Next TV Summit 2016: Welcome to the Golden Age of Distribution

New platforms, business models giving rise to widening range of video players and service options
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New York – While some are labeling this digital-focused era the new Golden Age of Television, the same label can also be applied to the new and innovative ways video and TV content is being delivered to a variety of screens and consumer segments. 

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“We’re in the Golden Age of distribution now,” Brent Smith, president, chief technology and co-founder of Evolution Digital, said here at a distribution-focused panel at the Next TV Summit, a one-day event that is part of NewBay Media’s NYC Television & Video Week.

While Evolution Digital is focused on helping cable operators, primarily independent MSOs, develop and launch next-gen, IP-delivered video services, others on the panel spanned the gamut of distribution, hitting on free, ad-supported services, a la carte OTT offerings, and even a “next generation” cable operator that is targeting consumers who still love the big TV bundle.

For TVTibi, a global OTT provider that includes a la carte, pay-as-you-go programming options, securing worldwide content rights remains a key challenge, Andrew Goldman, company co-founder and chief strategy officer, said.

Typically, distributors acquire content on a territory-by-territory basis, he said, but noted that content owners are becoming increasingly open about selling global rights using revenue share models that help them gain viewers and presences in new markets.

TVTibi, he added, relies on an app platform with geo-blocking functions to help get around some of the tricky issues involving global distribution rights.

And, thanks to a model driven by the original iPhone, the video world is becoming increasingly app-based, noted Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, a company that  aggregates free, ad-supported content on a wide range of smart TVs (as a native app platform) as well as Roku boxes and mobile devices.

The challenge for content providers is that it’s expensive to build apps and app stores for various platforms. Xumo, he said, has taken a “fresh approach” by becoming natively integrated with the TV and to use video to help viewers discover content that matches their interests.

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But rather than fragmenting content and brands, each partner on Xumo’s platform has its own “channel” that remains under its control, Petrie-Norris said. “Fragmentation is a big issue.”

Layer3 TV, the Denver-based next-gen cable operator, is taking a different approach. Rather than focusing on skinny bundles and only younger millennial audiences, Layer3 TV is going after a segment “that still loves television” and has multiple viewers in the home, David Rapson, Layer3 TV’s director of content partnerships, said. “They want a full robust lineup of content.”

Layer3 TV, which recently launched in Chicago, aims to “super-serve that audience,” he said, noting that his company doesn’t have to use older, legacy platforms and can instead start fresh using new technologies, interfaces and devices to deliver a better experience.

RELATED: Layer3 TV Goes For The Big Bundle

Evolution, meanwhile, aims to break the old “holy alliance” that operators have with vendors that have prevented MSOs from innovating, Smith said.

Evolution, which works with operators such as WideOpenWest and counts TiVo among its tech partners,  is trying to break that mold by helping MSOs migrate to IP-based video platforms that use new hybrid IP/QAM boxes alongside slick interfaces that can also integrate OTT offerings from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

“We’re going to help the operator deliver a new service,” Smith said, noting that the approach will “unshackle” MSOs from proprietary systems and open the door to new content entrants.

And while there’s so much focus on delivering content to mobile screens, new distribution systems and interfaces are “bringing the viewer back to the big screen,” said Howard Horowitz, president of Horowitz Research.

Linear TV viewing, he added, remains “pretty stable” despite a small but growing cord-cutting trend.