26Jan U.S. 10 bridge proposal honors Midland’s Ullom Categories: Glenn News,Glenn Photos Stamas, Glenn present bridge memorial bill to House panelKevin Ullom speaks to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about his son, U.S. Navy Corpsman Aaron Ullom, who was killed in action during deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. Also providing support for Senate Bill 513 to designate a U.S. 10 bridge for Aaron’s service and sacrifice were, from left: Sen. Jim Stamas; Rep. Gary Glenn; Debi Ullom, Aaron’s mother; and Sean Bartley, his brother.Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, and Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, appeared today before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure with Aaron D. Ullom’s parents, Kevin and Debi Ullom, and his brother, Sean Bartley, to support Senate Bill 513.The legislation designates the U.S.10 bridge over Eastman Avenue in Midland as the “Corpsman Aaron D. Ullom Memorial Bridge.”“This bridge will forever memorialize Aaron, a son of Midland, for his service to our country and his heroic action to aid a fellow soldier while under enemy fire,” said Rep. Glenn, a member of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Senator Stamas and I both served our country in uniform, and we know the people of Midland will join us in honoring the sacrifice made by Corpsman Ullom and his family.”Ullom, a 2009 Midland High School graduate, was a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy when on July 12, 2011 he was killed by enemy gunfire while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, after leaving his small ditch to apply a tourniquet to a wounded Marine. For his actions, Corpsman Ullom was awarded the Purple Heart.“America is strong today because of patriots like Aaron,” said Sen. Stamas. “The people of Midland and the entire state are proud to call Aaron one of our own, and this memorial bridge would stand as a permanent reminder of the life of a native son who never returned home.”The Michigan Memorial Highway Act of 2001 allows for naming bridges and highways within the state to memorialize people or events of significance. The act requires that the cost of constructing, erecting and maintaining the sign and other costs associated with the designation be borne by the individuals or organization requesting the designation.The House committee unanimously approved SB 513, with bipartisan support, for consideration by the full House.
20Sep Rep. Cole promotes Rail Safety Week in September Categories: Cole News State Rep. Triston Cole, of Mancelona, today introduced a resolution, declaring Sept. 24-30 as Rail Safety Week in Michigan.While the number of highway-rail crossing collisions, deaths and injuries has dropped over the past five decades, it is a startling fact that a person or vehicle is hit by a train about every three hours in the U.S.Sixty-eight crashes occurred at public highway-rail grade crossings in 2016, resulting in eight fatalities and 26 injuries in Michigan. Michigan ranked in the top 10 nationally for highway-rail crossing incidents last year. “My goal is to raise awareness of rail safety and keep Michigan citizens safe,” said Cole, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It’s imperative that we continue to educate the public about the dangers at crossings and trespassing on railroad tracks.”This year Michigan will join 47 other states in implementing “Operation Lifesaver,” a regional rail safety initiative during the inaugural National Rail Safety Week.###
Categories: Whiteford News 26Feb Rep. Whiteford announces March office hours State Rep. Mary Whiteford will meet with Allegan County residents during scheduled office hours next month.“District office hours are a great way to connect and hear from members of the community,” Rep. Whiteford said. “I encourage area residents to attend and share the issues important to them and to their families.”Rep. Whiteford will be available Monday, March 18 at the following times and locations:9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Douglas City Hall, 86 W Center St. in Douglas; and11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Allegan District Library, 331 Hubbard St. in Allegan.No appointments are necessary. Those who are unable to attend at the scheduled times, but would like an opportunity to talk with Rep. Whiteford may call her office at (517) 373-0836 or email MaryWhiteford@house.mi.gov.###
Categories: Huizenga News 07Mar Rep. Huizenga announces new job opportunities State Rep. Mark Huizenga commended today an announcement of 100 new jobs soon to be created in the City of Walker thanks to an expansion by BISSELL, Inc. The company’s existing Walker headquarters will be expanded to facilitate its growing global operations.“I am excited for these new career opportunities for the hard-working people of the 74th District,” Rep. Huizenga said. “Kent County is a growing community, and it is encouraging to see Bissell recognize Walker as an ideal place to continue their longstanding investment in West Michigan.”BISSELL is a family-owned business founded in 1876 that creates premium home cleaning products. The expansion, which includes a $10 million investment, is supported by a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Walker location was chosen over other out-of-state possibilities and
Share2Tweet10ShareEmail12 SharesJune 25, 2018; New York TimesIn September 2017, NPQ wrote about the efforts of the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, California, to sue fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron to get compensation for the costs involved in dealing with climate change. Last week, Judge William Alsup of San Francisco’s Federal District Court, dismissed the case.Alsup pointed out in a 16-page opinion that no municipality has succeeded with a nuisance claim due to climate change to date. NPQ also reported that public nuisance lawsuits have not succeeded. Nevertheless, the lawsuits haven’t slowed; there are over a hundred cases, public nuisance and liability, still pending, including a suit by New York City and the “Climate Kids” constitutional climate lawsuit backed by the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. The Climate Kids have an October 29th court date.Though the judge acknowledged the science of global warming with a lengthy explanation, he passed the responsibility to deal with a problem that comprehensive to the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Judge Alsup noted in his opinion, “The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case.” Under California’s common law, public nuisance is cited in cases where there is an interference of property use.The National Association of Manufacturers claimed the suit was unsupported. “From the moment these baseless lawsuits were filed, we have argued that the courtroom was not the proper venue to address this global challenge,” said the group’s chief executive, Jay Timmons. Judge Vince Chhabria, of the same court as Alsup, has sent cases to state court instead of dismissing them, so they are still pending.Where government has not stepped up, organizations and municipalities believe that litigation is the only way to go. Judge Alsup indicated in his opinion that the modern world’s use of fossil fuels is partially to blame: “Would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”Using lawsuits as a tool to halt climate change, often funded by municipalities or nonprofits like Our Children’s Trust and Earth Rights may be necessary, but they will need to have a major win to mark litigation as the way to bring more focus on climate change.—Marian ConwayCorrection: This article has been altered from its initial form to describe the Climate Kids suit as a “constitutional climate lawsuit,” as per Our Children’s Trust.Share2Tweet10ShareEmail12 Shares
Discovery HD has launched on the Sky Deutschland platform in Germany and Austria as part of the Sky World package.The launch will bring HD versions of content including How We Invented the World and Shark Week to Sky Deutschland subscribers.The move brings to eight the number of HD services available in the Sky World package.
Netflix has picked up exclusive rights to kids series Mako Mermaids from ZDF Enterprises, the commercial arm of the German public broadcaster.The live-action series is a follow-up to ZDFE-distributed hit kids series H20 – Just Add Water, which has also proved popular on Netflix in North America, Latin America and Europe.Both shows are from Australian producer Jonathan M. Shiff Productions. Coproduction and financing partners on the series include Screen Australia, Network Ten, ZDF, ZDF Enterprises and Screen Queensland.Mako Mermaids is set in the same world established in H20 and follows a teenage boy camping on Mako Island, unaware it is inhabited by a trio of mermaids, Lyla, Nixie and Sirena.Netflix has inked an exclusive deal for the series for its services in Europe, North and Latin America. The deal comes soon after the US-listed firm inked a huge original content deal with DreamWorks.“We are thrilled to be the exclusive home of Mako Mermaids in all Netflix territories,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “H20 hit an amazing chord with teens around the world who love the clever mixture of action, comedy and romance that Jonathan Shiff and his talented team have created.”The first thirteen episodes of Mako Mermaids will launch in all Netflix territories on July 26, to coincide with its debut on commissiong broadcaster, Australia’s Network Ten. The second half of the season will arrive in September. Netflix has also committed to a second season of the show.
Fox International Channels (FIC) is due to launch a second sports network in Italy, four months after it rolled out the Fox Sports channel in the country.Fox Sports 2 will be available exclusively to Sky Italia’s Sport Package subscribers starting December 20.The network will heavily feature Amercian sports, including NFL football and Euroleague basketball. By contrast, the existing Fox Sports channel is focused on European and international football matches.“The launch of Fox Sports 2 in Italy follows FIC’s ongoing sports expansion strategy, which over the past two years has rapidly swelled the brand’s footprint from 17 million households outside of the United States to over 71 million subscribers presently,” the firm said.
Wananchi-owned East African pay TV operator Zuku TV has commissioned an original, locally produced political drama series, State House.A co-production between Wananchi Programming and Kenyan production company Awali Entertainment for the Zuku Entertainment channel – formerly Zuku Afrika, State House is a modern day political drama set in Nairobi’s presidential residence. The 12 x 30 minute series was made in the capital and features well-known East-African actors.Zuku Entertainment’s commission of State House follows the platform’s recent premiere of Groove Theory, a mix of music and drama that was directed for the stage and filmed for television.“State House is Kenya’s answer to The West Wing. It is an excellent example of high quality locally produced Kenyan drama,” said Hannelie Bekker, managing director of Wananchi Programming.“The first ever series to dramatise the inner workings of a living and breathing East African political institution, State House demonstrates Zuku’s ongoing commitment to investing in unique and original content, which delivers relevant and compelling stories for our audience. Zuku Entertainment’s ambition is to be the home of thrilling drama and entertainment, and State House provides all this and more.”
Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries.Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries says the firm is on the “right track” with its next-generation TV service, and revealed that it is gearing up to roll out Horizon to Poland next.Speaking on the company’s first quarter earnings call, Fries said that Poland – which will be Liberty’s fifth market for Horizon – will receive a version of the service based on the RDK platform that it, along with Time Warner Cable and Comcast, supports.He added that the Polish service will get a cloud-based version of the Horizon UI, which he claimed is “cheaper, faster, and smarter.”Also on the earnings call, Liberty CTO Balan Nair elaborated: “We started Horizon with middleware from NDS, and we have now evolved that and we’re slowly migrating off to the RDK stack that we’ve been working with Comcast and Time Warner Cable.“We will launch in Poland… a version called 1.2. Then there will be another version of RDK that we’re looking at for next year that brings even more functionality to the device.”In its results, Liberty said that it ended the first quarter with more than 550,000 Horizon TV subscribers across four countries – the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland and Germany. With an additional 2.1 million Virgin Media TiVo customers the UK, Liberty Global said that its next-generation video base now exceeds 2.6 million subscribers.“I’m more and more excited about Horizon as time goes by, and more and more convinced that we’re on the right track. I’m thankful that we pushed for such an important and sophisticated user experience. Every cable operator will get here at some point. It just feels good to have already arrived,” said Fries.Breaking down some of its Horizon numbers on the call, Fries said that Switzerland is its most successful market for the service, with 160,000 Horizon TV subs, or 24% penetration of its digital TV base.
Amazon has started shipping its Fire TV internet streaming box to customers in the UK today, priced at £79.At launch content will be available from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, Channel 5, Sky News, Curzon Home Cinema, Vevo, YouTube, Scottish broadcaster STV and OTT live TV viewing service TVPlayer.“Fire TV is a great piece of technology and we are delighted to have been invited by Amazon to form part of the UK launch. This demonstrates TVPlayer’s commitment to making its popular content available to new audiences and users across multiple platforms,” said Lewis Arthur, platform manager of TVPlayer.Alistair Brown, chief technology and platforms officer at STV said: “This latest launch enhances our multi-platform presence and gives our consumers greater access to our content, meaning viewers in Scotland can continue to watch their favourite STV and STV Glasgow programmes free of charge, anytime and anywhere they choose to.”Amazon first announced it was launching Amazon Fire TV in Europe back in September – starting in Germany on September 25 and rolling out in the UK on October 23.Fire TV streams in up to full-HD 1080p, has voice search with a built-in microphone in the remote control and also lets users play games such as Minecraft.Amazon claims the device’s quad-core processor gives it three times the processing power of Apple TV, and its 2GB of memory means that it has four times the memory of Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast.
YouTube has redesigned its official mobile app, adding clip editing tools and support for full-screen vertical videos for the first time.The update – which is available now on Android and mobile web, and will follow soon on iOS – is designed to make it “easier than ever to find videos you love and create them, too,” according to YouTube.“You’ve got an amazing camera in your phone or tablet, and now you can trim your footage, tint the image with filters, add music, and upload – all inside the app,” the firm said in a blog post announcing the update.The new version of the app also introduces three new tabs: a ‘home’ tab that includes recommendations based on your viewing history; a ‘subscriptions’ tab for the latest videos from your favourite channels; and an ‘account’ tab that has your playlists, watch history, and uploaded videos.
The Modern Times Group is rolling out two new channels, Viasat Series and Viasat Films and amending the line-ups of other Viasat offerings.The new nets will launch in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and the content from the linear services will also be on the Viaplay streaming service.In connection to the launch of Viasat Series and Viasat Film Hits, some further changes will also be made to the Viasat Film channels line-up. Viasat Film will now be known as Viasat Film Premiere. Viasat Nature’s prime time schedule will be extended and replace Viasat Crime, while the best crime series will be shown on Viasat Series and Viaplay.Viasat Series will be programmed with new and classic TV dramas and entertainment shows. The launch line-up includes, on an exclusive basis, Empire, and it also sees Blue Bloods, Californication, House of Lies, Nurse Jackieand The Late Late Show with James Corden.The Viasat Crime brand will be phased out, with an extended Viasat Nature offering replacing it, with crime shows shifting to Viasat Series and Viaplay.Viasat Film Hits, which will be available in Finland as well as the aforementioned launch territories, will carry new and library blockbuster movies. The launch grid includes Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay – Part 1 as well as older titles such as Tootsie.The existing Viasat Film channel will be rebranded Viasat Film Premiere.“Viasat Series and Viasat Film Hits strengthen our proposition, showcasing the most talked about, the most desirable and the best loved content on the market,” said Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, MT’s executive VP, head of programming & Content Development. “We have listened to our customers and hope that they will be as excited about these new channels – and the fantastic new shows on them – as we are.”The launch of the new channels and changes to the existing offering mean an overall increase in the amount of content transmitted, MTG said.
Satellite operator SES’s third quarter revenues and EBITDA were boosted by favourable exchange rates, with revenue up 6.1% to €1.493 billion and EBITDA up 5.4% to €1.106 billion.Revenue at constant exchange rates was down 2.9%, thanks to lower transponder sales under its agreement with rival Eutelsat and the impact of capacity renewal agreements with EchoStar in the US.HD TV channels on SES’s satellites grew by 18.6% to 2,178, with HD penetration growing from 28.6% to 30.6% of all channels. SES reported it had six commercial agreements in place for UHD services by the end of the period.SES has continued to be productive in the third quarter 2015. SES has been first out of the starting gate in the commercial introduction of Ultra HD, building on the milestone of Europe’s first commercial UHD channel, pearl.tv – and adding further agreements in Europe and North America with Sky Deutschland, NASA TV, Fashion One, High 4K and TERN,” said Karim Michel Sabbagh, president and CEO.“SES has exciting opportunities ahead and is well placed to deliver sustained medium to long-term growth. Our relentless execution of a differentiated strategy allows us to capitalise on the strong demand drivers across the four market verticals now defining SES’s business.”
Vice Media CEO Shane Smith said that the company would launch 20 TV channels around the world this year, at company’s Digital Content NewFronts event in New York on Friday.Smith, who began his short speech by lying on the floor and concluded it by singing a cover of Sham 69’s 1978 punk hit If The Kids Are United, reportedly said he planned to make Vice the “fastest-growing network in the fucking history of TV”.He also said that Vice is due to launch six new digital verticals covering the topics of travel, health, gaming, money, LGBTQ and sustainability.The first four of these brand channels were previously confirmed by Vice’s chief creative officer Eddy Moretti at MIPTV in April.Vice launched its Viceland TV channel the US and Canada in February and has already confirmed plans to roll it out to the UK and Ireland via Sky in September, and to launch a French version of the channel with Canal+ this autumn.A horizontal @shanesmith30 announces 7 new @VICE verticals at the #NewFronts pic.twitter.com/yWiawPycm9— iab (@iab) May 6, 2016
Vivendi lost control of Telecom Italia (TIM) at the end of last week, with its bitter rival Elliott Advisors securing a bigger share of votes and hence a majority for its slate of proposed board members.Amos GenishElliott’s victory meant that its slate secured two thirds of the seats on the TIM board. Fulvio Conti, one of the slate, replaces Vivendi’s Arnaud de Puyfontaine as chairman. The other Elliott slate appointees are Alfredo Altavilla, Massimo Ferrari, Paola Giannotti de Ponti, Luigi Gubitosi, Paola Bonomo, Maria Elena Cappello, Lucia Morselli, Dante Roscini and Rocco Sabelli.TIM’s new board did however confirm Amos Genish’s appointment as CEO. Genish previously made following the company’s existing industrial plan a condition of his staying on.Vivendi secured the appointment of five of its slate on the 15-strong board – Genish, De Puyfontaine and independents Marella Moretti, Michele Valensise and Giuseppina Capaldo.Putting a brave face on the situation, the media company said that it would “be extremely vigilant in ensuring that Amos Genish receives assurance from the Board members presented by Elliott that the 2018-2020 industrial plan can be achieved in its entirety and in all its coherence”.Welcoming Genish’s appointment, it reaffirmed its “long-term commitment for the telecoms operator” and argued that the measures already taken to improve the company’s profitability were “already bearing fruit”.Conti said that the board had “full confidence” in Genish and that it would “support [him] in the implementation of the 2018-2020 strategic plan”.Genish also said that the support of the new board would enable the management team “ to continue implementing the DigiTIM strategy, which is already bearing fruit and delivering the value TIM is capable of creating”.Ahead of the May 4 shareholders meeting that decided the make-up of the board, Elliott had reiterated that independent directors would “evaluate the merits” of its “value creation proposals…in conjunction with management, to determine whether and when to implement them in the best interest of long-term value creation for all shareholders”.Elliott, which has been accused by Vivendi of promoting the break-up of the company thanks to its advocacy of a sale of TIM’s infrastructure arm, said that it “trusts the management” to evaluate this plan, and that it also accepted the importance of TIM achieve investment grade status before paying a dividend.Elliott said that there was “no alternative business plan” for the company to the current one.TIM still faces the prospect of being fined up to 1% of its annual turnover for its late notification that Vivendi had emerged as the company’s largest shareholder, although the company is expected to make an effort to negotiate the penalty down.
Sony Pictures Television (SPT) has launched an PlayStation on-demand app for children in the UK that features some of the best-known shows from its free-to-air kids channel POP.SPT partnered with Sony Interactive Entertainment UK (SIE UK) for the launch of the POP App, which is aimed at seven to 11 year-olds and is available on PlayStation 4 games consoles from the PlayStation Store.The POP App offers on-demand content from POP and POP MAX, including titles such as Pokémon, Power Rangers and Lego Nexo Knights.“At SPT, we’re focused on strengthening our direct-to-consumer businesses and are committed to developing new ways to reach audiences,” said Ian Durndell, executive vice president, digital distribution and direct-to-consumer.“This partnership with our sister company, PlayStation, gives us an exciting opportunity to reach out to more family audiences with some of the UK’s most popular kids content through the PS4 network.”The launch comes after SPT released its POP Fun App last year, which gave viewers access to POP’s selection of kids entertainment through TV, tablet and mobile devices.
Netflix’s recent interconnect deals with Comcast and Verizon in the US have highlighted the challenging nature of the relationship between OTT providers and ISPs. As IP content proliferates, how will CDN infrastructure evolve and who will hold power? Anna Tobin reports. Is it time to get out the violins? Are ISPs justified in feeling that they are being taken for a ride? Cable and telecom companies have spent years aggregating and creating content to retain old and entice new customers. Now many content owners are taking the OTT route, sending their content down the ISPs’ pipes free of charge and their customers just can’t get enough of it, they are often even prepared to pay the content owners direct for their content.Now, some large consolidated ISPs are attempting to turn the tables to try to regain control of their traffic to make it pay.The unhappy marriage between Netflix and Comcast in the US is the most high-profile case pointing to this power shift. The way Netflix sees it, Comcast is effectively charging third-party content providers to access its souped-up highways to reach their customers. Netflix could have refused and taken the toll-free route, but this, they argue is congested and results in slow streaming speeds and poor Quality of Experience for viewers.In a statement explaining the company’s reluctant decision to comply, Ken Florance, vice-president, content delivery at Netflix says: “Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for direct interconnection to reverse an unacceptable decline in our members’ video experience on the Comcast network. These members were experiencing poor streaming quality because Comcast allowed its links to internet transit providers like Level3, XO, Cogent and Tata to clog up, slowing delivery of movies and TV shows to Netflix users.”Subsequently, Netflix has signed a similar deal with Verizon, but it still argues that having to enter these commercial agreements goes against the principle of net neutrality.Presumably to avoid opening themselves up to probing questions, neither party was willing to be interviewed about this story. But, in a statement, Jennifer Khoury, senior vice-president, corporate and digital communications in public policy at Comcast, claims that Netflix is presenting a distorted view of the situation.“Netflix’s decision to reroute its internet traffic was about improving Netflix’s business model. While it’s understandable for Netflix to try to make all internet users pay for its costs of doing business, as opposed to just their customers, the company should at least be honest about its cost-shifting strategy,” says Khoury. “Comcast has a multiplicity of other agreements like the one Netflix approached us to negotiate and so has every other ISP for the last two decades. Those agreements have not harmed consumers or increased costs for content providers – if anything, they have decreased the costs those providers would have paid to others.”The Netflix-Comcast dispute has led the whole industry to rethink the positions of the different players in the market. The disharmony goes beyond this particular dispute, says Nivedita Nouvel, vice-president of marketing at CDN technology provider Broadpeak.“The story probably started three years ago with the Level3-Comcast-Netflix case. At the time, an agreement could not be reached between its [Netflix’s] CDN provider, Level3, and one of the biggest operators in the US, Comcast,” says Nouvel. “To Netflix, this agreement was a key element in addressing an important portion of its market. The company’s practice of dealing directly with the last-mile owner, which fully controls its network, probably comes from this painful experience. Inevitably, this brings many questions to the floor concerning who should handle what part of the video streaming business.”Major ISPs across the world are equally concerned about who should be meeting the costs of transporting streamed traffic. In a guarded statement, a Virgin Media spokesperson said: “As people do more online than ever before, we should be talking about ways to ensure continued investment, innovation and a great online experience.”Commercial agreementsNetflix is promoted via an app on Virgin Media UK’s TiVo boxes, and marketed to Virgin Media customers. Such mutually beneficial commercial agreements are likely to become more commonplace, predicts Jon Haley, vice-president, marketing and business development at technology provider Edgeware.“Good examples are Swedish cable operator Com Hem, which offers Netflix on its TiVo boxes, and Jazztel, the Spanish telco, which has been offering local broadcaster Prisa TV’s OTT service under its own Canal+ Yomvi brand since 2012,” he says.Meanwhile, other ISPs are looking to their customers to shoulder the cost of the extra traffic. Christy Thomas, director of business strategy at Alcatel-Lucent Core Networks, cites Deutsche Telekom as an example. “We are seeing different reactions from different operators trying to protect their investments as OTT providers fill their pipes with traffic. Deutsche Telecom in Germany tried to put some limits on the traffic their subscribers can access, but they’ve upset a lot of their subscribers as a result. I think the trend will be more towards service providers partnering with OTTs as Virgin Media and Comcast have done [in their different ways] with Netflix,” he says. “What we are seeing is an ongoing migration of traffic to the most cost-effective way of delivering. Operators are putting in place various mechanisms to present the right interconnect models for the content owners to deliver the best quality of experience.”It is also important to remember that Netflix is an exceptional case due to its size, but the OTT market is still very much in its infancy. More and more content providers ranging from multinational broadcasters to tiny niche content providers are launching or preparing to launch OTT services. Soon it won’t be possible for last mile providers to do deals with every third-party content provider knocking on their doors.“This is why network operators selling IP transit and CDN operators exist,” says Mark Taylor, Level 3’s vice-president of media and IP services. “They efficiently support hundreds of content customers and compete vigorously for that business. It is unlikely that there will be many more direct deals like Netflix-Comcast. But that still leaves the problem of getting access to a monopoly’s control over broadband consumers.”When there is only one operator feeding into homes, jibes about monopolies are only to be expected, but this doesn’t mean that there is only one way to access those viewers.As Broadpeak’s Nouvel sees it, to deliver higher Quality of Service to viewers, OTT content providers have two options: “They can invest in the development of their own content delivery system, striking deals with operators to install their software or appliances on their premises. However, operators are reluctant to let external content providers install their hardware into existing infrastructures, due to lack of control over the equipment and operational issues such as maintenance, etc,” she says. “[Alternatively] they can leverage existing delivery solutions deployed by operators for their own content. However, this has to deliver a significant gain over the standard delivery of anonymous IP packets, and at a cost that is able to compete with what they pay CDN service providers. Currently, operators who want to address content providers directly lack a real differentiator in terms of their offering and value proposition. This is what Broadpeak brings to the market with nanoCDN, a technology that allows the streaming of live OTT channels by leveraging the operator’s multicast capabilities. The result is a significant improvement in quality to content providers at a low cost for the operator.”Cost barriersWhilst many content owners would love to build their own CDNs, very few would be able to finance them anyway. Netflix is rolling out its Open Connect CDN; Yahoo has recently bought PeerCDN; Google will also deliver caches to operators that will take them, and there is speculation that Apple is working on launching a CDN. Aside from these huge global brands, however, not many content providers will have the finance available to deploy their own CDNs. They have no choice but to find alternate ways to guarantee that their viewers receive good QoS – including striking deals with operators.“Operators have limited ability to manage multiple content provider relationships, both from a technology and a business perspective,” argues Peter Coppola, vice-president of product and solutions marketing at global CDN provider Limelight Networks. “We expect there will be more such deals, but we do not believe it’s a real trend. An OTT content provider needs relationships with one or more CDNs that have demonstrated their ability to deliver at scale into the geographies the OTT provider is targeting.”As the market matures, Coppola believes that the demand for global CDN services will grow. “One of the advantages operators have in dealing with a global CDN is that they represent an aggregation of many content providers,” he says. “A CDN like Limelight is a good option for content providers in that we have already negotiated arrangements with more than 600 operators for delivery.”Due to the complexities of the web that the internet has spun out, however, it seems that both local and global CDN providers will have a role to play in getting content to viewers.OTT content providers have three options open to them to achieve their goals, says Taylor at Level 3. “First, they can do what Netflix has done and build their own CDN. That CDN is then deployed in third-party data centres where it is available to peer with ISPs, or purchase transit off IP transit networks. They can also deploy their CDN infrastructure inside ISP networks,” he says. “Second, they can outsource that whole thing to a CDN provider like Level 3. Level 3 does all this work and on an aggregated basis for hundreds of content customers. Large content owners typically contract with two or more CDNs for resilience and for global coverage. Finally, there is a middle way where the content owner buys their own CDN servers, but deploys them in third-party data centres and then buys IP Transit of multiple providers for resilience and global coverage.”However, says Nouvel at Broadpeak, the CDN works best by caching content closer to end-users, based on its popularity. “Caching servers and streaming servers are, therefore, deployed by operators to handle the assets and live channels delivered by content providers,” she says. “In addition, operators can propose specific technologies, relying on their control of the home gateways, to enhance the service. nanoCDN from Broadpeak is based on this approach. It allows the delivery of live multi-bitrate channels at a low cost and can also be used to enable transparent caching of OTT video content, meaning the content provider does not need to change its portal. This solution allows content providers to combine the benefits of operator CDNs and global CDNs. In the future we think content providers will use a combination of CDNs: local operator CDNs for their region of focus and global CDNs to extend their reach outside this zone.”Net neutralityWhilst ISPs wrestle with how to make money from all of the traffic travelling down their networks, they have the added headache of having to comply with ever evolving net neutrality legislation.“There are many questions that are raised concerning net neutrality,” says Nouvel at Broadpeak. “Obviously, most people don’t want to see the internet becoming a place where content is restricted to those who can afford to pay for it. On the other hand, it’s legitimate for end-users to benefit from higher QoS for the service they pay for, versus a service that is free.”However, net neutrality isn’t really the issue here, argues Taylor at Level 3. He says that ISPs investing in a CDN infrastructure don’t present net neutrality concerns, but they could create unfair monopolies. “It isn’t the CDN investment that is at issue. The issue is how an ISP that has monopoly control of the connection to its broadband consumers interconnects with the rest of the internet,” he says. “What we have seen is that they have been trying to impose interconnection tolls that would unfairly advantage their own content or their own CDN over competitors. An ISP can throttle access to their network at the interconnect point. And in doing so have exactly the same effect that the net neutrality rules were set up to avoid.”To preserve neutrality while allowing ISPs to optimise their traffic, says Nouvel, “operators need to implement technologies that enhance the quality of delivery for premium content without degrading the common internet traffic. This can be done by using [Broadpeak’s] nanoCDN technologies, for live ABR and transparent caching. By caching specific content and removing it from the traditional chain of delivery, the technology actually improves internet traffic globally.”Whatever the arguments about interconnect tolls and privileging access, in this highly competitive marketplace it is unlikely that ISPs will be willing to sustain free-riding OTT offerings long term. To avoid becoming ‘dumb pipes’, telcos and cable operators want to monetise their investments in infrastructure by selling streaming and caching capabilities. They would like to pass on the costs of OTT content to someone, and viewers and the content providers are the only choices available.The regulators in the US and Europe are starting to sit up and take notice that their existing net neutrality rules possibly didn’t anticipate all of these issues emerging.As Haley at Edgeware says, “For internet TV and video services to compete with broadcast and DVD rental, there are really only two choices for regulators – let the ISPs charge the OTT provider for the required delivery quality or accept that they will need to increase broadband pricing for consumers, with price freezes or even data caps to cover the cost of the required network upgrades.”The ISPs will need to put their PR machines into overdrive to face the wrath they are likely to engender among both customers and content pedlars. If the courts are to have the final say, that could mean years of legal wrangling.
Asanga GunatillakaCable Congress speaker Asanga Gunatillaka, chief product officer at Com Hem, talks to DTVE’s Andy McDonald about product innovation and the impact of OTT. Sweden’s number one cable provider Com Hem has supplied TV, telephone, and high-speed internet access to Swedish homes and businesses for more than 30 years, adding its TiVo advanced television offering to the mix a little over a year ago.According to chief product officer Asanga Gunatillaka the TiVo offering has seen rapid take up since launch and will remain the focus of its innovation efforts for the foreseeable future.Com Hem launched TiVo in October 2013 and in just over a year has seen more than a quarter of its TV customer base adopt the next-generation service. A handful of European operators – namely Ono in Spain and Virgin Media in the UK – have launched similar services based on the TiVo DVR platform. However, Gunatillaka, who was previously commercial director at Virgin Media and worked there when it launched its TiVo offering, claims that Com Hem has had the “fastest TiVo growth” of all its European peers.According to Com Hem’s recently announced fourth quarter 2014 numbers, over the three months ending December 31 it added 32,000 TiVo customers. This gave it a total of 164,000 advanced TV customers, accounting for 27% of its overall TV customer base.Discussing the success Com Hem has seen to date, Gunatillaka says, “I think the key thing for us is that we launched the product with multiscreen in mind. When we launched TiVo, we launched it not only on a set-top box format, but we launched it on Apple, iOS and Android and on the web and that’s been really, really important to us.”Multiscreen approachWith what he describes as “near-universal” household access to broadband in Sweden, and high tablet device penetration, Gunatillaka says that it has been “really important to position TiVo as a multiscreen service” – rather than evolve it over time to incorporate more than the main TV screen.According to the European Commission’s recently published Digital Economy and Society Index, Sweden ranked as the second most digital country in Europe, based on a number of indicators including connectivity and digital skills, integration of digital technology accounts by the business sector, and overall internet usage. According to the research, fixed broadband is available to 99% of Swedish homes and high-speed broadband is available to 71%, with some 91% of Swedes found to use the internet.“Swedish Internet users engage in a broad range of online activities. They read news online (88%), listen to music, watch films and play games online (57%), use the internet to communicate via video calls (52%) or through social networks (70%), and obtain video content using their broadband connections (mostly though video-on-demand – 44%),” according to the research.Mass market propositionGunatillaka says that its TiVo offering has reached “the mass market very quickly” and claims that the 27% figure shows that it is “not a niche product”, with further growth likely to follow as Com Hem continues to develop the product.“I think it’s fair to say we’ve been pleased with the take-up of TiVo and I suppose in a way we’re happy that it’s grown rapidly, because I think it reflects the fact that TiVo was addressing a need, specifically in the Swedish market, which is for there to be a one-stop shop for entertainment,” says Gunatillaka. “I think TiVo provides that, because obviously it’s able to aggregate many content sources together into one environment, which is one of the key benefits of TiVo.”One of the main content sources to be added into the service at an early date was Netflix. Com Hem integrated the SVoD service into its platform in January 2014, becoming one of the first operators to do so. While some may have considered it a risky strategy to invite a disruptive OTT player onto a closed content platform, for Gunatillaka it was a simple case of trying to establish Com Hem as a “one-stop shop” for content.“We [have] worked very hard with our content partners to provide a really comprehensive content line-up; the packages which our subscribers have access to have a really good content line-up on multiple screens. So we were confident to bring Netflix onto our service, because we saw it as being complementary to our offering,” he says.Com Hem allows customers to log in to a current Netflix account or subscribe direct through their TiVo box. It has also integrated Netflix with Com Hem’s TiVo search function, so that any search instigated by TiVo users will include content from Netflix.By not forcing users to change HDMI inputs, and by placing the content together in one ecosystem, Com Hem is aiming for ease of use and a better customer experience – and it is not just Netflix that is available on the platform.Cirkus, a subscription online service focused around ‘the best of British’ TV content, is also available via Com Hem, having launched on the platform in December 2013. Cirkus has deals with ITV Studios, BBC Worldwide and All3Media among others, giving it shows including Sherlock, Midsomer Murders and Poirot.Gunatillaka says that Com Hem is “looking for great titles and stuff that will excite customers; it’s not a volume game for us”. For the Swedish operator, the key is quality, not quantity. “In our view we’ve combined taking content from content providers that are trusted in the Swedish market and our strategy is to complement those core content packages with selected services, like Cirkus and Netflix,” says Gunatillaka. “It’s about careful curation.”For the time being, this curation rests around video content – not on providing other internet-powered services like music streaming or gaming. “We’re obviously always open to other applications and services on the platform, but our focus should be on providing great content,” says Gunatillaka.Innovation and convergenceAn area of innovation that Com Hem has focused on is around improving the customer experience – specifically work on user navigation. Gunatillaka says the aim is “to make it even easier to find the content we love” – something that Com Hem will continue to work on “in the coming months.”“I think our task is to continue making content discovery even easier for customers,” says Gunatillaka. “We’re going to continue to innovate and tweak the interface, continue to editorialise the content we have better and better. We are not going to sit still. We will continue to look at ways of bringing content to life for our customers.”“What I’m keen to do is to address customer needs, which is to find and consume great content. I’m not interested in technology for technology’s sake,” he adds.Providing content to users across multiple different screens is important for Com Hem. However, with the main platforms of iOS, Android and the web already supported, Gunatillaka says that its philosophy is to focus on improving the experience there rather than working to extend the offering to connected TVs and other platforms.One way that Com Hem has worked to improve its multiscreen experience is by investing heavily in broadband – something that is important as TV and broadband increasingly converge.“You need the best broadband service to consume content delivered over the internet,” says Gunatillaka. “I think the key focus is for us to build on our current position of being the fastest network in Sweden, reaching speeds of over 500Mbps to over 1.6 million households.”One aspect of this will be based around further network investment; the other will be around improving the in-home experience.At the beginning of the year Com Hem demonstrated its commitment to the latter by launching a next-generation modem router, designed to offer a latest generation WiFi experience to customers – a move designed to help customers with multiple devices “get the most out of their broadband.”Looking ahead, Gunatillaka stresses that Com Hem is focused squarely on “delivering a great customer experience”. The firm has been single-minded in its focus on TiVo, he says, because it provides the best of both worlds of DVR capabilities and internet-powered apps. “We want to deliver a market-leading customer experience across all of our products, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”Asanga Gunatillaka spoke day three of Cable Congress 2015 on a panel session titled “OTT – New Game, New Rules for Operators and Content Providers?”
Eurovision Sport, the broadcasting arm of public broadcaster organisation the EBU, has named Robert Portman, the head of sport and sports rights at Finnish pubcaster Yle, as head of winter sport.Robert PortmanPortman has worked for Yle since 2001, initially as entertainment and events producer, before becoming head of sport, Svenska Yle in 2008. He then became head of sports rights and major events before taking on his present role as head of sport and sports rights.At Eurovision he will manage the winter sports portfolio and leading the acquisition strategy for this important sports rights property.Portman said: “I am excited to join the EBU and the team at Eurovision Sport to lead on winter sports. With the ever-evolving media landscape, it is evident that sports will be one of the key elements for media companies in the future. I look forward working together with the team to secure important sport rights for our members. Furthermore, coming from the EBU member side, I hope I can contribute with my experience to further improve the dialogue and co-operation between the Members and the permanent services.”Stefan Kurten, executive director, Eurovision Sport, said: “We’re very pleased to welcome Robert to the team at Eurovision Sport. He brings with him great experience of winter sports combined with an in-depth understanding of the needs of our Members. Winter sports are an important part of our sports rights portfolio and greatly valued by our Member broadcasters, and we are pleased to be able to strengthen our team with senior executive of this level.”