Long reads

Cable Congress Speaker Interview: Paul Bristow, ADB

What should cable’s priority be for 2012?

It’s time to stop thinking of delivering services to a TV set and start thinking of delivering services to a family of subscribers. There are three main elements to this.

Cable operators need to evolve their offer from discrete set-top boxes and DVRs to a true whole-home multiroom experience, including seamless integration of both live and on-demand TV services to a variety of smart devices such as smart phones, tablets, games consoles etc. End-users want to access content on all these devices, and if we don’t meet that demand, we leave the way open for new competing services to enter the home.

Cable operators need to seriously consider stepping up and managing the home network environment so that these services quite simply work throughout the home with the levels of reliability their customers have come to expect.

Of course all access to content must be secured and accessed only by authorised users.

All these services should be packaged in a single, consistent, appealing and easy-to-use user interface.

What does the future hold for the set-top box market?

We’ve all read a lot about the so-called death of the set-top box over recent months. At ADB we firmly believe that the STB is here to stay. Of course that doesn’t mean that the set-top box will stay the same. In the seventeen years that ADB has been around, the set-top box has changed beyond all recognition. We see it shifting from a single function device to a sophisticated converged media and data platform – it is becoming the central media bridge (and more and more the central data bridge) within the home.

Will VOD growth be sustained in 2012?

The shift from live to on-demand content is being assisted by more sophisticated ways to access the on-demand. Whether you call it catch-up, start-over or VOD, the reality is subscribers like being able to watch TV on their terms. We’ve seen that the key drivers for VOD consumption growth are an appealing user experience and a relevant and personal recommendation engine.

So in our opinion, the VOD market will continue to grow in 2012 and ADB is well placed to take advantage of that.

What will the most exciting cable technology devlopment be in 2012?

The combination of DLNA and DTCP-IP has been named by the industry as a “major disruptive technology”. Enabling secure content sharing among devices is changing the very nature of the game for cable operators. It is now possible to create a distributed “virtual” gateway using the different devices within the home network. In our opinion, creating a usable, scalable architecture that can grow with the proliferation of screens, available bandwidth and home networking technologies is more important than selling a single specific technology choice. This approach, including far more powerful devices (some will call them set-top boxes, others will call them gateways), will increase the choices in the home to control and access multiple services on multiple devices.

What has the most exciting technology development been in the past two years?

I’m supposed to talk about my iPad here, but I had a web tablet at home in 1999, so to me it’s just a neat tool that’s finally available – great for media too, obviously. Similarly, as we certified our first DLNA equipped connected TV set-top box in 2007, that technology doesn’t qualify for the “last two years”. Personally, the most exciting technology I’ve been using over the past couple of years has been my 3D printer. Being able to download objects over the internet and print out a physical copy is the first baby steps to the Star Trek replicator.

Paul Bristow is vice-president strategy, middleware and consumer experience, ADB. He will be speaking at Cable Congress, which takes place in Brussels from March 7-9 2012.