Providing for the providers

Video and multimedia consumption is going through the roof, and all across the industry debate is raging about how best to support this content. recently spoke with Simon Orme, GM of content services at BT Wholesale about providing for the providers.

Orme’s background is in broadcast, he started his career at the BBC, something which stands him in good stead for his current role. But he also spent two years in Malaysia working as alliance director for Maxis, giving him valuable partnering skills, which also come in useful in these changing times.

Orme notes that historically, there have been tensions between the retail ISP industry and the content industry, but in an ever converging world both industries have a common agenda, with Orme able to see both sides of the “two sided business model.”

“We’re moving away from a broadcast world and the IP world is very different. More and more content is being consumed in an IP environment, not necessarily on demand, but there is an increasing preference for consuming that way. There are also better options for collaboration. Broadband is just another channel to market for content providers, and there is now an element of dependency about how they can work with broadband providers,” he says.

“BT Wholesale is in a position to understand that the carrier side of the equation has needs that have to be addressed on one hand, and also understands that broadcasters have challenges that need addressing too. “

Elaborating on the two sided business model, Orme says that increasingly, the market is moving away from a proprietary and siloed IPTV business model to something that is more hybrid in its manifestation. Users want content from their IPTV provider but also want to enjoy OTT (over the top) content from other providers and we need to be able to service both types of requirements,” he says.

“So we need to support any business model, from on net services to reduce cost and manage the user experience as well as deliver OTT. It’s a new mixed economy – the platform used to be tethered or hardwired end to end, but increasingly, we’re seeing the emergence of loosely coupled ecosystems replacing ‘platforms’ in the old language. For example now you can watch iPlayer on a PS3, and we need to be able to support that activity.

“We’re building the content services, not the content itself, and providing the technology that supports content-based propositions. We provide horizontal services, things that can be scaled and provided to multiple customers. Retailers do not look upon these things as a differentiation,” he says.

What the content service providers do differentiate on is not BT Wholesale’s business, but Orme predicts that the growth curve for IP-based content consumption will be flat for a long time if the industry doesn’t address consumer behaviour. “You have to ask what makes the service more compelling than other means? Pay content is definitely growing but is still small – consider how Netflix’s online proposition is growing but is dwarfed by what they send out in jiffy bags.”

At this point Orme gives a nod towards Ultraviolet, an industry initiative to try and simplify the usage model to address consumer demand, one that recognises that DRM and silos are not widely interoperable.

Simon Orme is speaking at the Industry Outlook event, November 25

“Hopefully these kind of initiatives will address issues at the free to consume end of the market. Such as can I get reliable quality content onto a screen that’s 40 or 50 inches big in the living room as opposed to web TV experience we used to? he says. “The industry has not quite grasped that we’re moving from an internet experience to a TV experience that happens to be delivered over broadband. Those two things are very different. Sure it’s easy to persuade ourselves that on demand is the future of everything but it’s sobering to look at the state of market and realise that 90 per cent of viewing hours are still through traditional broadcast media. Most of the rest is off PVR’s in the home. This is a dose of reality,” he says.

But BT does have a large role to play in shifting that perception by helping create economies of scale. Orme revealed that BT Wholesale is currently working on Content Connect, a development for managed network services optimised around the delivery of large objects like video for download and streaming, making it a standard service, driving better economies for all.


Listen to the audio interview with Simon Orme, GM of content services at BT Wholesale

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