Conax Talks Android TV’s Bright Future

Tor Helge Kristiansen (EVP Principle Architect, Conax) sat down in an interview with  IP&TV News recently before he spoke this week at the OTTtv World Summit running till the 12th of this month in London. When asked “How disruptive do you expect Android TV to ultimately prove? Is it going to be a game changer?” he responded with the following.

Tor Helge Kristiansen, EVP Principle Architect, Conax

Tor Helge Kristiansen

Android TV certainly has the possibility to become a true game changer, but it remains to be seen if it will be embraced by pay-TV operators on a massive scale. There is an increasingly competitive landscape for pay-TV operators and the fight for customers is moving more and more in the direction of delivering the best user experience. While content is still king, pay-TV providers also now need to provide compelling TV services that engage the audience and keep them using the operator’s platform.

The melting together of the Internet experience and the traditional TV experience must be seamless to enable users with access to the best of both linear and on-demand services, potentially coming from several different sources. Android TV is an excellent platform for bringing this Internet experience to the TV platform, and enables users to use all the stuff they love on their Android phone also on the big screen. But it also means that Google is given some level of control over the operator’s TV platform, which for some is seen as a threat. This has the potential to hamper the deployment rate of Android TV, at least initially.

When asked about his strengths he responded:

There is a long list of strengths offered by Android TV as a platform for pay-TV operators; however I think the most prominent strength is the abundance of apps available in the ecosystem. There are currently around 1.6 million Android apps in Google Play Store, which means there is an application available for just about any purpose imaginable. For Android TV, this will represent availability of apps that enrich the TV experience through access to entertainment services, such as video rental services (e.g. Netflix), metadata services (e.g. IMDB), games, sports, news etc. With Android TV, Google has specified the look and feel of compatible apps, so that any app built for Android TV will work also on the operator’s platform.

Another key strength of Android TV is that it provides a large community of developers that work purely with development of Android apps. There are currently approximately 230,000 registered developers in the official Android Developer community. This means it is very simple for the pay-TV operator to find resources to develop their own apps for providing a truly unique user experiences. As the entire platform is based on apps, it also means that it is quick and cheap for pay-TV operators to introduce new features into their platforms. Innovation in the TV ecosystem can now be done in the speed we have become accustomed to from the Internet.

He then spoke briefly on Security of the platform

Unfortunately, as Android TV is a very flexible and complex platform it also very complex to secure it properly. An extensive range of features and functionality creates a large attack surface, and increases the complexity in protection from hacking. Google licensing for Android brings requirements for some services to be present in the set-top box and, while these makes it easier to develop apps for the platform, these services also makes it easier for hackers to attack the system. Some of these requirements appear to be in direct violation of the new content protection requirements from MovieLabs for 4K/UHD content.

The most critical platform security challenge however us the fact that the platform runs apps that are coming from untrusted sources. In principle, anyone can create an app and upload it to Google Play Store, and hence apps cannot really be considered trusted. A faulty or maliciously implemented app can be used by hackers to attack the STB, and potentially using it as a stepping stone to attack the content protection system that protects the TV services. It is therefore highly critical that the set-top-box implements some form of segmentation of the Android environment from the high security broadcast environment.

 

Author’s Thoughts 

My thoughts about this interview were pretty straight forward in agreement. Tor knows what he’s talking about in the sense that an open platform in the internet connected age where everything is centered around streaming. He also addressed a spot that’s often overlooked on set-top boxes and that is security and DRM to keep publishers happy and safe about their work being distributed even if it’s not what the people want it gives them both a bridge to “meet and trade on”. The one topic that is hugely underrated and should have been brought up was the live channels application. With traditional distribution fading and some not up to change it’s a hybrid ground for cable like programming with an internet back-end and choice.

 

 

Anthony Garera

Anthony is a 4th year student attending Western Carolina University studying Computer Information Systems with a passion for technology and being an early adopter, also an Android Enthusiast. Devices - Nexus 6P, Huawei Watch, Nexus 7(2013), 13' Retina Macbook Pro, NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Google ADT-1, and Nexus Player.

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