Ericsson MediaFirst Move Boosts Pay-TV Cred

Further cementing its pay-TV credentials, Ericsson has now integrated its MediaFirst TV platform with the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software stack, a common software architecture designed for use in television set-tops. More than two dozen service providers around the world currently license the RDK stack, giving Ericsson potential access to new customers with the integration move. In total, more than 275 technology companies are part of the RDK Community, which is jointly managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable (now part of Charter), and Liberty Global.

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has enhanced its position in the pay-TV market with a series of key acquisitions in recent years. Among them, the company acquired the Mediaroom TV platform in 2013 from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and it announced a buy-out of video-compression specialist Envivio during last year's IBC show in Amsterdam. (See Ericsson Beefs Up TV Biz With Envivio Buy, AT&T Deal.)

Ericsson, like many others, is attempting to capitalize on an industry-wide shift toward IP video delivery. The company's specialization in cloud-based technologies and software-driven systems is a natural fit for the evolving pay-TV market, but Ericsson is also up against significant competition from other high-profile companies banking on the same strengths.

In the wider world of IP video, companies as varied as Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have created whole new technology ecosystems for cloud-based video services. The RDK Community is one such ecosystem, but it's far from the only one, and it's specific to services delivered to set-tops. Among vendors, not only are there plenty of companies vying to be leaders in RDK-integrated technology, but there are many businesses also aiming for their share of the larger content management, video processing and media delivery markets. Ericsson has no shortage of rivals, and many companies that might be partners or even customers in one area -- like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) or Comcast -- may turn out to be competitors in another. (See IP Video Services Explode at IBC.)

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Regarding MediaFirst, Ericsson had to start over in designing its television platform after the legacy Mediaroom technology it picked up from Microsoft began showing its age. Instead of updating the Mediaroom software, Ericsson started from scratch with MediaFirst, which was only launched commercially in 2015. The company took advantage of the expertise in the Mediaroom development team, but said that it "stripped down to bare metal" in creating the MediaFirst platform. (See Ericsson Suffers IPTV Evolution Pains and Ericsson Starts Over With MediaFirst.)

To date, Canadian operator Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) is the only known customer for MediaFirst. Ericsson says its Media division "powers the pay TV experience for over 19 million subscribers."

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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