OTT providers, today more than ever, appreciate the need to reach the living room. Until now, operators have been limited to two options to provide OTT content on large-screen devices, and deliver the so-called 'ten-foot experience' - either Android TV, or a DIY approach based on the RDK framework or AOSP platform. Both have upsides and downsides. Let’s take a look:
Google and Android TV set-tops
72% of operators responding to a 2017 Ovum survey said they were considering Android TV as part of their future set-top strategy, and momentum around Android has continued as a more recent 2020 study from Rethink Research indicated that Android TV would capture 24% of global pay TV subscriptions. This momentum indicates the need for operators to enable apps on the TV, perhaps more than outright enthusiasm for Android TV itself. Within the Ovum report, operators expressed concern over the control imposed by Google, vulnerabilities of Android TV’s hosted app environment and the cost of deploying new-generation set-tops.
The report identified that more than half of respondents view Google as a competitor and a quarter consider them a direct-threat, with major misgivings about giving up control over app selection. Of those operators who were looking to deploy Android TV, there was a broad expectation that they would have to pay a premium of up to 10% on set-top chipsets, but equally, they had expectations that total cost of ownership would be lower than alternative DIY approaches through reduced OpEx and faster time to market. And therein perhaps lies the underlying motivation for the platform.
Google responded to operator concerns regarding their lack of control with an update to their 'Operator Tier' that allows operators to customize the UI, specifically providing greater control over the setup and boot screens, the integration of DVR and video-on-demand content, and dictating the content of two 'sticky' tiles in the UI. Operators must still surface the entirety of the Google Play store, and use Google Assistant and Google Search exclusively.
RDK and AOSP DIY approaches
Switching focus to the recently implemented RDK App Framework - it provides onboarding and lifecycle management tools to help implement native and H5-based apps into the TV experience across a multitude of set-top models. In addition, AOSP (Android Open Source Platform) provides an open source framework enabling operators to mount proprietary app stores curated from the 5000 apps already developed for Android TV.
With both of these DIY approaches, operators are still left navigating the time consuming and costly process of establishing agreements with app providers, integrating, certifying compliance with app requirements across every target set-top, plus the perpetual maintenance of apps through version upgrades.
A greater drawback stems from the dependence on set-top processing and memory resources to run apps on the set-top. Device limitations not only restrict the number of apps that can be downloaded to a set-top, but also limits the useful life of the device if operators want to continue to offer the very latest apps, which - driven by the mobile phone ecosystem - necessitate ever more powerful and advanced devices.
The AppCloud alternative
Operators are clearly demanding an app experience divorced from the CapEx, OpEx, lock-in, and time-consuming overheads associated with other options.
ActiveVideo has made this possible with AppCloud. AppCloud is hosted in the public cloud and runs OTT video apps for the TV within a virtualized AOSP environment. Operators can provide subscribers direct access to their curated selection of Android apps, within their distinct user experience. AppCloud delivers to IP-capable set-tops, deployed now and over the last decade running any operating system.
Unlike other AOSP approaches, AppCloud has removed the need to install the app on a device, which obviates resource restrictions related to device processing and memory, as well as the complexities and costs associated with app integrations across a diverse ecosystem of set-tops. All the apps available to Operators through AppCloud are certified and ready for use. Apps can be removed, replaced and made available to consumers at the discretion of operators, who now have no obligation to Google regarding app selections, data sharing and the like.
It’s an alternative that’s very worthy of consideration. Contact our team to explore how AppCloud can benefit your TV app delivery.