Guest authored by: Patrick Vos, CEO, Zappware

The content and opinions in this post are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post. 

The story of WIND Hellas illustrates what it takes to be an innovator and growth player in the new TV landscape. Just two years ago, WIND was a well-established mobile network operator in Greece, but without any kind of video service offering. The market environment did not seem very encouraging for a new entrant, with many current players struggling against the headwinds of low-cost streaming and piracy. But the pioneers at WIND had a vision of what they needed to do – they took the best technology available, married it with a compelling content offer and have now become by far the fastest growing player.

It’s easy to see what has helped the new WIND service take off like a rocket – for the big screen there’s a compelling combination of svelte WiFi connected hardware and engaging user experience, using the full power of Android TV and future proofed for next-gen UHD/HDR content. A vibrant content offer covers a full spectrum of the viewers universe from DTT, to Pay TV, to the best of Internet VOD, music and games in a single, uniform navigational framework. And the service goes wherever you go on your choice of mobile device. Combine all this with buzz from an intensive promotional campaign and you get a service that has gone from nothing to a significant market share in just over a year.

So, what’s behind the scenes of this popular service? Central to the realization of the project was Belgium-based Zappware, an experienced developer of some of the world’s most acclaimed user experiences. Zappware was selected as the prime contractor on a rapid turn implementation project: 10 months from the drawing board to initial launch. Within this project, Zappware was able to fully realize the operator’s vision with its service delivery platform, user interface skills, and approach to interface optimization. Working in conjunction with VP Media Solutions, specialists in converged content architectures, the team at Zappware fully managed the end-to-end TV platform-as-a-service during the ramp to commercial success and continues to do so under a long-term managed service contract.

One key to this success story is the technical partnerships at the heart of the project and the way the technology has enabled vibrant connection between viewers and the full range of their content. The list of specialist components includes many of today’s leading vendors. Starting at the source of the satellite and terrestrial signal acquisition, Zappware used a modular DVB receiver system from to provide a flexible, compact and reliable source of master transport streams. AWS Elemental provides the vital redundant chain of subsequent video processing and compression, with a network of AWS Elemental Live encoders orchestrated by AWS Elemental Conductor. AWS also plays a critical part in cloud hosting for the management and control software that underpins the service delivery framework and on-demand service scaling, including extensive use of AWS diagnostics and management visualization tools. For delivery, WIND brings its own network for service delivery, augmented with origin management servers and custom private CDN. On the client side, the Zappware NEXX user interface is used in conjunction with the sophisticated streaming player SDKs and DRM services from Castlabs.

The selection of Android TV as the basis for the Technicolor-supplied set-top box (STB) environment brought significant benefits. Use of Android TV Operator Tier brings with it the entire application ecosystem for streaming apps such as YouTube and including, for this project, the critical Netflix service. The value of this level of integration is set to grow over time with options such as voice support and operational enhancements included in yearly Android updates. As part of the Zappware STB integration process, the environment also now deals exceptionally well with terrestrial DVB service reception, which acts as the heart and soul of the content selection when twinned with ever-popular live sports. And the whole hybrid content offer, including user preferences, is presented in a seamless way through a fully WIND branded interface and navigation solution based on Zappware NEXX technology.

A couple of key lessons were learned on this project that are worth highlighting:

  • What turns viewers into fans of this service is an interface approach that builds on a proven navigation framework, then uses comprehensive instrumentation, personalization, and operator refinement to improve the experience every time the viewer interacts with the system. The way that linear TV, Netflix and other content have been technically and commercially integrated on Android TV within this project is now a reference for other similar ecosystem initiatives.
  • The strategic use of an especially strong ecosystem of partners made for a smooth trajectory for initial system integration and launch. Specialist modular hardware components combined with state-of-the-art cloud services for the major software subsystems provided a flexible and highly resilient backbone for service delivery. The vendors in this ecosystem also stand behind the continuous upgrade process that’s necessary for the service to thrive and reinforce its highly competitive positioning.

“Using the AWS cloud as a foundation of the deployment was one of the best architectural decisions we could have made, and has given us the flexibility to deal in real time with changes in the content landscape, the rapid growth of the subscriber base, and the pace of service evolution demanded by today’s viewers,” said Hermann Riedl, Chief Strategy & Digital Transformation Officer at WIND Hellas. “With this sophisticated back-end approach, combined with use of Android TV on our STB and a best-in-class UI/UX, we have been able to offer a new and exciting service option to the Greek audience that has reignited their enthusiasm for TV.”

from AWS Media Blog