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Q&A: Hermann Riedl, WIND Hellas & Patrick Vos, Zappware

WIND Hellas Chief Strategy and Digital transformation Officer Hermann Riedl and Zappware CEO Patrick Vos talk about the development of WIND’s innovative new hybrid IP and DTT, Android TV-based TV service

What was WIND Hellas aiming to achieve by developing its TV service?

HR WIND is one of the biggest fixed-line operators in the Greek market and had so far been the only one without a pay TV service. We needed a service that would differentiate us. We saw that providing an advanced user experience and meaningful integration with OTT TV services presented a key opportunity. Zappware proposed the best solution to meet these needs within a very aggressive timeline. We knew that the opportunity would not last forever. We launched WIND VISION with the latest digital TV features such as catch-up TV and multiscreen, and were also the first to integrate Netflix. We are the first Greek operator to have Android TV with a huge wealth of functionality for our customers including voice search, Chromecast integration, Bluetooth and a gaming console, and tons of apps, all at zero cost to us. It is a world apart from what the legacy platforms have to offer.

What were the key challenges in delivering the service?

PV Most Android deployments are pure OTT services. This service is a hybrid DVB-T and OTT offering. What WIND understood from day one is the need for the aggregation of content and functionality across devices, all based on a single, seamless UX. Viewers want to be able to see all content on HDMI1. In implementing this we provided our back office running on Amazon Web Services, and our new Nexx4.0 user interface running on Android TV on a hybrid set-top box. We got the green light to go ahead with the project last March and the first boxes for user trial and testing were available in January, so that means we had nine months from scratch to test and build a headend, dishes, the back-office in the cloud and set-top boxes ahead of a full trial in January leading to a commercial launch at the end of April.

HR We had some changes during the project. We didn’t know initially if we would launch with Netflix. We acquired sports rights that come with special conditions in terms of rights management and concurrency in the CDN. We deployed lots of new technologies. Only 10 or 11 operators have launched Android TV in Europe before us, and even fewer have deployed a hybrid solution. The ABR unicast system is very future-proof and safe but not many people have delivered ABR unicast live streams to the set-top box. Our WiFi deployment is very successful. More than half our boxes are being connected to WiFi and it works. That is the power of a unicast solution. We are really using the latest technology to make an impact.

What benefits did Android TV provide for WIND?

HR The UI embodies our proposition of combining all free-to-air channels with Netflix, YouTube and Google Movies, all as one experience. WIND VISION customers have all the Android apps available at the touch of a button. We didn’t even need do our own transactional VOD offering. On Android TV users have Google Play movies without need to provide minimum guarantees but with the advantage of carrier billing. It is an advanced service with features that we would never have developed on our own. I have access to the best SVOD service in the world and TVOD as well. On the other hand we also have unique content with Greek channels that are not offered by any of the pure OTT players, and pay TV channels, all delivered via one EPG. The overall technology solution was provided end-to-end by Zappware – and the outcome is excellent.

What did providing an end-to-end solution mean for Zappware?

PV It was very advantageous for us because we could make the best vendor selection to meet a very aggressive timeline. Normally we provide the complete UX from device to billing, but in this case we provided all the logistics of video delivery end-to-end. That gave us the opportunity to manage the whole ecosystem and that deliver a great UX. We chose Android TV from day one and moved the back office into the cloud based on AWS with micro-services to add new modules. In this fast evolving market, if you need to add features to the UX, you need a dynamic back office. Basing this in the cloud provided scalability and ease of operation and deployment of new features. The result is a very nice product as it stands, but the foundation is also there to keep up with fast-evolving trends in the future. Taking on this responsibility was also a journey that brought additional value to our proposition in the market.

What has the service been received in the Greek market?

HR WIND VISION is the talk of the town in Greece at the moment. As WIND was the coming in as the number four player in the pay TV market, people had not expected something like the experience we provide, including Netflix and an iconic set-top box design, with WiFi as an option and everything else. We organized a huge launch event and showed we were producing something that would disrupt the market. WIND VISION has made a big impact and has been a game-changer for our whole brand.

This Q&A is sponsored content.