The original interview on the Telesputnik website.

Author: Dmitry Grigoriev

In a stagnant market, cable operators are looking for new sources of income and ways to attract subscribers. Your own OTT project can become such a source. And here the most important thing for a company to make a choice: develop its own solution or seek help from those who offer a finished product. Telesputnik spoke with Denis Danilov, head of IPTV / OTT solutions at GS Labs, and found out how an operator can monetize its OTT project and what monetization opportunities the DREAMPlatform solution provides.

You have a successful platform for OTT operators. What are its advantages when compared with similar products from competitors?

The key advantage of our platform is that it is a completely Russian development. DREAMPlatform was created practically from scratch and continues to be developed by our employees.

In its class, it is in no way inferior to Russian and foreign counterparts. The platform consists of several components that have successfully passed the state service for intellectual property (Rospatent, ed. Note). One of them is DREPLUS, a proprietary content protection and digital rights management (DRM) system. Its uniqueness lies in combined encryption: together with our own DRM, we also use DRM from Google (Widevine, – Ed.) And Apple (FairPlay, – Ed.) In one solution. Accordingly, such an operator device can use a DRM system depending on the platform, such a simplified application and integration, and the distribution of applications to a maximum variety of devices. Such a DRM solution is much more likely to receive approval from the leading Hollywood studios producing the most sought-after popular and trending content.

Our clients have approvals from studios such as Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Sony Pictures and others. At the same time, the DREPLUS system is included in the register of Russian software and is not subject to VAT – in contrast to foreign competitors. DREPLUS is currently the only digital rights management system in the unified register of Russian programs. Now the government is considering proposals for amending the Tax Code, envisaging the inclusion of software implementation costs in the investment tax deduction for income tax. It is beneficial for Russian OTT / IPTV operators to cooperate with domestic developers. Moreover, if we take a very unstable political situation, then the use of the Russian DREAM platform will help to restrain the influence of various risks. And if it seems that this does not threaten the telecom, then let me remind you of the history of the Chinese operators who got into the USA sanction lists this year (China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, – Ed.).

Here it is important to emphasize the encryption function as a key one, since the copyright holders often prefere blame operators for possible leaks of content to pirates. Therefore, thay are very sensitive to encryption systems that are used by telecom operators. TV channels negotiate a supply contract with the operator only if they are confident in the reliability of the encryption algorithms. This is the key point. Our platform has passed the international audit Farncombe Security Audit from Cartesian, and our clients can always familiarize the copyright holder with its results. Our DRM system is the only Russian one on the list that has passed an independent audit. We do not have a single case when copyright holders reject to our clients due to encrypting content problems.

One of the main tools for monetizing an OTT project for an operator can be your statistics collection tool Providence. Tell us more about him, how can he help the operator?

Providence is a statistics collection system that aggregates data from all devices and records all user actions. All this variety of collected data can be analyzed. Big data analytics is being prepared. At the request of the client, we can study his business processes, analyze the metrics that are important to him and help customize the his dashboards.

Also, on the basis of the collected statistics, a recommendation system works when subscribers are offered to view content that will be of interest to them based on their preferences.

How can an operator implement your products? What is needed for this?

Call us and tell us about your desire. In business partnerships, we advocate a flexible approach. We can offer our customers our software according to the classic model of purchase and sale, as well as a version with monthly payments. There is a way of interaction in the form of providing a service as a cloud service. At the same time, we are ready to provide the client with both certain components of our platform and the entire product on a turnkey basis. There can be many options.

Can you accommodate the needs of a small operator?

We work with everyone. We also have small operators with a subscriber base of several hundred or thousands of subscribers. We do not limit our clients in any way.

Are you ready to supply HW equipments to the client?

Our main profile is software development. We are ready to help form requirements for the configuration of additional equipment taking into account the existing equipment, or give recommendations to the operator on its purchase. And if a partner does not have the opportunity to make a purchase on his own, then we can help him.

Do you help with the issue of integrating your software into the client’s system?

Certainly. The integration process is an important stage that takes place with the support of our technical specialists. There are already quite well-established processes, for example, integration with billing.

Are there advertising platform tools that can help operators monetize an OTT project?

We have solutions that allow you to insert ads in all known ways that are used in the industry. Accordingly, there is a server to help manage these ad slots. We also have partnerships with companies that buy and sell advertising. For example, with Adriver, this is a marketplace where advertisers and platform owners can make deals and get paid for advertising. In fact, using DREAMPlatform, you can immediately register on Adriver and start selling advertising opportunities on the OTT platform, without the cost of advertising space sales specialists.

Are there any other additional ways to monetize platform a non-ad format?

Yes, there are many solutions for additional monetization in our IPTV / OTT ecosystem. For example, an app store. With its help, you can monetize applications for subscriber devices. There may be apps for Android STB or Java apps for Linux based STB. There are two possibilities here that are useful to operators.

First, the operator can determine which applications are included in the application system and what ultimately reaches its subscribers. We had one client from India who wanted this particular component. He did not intend to launch his own broadcasting service at all, but wanted to sell and manage set-top boxes, to charge fees from those services that he wanted to be present on his devices.

The second possibility is games on STB. We have an Android device to which you can connect gamepads and run modern games. If you take a STB from gray market, you will find that there are thousands of games available on Google Play, but the number of games adapted for a gamepad is only a few hundred. Finding and installing a stable game is very difficult. The operator can undertake the search and selection of applications suitable for set-top boxes. It is interesting for both developers and subscribers, and it can be monetized. Through own operator’s store, you can sell applications and also make additional sells inside of games.

Is it in demand among subscribers?

Unfortunately, this is not very common now, because the market has sagged a lot thanks to “gray” Android boxes with thousands of games that do not work at all. Many customers, faced with this, refuse this opportunity and prefer to buy game consoles. They just don’t believe that a full-fledged gaming service is possible on budget devices. But, nevertheless, large operators are working in this direction and are changing the minds of users with their gaming services. And the device base is growing.

Your platform contains a tool for creating and maintaining multiple virtual operators. Why would an operator create several different virtual operators with their own channel packages, subscriptions and tariffs?

The tool is very simple and useful for larger operators. When such a company buys a platform from us, it can resell it to other operators. Can make a separate virtual solution for them. At the same time, operators’ subscribers will not be able to know about each other: each will have a separate service, but use the same platform.

There is another possibility. It is clear that there are services that aggregate TV channels and content, but at same time, more and more channels has its own “separate” application. And if some large copyright holder wants to maximize his opportunities for advertising and sales, then for each of his channels he has the right to create a separate application on which he can earn. These per-unit sales can ultimately significantly exceed the channel sales in paсkets. And on the part of the client, it becomes possible to choose exactly the content that interests him. The user can save money by purchasing, for example, just only three favoritte channels instead of two hundred, but not needed to him. And for the operator, this is an opportunity to earn more on each separate channel, and have additianal loality from subscribers.

DREAMPlatform now supports all the functionality that operators need. What can be in demand by the market in the future?

An important advantage of our platform is that it is not static and is constantly evolving depending on market demands. We are implementing plans to improve our products, constantly monitor the decisions of industry institutions, study innovations in the market, and prepare for the introduction of new services.

We see that now there is a crossover of IP and OTT television along with gaming services and smart home systems. The main trends in the coming years are the mutual penetration of these market segments. Soon, while sitting at the TV, the user will be able to make purchases on a large screen and receive information from smart home sensors, from smart devices, remotely satisfying their household needs and not being distracted from entertainment.

I also think that the game direction will grow. If you look at global trends, the budgets of many video games have already exceeded the budgets of blockbusters. The interest of users in games on TV and STB will grow along with the growth in the number of games adapted for consoles and TVs. We will keep up with trends and improve our ecosystem to meet market demands.

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