Jeff Weber, CEO of payTV content packager ZoneTV, has realized that to be successful in the broader pay-TV space it would have to support other platforms besides Ericsson’s Mediaroom IPTV platform.
Having led AT&T’s U-Verse IPTV effort as the telco’s president of content and advertising sales, Weber helped lead the effort behind establishing Mediaroom as the telco’s IPTV engine.
Following his tenure at AT&T U-Verse, it’s not surprising that ZoneTV’s platform was originally engineered to work with Mediaroom. Since Mediaroom was mainly used by telco delivering video, ZoneTV’s market was limited to those service providers.
By migrating away from being a Mediaroom-focused shop, ZoneTV has been able to attract a number of tier one pay-TV providers.
“At the end of last year we signed DirecTV and Comcast, which obviously if you’re going move beyond Mediaroom are two good ones to start with,” Weber said. “You’ll see much more from us in 2017 as our existing business continues to grow.”
Bridging OTT, pay-TV
But migrating beyond Mediaroom is only one part of ZoneTV’s story. The next part is focused on helping pay-TV providers figure out how to incorporate OTT into their programming packages.
“We’re looking to bridge the gap between payTV and OTT, and that’s where we view ourselves,” Weber said. “Pay-TV is going to be around for a very long time assuming they can evolve and OTT can explode and be really healthy.”
Throughout 2017 ZoneTV will focus on integrating OTT features into the pay-TV ecosystem.
Specifically, ZoneTV has a cloud-based platform that it embeds into the pay-TV provider’s set top box (STB).
“We know how to work within the operator’s set top box,” Weber said. “We know how to go from OTT into the pay-TV ecosystem and hook into the operator’s electronic programming guide (EPG) and deliver our services that way.”
This approach provides a painless experience for the pay-TV provider, and more importantly, the consumer who ends up with access to an array of new content.
“We’re not requiring new hardware so it’s the existing set top box, it is the existing remote control, and the same input on the back of the TV,” Weber said. “If you’re a consumer, you’re sitting on your couch using the operator remote control to watch ESPN or HBO and we can create that incremental new capability that you don’t have with pay-TV.”
Personalized content experience
What ZoneTV brings to the pay TV operator is the ease of the web-based app world by providing similar flexibility to access and engage with personalized content.
“The power of the platform is that as you watch more of a certain type of content more of that content gets served up,” Weber said. “All of those things that we've been somewhat accustomed to in the online world aren't there in a meaningful way in the pay-TV world.”
ZoneTV will provide content that’s curated into what it calls “genre channels,” including subjects like sports, fitness, kids and food. One of these programs is Geekstream, which is a channel designed for gamers, for example. Viewers can tune into the channel to get news, play throughs, and the reviews on what’s hot in the gaming and fandom world.
Additionally, ZoneTV also offers three other features: dynamic channels, which lets users view its entire channel lineup; a set of immersive on-demand content channels; and a 40-title interactive gaming channel.
The company’s on-demand content is being delivered to several pay-TV affiliates: DirecTV, Comcast, Bell Canada, Telus, AT&T U-Verse, Frontier Communications and CenturyLink.
One of the applications that ZoneTV has become known for is Santa Tracker, which it said is used by 20-30% of consumer homes during the month of December.
Weber said that while it has proven it can scale applications, the more important issue is being able to integrate a platform that won’t disrupt a pay-TV provider’s existing operations.
“Operators know at scale they can trust us to work in that environment,” Weber said. “We certainly understand OTT and how to build that capability, but that is not enough for the pay-TV operator and you have to understand how to protect those networks.”
In 2017, ZoneTV has set a goal to license digital content from a host of sources, turn it into channels and bring those channels into the operators' guides.
Weber said it is trying to help pay-TV providers give their users an experience that accommodates traditional programming and OTT.
“It’s our view that it’s not an either-or-all experience,” Weber said. “If you can put them together there’s a lot of people watching TV, but operators need partners like us to bring them capabilities and new experiences that help them break through.”