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What Does Verizon’s Acquisition of upLynk Imply to IPTV?

Verizon Media Services has recently acquired upLynk, a start-up founded in 2010, for a purported value exceeding $75M. But, why would Verizon pay such a premium for a small video services company with only a dozen employees?

Verizon sees that we are at an inflection point for over-the-top (OTT) video delivery replacing traditional TV broadcasting. In other words, the same Internet revolution that took over our desktops and mobile phones is now heading towards broadcast video and linear services. OTT video is in high demand, but we are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg. The excitement is not just about OTT, but the convergence of a cloud/Internet-based solution with “single-step prep” for all media, adapted to a number of premium applications.

Even so, that’s just the beginning of the story. There are three missing (additional) requirements to truly revolutionize the way we consume TV programming:

#1: A/V pipe virtualization over all network and device types.

We live in an era of proliferation of connected devices. No longer will TV viewing be chained to our home living room over a specially-designed cable, but will be free to roam over any device and network, including mobile.

#2: Service virtualization to make it easy to enhance the viewing experiences and add monetization options.

A successful OTT solution must include normalizing standards, such as HLS and MPEG-DASH, as canonical schema for video service delivery to any device. They bring along common encryption to protect premium content as well as common content preparation and packaging schemes. Normalized standards plus an implementation that is compatible with existing back-office components is required to create a MANAGED service that both coexists with, and augments existing offerings.

#3: Scale, Internet scale.

How can the requirement for individual personalization coexist with the need for massive scale? This can be solved with “manifest manipulation” – the ability to control and customize the video stream and service without the burdensome requirement to be in-line with the content itself.

Taken together, these components can virtualize the entire service offering and enhance content delivery, allowing it to be fully implemented in the Cloud and also available for wholesaling to other value-add providers.

Verizon’s upLynk’s purchase is an important step in our journey to the OTT highway. However, the full benefits of this evolution in video delivery will be realized only when service providers can deploy complete solutions that include the ability to control entitlements for dynamic service provisioning, capture real-time analytics for stream control, and embed manifest manipulation for customization and personalization. That, in a nutshell, is the beacon that is so attractive to service providers like Verizon – OTT video delivery normalized across all networks and device types with a common UX, to extend their brand to any content consumption - anywhere, anytime.

One last point, could Verizon’s acquisition of upLynk be the first attempt by a telco to do what Comcast has done with its RDK/X1/X2 framework?

November 15, 2013 \\ Written by: Cheng Wu
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