Bee Lian Ong, Vice President of TV Engineering, StarHub, shares her views on the opening up of the pay-TV market, key technological priorities and more!

PayTV Innovation Forum - StarHub

The Pay-TV Innovation Forum is a global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives, developed by NAGRA and MTM, and designed to catalyse growth and innovation across the global TV industry, at a time of tremendous change and disruption.

As part of the programme, we are publishing a series of interviews with leading TV industry executives from around the world to explore their views, perspectives and experiences of innovation. In this interview, Bee Lian Ong, Vice President of TV Engineering at StarHub shares her views on the opening up of the pay-TV market, key technological priorities for next-generation pay-TV providers, and the role that telcos could play in the new competitive landscape.

What are the key trends and developments impacting pay-TV providers in Singapore?

In the past, pay-TV providers used to operate managed networks and platforms, giving them complete control over the delivery of these services. With OTT, pay-TV providers have an opportunity to reach new customers who are not within the managed network or who do not own the provider’s set-top box. It has become a more open market.

There is also a change in terms of which content packages consumers subscribe to. Even when pay-TV providers continue to offer big bouquets of channels, they need to provide a wider selection to cater to evolving consumer preferences. There are many more standalone packages targeting non-traditional TV customers. At StarHub, we cater to a variety of customer segments, so we need to offer something that appeals to each one of them. We still offer big bouquets of channels to families looking for a lean-back experience, but have also introduced a standalone StarHub GO OTT service and started offering more thematic packages and a la carte options.

How do pay-TV providers need to evolve their technology platforms to distribute their services in this more open market?

When it comes to technological transformation, there is a strong focus on flexibility, agility, and cost efficiency. We are adopting more and more software-based, IP, virtualised, and cloud technologies. We are delivering our services over unmanaged networks to a growing number of devices such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and other devices. As our services are increasingly delivered over-the-top, we need to support multiple streaming formats and offer adaptive bitrate streaming to provide service assurance and ensure quality over the broadband network. The OTT technology landscape is evolving rapidly so we need adapt quickly and be agile enough to make the necessary changes, as required. We also have to work closely with various ecosystem partners and third-party technology providers to constantly enhance our OTT services and capabilities.

What are the most important enablers of innovation in pay-TV?

I believe we need to take a 360-degree view of innovation. In addition to being more agile and flexible on the technology side through various software-based and IP solutions, we need to consider the whole user experience and needs. This covers many aspects, including our content packages, how consumers interact with the user interface, how they discover content, and how they can become more engaged with the services. A key enabler of innovation in this area is anonymised customer data analytics as well as other types of analytics and AI applications we can leverage to create a more holistic experience. At the end of the day, the more you understand about your customers’ evolving needs, the better the service you can provide.

What are the most attractive areas of products and services for pay-TV providers to focus on over the next five years?

In the current competitive landscape, where everyone is launching OTT services, the market is becoming increasingly crowded. The question that consumers are starting to ask is: should I subscribe to ten different OTT services individually or should I go to an aggregator. At the same time, OTT service providers are realising that running these services is complex and costly. Existing telcos and pay-TV providers are well-placed to aggregate these services – they have the telco infrastructure, capabilities to cross-bundle services, to manage the customer relationship, and to provide customer care and billing. Overall, I believe there is an opportunity for a new ecosystem of partnerships, which would create a win-win for the operator as an aggregator and content providers – and other ecosystem partners – to innovate and create new business models for the new era of pay-TV.