Will 2012 be the year operators embrace OTT? At NAB, they seem friendlier


LAS VEGAS--This year, according the Mayan calendar, was supposed to be the end of the world. And, while the prediction has generated some less-than-stellar entertainment offerings, I'm still making plans for CES next year.

A far more likely scenario for 2012? That service providers finally see over-the-top as a complement to their service instead of as a threat.

You can see it all over the show floor.

Middleware provider Minerva Networks is generating some good traffic at NAB with its broadband TV (BBTV) offering that's built on its iTV Fusion 5. The BBTV solution combines both advanced linear and on-demand video content delivered over a service provider's data network to IP connected devices.

Minerva has lined up an array of solid industry players to partner with, including Avail-TVN, Verimatrix, Juniper, Entone, and WNC. It's launched a fully functional BBTV Reference Platform and Solutions Guide, which will serve as a framework for operators to investigate, model and assess business opportunities available through Minerva BBTV.

The Minerva Broadband TV solution incorporates technologies like Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) streaming, advanced data network Content Distribution Networks (CDN), cross platform digital rights management (DRM)/Conditional Access Systems (CAS), wireless 8.02.11x LAN and quality of experience (QoE).

A BBTV play, Mauro Bonomi, CEO of Minerva, told me, allows operators to extend their reach by taking advantage of a network they've already established.

And, he said, it gives operators "new opportunities to reach, engage and build relationships with their customers."

Minerva scored points with operators in November, too. Its xTVFusion 5 middleware product won a TelcoTV vision award.

While telcos have been dipping their toes in the OTT waters for a couple of years, what's interesting this time around is that BBTV also may appeal to ISPs that are looking to change their value proposition. A video component like BBTV falls somewhere between the high cost of a full pay-TV bundle and a straight OTT offering like Netflix and Hulu, and that may, Bonomi said, hold great appeal, at least judging from the early traffic he's seen at NAB.

That this platform has been tested for interoperability by several major players, with more to be added to the ecosystem in the future, Bonomi said, may prove to make it even more interesting to operators.

Elemental Technologies CEO Sam Blackman, whose company is expecting massive play during this Summer's Olympics in London, said one of the biggest drivers has been the evolution of adaptive bit rate technology.

"It's come a long way," he told me. "It's made it possible to deliver a lot of quality... and that's what people will pay for. It has made it possible to monetize OTT video."

And that, he said, is opening some new doors.

"Once you get quality and monetization, it allows new entrants to get into the TV space," he said, like, for example, Intel, which earlier this year caused a stir when the Wall Street Journal reported it was setting up to launch a virtual MSO.

"No doubt it's coming," said Blackman, adding that Intel isn't the only player in that game, either.--Jim