UPC Hungary YouTube service fast-forwards to Innovation Award

Sachin Sathaye — VP Strategy & Product Marketing
Cable Europe Innovation Award 2015

No one has moved more swiftly or surely to bring online video to pay-TV set-top boxes at scale than the imaginative team at Liberty Global’s UPC Hungary system. So why should we have been surprised when they were first across the finish line in the Cable Europe Innovation Awards last week?

UPC Hungary’s winning entry — “TV Apps on Legacy Set-Top Boxes by UPC Hungary, Metrological and ActiveVideo” — was based on the ability to bring not just the full YouTube user experience, but 20+ other applications to 520,000 digital set-top boxes across its market footprint. The resulting customer engagement numbers have exceeded even the most optimistic prognostications.

As with Ziggo’s Cable Europe Award victory last year, the secret to Liberty Global’s innovation pedigree is in the cloud. Applications, including the YouTube Leanback UI, are rendered in the cloud and delivered as interactive MPEG.2 or H.264 video streams to existing HD and SD STBs. YouTube content is streamed from YouTube servers, manipulated in the cloud and then stitched together with the cloud-rendered YouTube UI so that the content and the UI can be delivered as a single stream that retains all of the functionality of the Web.

Severina Pascu, CEO of UPC Romania & Hungary, calls the service “a beautiful way to bring together innovation and customer experience, and at the end of the day, this started from a real customer need – content anywhere, anytime, on any device.” Sounds about right to me.

If it seems like we talk a lot about the UPC Hungary service, it’s because we’re really proud of how they’ve used the cloud to overcome the three issues — content experience, content delivery and content protection — that had prevented online content from being delivered to most pay-TV STBs. In just nine months, UPC Hungary has engaged nearly 70% of available subscribers – who are viewing >1MM minutes of YouTube content a day and averaging a TV-like 45 minutes of viewing per session. All for a hardware cost under 1 Euro per set-top box.

As online video continues to grow, the possibilities are endless for UPC Hungary and other operators to strike partnerships that increase pay-TV content libraries and extend online video footprints. HBO Europe already has signaled an intention to secure carriage as a channel for the HBO GO service; while we can’t name names, it’s safe to say that others are exploring similar opportunities.

For now, our congratulations to UPC Hungary and Metrological for a job well done. We look forward to working with them in the future to expand the delivery of new services from the cloud to existing STBs.