While OTT may have its challenges as a "loss leader," of sorts, for Sky Italia, it has its benefits for customer retention and customer attraction, according to Davide Gandino, OTT and cloud processing & delivery manager of technology at Sky Italia. Moreover, Gandino reports, Sky Italia's over-the-top video (OTT) offerings are compelling the provider to up its analytics and AI game.
In part one of this lightly edited Q&A, conducted onsite at last month's Red Hat Summit, Gandino talked about Red Hat OpenShift while addressing the OTT customer experience. (See Sky Italia's Gandino Talks OTT Scalability, UX With OpenShift.)
Now, in part two, Gandino delves into the analytical side of OTT and other trends in video content and video delivery.
Telco Transformation: Earlier, you mentioned telemetry intelligence with OTT. To what extent are you already using AI technologies to help with that?
Davide Gandino: We did develop this telemetry intelligence, and we did integrate as well with a really big player in the market -- which is Conviva -- for an international project that we have in Europe. So I do see that we will use AI in the near future. We will need to work on that. At the moment we don't use AI but we should start soon. The thing is that there are many, many things to be done, and many, many ideas; we've got to set priorities. This is something we will definitely work on. I cannot tell you exactly when we can have something really tangible.
TT: Were there any challenges, internally, in implementing OTT?
DG: In terms of budget operations, yes, there were challenges because OTT at the moment is not bringing a lot of money. The core business in Sky Italia is still satellite. We are really investing in VoD for satellite. We do have a VoD offer in which the box shall be connected to the Internet, and you can download the video library over the Internet. But when we started to work on the real OTT, we started first with Sky Go, which is for the [existing satellite service] subscriber. We use it as an anti-churn service. If you provide a good service to people, they will stay with you more because … they can see the same content on a tablet or whatever, whenever they want to see it.
TT: So, in that sense, it's almost like a loss leader.
DG: Yeah. Exactly.
TT: A lot of people are saying that live sports have really been driving this demand for live streaming, for OTT, for all of these new digital video content solutions. Has this been your experience, or has it been more than just sports?
DG: I think sports is one of the best drivers for that. We do see that F1, MotoGP, [and] football are really the top events, and they are the ones that are watched by the people. We do have some shows as well, like X Factor, stuff like that, Masterchef, these kinds of shows, but the most-seen events in the OTT world are [live sports].
TT: How many people are still watching TV in the traditional way on a television set, versus on a laptop, versus on a mobile device?
DG: Well, I don't know, exactly, the figures, but I would say that a lot of people are still watching on the traditional television -- [particularly] digital terrestrial television, DVB-T [Digital Video Broadcasting — Terrestrial]. We do have DVB-T with free-to-air channels, and then we have [premium] television.
Satellite is a big cost, so you've got to pay for the satellite and you've got to be able to launch the signal over there. It is not something that would disappear for sure in the next ten years, I would say. I think the biggest challenge is to engage more people in the OTT world. I don't see people switching from satellite to OTT, but maybe I do see more people joining the OTT offer.
TT: What other trends in video and television do you see happening? What might you predict in the future based on what you're seeing?
DG: I don't think [virtual] reality will be huge, to be honest. I hope it will not be like 3D. I hope it will be a bit better, so I hope many people will see it, but I'm not sure how it will be.
What I can see for the near future would be, for sure, UHD [Ultra-High Definition]; it will arrive soon -- for the big screens mainly. There is no point in having UHD on a smartphone or on a tablet, but on a connected TV there is a point to having UHD resolution there. You can see the difference. If you stream HD on a tablet and UHD on the same tablet, you won't really notice the difference -- but on a connected TV you do see it.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation