Joining up the dots in the connected home

Monday, May 07, 2012

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From our own experience, the media gateway as the centre of customer care as a managed service, has taken significant steps in managing the ‘ultimate’ connected home. Our figures show that unnecessary device replacements have reduced by over 50 per cent and unnecessary technician truck-rolls by over 50 per cent.

Looking across the evolution of the payTV industry, both technologically and in terms of the services offered, Pace's Jaime Fink examines the long journey from one box and a basic helpline.  

From single screen delivery via the straightforward set-top box model in the 1980s, we have advanced throughout the late 90s with the introduction of digital video compression and well into the new millennium with HDTV. We have reached the stage where we are able to deploy entertainment content across multiple screens and multiple rooms in the connected home. However the evolution does not stop there.

We have come to the point now whereby we can provide the technology and support to enable payTV content to be tailored to, and seamlessly supplied to a huge range of devices across the home network such as iPhones and tablet computers. Consequently this has heightened subscriber expectation. Already, payTV providers are seizing upon new content demands and the proliferation of new devices, recognising that changing user habits provide opportunities to build value-added services for subscribers. However, these new opportunities bring new challenges that demand we go one step further.

Continued need for a complete managed service to deliver the converged home of the future is inevitable. To achieve this we must preempt further changes and complexities by developing technology to provide for all content, across any device and deliver this seamlessly through the ‘managed’ service that consumers demand and payTV delivers.

The evolution of home entertainment

To date, the evolution of home entertainment can be categorized into two distinct stages. The first stage was the development of the ‘single screen’ delivering content onto one screen via the converter box. We now find ourselves in stage two -  the ‘connected home’ -  in which operators are beginning to manage the delivery of a wide array of content across multiple screens and manage through intelligent home networks. The connected home may still be young but we are already look towards stage three proliferation.  Prior to the arrival of the home gateway, set-top box (STB) owners could only turn to under-informed call centres for troubleshooting advice. The staff at these call centres had no visibility of the home and no insight into issues lying beyond the STB. This resulted in a far from efficient service, with unnecessary truck rolls and replacement boxes becoming the common forms of response. This approach was not only expensive but frustrating and time-consuming.

The arrival of home media gateways and the connected home changed that for both the subscriber and the operator. Home gateways meant operators were now able to deliver the connected home and customer care as a managed service. As such, the home gateway connects the operator to the entire network and provides a 360 degree view of its operations. By constantly monitoring network operations, call centre staff can see and understand issues across the network, and help fix them faster and more efficiently. This has enabled users to take their viewing experience around the home without the same limitations and obstacles they used to face. This has driven greater customer satisfaction but also greater expectation as we introduce new capabilities far beyond what could previously be delivered during the days of the single screen.

Consumers tend to find technology baffling and require a service that quite simply makes it all work and takes away the technological complexities. Thanks to media gateways, supported by sophisticated software and new advanced call centre services, highly knowledgeable and experienced professionals have full view of the home network. From locations external to the home, they are able to provide real solutions to compatibility and connectivity problems, both quickly and with ease. This resolves the escalating complexity of delivering converged IP and broadcast services across a broad range of devices, enabling the operator to deliver and maintain a flawless multi-screen viewing experience.

From our own experience, the media gateway as the centre of customer care as a managed service, has taken significant steps in managing the ‘ultimate’ connected home. Our figures show that unnecessary device replacements have reduced by over 50 per cent and unnecessary technician truck-rolls by over 50 per cent. These were the two most common operator responses that consumers found themselves faced with back when they just had the option of ‘single screen’ viewing.

We now have the ability to cater for a wide variety of connected devices and this is reflective of the pace of change and the constant demand pushing technological advances. But this brings to light future issues. Today, payTV operators have full control of the hardware in homes that receive their services. They deploy it, they maintain it and they fix it if it goes wrong. However this neat, controllable world is once again on the cusp of change.

Enter stage three-‘Proliferation’

Now we have to go further. We are beginning to see the emergence of a new, third era where devices, media types and ways of watching multiply faster than ever. Compatibility and delivery could once again become a challenge, but this is a challenge the payTV industry quite simply has to meet.

The rapid escalation of devices and media formats demands that operators who manage content in the connected home simultaneously develop the capabilities to ensure customers are able to utilise every new device and all the media content on offer. This must be achieved without limitations and with the highest quality results. Operators will be faced with how to control differently configured software and hardware from multiple consumer electronic vendors, all competing to ‘own the home’. It was bad enough when the set-top box didn’t work without a call to the helpline. But now operators face the prospect of calls from subscribers for a wider range of devices and issues than ever, which once again they cannot adequately resolve. Operators need to guarantee that we do not witness a return to the truck-roll solution, which was so tiresome and inefficient.

By facing up to this new world now, operators can eliminate the headache before it begins and be a defining part of a whole new era of home entertainment. If operator services do not keep up with this evolution, they will fail to deliver an adequate managed home network experience and new methods of delivery and devices that can and should be complimentary facets to home entertainment  will overwhelm the payTV experience.




Any device, anywhere, anytime 

The often envisioned future of home entertainment is multi-screen; consumers, for example, expect social networks on their tablets to instantly interact with the shows on their TV screens simply by the touch of a button. Everything in their ecosystem must work as easily as switching on a tap or a light switch. The key to this and the future of the payTV service has to be complete simplicity, compatibility and connectivity across all devices and all media outlets. Ideas that used to be a novelty are now simple expectations. Consumers will expect and demand instant access and seamless delivery. 

Innovation is the only way to meet this pressing and ever growing demand. This innovation will allow operators to do that. In an increasingly complex world, operators will need to stay ahead of the game and ensure that over-the-top (OTT) is not a threat but rather a complimentary way for users to access the content of their choice. This will also be key to differentiating themselves from competitors and therefore ensuring customer retention.


Looking ahead to the future, it is clear that there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. However, through unrelenting innovation, PayTV will continue to fulfil its potential to ‘own the home’.  Operators need to view challenges as opportunities. Instead of getting stuck in this diversified landscape, operators can open up further opportunities to monetise new OTT services and on demand content, widening their services to existing offerings and attracting new customers with a truly premium offering. 

We will see that the days of the ‘single screen’ are truly dead and buried. No longer will customers have to ring up the call centre only to be met with the time-old truck-roll approach to fixing their problems. However complex the home network becomes, the concept of customer care as a managed service is here to stay and the simplicity that defines payTV will conquer any challenges that come its way.

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