Monday, August 13, 2012

Top 3 Goals to Reinvent the IP-based Set-top Box

Infonetics Research released excerpts from the results of its latest market study, which captures pay-TV service provider requirements for hybrid IP-based set-top boxes (STBs) to deliver video entertainment services.

"In a change from the 2011 edition of our IP set-top box survey, Cisco is now perceived as the overall top IP set-top box supplier by operators, while Motorola was top dog last year," notes Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for broadband access and video at Infonetics Research.

This is consistent with the Infonetics set-top box market share reporting -- where Cisco has led in global IP STB revenue share for a total of four straight quarters.

Cisco's efforts over the past year to expand its IP set-top box lineup and customer base, and the major contracts it has scored with AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and Telus are paying off -- according to the Infonetics assessment.

That being said, device design and user interface innovation has been slow to emerge in this key pay-TV product category. At the end of last year, I outlined the big challenges and opportunities in the U.S. pay-TV marketplace.

Why it's Time to Reinvent the IP STB

As we get closer to the end of 2012, I'm now wondering when there will be some significant change to the user experience. I can think of three key goals that need to be on a product developer timeline.

When will we see the end of STB remote controls with dozens of tiny buttons, and channel-centric program guides that aren't user configurable? When will we witness a hybrid set-top box that truly harnesses the full potential of an IP-based pay-TV offering? When will user experience design creativity be applied to this product category?

Those are what I believe to be the primary customer-centric expectations for meaningful progress. In contrast, Infonetics has identified the top five STB features, from a pay-TV service provider point of view.


Hightlights from the latest market study include:
  • 94 percent of service providers participating in Infonetics' survey use IP STBs to deliver video services.
  • Carriers identified the top 3 critical IP STB applications as video on demand (VOD), electronic program guide (EPG), and whole-home DVR.
  • STB social networking capabilities (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) were not rated highly by survey respondents.
  • Ethernet is the leading technology for connecting STBs to home networks and sharing media with other devices, followed by 802.11n and universal plug and play (UPnP).
  • Increases in HD programming and time-shifted viewing are placing greater storage burdens on the STB: 71 percent of operator respondents believe they will need more than 500G of hard drive capacity by 2013.
  • Cisco and Motorola are tied as the most installed IP STB suppliers among carriers, followed by Amino.

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