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OTT coming to Europe over the Horizon

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 September, 2011

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This week at IBC there was some skin placed on the bones of the UPC Horizon box, something which now has so much hype about it, it could never possibly live up to the expectations observers have placed on it. It may however live up to those placed on it by UPC and its parent Liberty Global.

Whatever the actual benefits, it was a subject that visitors at IBC could hardly get away from, what with UPC CEO Mike Fries keynoting on the subject.

Most European operators have been unable to articulate a genuine strategy for sending video over the internet, and they are looking to this announcement for clues especially as European cable has its own problems, mostly that its ARPUs are too low to pay for the huge digital network upgrades that it so desperately needs. More than 50% of European cable is analog.

When UPC finally announces pricing we expect TV Everywhere benefits to be limited to digital households and the Horizon box to take just the top 10% cream of the UPC customers. That might mean it takes a couple of years to approach half a million shipments. But if it changes the direction of analog customers, it will have been worth it.

UPC Netherlands today has 47% of its 1.9 million customers still on analog lines, and its' very next ports of call are its operations at UnityMedia in Germany and Cablecom in Switzerland, which are 64% and 66% analog. Make no mistake, the device was planned as a digitization accelerator.

Liberty Global has added to the technology partners involved since last year's initial announcement and these now include the original four, Samsung who makes the final box, Intel with the CE4100 chip inside, NDs who has brought the entire project together and delivered middleware and the Snowflake UI and Nagra's conditional access, plus newcomers ioko now part of part of Kit Digital which built the service platform, thePlatform (part of Comcast) which supplied the content management system and Metrological Media Innovations, which has supplied the App Store software

The Horizon box will offer broadcast content, plus web content on what UPC calls an open Apps platform (we wonder what will happen if a rival wants to offer a paid video service over the web as an App?) but primarily this will be made up of a 3,000 strong VoD offering - whether paid or not UPC was unclear, so we suspect both. An SDK will come shortly so that others can join those 60 first up Apps

The box providers cloud based search and recommendation and we assume the recommendation engine, since it hasn't come from a partner, is part of the Snowflake project from NDS. There are separate copies of the Apps for tablets and

Smartphones, and these can also operate as a remote control. Horizon connects around the home with a MoCA connection (chips from Entropic) and Celeno video optimized WiFi and the outputs are DLNA certified.

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