WHY THIS MATTERS: The ability to integrate over-the-top apps is becoming a more crucial piece of pay TV service providers’ product mix.
Losing ground across the globe to the Android TV platform, RDK Management announced a key initiative that will enable pay TV operators to more easily integrate popular over-the-top apps into their user interfaces.
The Reference Design Kit (RDK) is an open-source software stack designed for pay TV set-tops and jointly backed by Comcast, Charter Communications and Liberty Global. In addition to the JV partners, more than 25 pay TV operators around the world use it, including Cox Communications and Canada’s Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Vidéotron.
All told, the “RDK community” includes more than 350 companies, among them set-top box vendors, chipmakers and software developers.
Over the last 18 months, though, a number of operators have opted to use Google’s “Operator Tier” version of its Android TV platform to power their set-tops, which gives them the capability to easily offer customers access to popular OTT services including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video through the Google Play Store.
Partnering with Netherlands-based technology company Metrological — which helped Comcast integrate Netflix into its X1 platform — RDK Management is now trying to make it easy for operators to deliver OTT apps, too, offering pay TV companies two different ways to do it.
The first approach involves the new RDK App Framework, which allows operators to create their own OTT apps using HTML5 and native applications using the “RDK Firebolt” software development kit.
The second option is more turnkey, allowing operators to simply provide their customers access to Metrological’s app store, which include more than 300 apps covering most of the popular OTT services.
RDK Management has also partnered with Metrological and set-top maker Arris to provide a new support tool and internet protocol set-top reference integration that allows operators to expedite application development, testing and deployment.
“This makes it much easier for operators to integrate multiple apps. The operators give us input on the roadmap, and we deliver,” RDK Management president and general manager Steve Heeb said, speaking to B&C from the IBC Show in Amsterdam, where the new app capabilities were announced.
Heeb demurred from a description of RDK as “middleware,” describing it as an “old-world” term. Indeed, Heeb and his team are working hard to dispel the notion that RDK is an old-world software environment, incapable to adapting to the rapid evolution of operator’s video user interfaces.
RDK could face difficulties in countering Android TV’s momentum. At IBC, for example, Espial — creator of the cloud-based IPTV platform known as “Elevate”— announced the launch of a managed TV-as-a service solution built around Android TV.
“Android TV has become a key platform for many service providers,” Espial VP of product management Michael McCluskey said. “By integrating Android TV into our Elevate cloud ecosystem, operators can bring Android TV services to market quickly and with low risk, while taking advantage of the latest innovations.”