The Three Key Challenges Pay-TV Service Providers Face in Maximizing OTT Reach

By Simon Trudelle, Senior Product Marketing Director, NAGRA

OTT TV services are increasingly important to pay-TV service providers as they deploy multiscreen offerings to complement their core services and to compete more effectively with Internet-based rivals. But delivering them over consumer electronic (CE) devices like PCs, tablets, smartphones, video game consoles, and smart TVs presents several significant challenges regardless of the operator’s network type – whether telco, cable, or satellite. Many of these challenges result from the fact that – unlike the pay-TV set-top-box environment – service providers do not have control of the open devices, which use a wide range of operating systems and standards.


Service providers are dependent upon strategic and technological decisions taken by device manufacturers and software providers. This can leave them vulnerable, for example, to changes in browser platforms used on PCs and to the Android and iOS operating systems of mobile devices. This can also mean that multiscreen TV applications that worked previously may suddenly stop streaming content, creating havoc with subscribers and leading to calls to customer-care
centers, dissatisfaction with the operator, damage to its brand, and loss of revenue. Rather than cement and strengthen the relationship between pay-TV service providers and their customers, OTT TV – if not deployed carefully – could potentially end up undermining customer confidence.

The latest example of this kind of potentially disruptive change is Google’s decision to implement the HTML5 Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) standard to manage DRM content in the Chrome browser, while phasing out support for the Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI). The withdrawal of support for NPAPI – on which Microsoft’s Silverlight streaming media application framework and its PlayReady DRM depend – will affect pay-TV subscribers whose service providers use these players to provide video content within a Chrome browser. Given that the share of the Google Chrome PC browser users is estimated to be more than 52% of a typical pay-TV operator’s subscriber base and that Silverlight and PlayReady are widely used by some service providers, this potentially presents a very significant challenge. For example, Google’s decision led Sky and BT Sport to encourage their subscribers to move from Chrome to Firefox or Internet Explorer.

The theoretical solution to the problem is greater OTT standardization, which would enable service providers to increase their efficiency and reduce the risk in delivering OTT services. While there has been some technical progress in simplifying streaming formats, codecs, and DRM, the reality is that standardization is an ever-evolving process that brings alignment over time but is not the panacea to all market needs in the short term. A more pragmatic approach is required.

Service providers also need to ensure that content security standards are not compromised by choosing a vertical, per-device, per-platform and per-browser vendor approach, and that content licensing complexities are not increased by having to deal with multiple DRM vendors. Pay-TV service providers should not forget that the very Silicon Valley giants (i.e. Apple, Google, and Microsoft among others) that sometimes unilaterally define their proprietary technologies are also their competitors in delivering OTT TV. As a result, dependency on the strategies of these companies increases business risk levels for service providers.

Another fundamental requirement is the provision of a consistent set of pay-TV-centric features and use cases, available across all devices and platforms. Such capabilities are best provided by a secure player, with features such as multiple audio tracks, subtitles, dynamic advertising, and trick modes, as well as use cases such as casting or sharing between devices. As well as streaming standards and DRMs, it is important to include the overall and consistent control of the TV experience delivered across multiple devices that also interact with each other. Understanding the longer-term implications of technical decisions related to OTT and multiscreen TV content delivery and their impact on business is absolutely key for the success of service providers.

To find out more about making the most of your OTT service, download our new white paper  “Optimizing Multiscreen TV Delivery with a Secure Video Player” and contact us at to see how we can help.