During the panel ‘The new OTT era of pay TV operators’, which opened the first Nextv Series Andean’s virtual edition, Sergio Restrepo, CEO at CableMio, reported that the company is working on its DTT migration process and plans to implement the analog blackout by the end of 2021. Theadeu Coelho, Sales Director Latam at Bitmovin; Ana Lucia Gonzales, General Manager at Cable Club; and Jorge Garcia, Operations Manager at Codisert, have also taken part in the panel.
Regarding the launch of the OTT Qlobbi by Cable Club, Gonzales reported that ‘for many years we started as cable TV service providers, and then we added our internet offer. We started as a pay TV provider through an analog service, and then we began to look at the different options to digitize our offer. Finally, we decided to digitize it using the ISDB-T standard, without the need for CAS or boxes. When we made numbers in relation to the impact generated by installing boxes for all users, we noticed that it did not make sense for us, due to the period it took us to recover our investment. We realized that digital TV with boxes would be a transition and that, in the long run, the future will be based on live TV via the internet. In this context, we began to find out about how to set up an OTT platform’.
Later, the executive explained that ‘initially, we thought about hiring internal programmers, but we understood that the necessary ecosystem to set up an OTT is quite complex, and we decided to talk with CDN, middleware, and transcoding providers, until we defined with which providers we wanted to work, and we started to integrate this ecosystem. A few months ago we launched Qlobby, which is a free platform for Cable Club subscribers. The decision to launch this platform was based on a technological transition, where we decided not to offer the analog cable TV service, and implementing this transition towards the future of TV, and offering the user a multi-screen service and greater interactivity when it comes to watch TV. Our platform has different features that are not available in an analog TV offer’, she said. Later in the development of the panel, Gonzales stated that ‘we plan to offer Qlobby in other regions. We are currently analyzing our main errors and the stability of the platform, but we are analyzing that possibility, and even sharing it for other cable operators and ISPs’, she added.
‘At CableMio, we had to go through a total renovation process’, Restrepo reported. ‘All of this started the previous year, as we concentrated many of our efforts on bringing Colombian Professional Football matches to the Win+ platform. We bought digital headers, decoders and other elements and, when we had everything ready, Win chose not to sell us the content. For this reason, we chose to do something different and offer OTT platforms to our customers. We are running agreements with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to offer TV, internet and an OTT included in the basic package. We also began to strengthen ourselves in the analog blackout. We decided to turn off all of our analogue offers this year and, practically, every two months we are carrying out an analog blackout in a municipality, to fully implement at the end of the year’, added the executive.
When asked about the greater demands of users towards their pay TV providers, Garcia stated that ‘they demand us digitization’. The executive explained that ‘based on this request, Codisert is migrating from analog to digital, and we currently have 80% of our programming grid in digital format. DTT is becoming widespread in Colombia, and we will use this technology to implement digital TV on it’, he completed. In turn, Coelho spoke about the main challenges that pay TV operators face in the Andean Region and Latin America to adapt themselves to the new audiovisual consumption demands of their subscribers, and reported that ‘from Bitmovin, the good news is that, technologically, solutions are now available that allow an operator to offer a service with the same quality of experience as, for example, Netflix offers. If we go back a few years, setting up an operation for a VOD service was very expensive and meant a very great problem for small and regional operators. There were many solutions that helped operators launch their OTTs, but with very little customization and monetization flexibility’. The executive also stated that ‘today, we are at a very interesting time for operators, because there are many niche companies that allow them to choose the best part of what they want to offer and provide services that allow operators to keep their customers on their platforms. The dispute is given according to the time users keep on them, and a good experience is essential’. Likewise, for Latin America, Coelho stated that ‘there is a lot of regional content in countries like Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, and that always constitutes an interesting regional offer to be able to differentiate itself from the others. In addition, another point that we have seen with Bitmovin is linked to live sports, where our technology has allowed the OTT to begin to be closer to a linear environment’.
Regarding the importance of a third-party OTT aggregation strategy and what problems they have found, Restrepo stated that ‘we are at a crucial moment for the entire industry, where a large number of platforms are being launched. But we all come to the same conclusion: ‘whoever hits first, hits twice’. Everyone in Latin America got to know Netflix first, and we always end up coming back to it because it is the most popular platform. We have searched for content from all over Latin America for our OTT, and we concluded that competing with a platform like Netflix is almost impossible. And I think everyone is going to have that same fear. Today, we are working on partnerships with Netflix, so that we are the economic means so that people can have Netflix at their home. 80% of the Colombian population is unbanked, and many people are afraid to pay with credit cards. If we offer Internet, TV and an OTT platform in the same plan, even within our platform, we believe that good engagement will be created, so that the client stays with us’. Likewise, Garcia has also insisted on the difficulties in using credit cards, although he also pointed out as the main problems ‘the bandwidths offered to users so that they can access content’; and he also pointed out that ‘Netflix is currently the largest video content library and Amazon Prime Video, Disney and Apple TV are also getting very close. Also, in recent days, the merger between Televisa and Univision, focused on Spanish-speaking content, was announced. Technologically, we have no way to compete with them, and we must build strategic partnerships to offer this content to our users’. Finally, according to Gonzales, ‘we are currently linear content aggregators, and we also aim ourselves to be VOD platforms aggregators, although many of them have just entered Latin America and are making their first integrations with operators’.
‘From Bitmovin, through our technology, we have worked with our clients and with companies that want to enter the OTT market in offering a player that is compatible with the vast majority of devices in the industry. We see that it is very common to have Android or iOS as operating systems and others, but to integrate with a smart TV, Roku or Chromecast is something much more complex. Bitmovin has invested a lot in its technology to facilitate the implementation of a project player for smart TVs or Roku. We have worked with several clients and the implementation time of the player has greatly decreased’, Coelho said.
‘As a result of the pandemic, our cable TV sales were cut in a half, while on the internet they doubled and almost tripled’, Gonzales said. ‘It was a demand that we had not expected to have. We had bandwidth saturation problems, although, on the other hand, the price of bandwidth continues to drop, and that makes the possibility of selling the internet much more profitable than selling cable TV. There have been cases in which we have had to re-package our services and start selling only the internet offer’, she completed. Likewise, according to Restrepo, ‘at the end of December 2019 we had around 5% of our clients with our internet and 95% only with our TV offer. In 2021, we are having between 25% and 30% of our clients with internet and TV, and in May we will start offering internet in Betulia (Antioquia) and Ebejico (Antioquia)’. Likewise, according to Garcia, ‘in 2020, due to the pandemic, we had many requests for internet connection, and we did quick work to enable it. There are users who are only interested in the internet offer, and they claim not to need or not to use TV’, the executive ended.