructure with IP networking was a trending conversation several years ago, the practicality is that this type of transition is not financially realistic – especially for smaller operators. With smaller subscriber bases, significant investment in programming rights leaves little available capital to justify a full IP upgrade. However, there is a desire to take advantage of IP where it makes sense – in the home.
When the annual SCTE CABLE-TEC EXPO convenes in Atlanta later this month, attendees will include thousands representing America's independent and smaller multi system operators. Combined, these operators provide critical data, video and voice services to millions of American subscribers. For years these service providers and their subscribers have been under-served by major equipment suppliers catering to the needs of the largest MSOs but that's changing. With the introduction of Agora 7 and Amino TV, now smaller operators can offer advanced video features including:
- Voice search and navigation
- Streaming to smart phones and tablets
- Integration with popular OTT apps on the TV
- A modern, visual user interface
These features help to attract and retain customers, increase ARPU and increase customer satisfaction without requiring significant capital investment in new equipment and expensive plant upgrades. Having gone around the country and spoken to many operators within this community, Amino has identified several options for cable operators to take advantage of IP for delivering and sharing content in the consumer home.
Add Advanced Services
Subscribers now expect services such as simplified content discovery, personalized recommendations and a modern, user-friendly interface. Amino facilitates operator deployment of these services without requiring upgrades to their existing video delivery infrastructure. In addition, we provide Whole Home DVR and Pause Live TV to fulfil subscriber demand for flexibility in how they consume their favourite content.
Enable IP connectivity in the home
Leveraging existing delivery infrastructure while providing IP connectivity within the home is another popular option. Operators are now deploying our Agora gateway, which supports up to six simultaneous QAM channels. This device terminates the QAM signal and distributes content throughout the home in IP protected by DTCP-IP, Cable providers benefit from avoiding any requirement to upgrade their core infrastructure, while subscribers benefit from enjoying content on additional TVs and display devices like tablets and laptops around the home.
Today’s subscribers will consume as much content as is available to them – whether it’s from streaming sources or more traditional programmers. We’ve addressed this hunger by giving cable providers the ability to mix QAM and IP channels in the same line-up. For example, AminoOS can be deployed pre-loaded with services such as YouTube TV, SlingTV and Pluto TV. Alternatively, operators can take the Android TV route offering access to the Google Play store and its 150 premium OTT video services. Now subscribers can access both QAM delivered linear channels and IP streamed content through the same user interface.
Ramp-up IP Services
We are also simplifying the Cable-IP journey through the development of Operator Ready Android TV. With certified devices and our AminoOS software for Android TV Operator Tier deployment, operators can easily deploy an IP tier of services leveraging all the Android TV features such as voice search, personalized recommendation and Google Assistant as well as OTT apps. With proven interoperability with a wide range of middleware, conditional access and backend systems including Minerva, Espial and Evolution Digital, cable operators across the US finally have way of meeting the consumer expectations while remaining competitive.
For operators, cable-IP is less about an expensive networking migration, but about acknowledging that those last few feet are best served via IP. As a truly agnostic solution provider, Amino can work with operators of any size to help scope, plan and deploy projects that take advantage of legacy networks.
As an IP pioneer, deploying more than 10 million devices and the software to support them, Amino can provide trusted advice rooted in more than 20 years helping pay-TV operators take the right action to assemble the IP solutions that best fit their needs.