IPTVRethinking video delivery platforms seems to be a key initiative for video service providers lately, as comments from AT&T and CenturyLink executives today illustrate. Marketplace realities are forcing video distributors to evaluate how they deliver video, and legacy models, even for recent entrants like CenturyLink and AT&T, are evolving rapidly.

Just one day after AT&T announced plans for over-the-top DirecTV packages, AT&T Entertainment Group CEO John Stankey outlined the company’s plans for a new middleware platform that would underlie all AT&T video offerings – an initiative he called “IP Distribution 2.0.” Taken together with past comments regarding the future of their U-verse TV platform, AT&T is clearly shaking up their overall video strategy.

CenturyLink CTO Aamir M. Hussain outlined that company’s plan to deliver its Prism IPTV offering over a customer’s broadband data connection as a means of expanding the base of customers to which Prism TV can be delivered. Outside Prism markets, CenturyLink also will be launching an OTT video offering similar to what AT&T plans for DirecTV, Hussain said.

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Stankey and Hussain made their comments at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference, which was also webcast.

AT&T’s New Middleware
Stankey’s comments about a new middleware platform came in response to a question about the company’s plans to de-emphasize its traditional U-verse video offering in favor of satellite video delivery via the company’s DirecTV business. While the move can free up broadband bandwidth on the U-verse platform, Stankey noted other goals for the transition.

“We want a unified middleware and software platform,” he said. “We’re not abandoning [U-verse video]. . . We will move all of our customers onto the new middleware platform over the course of several years.”

The new platform, he said, will give customers the ability to consume content the way they want to.

Critical capabilities for the new middleware platform include the ability to support content the company doesn’t control, along with advertising- and subscription-based models and multiple screen sizes, Stankey said.

CenturyLink Video Delivery Platforms
CenturyLink currently offers Prism TV in areas where the broadband connection can support 25 Mbps, but the company hopes to be able to expand to areas supporting connections of just 10 Mbps by changing to more of an OTT video delivery method, Hussain said. New compression methods that require only 1.5 Mbps for a high-definition video stream also have contributed to the new dynamics, he noted.

The upshot, Hussain said, is that “we can double the size of our [Prism TV] footprint in a very short time.”

CenturyLink’s plan is to deliver service via a Roku box and to enable end users to view content on smartphones, Hussain noted.

Outside existing Prism markets, CenturyLink plans trials of an OTT video offering similar to what AT&T announced yesterday for DirecTV that will target Millennials, Hussain added. He didn’t provide additional details.

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