15 Dec 2017
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Gracenote enables real-time monitoring of channel distribution with TV Street Maps 2.0

MUMBAI: While India has moved forward with TV digitisation cable operators can still add, remove or change the position of channels at their discretion without informing broadcasters. This can have an impact on the visibility of the channel and hence the ratings as well.

To help broadcasters avoid loss of revenue and identify new opportunities, Gracenote has launched TV Street Maps 2.0 solution which automates the task of TV channel monitoring.

The latest solution empowers Indian broadcasters with an accurate picture of TV channel distribution and delivery to preserve program ratings, address technical challenges in near real-time and improve monetisation from cable operators.

The earlier iteration of the solution, which has been around for the past 10-12 years, was analogue. Capturing channel information was done in an analogue way as there was no technology to help capture the channel line-up.

According to Gracenote, the new solution will improve operator compliance of distributor agreements. Broadcasters can also identify market opportunities and also see where their channels are being pirated.

TV Street Maps 2.0 monitoring is done using Remote Capture Devices located across the country that automatically capture TV channel line-ups with geo-tagged locations directly from set-top boxes (STBs).

Leveraging the data directly from STBs also enables push alerts to customers when channels are switched off or the placement is shifted.

Gracenote customers will also enjoy robust reporting capabilities including live data dashboards, channel availability, placement and neighbourhood reports that will help broadcasters to assess the impact of channel distribution and viewership ratings.

India has an estimated 1,000 digital operators delivering linear television to 175 million households around the country. On average, there are approximately 300 to 350 channel line-up changes occurring every week.

Gracenote MD India, Asia Pacific and the Middle East Geet Lulla said that creating the digital offering of TV Street Maps 2.0 took seven months. Two big broadcasters have done a deal with the company for this. The aim of Gracenote is to achieve breakeven by the end of 2018.

“As India continues its digital transformation, we are now tasked with creating the next generation of tools, platforms and services that will help monetize viewership across the digital video ecosystem. Broadcasters can know which channel is on which LCN of a particular operator. As digitisation came in we also decided to go digital as we can digitally capture the lineup of the channels. We started the planning in May 2016. We started the project this year in March.”

As of September, Gracenote has covered 650 operators in 260 towns and cities where it captures the information of the channel lineups digitally.

This information is transferred to Gracenote servers over the internet. The data is then normalised and provided to our clients.

“In the analogue world, we had a lot of broadcasters who were our clients. We give data once a day. We offer pan India coverage. We offer a self-service portal. We are taking advice from our contracted customers on what they want. We offer historical data going back a year as well. Two of the four large broadcasters have signed up for this new initiative. The aim is to have all broadcasters use our service and achieve breakeven by the end of 2018,” Lulla stated.

The idea, he said, is to have a validation service. It is not yet available in all the digital headends which number about 900 but the aim is to get there as soon as possible.

“It helps prevent unplanned shifting or changing a channel from one LCN to another. The broadcaster can analyse the data and if there is a mismatch between our data and the agreed upon deal with the MSO then corrective action can be taken. Indian broadcasters can more easily identify new market opportunities as well as the unlawful display of their channels through piracy. This level of visibility enables broadcasters to identify new distribution markets to pursue and negotiate new subscription fees from outlying cable operators,” he said.

Lulla noted that cases of arbitrary changing of channels by operators were far more prevalent in an analogue environment. Digitisation, he noted, has brought in a lot more discipline and transparency.

“Having said that broadcasters would like to see that what is happening out there in the field is consistent with agreed upon deals. So our tool is a validation,” he noted.

However, challenges are galore in tracking channel placement. One is that the power supply in some places is erratic. Since data is captured digitally if the power is not there then the system will not work. The second challenge is Internet connectivity, which is also erratic.

He noted that Gracenote also offers metadata services to MSOs and DTH operators like Tata Sky and Hathway in India, Comcast in the US, Etisalat in Dubai, Foxtel in Australia, broadcasters like Star, Zee. It also works in music with clients like iTunes. It also works in sports with clients like Fifa and the IOC.