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So Let’s Talk About Content

by Danny I. ShawLast Updated: 09.01.2015
Man and woman looking happy while using tablet

I mentioned in an earlier blog that if you want a meaningful business plan, with an accurate budget to present to your execs, then start from the customer’s perspective and choose your content as a first step. The right content and marketing of the content will help you monetize your investment in a shorter time and with happy subscribers. In this blog, I’ll focus on linear TV as a place to start, but just as important to your network decisions is on-demand content and technologies like catch-up and time-shifting. Those topics will be covered in a future blog.

Content is Changing

So let's talk about content and why a channel list makes the rest of your IPTV planning more logical. There are rapid changes in the TV industry: Some producers are switching to subscription models and some customers are unplugging completely and determining their own content with YouTube or monthly pay programs. But live TV will still dominate for a long period of time. Just watching my own 20-something kids over the holidays and how they use TV is a good example. They like specific shows such as music awards and certain serial programs which they binge watch, and even more interesting is how they see commercials. You would think that with the ability to record and time-shift or catch-up your programs that commercials would just be fast forwarded, but in fact, my kids view some commercials as part of the entertainment and even talk about the commercials more than the programs. So live TV entertainment is here to stay and choosing the right programming is essential. I will say that at the same time my kids are watching a TV program they are usually watching YouTube videos or reading Reddit.com on a second screen.

How to Choose your Content

As mentioned at the start, you as the local or regional content provider, will need to contract for the rights to show the specific programs that will keep and attract new customers onto your network. But how do you do that, and where do you go? In each continent, there are 6-8 major, let’s call them “TV Packagers”, in fact each continent calls the content aggregators by a different name. But in general you can expect each major TV Packager to provide all or a combination of:

  • New content like news, documentaries, game shows, dramas, and entertainment programs.

  • The packaging of individual TV Channels which can include in-house production for localized and international content, acquired rights to ready-made feature films and TV programs. The packages could also contain advertising, in addition to the advertising you can provide.

  • The packaging of bundles of channels or even bundles of premium channels like SKY, HBO, BBC, and other pay-tv, which can have anywhere from 50 to 200 channels.

In addition to programming you can contract from TV Packagers, you will probably want or be required by your specific government regulations to provide Free-to-Air (FTA) channels. In each case, we are seeing a range of 15 to 20 FTA channels being provided on a localized basis. The Technical Advantage of Knowing your Content Before you Choose your Delivery Platform: Now here is the key about choosing your content wisely as a first step. Some of your programs will require very specific encryption or Conditional Access (often referred as Digital Rights Management, DRM). And certain DRM software requires very specific encoders in the Head End and not all Set-Top Boxes in the home can decrypt all DRM systems. So in other words, the content will drive very specific DRM software, Head End hardware, and end-user client devices (like STB’s, tablets, smartphones). As I’ve said before, the natural tendency is to start an IPTV initiative by trying to define the network equipment and management software first, but in fact you really need a channel list first. With a channel list you can ask for specific Head End proposals. This is a positive way to say that if you don’t have the channel list then all you can hope for is a best guess budget proposal that can be off by orders of magnitudes. And second, the channel line-up allows you to also request accurate proposals for any channels requiring encryption. Let me tell you right now, you will be shocked at how expensive DRM can be, which is another way of saying that content is still king. Also with the channel list, you can determine which STB’s are compatible with the required DRM. After you have those elements, then you can target the right IPTV/OTT middleware to manage the whole platform.

In Summary

If you want a faster ROI to monetize the investment in your new network, then IPTV and OTT are the right choices. If you want to shorten your planning cycle and get accurate and timely proposals for the technical parts of IPTV, then start by choosing the right content for your intended market audience. You'll have happy customers and a much more pleasant project deployment. And make sure to read the upcoming CDN in Your IPTV Deployment (Content Delivery Network, or how to stream your content in an IPTV environment) blog.

Danny I. Shaw

Danny I. Shaw, VP Global Sales