Q&A—Vewd CPO Prüter can see TV’s hybrid future

Sascha Prüter
Sascha Prüter tells FierceVideo that the industry needs to look at OTT for the long term. "How can we make sure an operator can monetize TV in 2022?" (Vewd)

Sascha Prüter, chief product officer at Vewd, knows that OTT is growing. But that doesn’t mean it will overpower and eradicate traditional TV.

“TV will be a very hybrid landscape,” Prüter said.

He added that OTT services will continue to grow but everything won’t suddenly change to OTT in the next few years. He said that a company like Vewd, which has experience working with technologies like ATSC 3.0 that attempt to merge broadcast and IP standards, provides interesting building blocks for the future. That hybrid model will extend from the operator and broadcaster world to what end users will experience.

Prüter recently joined Vewd (formerly Opera TV) after spending years running product and engineering efforts for Android TV at Google. FierceVideo sat down with him during IBC in Amsterdam to talk about TV monetization 3 to 4 years from now, how RDK may be too complicated and how OTT has moved beyond just launching and surviving.

FierceVideo: What’s your focus going to be right off the bat at Vewd?

Sascha Prüter: I have my background with Microsoft and Google. With my Android background, I can help initially to get the newly announced Vewd OS for Android TV off the ground. I can help tactfully from day one with guidance on that. But I think longer term it is really the product perspective on, what products do we need to build to enable TV in 2021? How can we make sure an operator can monetize TV in 2022? Basically, build a product roadmap for both the direct-to-consumer business for smart TV OEMs, which Vewd is very close to, and then also extend the pay TV business, which Vewd is already active in but I think we can expand a lot more.

FierceVideo: Vewd’s recent Android TV announcement is in the direction of expanding the company’s pay TV business, correct?

Prüter: Yeah but I think one of the things I liked when I talked with Vewd leadership was around the narrative. Obviously, you have the technology component but then you have products like Vewd OS, like a whole TV UI managed through the cloud that either the pay TV operator or the TV OEM can very dynamically drive campaigns or change layouts. And then on Android TV they have an operator story. It’s obvious that this is taking off. Having a solution like Vewd Atom that goes into the super entry-level legacy set-top boxes and provides OTT solutions in emerging markets.

It’s really building this portfolio that we can serve to everyone in this hybrid TV market that I see as being there for a long time.

FierceVideo: Does it seem like Android TV is picking up popularity in the pay TV space? What’s the appeal?

Prüter: I think the demand is picking up for Android TV and Android in general, so no matter if it’s with or without Google services. If you look at the competitive landscape, you see RDK is primarily driven by two major cable companies and is, as a system, a little bit too complex and requires a lot of resources to build out. So, for a lot of operators, that’s hard. Android is very flexible. You can hire Android developers very easily from anywhere while it may be a little harder to find developers for the RDK experience.

It’s easy, it’s cheap and very quick and agile. I think that started the demand with operators. The only other option you have if you don’t want to take Android is to build your own proprietary Linux system, which also is a lot of maintenance. But I think a lot of operators in that thought process are slowly realizing that now that Google allows me in this operator tier to drive my whole experience, my whole system UI, that’s a lot of work to build completely on my own.

That’s where, for example with Vewd OS and Android TV, we can tell the operator, “You like the flexibility and fast go to market of Android, you don’t want to inherit the burden of building a system UI, content management system and promotion system. We have a solution for you.”

FierceVideo: For Vewd, what’s the next stage of growth for OTT?

Prüter: I think what we have seen in general for the last few years is that a lot of services are coming into the market and just trying to launch and survive. If you look a little bit more into the long tail, a lot of the OTT players have realized it’s actually quite hard in a fragmented consumer electronics space to have a high-quality service. Certifying hundreds of different devices with different video players, different rendering engines is really hard.

Vewd has a certification pipeline for certifying applications and guaranteeing an OTT player how it’s app will render on a given device. We’re expanding that now to also give the content players and service providers and OEMs tools for remote management.

You want to have data on how your application is being used. As a service provider, you want to be able to flexibly drive promotions and put content on the home screen without sending an expensive or work extensive system update down to your set-top boxes. As a TV OEM shipping into 50 different countries, you want to have an easy way to get the right local content in front of the user.

And like I said, hybrid I think is important, like continuing to integrate things like HbbTV and ATSC 3.0 because those are application models as well. If you look at the requirements in the U.K. for if you want to get iPlayer and ITV on-demand catch-up content, the requirements on the HbbTV and broadcast signal integration are pretty high. We have those components to do this and give a complete offering. In the U.S., ATSC 3.0 will be very interesting with the application model behind it. It’s not just an HTML5 application. There are also extensions that a random HTML5 rendering engine can do. There are extensions that tie into the broadcast system, there are fingerprinting mechanisms and so on. Our strength is tying all these things together that the user doesn’t really care about.

FierceVideo: So, preserving the TV experience people are used to even as more fragmentation occurs?

Prüter: Yeah, exactly.