Long reads

Q&A: Bartolomeo Caputo, CEO, Altech SetOne, Altech Multimedia

South Africa-based technology company Altech Multimedia has established strong expertise in delivering integrated systems in emerging markets, as Bartolomeo Caputo, CEO of Altech SetOne, the company’s German subsidiary, explained to Digital TV Europe.

How do you see the hybrid broadcast broadband market developing over the next year?
The rollout of high-speed broadband connectivity in various markets enables the delivery of content and rich features such as gaming via this delivery mechanism. The established broadcast markets have identified that revenue streams in the horizontal market are limited whereas a hybrid model can boost existing offerings, delivering new sources of revenue.

To what extent do you think that hybrid offerings are now required if broadcasters are to stave off the threat of competition from OTT offerings?
Hybrid solutions allow broadcasters to enhance their product offering by providing over-the-top/IP content. IP connectivity enables the delivery of features rich augmentations; enhancements to the EPG, additional capabilities such as gaming and media content for the end user. Hybrid solutions allow broadcasters to access markets that could not be addressed using their traditional broadcast setup. Broadcasters can make their offering more attractive, more sticky in the market. They can retain existing subscribers where in many places subscribers are being attracted by services such as Netflix and equivalent services over the internet.

What added value can Altech bring to the user experience?
Altech Multimedia, previously known as Altech UEC, has over 16 years’ experience in delivering innovative products into the broadcast market and more recently into the converged multimedia broadband market. During this time we have partnered with technology solutions providers and customers to deliver best of breed solutions to the end user. As the market moves from being a technology driven market to a market driven by the user experience, we believe Altech Multimedia is well positioned to use our experiences and partnerships to deliver attractive products to meet the end user expectations.

What lessons have you learned from your experience in the South African market – in terms of what both service providers and consumers are looking for and how these needs can be met economically – and to what extent can these be applied globally?
Africa has unique history, we have a strong market in South Africa and good experiences across Africa working with the leading pay TV operator in the market. Unique opportunities and challenges exist in emerging markets such as Africa which means that we have had to be self-sufficient from our own research and development, our own manufacturing facility, through to our own services, support and repairs. We have developed the ability to deliver a complete solution while in most other markets set-top box manufacturers have been focused on specific silos. Over the years we have kept a lot of our own capability, not only technical capabilities but also the capability to deliver on large scale project deliveries, now taking this to other markets such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East etc. even in Australia where they have growing internet capability; we have a complete range of capabilities and solutions that others don’t have.  To enhance our market reach and our technical capability in the market place in order to broaden our market offering, we have acquiring new skills, establishing new technology partnerships and acquiring new companies such as SetOne GmBH in Germany. In the past, there were classical vertical and horizontal markets. Today, the diagonal market is in the focus: Products certified by an operator are distributed via retail. Content protection becomes more important, as many new operators arise, and at the same time the end consumers can be reached by retail. SetOne GmBH has valuable experience in this market, which has now been folded into Altech Multimedia.

How much demand is there for integrated solutions from broadcasters outside the South African market?
We have been inundated by requests during the last nine months. With the acquisition of SetOne GmBH in Germany, Altech Multimedia is now present in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to ensure these requests/opportunities are realised.

What markets globally do you believe offer you as a company the most significant prospects for growth?
Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

How significant is the need for Quality Assurance solutions for IP-based and OTT offerings and to what extent do you believe this to be an investment priority for (a) traditional pay TV providers (b) pure-play OTT service providers? What can you offer in this are and what plans do you have to develop these offerings?
As the market is driven by user experiences there is a growing demand for quality products. Quality Assurance is therefore imperative to ensure an enjoyable user experience with our product as well as the service offered by the content providers/operators. To equip our customers/operators to deliver a quality service we have developed a network monitoring solution that integrates into the customer environment to ensure that offers real-time monitoring of transport streams with simultaneous display of multiple live MPEG streams. This ensures that the highest quality video, content and signaling can be maintained.

How close are you to being able to offer fully managed services for broadcasters and other clients? How much demand do you believe there is for this type of service-based offering from a vendor such as Altech, and how do you think broadcasters and pay TV providers will approach outsourcing of key functions? Are distinctions to be drawn based on the size and scale of their operations?
Altech Multimedia currently offers a number of managed services offerings from within the Service Line of Business. Due to the fact that more and more demands on business there is a growing need by operators/service providers for the right business model. We offer a professional and skilled team that provides end-to-end solutions and helps to find and set up the right business model. Typically in new or emerging businesses we see a shift in outsourcing various functions. These may be in the area of services such as programme management or systems integration or in the network monitoring solution provisioning; The Altech Multimedia Services Line of Business offers these as a managed service.

What other areas of innovation/product/service development do you think offer strong prospects for revenue generation going forwards?
There is a lot of scope in delivery innovative end-to-end solutions into the converged broadband and broadcast environment. As user behaviour evolves and technology advances the demand for a ubiquitous user experience across all consumer devices types will grow. Altech Multimedia continuously investigates new opportunities in developing IPR which is key to the sustainability of our business. All in all, intangible sales will be the aim of the game!