IP video delivery companies are getting in the ring with new
competitors. Source: Flickr user kwdesigns
The landscape of the streaming video business is shifting quickly. After starting out as a business built largely on delivering video to the PC, IP-video delivery is now increasingly focused on the TV screen, as HDTV sets, Blu-ray Disc players and other consumer electronics devices get upgraded with Internet connectivity. At the same time, TV Everywhere promises to bring a torrent of new premium video content to the web as pay-TV networks join their broadcast cousins in making their shows available online.
Apart from promising to give consumers greater flexibility and access to content, those changes are starting to shake up existing video-delivery business models as service providers scramble to take advantage of the new distribution channels being opened, or in some cases to defend established turf. While the final outcome of that scramble is far from clear at this point, it’s likely to result in an entirely new competitive landscape.
This week, for instance, video publishing platform provider Brightcove made a grab for a piece of the TV Everywhere pie by rolling out a new suite of tools aimed at helping pay-TV networks launch their own TVE-compatible streaming services, either through their own portals or in partnership with cable and satellite providers. Key to the new TV Everywhere Solutions Pack is a “federated” method for user authentication and content authorization that isn’t limited to a single cable operators’ subscriber base.
Brightcove already powers video delivery for more than 60 different TV programmers’ web sites. But the move into enabling TV Everywhere is clearly aimed at capturing more business from pay-TV programmers, whose content has not yet been heavily exploited online.
That puts it on a collision course with Comcast subsidiary thePlatform, however, which also sees gold in managing TV Everywhere services, and which began pushing its own federated authentication system for pay-TV networks last year. While thePlatform lacks Brightcove’s history with the TV networks, it provides back-end support for four of the top five cable MSO’s web portals, including their internal TV Everywhere authentication systems, giving it the inside lane on interoperability.
While the eventual winner is anyone’s guess at this point, the outcome will be critical to the pay-TV networks that have to choose a service provider well as to the companies themselves.
A similar competitive landgrab is underway on Internet-enabled HDTV sets. The ability to deliver Internet video directly to the TV screen without the need of a set-top box is creating new openings for service providers to expand beyond their traditional niches, while at the same time setting up clashes with incumbent providers.
At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, for instance, DivX introduced a new embedded streaming platform and content aggregation service for Internet-enabled HDTV sets. Though DivX has long provided video compression and playback software to CE makers, the new platform marks its first foray into over-the-top content aggregation — and pits it against established players like Roku, Vudu, Netflix and CinemaNow.
Roku and Vudu, meanwhile, have moved in the other direction, porting their set-top box-based platforms to embedded software that can be implemented directly on Internet-enabled TVs. In the process, both have also greatly expanded their content aggregation services.
The added competition is great news for content owners as well as consumers. But it promises to upset established valuations among service providers. No longer protected by their discreet niches, service providers increasingly find themselves fighting on multiple fronts to protect their market share even as they seek new opportunities created by TV Everywhere and over-the-top video.
For the companies themselves as well as their investors, it’s going to be bumpy few years.