Hybrid Set Top Boxes for IPTV allow smaller telcos (ILECs) the ability to launch IPTV services faster and with lower headend costs than launching a complete digital service with local and national channels. The Hybrid STB is a combo box with inputs for local free-to-air video channels (ATSC or cable) and an Ethernet or wireless connection for subscribed IPTV channels. They also allow Over The Top (OTT) broadcasters a box for their niche sporting or expat content – cricket and football matches, Bollywood or Nigerian movies and rebroadcast native language TV over IP.
This concept is not new. In my work with Alcatel in 2004 we were searching for such a box for smaller telcos who were either afraid to launch a full line TV service or could not afford the up front costs. My first look at such a product was at NXP Semiconductors (founded by Philips) in 2006 when the Connected Home Team created a reference box based on the PNX 8950 SoC. With a 720P resolution, and a bill of materials of less than $95.00 (US) it made sense.
Take a look at an interview I did for Ken Pyle of ViodiTV at the 2007 NAB show in Las Vegas
The future of the Hybrid STB.
According to the latest report by MRG;
“In 2008, there were already 14.4 million installed hybrid STB units worldwide, with estimated growth to 22.3 million in 2012.”
As the 2009 Depression stumbles along, and consumers try to find ways to save money, they may turn to free tv and cut the cable and pull down the satellite dish. Most will be suprised that they can get outstanding TV (with all the same commercials they were paying for on cable) for free. So what about “extra” content. This is where the Hybrid STB will come in and thrive. Already, single purposes boxes such as the Netflix box (delivery of movies over IP) are making their mark. NeuLion has been offering OTT programs including NHL Hockey, Chinese TV and a host of other subscriber content for the past few years. Their lineup also includes “godcasts” from the Catholic Church. But that’s a topic for another blog.
Keep pushing forward.