Regional operator Kabelnoord has been a fixture of the Dutch cable TV market for more than 40 years.It has grown from six analogue channels to a full multi channel DVB-C offering alongside internet and telephone services. In 2018, the company began the search for a way to quickly and easily add more interactive services so it would remain competitive with its market rivals.
Having experimented with a multi vendor IPTV solution in the past, the Kabelnoord team were keen to avoid integration headaches this time around. “A turnkey solution was attractive to us,” says Wybren Lieuwes, Kabelnoord System & Network Architect, of the decision to select a fully end-to-end solution from 24i, including set-top boxes from sister company Amino.
“We specifically chose not to build our own user interface, to go with a whitelabel option. The turnkey solution with one point of contact is very important for us. We just wanted to keep things simple.”
A full interactive service
Kabelnoord’s interactive service went live in 2019, offering subscribers the ability to watch live TV, pause, restart, catch-up and manage their own network PVR service via the STB or using apps for laptops, mobiles and tablets.
“It’s a turnkey solution with STBs and also the backend, handling transcoding and everything else that’s needed to get this interactive addition to our linear broadcast. Of course, with whitelabel apps, we didn’t need UI development and that automatically brings speed. We wanted to get things up and running in a few months, so speed was important.”
Extended capabilities without increasing staffing
24i’s software was installed on hardware acquired by Kabelnoord, enabling the management of EPG data which drives automated encoding, transcoding and DRM protection for 100+ live TV channels. 24i’s Smart Video product also handles the full complexity of capturing, transcoding, protecting, storing and serving catch-up TV content and a network PVR service, both to hybrid STBs and iOS/Android apps for on-the-go viewing.
One benefit of choosing an end-to-end solution was the ability to offload much of the day-to-day monitoring and technology management to 24i. “We do have a small technical team at Kabelnoord, but we do everything from TV to all the networking and our extensive fiber to the home access network. We didn’t really need to increase the number of people in our office to support interactive TV, we could do it with the people that we have, and the knowledge of the system that is coming from 24i.”
Expanding to Smart TVs
As markets shift, Kabelnoord is once again turning to 24i’s whitelabel applications to expand its service to connected TVs. “We see the movement to OTT transmission and we think that we should move in that direction,” explains Mr Lieuwes. “So we’re adding more channels in OTT and will have an app on the major brands of smart TV instead of a set-top box only solution. We’re focusing on Samsung and LG first because we can target up to 80% of the Dutch market with those two brands.” The “solid relationship” between Kabelnoord, 24i and Amino was a major influence on this decision. “It’s always been very supportive on their side,” says Mr Lieuwes. “It’s a good fit for us as a company.”