Sramana Mitra: What happens in a time line? If you were to forecast a time line based on what you see inside these accounts, at what point do a large number of cable providers become credible IPTV providers? At what point does the cable alternative of Comcast, which is our current cable TV provider [become available?] At what point on a global basis, or at least on a U.S., Canada, and Western European basis does this selection turn?
Mark Hyland: Well, it’s happening now. I think it’s an interesting question for an entrepreneur. At what point is it good enough? At what point is the low-cost solution good enough? And the reality is that it’s different for different segments of the market, so that for now, there may be early adopters who are willing to wade through difficult user interfaces and less-than-ideal selections. But the convenience of being able to get stuff at their fingertips is worth it. Broadly, I feel like right now, all the elements are there but almost nobody has tied everything together to make a truly IPTV …
SM: No one can compete with Netflix yet.
MH: I think the cable companies can compete on selection. I think where they need to beef up their game is on the user experience. Where they also have an advantage is on live TV. Much has been written about the death of live TV, but I still think you have to recognize that more than 90% of screen time in American households is watching live TV in a living room. It’s a mass underneath the tip of the iceberg.
SM: And that’s not going away.
MH: It’s not going away. It’ll shift. Looking at teens and people in their early 20s – there really is an affinity for on-demand programming.
SM: But then sports, live sports, is a huge category that is never going to be anything other than live TV.
MH: That’s right. Exactly. So, what we’re building, and we ended up leasing and purchasing the assets from Qualcomm of the Flow TV facility down in San Diego, is our U.S. facility. It’s made to deliver live TV over IP. Right now, we have a lot of over-the-top services like Netflix and some of the TV everywhere services from Comcast that are pretty much focused on on-demand and a smattering of live channels. Ultimately, what we’re seeing with our customers is that everyone is planning to offer the full gamut of their services over IP, all of their on-demand, all of their live channels. That’s what everyone is planning for.
The time horizon, is it three or four years? It’s probably something like that. Some are going to go faster and some are going to go slower, of course. But you’re going to start to see offerings that are completely … for all intents and purposes, the same. On your iPad, you’re going to have all 500 live channels. You’re going to have the full video library of first-run movies, a good back catalog, a good selection of pay channels from HBO and Starz and the like. Everyone is planning for that. It’s good for us because it’s a lot of work to deliver on that promise, and that’s where we’re getting calls now, saying, look, we’re happy doing 30 live channels, but we’d like to plan for 400. And by the way, most of them are HD. What’s your roadmap for network PVR? We understand that it makes sense to record and have these shows in the cloud. And then people can record or request what they want and then play it back on any device at any time. That’s the architecture that we’ve built to support. Again, I’m sure it’ll take three to five years to play out. Ultimately, I see the reduced influence if not the end of the set-top box. The libraries we use to install our basic functionality on devices like iPads and Android devices we call virtual set-top boxes for that reason.