UPC Hungary paves way for cloud-based app store on every STB

Murali Nemani

With more than 800,000 apps in the market today, there seems to an app for every need, with the exception of one the pay-TV and developer communities would most like to see: An app that could bridge the fragmented device landscape and bring content-rich app stores to every pay-TV STB and connected device.

New mobile devices and app ecosystems have fed the growth of each other over the past half-dozen years, but the ability to replicate that success on TV has remained hamstrung by two thorny problems: the limitations of most existing STBs and the need to write apps multiple times for countless variations of device resources.

So today’s announcement that Metrological is delivering a cloud-based app store to existing STBs in Liberty Global’s UPC Hungary system could signal a breakout moment for apps on TV. Metrological is capitalizing on our CloudTV™ Streamcast product to virtualize STB functionality, a similar approach to the one UPC Hungary is using as the first pay-TV provider to deliver the full YouTube experience to its existing footprint.
To be clear, not every app – think FourSquare or ParkMe – is suited for TV. Metrological and UPC Hungary have smartly identified content-centric apps such as CNN News, Picasa and Facebook that take on added dimensions when they make the jump from mobile devices to television, as YouTube has done. Using our CloudTV™ StreamCast platform, they render those HTML5 apps in the cloud and stream them to UPC Hungary’s existing STB footprint.

Here’s why this is important:
• Developers and content companies can bring existing HTML5 apps to television at scale, without the need to write apps multiple times for each make and model of STB and connected device;
• Pay-TV providers can increase their competitive edge and generate new revenues by rolling out content-rich app stores, without the cost and time-to-market hurdles of deploying new STBs with PC-like resources and cost structures; and
• Consumer engagement can be transformed from personal viewing to social experiences in a 10-foot environment.

Metrological and UPC Hungary are starting out only with a couple of dozen apps, but there are two reasons why it’s easy to envision rapid growth: Using the cloud, any app written in HTML5 can be streamed to every STB in the UPC Hungary footprint, enabling rapid expansion of app store inventory. Moreover, other pay-TV providers and app developers can use the same template to bring app store value to additional markets.

Without question, TV apps have a long way to go. But by building on the work of Metrological and UPC Hungary, pay-TV and developers can finally gain the reach and footprint essential to creating a successful marketplace.