Crafting successful business models for TV Everywhere (TVE) requires a true operational shift away from traditionally siloed information into true data interoperability with regard to entitlements. At Openet, we've found that a Subscriber Data Management (SDM) system, in conjunction with an operator's policy and charging architectures, enables this critical change.
The system is critical given its ability to process more granular types of potentially disparate viewer data and then provide valuable analysis to the operator. For entitlements, the system is taken a step further, integrating with other systems to present the maximum return for every piece of the value chain.
The authentication and authorization layer regulates access to particular content based on a subscriber's entitlement profile (what the user has paid for or is permitted to use). This relates to the software's ability to recognize who the customer is regardless of how he or she accesses the service, overlaying his or her entitlement profile, and then monitoring and tracking behavior for billing and research purposes. For example, restrictions can include individual pieces or bundles of content (such as TV channels or premium films), or according to time-of-day, physical location, device, quality of service or multiple access by the same customer.
A premium entitlements and content monetization layer acts as the operator's own salesman, allowing the subscriber to go beyond a basic package and purchase premium content on a one-time basis (purchasing a single episode or full season of HBO's “Boardwalk Empire” would be one example) along with tying individual pieces of content to predetermined viewing periods like one-time stream versus unlimited views. In this instance, charging, policy and SDM all work seamlessly to provide flexibility.
This portion of the architecture requires more extensive content rights agreements with providers. This allows operators to sell subscription content in a TVE environment in exchange for a percentage of the resulting revenue.
After that comes the necessary safeguard of parental controls, which provides a subscriber-initiated buffer to certain content based on age appropriateness, time of day, cost or other factors. Policy management is at the forefront, but user-set charging restrictions also help operators better cater to families. This level of control can only be achieved through access to content metadata that feeds into the software and manages access based on these parameters.
Last comes fraud protection, of which identity management is a key element. This function may be embedded in the software or exist as an independent component. This ensures log-ins from one account are being used only by household members and not by outside parties.
Openet's system looked to incorporate this tiered system of entitlements into a largely subscriber-controlled architecture enhanced with operator inputs. What follows is an outline of the start-to-finish experience designed for North American MSOs. While the included parameters are just examples, each could be customized, dependent upon the preferences and current billing structure of the individual operator.
Step 1: User registration and preferences
An existing customer of a multichannel video operator logs into a content portal for the first time. The user is the designated administrator and can add other users to the account.
In this example, a user adds his wife as another administrator and his son.
The user has set parental controls for the child to ensure age appropriate content is available to him as well as setting a monthly spending limit. If the user wants further customization of controls, such as time of day restrictions and customized usage reports, he is offered the ability to purchase a Parental Controls Bundle add-on.
As an administrator, the user can set his own preferences as well as for the entire household
Step 2: Content entitlement
As discussed above, the content to which a user is entitled can be based on parameters including service plan, settings, profile, usage activity, demographics and location. For this example, the user is on a basic TV Plan, so while some content is free to him, he also has the option to purchase and view premium content on an ad-hoc basis. Suggestions that appear are rooted in the system, while the policy management function appropriately provisions the content based on subscriber profile parameters. The charging software then handles the billing queries.
When the child logs in, the content he views is different since he is only allowed access to content rated G or TV-Y. While the content-restricting portion of this operation is based in policy management, parental controls using charging capabilities also help avoid “bill shock” scenarios resulting from children inadvertently running up large bills or rapidly depreciating their prepaid account.
Step 3: Purchase of premium content
This system allows a variety of on-demand purchase options to existing and new customers. If a user wishes to view premium content not included in his or her basic package, he or she is offered several options, including a 24-hour view of all premium content — an option that needs to be stipulated in content rights agreements with providers. Payment options would be based on a user's profile.
After the user selects a payment option and authorizes charges, 24-hour access is granted. The charging system tracks this timed period and is able to send notifications when that period is about to expire.
SDM, policy and charging controls can enable operators to offer personalized, dynamic, subscriber-aware promotions to up-sell and cross-sell services. The infrastructure makes it easy to link past-viewing behavior with recommendations and methods of fulfillment. In this example, imagine an operator immediately offering a discounted soundtrack for a film following its conclusion or enacting promotions that provide a user with a free film once he or she has watched five selections at full price.
This model rivals, if not beats, popular over-the-top (OTT) offerings in many areas. For operators losing their perceived importance in the value chain, this and similarly built TVE architectures provide a way to showcase value on a daily basis to consumers by integrating functional, intuitive interfaces and purchasing options.
This interface, however, is rooted in network software systems that can service the level of variable behavior and preferences outlined above. These systems are already in place at the vast majority of MSOs, but a TVE system that interfaces with each represents a true operational advantage that catapults operators ahead of low-cost, low-overhead OTT players.
At Openet, the TVE solution focused on having strong subscriber awareness capabilities that make services much more dynamic. This enables the greater degrees of personalization outlined above and the ability to deliver further monetization scenarios for operators. The result is a software integration that helps consumers enjoy a more customizable and personalized experience, while operators are better positioned to generate new revenues out of TVE.
Michael Manzo is chief marketing officer for Openet.