There are plenty of OTT platforms available today, allowing operators to launch a video streaming service for their subscribers. Some of these platforms can even be used in the Cloud, and the majority of them can be installed on off-the-shelf servers and used on-premise. A recommended approach is to select a vendor providing content and subscriber management, analytics, and client applications for STB, Android TV, Smart TV, mobile, and web as well as the origin, streaming, and CDN as part of the same platform. With such an approach you will decrease the complexity of the solution and save on the integration and operation cost.
What Things Should You Consider While Choosing Your Vendor?
Many of the OTT platform vendors are not able to provide you with the platform for IPTV. The first thing that you need to check when choosing the best platform for IPTV is whether it supports OTT as well. Even though you maybe don’t need OTT today, which is unlikely as providing streaming on mobile devices is almost a must, for sure you will need it in the near future. The same goes for the support for DVB-C, DVB-T, or DVB-S services. If you see that you will need to connect STBs over satellite, cable, or terrestrial networks in the future, select a platform that supports this as well.
It Does Matter Which Device Model You Choose, And Here Is Why…
For IPTV, as you will be using multicast streams for your Linear TV channels, most likely you will be using STB devices. You could use Smart TVs as well, but support for multicast in combination with the DRM is very limited on Smart TVs, so you need to be careful about which model to choose. For STB devices, today everybody is choosing Android STBs. Nobody is buying Linux STB anymore. So this is an easy choice, but regardless if you choose Android TV or Android AOSP STB, the complication comes with support for multicast and DRM. Vendors have several references from such an environment, but many don’t have experience, and many OTT Android STBs will have issues with multicast and DRM.
But, Why Do Android STBs Actually Face Issues?
The main reason why Android STBs have issues with IPTV is that the main driver for STB vendors is OTT streaming. Already on the chipset level, they are primarily testing combinations with HLS / DASH streaming with Widevine and FairPlay DRMs. IPTV projects with Android STB are not so common and consequently not tested so well. However, for the Telco or ISP with their own managed IP network, IPTV makes sense, because it will save a lot of bandwidth compared to OTT streaming. The best guarantee to avoid integration issues is to select an IPTV platform and vendor or system integrator that has several references and can demonstrate to you the fully working solution with Android STB, multicast, and IPTV DRM.
After We Have Chosen The Right Device…
You also need to decide what streaming protocol you want to use for Video on Demand and Catch Up TV services. If you want to keep the RTSP that was traditionally used in IPTV, your selected platform needs to support it. However, I would recommend using HLS for these services, as it is more future-proof. This means you will need to get OTT transcoders if you don’t have them already, but in this way, you will have the same streams for mobile and web devices and for STBs. Otherwise, you will have RTSP servers for STBs and OTT streaming servers for mobile, web, and other OTT devices when you introduce them in your service. As already mentioned, the important thing is that you select a platform that will provide streaming and CDN parts as well.
Pay Attention To FCC Functionality
Another very important thing to consider for IPTV is support for fast channel change (FCC) functionality. Zapping time is one of the most important features for your users and having a short zapping time can differentiate your service from competitors. In traditional IPTV solutions, the FCC server was an almost standard thing, but with Android STB, you need to check which vendor or which IPTV platform can provide you FCC and has already integrated, working Android STB that is used in production.
Remember, You Should Think About Your Users As Well
The last thing to consider is other features that are used in both IPTV and OTT worlds, such as Catchup TV, TV Guide, support for Series, binge-watching, etc. The key thing to consider on the client applications is whether it provides a premium UX. This is very important to get new subscribers and to keep existing ones. The user interface should be easy to use, with smooth and responsive navigation. An additional indicator that shows how good the UX is, is if client applications are providing video thumbnails when doing trick play actions. There are also other anti-churn features that will help you reduce churn and attract new users.
Before Taking The Deep Dive To IPTV/OTT World…
My recommendation is, first, carefully verify the technical and IPTV network requirements of multicast, DRM, and streaming. When you are sure these parts are covered, continue testing the UX and other features. Otherwise, you could lose time testing something that will not even work in the IPTV environment.