Set-tops still have a place in today's market, say Pace, Accedo, other vendors

A variety of set-top box vendors believe that their products still have a place in the consumer home entertainment space, although, most concede, that place is changing, according to the "STB and Smart TV Survey 2013" conducted by Euromedia.

The survey elicited responses from "a range of industry experts" whose answers were presented under their company names.

Accedo, as a company, was credited with saying that set-tops can play a home entertainment role by "creating a more integrated in-home experience than any OTT device can do" and Conax noted that set-tops "will, in many cases, become the center of the living room."

Throughout the survey, the vendors defended the set-top position in the home while conceding that functions have, and must, expand to meet future demands.

"STBs can evolve to remain the center by becoming a connected hub and gateway to allow distribution of content in the home," a Farncombe response stated. "Tablets, phones, games consoles would get their content from this home hub."

httv, meanwhile, credited set-tops with "two main values": they give pay TV operators the possibility to fully control their platform and subscribers, and set-tops cost much less than a smart TV or even games console and provide a shorter life cycle to introduce new features.

To a company, the vendors believed that the set-top box is here for the time being. How long they will be a presence, however, seemed to hinge on the particular company's vested interest in a traditional set-top device.

"We expect smart TVs will replace set-top boxes as the center of the connected consumer's household in some segments of the market (but) we expect we will still see set-top boxes for the coming few years," said Irdeto.

That wasn't quite the way smartclip saw the market, noting that "STBs and smart TVs are almost becoming mirror images of one another."

The most likely route will include a modified set-top box that becomes a home gateway.

"The solution, in broad terms, is one that combines a number of key components--access networks, conditional access and digital rights management, in-home network and distribution, video decode and play-out to screen, lastly--high quality of service across all connected devices," said Pace (LSE: PIC.L).

In the end, even as the set-top evolves, the cloud becomes more useful and other devices enter the market, "there are significant opportunities for an aggregator of products and services," said Amino. "Operators are ideally suited to this role due to their ownership of network infrastructure and billing relationships."

That's the good news. The bad news is "this does not rule out other types of companies establishing themselves as an aggregator, providing they have the right partnership in place and can offer a wide enough range of products and services to meet the customer's needs," Amino continued.

The vendors were also mixed on whether a retail market can and will doom the operator-provided set-top model.

"While many markets will remain operator-controlled for some time to come, the fact that consumers increasingly demand to watch content on tablets, smartphones and PCs will drive the support for TV services on unmanaged devices," maintained Irdeto.

In the end, though, it could be up to the operators, concluded Pace, noting "With operators offering competitive subsidized packages there is no compelling reason for users to purchase gateways in retail."

For more:
- Euromedia via Advanced Television released this survey (.pdf)

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Market outlook: IPTV to gain ground; media gateways offering more opportunities

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