Gatekeeping is a cornerstone of academic media theory – that boom industry of the Noughties. But it is a theory under strain as the idea of a few privileged outlets choosing what content is relayed and in what form, and thereby shaping cultural and political agendas, seems less convincing in the Internet driven, social media world.
The home gateway is a way of operating that seems under similar pressure. The traditional gateway – normally in the form of a service provider STB – was a genuine gatekeeper; only the content you had subscribed to from that provider came through it and it only went to the devices – normally one or two TVs – that you had specified.
Like the academic theory, that seems a bit old fashioned now. Fast Internet and the OTT services it has spawned have to be available to your subscribers and if you don’t let them in, they’ll go elsewhere. Moreover, your subscribers want to use your content, and other content, on a range of devices inside and outside the home.
So the home gateway is redundant? Service providers may as well join the OTT scramble and spend all that engineering money on content and marketing?
No, or at least, certainly not yet. A discordant ensemble of OTT delivered via a vast range of apps, formats, protocols and proto-standards is complicated and needs organising for the user – something the operator’s UI can do and for which the user is grateful and remains loyal.
As important are the users diverse devices which – with all those different formats on board – are unlikely to work consistently. Only an authorised relationship with a provider that can use its gateway to connect, diagnose and remedy, will save hours of frustration and much expense.
And then there’s the content. Premium content – particularly like live sport that has a value higher than ambergris – will not be authorised for multi-device use unless under the control of a recognised operator the rights owner trusts to implement CA and business rules.
The key remaining questions are whether the gateway should be hard wired or in the cloud, and how to properly monetise its contribution.
You can shortly read the Home Gateway survey in the current issue of Euromedia.