Sky Brasil deploys Technicolor's voice-control set-tops

Sky Brasil is deploying a new set-top box from Technicolor Connected Home that supports voice control of content navigation, making it the first pay-TV provider to do so.

The Sky Connect set-top integrates Google Assistant far-field voice technology to enable hands-free content navigation using voice commands. An Android TV-powered box, it works with both satellite TV and IPTV connections to access both linear pay-TV channels and streaming video services.

In its press release announcing the deployment, Technicolor said the next-gen set-top, which it introduced to the market two weeks ago, "represents a break with the proprietary single-function nature of CPE [customer premises equipment] in the past." The company noted that the multi-functional box "accommodates a full range of digital experiences – such as viewing in high dynamic range (HDR) during live events."

"We see this as the next wave of [set-top box] capabilities," said Brian Jentz, vice president of Technicolor's video product unit. "We really think it's going to change the dynamics for set-top boxes overall."

Sky Brasil, which boasts 4.2 million pay-TV subscribers in Brazil, said it plans to offer the new Sky Connect box as "a premium product" to "optimize the experience" of its post-paid customers, "with the purpose of offering a complete pay-TV experience." It said the box will be "available without further cost" to post-paid customers subscribing to certain, but not yet specified, pay-TV packages.

Sky Brasil officials declined to reveal how many subscribers they expect to opt for the new box. But they clearly hope it will help boost both service uptake and retention, especially as they leverage the set-top's capabilities to manage such other applications and services as games, music and other digital experiences with voice commands. Besides hands-free voice control, the new Android TV box offers the ability to more effectively manage smart speakers, home security automation and other IoT applications.

"We believe SKY Connect and its far-field voice capabilities will provide an opportunity for Brazilian subscribers to enjoy an integrated digital home experience," said Andre Ribeiro, marketing vice president of Sky Brasil, in a written statement. "The technology enables Sky Brasil to address current consumer needs as we anticipate emerging desires and develop plans for future services."

Why this matters

For Technicolor, the Sky Connect rollout by Sky Brasil represents the first of what it hopes will be many deployments of its new voice-control set-top by satellite TV, cable and IPTV providers alike around the world. "We're super excited about it," Jentz said.

For Sky Brasil, the deployment represents a major competitive move in the tightly contested Brazilian pay-TV market, where it now owns about 30% market share. "The rollout of this STB is future evidence of our commitment to continue delivering joy and entertainment to our clients, in a complete pay-TV experience," Ribeiro said.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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