MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) set-top box shipments surpassed MPEG-2-only set-top box shipments for the first time in 2010, with about 53 per cent of MPEG-4 shipments worldwide, suggests ABI Research. Despite the support for advanced encoding, however, pay-TV operators worldwide have been slow to support interactive features on set-top boxes.
The research firm notes that historically, operators have only allowed managed video services, such as VOD, along with a very few token applications such as weather, traffic and sports into their walled gardens. High-end boxes that shipped this year in the US and Europe will enable higher levels of interactivity, including next-generation EPGs and hybrid services, with many services slated to launch in early 2011.
“Set-top boxes are slowly catching up to consumer electronics devices which enable access to interactive services and over-the-top (OTT) content,” noted ABI Research practice director Jason Blackwell. “In the US, operators are favouring their own ‘TV Everywhere’ platforms, including Comcast’s Xfinity, Dishonline.com, and U-verse, rather than supporting OTT video services. In Europe, Project Canvas and HbbTV are more open interactive TV platforms.
“More processing power is being tested in set-top boxes, including early tests of an Intel Atom-based platform. These high-powered boxes act as gateways with multiple tuners and support multi-room viewing with thin clients on other TVs in the household,” added ABI Research senior analyst Sam Rosen. “‘No new wire’ home networking standards are enabling deployment of these gateway devices.”