Apple's SSO Picked Up by Indy Operators

Ten pay-TV providers have included Apple's single sign-on (SSO) feature in their TV Everywhere apps, according to a report on Multichannel News.

WatchTVEverywhere (wTVE), an authentication and authorization platform used by several hundred independent pay-TV providers announced that it had included support for Apple's SSO, launched last year at its worldwide developers conference (WWDC). Ten operators have decided to include it in their TV Everywhere apps.

Consumers have long complained that signing into each individual OTT video app is an annoyance on streaming platforms such as Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV etc. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) attempted to fix that by creating a single sign-on feature, as well as an integrated search feature in a new guide (to allow users to find their favorite shows across different apps). However, the value of this feature is dependent on the OTT providers themselves opening up their app and allowing Apple to enable it. This can be a problem, as each provider would rather pull -- and keep -- users within their own app rather than encouraging them to move smoothly among competitor apps.

Generally speaking, the more value the provider attaches to its app (and the content within it), the less likely it is to open it up. This means the SSO feature is only supported by a handful of cable networks and operators today. And without widespread support, Apple has struggled to attach much relevance to both the SSO feature and the new guide. (See Will Providers Buy Into Apple's New TV Guide?)

The integration of the Apple SSO into wTVE gives it access not only to the ten announced members of the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) , but also access to hundreds more independent operators that use the wTVE app for their multiscreen services. It's not as glamorous as having Comcast or Charter deploy it, but the subscriber bases do add up. NCTC members serve 12 million subscribers in total. And the NCTC works with the American Cable Association (a group of smaller, largely rural cable operators) on The Independent Show, an upcoming event for smaller operators. And the American Cable Association (ACA) has a base of 7 million subscribers.

And there is another initiative developed by cable industry organization CTAM and technology company Adobe aimed at the same function, that Apple is involved with.

It's not clear what the current status is for this initiative, but it does seem that Adobe has been working with Apple since its announcement at last year's WWDC. According to a blog post, Adobe has been integrating Apple's authentication APIs into its Primetime authentication SDK, which last year provided TVE authentication for 95% of broadcaster and cable network sites and apps in North America.

Apple has faced more challenges in the TV market compared to other areas it has targeted. Navigating complex value chains has been a difficult shift for the company, used to boldly disrupting markets and blowing up business models. The TV value chain has proven more resilient and difficult for Apple to crack. (See Apple: 1000x Bitten, Never Shy and Apple Facing New Video Challenge – Report.)

Clearly, Apple is continuing to hammer away at the video market. It's HLS streaming protocol is widely used, and the Apple TV has had some success, with 25 million units shipped worldwide up to March 2015. But since then the company has not disclosed sales volumes and analysts anticipate Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Roku will eclipse its adoption in coming years.

Video is too important for Apple to ignore, but it has struggled to find the right foothold for it to build on. Perhaps this SSO will be the proverbial foot-in-the-door that gets it into the video ecosystem, but it's a long way from dominating the industry the way it has others.

— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation

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