pay tv researchReaders of a certain age who have been around the IPTV world since its early days will remember Myrio Corporation as a once market-leading IPTV middleware platform that kept falling on hard luck.  Even though its successor is virtually invisible in the United States today, its current iteration has been given another new lease on life.  Let’s look at how they got there.

Roots
The initiative that became Myrio started in 1998 within a Reno-based ISP called SourceNet, where the late Tony Atwater tasked a few smart developers to “do video” over broadband.  When it became clear that the concept had legs, the company was moved to the Seattle area where it could find more software professionals and technology investors; and it hired its first CEO.  As employee #25, my job was to establish the product management function, but my first day of work involved setting up cubicles in their new office in Kirkland.

By late 2000, we knew that Myrio had real potential to compete in this new “telco video” category (the acronym ‘IPTV’ was invented later), and a business development team was established alongside the sales organization. By early 2001, the company employed about 100 people, and had its first customers; including Livingston Telephone in Texas.

In late winter, Myrio’s board had informed the CEO that the company had about six weeks left at its current burn-rate.  On April 17, 2001, about 60 of us were let go, and the CEO was gone by June.  During the next few years, Myrio grew its customer base to about 100 operators; mostly rural telcos.  As new versions of the Myrio platform were released, it was decided not to support first-generation (StellarOne) and second-generation (Amino) IP set-top boxes – a decision that cost Myrio many customers.

In 2005, the company was acquired by Siemens Communications, which quickly derailed software development and turned this small entrepreneurial company into a bureaucracy.  One of the first tasks assigned by Siemens was to use Myrio’s developers to train its regional Centers of Excellence to know how to implement and support the platform in the field, worldwide.  By 2006, both the Myrio platform and the company had become infamous both for inflexibility and for the fact that it had fallen behind the curve competitively.

The subsequent merger that produced Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) launched a new code-base, a reconstituted product roadmap and a new brand for the platform in September of 2010: Ubiquity Multiscreen TV.  At its launch event, Ubiquity was shown to be more open and flexible than its Myrio predecessor and had multi-screen ambitions. But it had a roadmap schedule that was somewhat behind those of its competitors.  In late 2011, NSN announced a change in its corporate strategic focus to mobile; which raised many questions about the fate of its IPTV platforms.

Recent history
Several ex-employees have been in contact with me informally over the course of the past year, and it became clear that the platform was being “shopped.”  As 2012 progressed, these staffers left the company one by one, or found new assignments within NSN.  But it also became clear that Myrio and Ubiquity would survive yet another transition to new ownership.  Despite the loss of many customers in the United States, some large European customers remained.

One of these customers is the Dutch national carrier, KPN, which has about 750,000 subscribers on its NSN-based Interactieve TV  IPTV service; and an additional 771,000 on its digital terrestrial TV service, called Digitenne.  KPN has been one of Myrio’s two largest customers for many years.  NSN’s other large European customer is Belgacom, Belgium’s national carrier; which has about 1.3 million IPTV subscribers on the NSN platform.  Belgacom launched a second-screen TV service during Q2 of 2012, so from that aspect, the platform has demonstrably caught up with its competition.

In October 2012, as part of its effort to refocus on mobile, NSN announced the divestiture of its IPTV platform’s code base to Accenture, along with 17 NSN employees — 23 additional NSN employees went to Belgacom.

Many of us “other” ex-Myrio people are still around the industry. One co-founder has become a serial entrepreneur in the Seattle area, while the other is an executive at The Walt Disney Company.  Others remain at Nokia Siemens Networks – and one of those people also has a leading role at the Open IPTV Forum.  Meanwhile, one of the original business development people now oversees sales into Tier-1 IPTV deployments for Ericsson, while the other has retired.  The software from Myrio’s original set-top box supplier, StellarOne, along with some of its people, became part of Broadstream Communications, which survives today as part of Avail-TVN.

Until a year or so ago, the Myrio alumni had an occasional social get-together.  The last one was given when NSN moved its offices in Redmond, and some of us ended up with the director’s chairs from the old Myrio demo room.

Competitors
Most of the former Myrio’s original competitors have either survived on their own, or have been acquired but remain in the game. Others have emerged, including Innovative Systems; as well as some European suppliers prospecting in the US, including Nordija of Denmark and BeeSmart (Beenius) of Slovenia.

Minerva Networks stepped in to take over many of Myrio’s deployments, and remains a stalwart competitor with about 160 customers worldwide.  Israel’s Orca Interactive won France Telecom’s Orange TV IPTV deployment, which is one of the world’s largest.

In 2008, the conditional access vendor Viaccess – a France Telecom company – acquired Orca.  The company – re-branded as Viaccess-Orca in 2012 – is now one of the innovators of advanced discovery and second-screen TV technologies, and has other customers; mostly in Europe and Asia. Two other early competitors, iMagicTV, a joint initiative of Alcatel and Alliant Telecom of Canada; and Thirdspace Living Ltd., an Alcatel joint venture with Oracle; were both eventually acquired in full by Alcatel.  Oracle’s part was OVS, the Oracle Video Server, which was licensed to nCUBE. Later, nCUBE was acquired by C-COR, which is now part of ARRIS.

Alcatel’s successor Alcatel-Lucent continues to be the lead integration partner for Microsoft Mediaroom.  The last iMagicTV users were retired and replaced by Mediaroom at SaskTel last year. Not only do Microsoft and ALU power the plum of all US deployments in AT&T, but also CenturyLink, TDS Telecom and an increasing number of smaller operators.

Myrio competitors Kasenna and Sweden’s DreamPark were acquired by Espial and Motorola, respectively. The Latens IPTV middleware platform is now part of Pace’s Elements solution, and some of the former Thirdspace people formed a new company called Quative, which developed a TV service delivery platform that was later acquired by Nagra and merged into the Nagra Multiscreen TV solution.  OpenTV, which powers DISH Network’s set-top boxes, is also now part of Nagra.

Thomson’s (previously Thales Broadband’s) SmartVision TV platform, which powered France Telecom’s IPTV service when it was called Ma Ligne TV, was acquired by Technicolor and is now retired, as Technicolor has other platforms in the works.  Cisco has acquired NDS, which has given Videoscape a user interface makeover, as well as its own MediaHighway cable and satellite TV platform.

I have hope that the latest iteration of what once was Myrio may not only survive but also re-emerge as a viable competitor in the Tier-1 and Tier-2 operator segments.  Although some observers may count this platform out of the running and others have forgotten it altogether, Myrio’s successor Ubiquity Multiscreen TV has received a new lease on life, as Accenture is an active TV systems integrator.

Accenture will have its work cut out for it, however, considering that it competes with the likes of Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE and now Cisco/NDS — all of which have proven IPTV platforms and strong systems integration capabilities themselves.