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Choosing Apple as the Platform for Operator OTT Offerings

Hibox & Accedo OTT Platform Strategy Series: Part 5
Profile picture of Ernest Axelbank, VP Solutions at Accedo Ernest Axelbank 4 min read | Last updated: 2.12.2021

Together with Accedo, we have been discussing how operators can choose the right platform strategy for their OTT offering. In case you missed the earlier posts, check out why the right platform strategy is important. So far, we have discussed Android TV, AOSP and RDK. For this latest blog post in the series, we will present Apple within the operator angle.

What is Apple TV for Operators?

In 2018, Apple announced with tvOS12 a set of new features which enabled Apple TV to become a potential choice for operators when evaluating OTT boxes to distribute to their customers. Rapidly, big operators like AT&T in the US, Canal+ in France, Salt in Switzerland decided to invest in this high-end device as a clear differentiator.

In our previous blog posts, we raised four key areas that any operator offering needs to address.

1. Can Apple TV help with maximizing the entertainment appeal?

The Apple TV platform comes with nearly 100 pre-loaded apps and channels, close to ten thousand applications are available via the Apple TV app store, with over three thousand to be categorized as entertainment services.

While Apple will make sure to make the TV provider’s brand at the center of the experience, it also expands the consumers’ discovery experience by enabling the TV provider’s content in its Apple TV application, among a wide catalog including Apple’s produced content and any of the video providers who have integrated with the Apple Universal Search feed.

The device itself of course supports the latest standards for enabling premium video experiences (HDMI 2.1, Wifi 6, HEVC Dolby Vision (Profile 5) / HDR10 / HLG) to be controlled with a slick remote control or via Siri, the voice assistant to control the platform and enable voice search of content.

2. Can Apple TV help operators keep costs to a minimum?

If the TV provider chooses to go with Apple TV, it is also to benefit from the premium Device Experience of a well established brand. The TV provider would then avoid any cost associated with the development of a custom STB interface managing live tune-in, billing, etc. They would however have to face the cost of the platform itself, likely less expensive than other STB or sticks used by TV providers.

As for every platform, the only way to benefit from its full potential is to develop an application leveraging the native experience, minimizing risks with OS upgrades. There is a large community of developers on Apple framework, and while they might not all be familiar with the specific features offered to a TV Provider, the resourcing cost overtime should be manageable.

By selecting Apple, you are also removing one stakeholder as usually STBs interfaces would involve both the STB manufacturer and the OS vendor. Here you have a controlled ecosystem managed by Apple, with a high SLA and an established partner program. Fewer providers, fewer risks.

There is no doubt that Apple TV is not the cheapest option in the market, but for a TV Provider investing in a high-end offering, this platform would definitely make sense.

3. How does Apple TV support innovation?

While the Apple TV app experience is controlled by Apple, the TV Provider’s owned application can deliver a fully unique experience. The platform delivers best-in-class features such as AirPlay or Siri to augment the video experience. More importantly, the TV provider’s content, when made discoverable in the Apple TV app, becomes available across all OTT platforms – Smart TVs, Game Consoles, etc. Making Apple become a distribution partner for the TV Provider. How to evaluate the potential of other platforms better than by analyzing the traffic generated by the Apple TV application experience on these platforms?

4. How does Apple TV ensure adaptability?

There is a net benefit in developing your own application for Apple TV as we estimate that 50% of the source code can be shared with an iOS application (this could vary pending the specific features developed for TV screen only). However, any other platforms you might invest in for lower entry offerings – like a stick – will require you to invest in a completely new interface.

Is Apple TV the right platform for your service?

This platform removes the headache of creating a bespoke ecosystem – no need to think about the STB specifications VS the OS platform you would put on, no need to think about the STB UX. It also expands the TV provider’s reach via the content integration into the Apple TV application available on multiple platforms. This is definitely a safe and premium choice for high-end offerings.

As a vendor for integrations with Apple, Accedo is qualified to provide end-to-end solutions for cable operators, telcos, and OTT streaming video companies looking to launch premium subscription video entertainment services on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

For a deep dive into the major platforms for OTT operators, check out the other parts of this OTT platform strategy series:

  1. OTT Platform Strategy
  2. Android TV (ATV)
  3. Android Open Source Project (AOSP)
  4. RDK
  5. Apple TV

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This blog post is part of a five-piece blog series on platform strategy for OTT providers. The series is co-authored with Hibox's parent company Accedo and is also published on the Accedo blog.