Pixsan's Blog


HICKSVILLE, NY (November 14,2016) – Zodiac Interactive (www.zodiac.tv), an Emmy® award-winning developer of software for interactive television (iTV) and converged digital media, today announced that it has acquired Pixsan Digital Software Limited, a United Kingdom based software company specializing in developing innovative TV software products for video service providers, OEMs and TV retailers.

Pixsan has been providing software engineering services for set top boxes, integrated TVs and interactive TV for the European market since 2007. Among its products is the UTK middleware which provides modular functionality for hybrid broadcast and OTT including standards such as DVB, MHEG5 and HbbTV. Pixsan’s software is present in over 4 million devices with customers such as OEMs, service providers and retailers..

Brandon Brown, Zodiac’s CEO commented that, “Zodiac’s desire to expand its business across Europe and EMEA is accelerated by our relationship with the acquisition of Pixsan. The Pixsan products and engineering capabilities complement Zodiac’s existing PowerUp™ portfolio by adding support for the standards, technologies and local knowhow we have been seeking. Furthermore, Pixsan is well connected with a number of markets we are immediately able to access as we continue our global expansion”.

Jon Williams, Managing Director of Pixsan added, “We were so impressed with Zodiac’s product and services portfolio when we compared the fit for the two companies - The opportunities for joint growth through EMEA were clearly compelling. Pixsan’s market ambitions are now bolstered by an engineering capability pool of over 250 developers so, along with the group’s extensive software product suite, the opportunities for customers to benefit from Zodiac and Pixsan are many - We can make a significant and positive effect to digital TV in the region with the introduction of the Zodiac offerings combined with our own. Also important is Zodiac’s commitment to our plans for connected TV software for the retail space, developments around the RDK and our other existing customers and projects.”

The Pixsan team is working with current and prospective customers to identify new opportunities based on the expanded product and service capability. The marketplace has responded very enthusiastically to Zodiac and Pixsan’s solutions, particularly the offering to Operators of a single software platform providing all services across a broad range of TV receiver devices including legacy Set Top Boxes all the way back the early 2000’s, as well as the latest current generation of Set Top Boxes and connected TV’s. Zodiac’s PowerUp™ platform offers operations, product and financial executives responsible for pay-TV and free-to-air businesses compelling benefits in their choice of digital TV software such as speed to market, a powerful “Tier 1-grade” competitive roadmap together with financial savings not previously achievable.



Zodiac Interactive is an industry leading and Emmy winning provider of iTV software solutions to Operators, OEMs, and third party companies collectively serving over 45 million viewers in the United States, Canada and Northern Europe.    Zodiac's PowerUp™ product suite is comprised of a client side software stack supporting QAM, DVB and IP simultaneously across all generations and models of digital managed devices/set-top-boxes. Extending the client platform is a cloud based server side software platform providing centralized control/management, and integration with web services and un-managed devices. Collectively the two platforms provide a common, consistent multi-screen user experience across the client eco-system. For more information, visit www.zodiac.tv 

One of the most challenging things about having a hybrid system is giving people access to the content they might want to see. The approach from the tier one consumer electronics manufacturers is that they just have a list (or grid) of apps which you can choose from and my concern here has always been that consumers don’t know, or care, where content can be found, they just want to find something to watch. Some operators have been able to corral their VoD offerings well and integrate them with the set-top box discovery mechanisms but very few companies have created a true unified experience for consumers.

Consumers want simplicity and choice, a significant part of this is that all members of the family are happy with the usability. Yes, extra boxes aren't particularly desired but they get acceptance when the benefits play out and the benefits are nearly all content centric. e.g. DVR is about time-shifting content to make it more convenient and OTT is about getting access to more content.

There are a good number of people who would like a piece of glass instead of a TV because they appreciate the experience their STB gives them. This did happen earlier in this history of Plasma TVs, they had an umbilical to a processing box, but it hasn't really been resurrected. I spoke to one company who recently mentioned considering it for one line, but time will tell.

Smart TV's real problem is that there isn't a common approach to accessing content. There are various HTML formats in use currently, especially because each TV vendor thinks they have the right answer. HbbTV has come forward as an offer to unify this, but its initial implementation in CE-HTML probably closed the market too much. Now OIPF and HbbTV is moving to HTML5 the market should be really opening up to more content and more endpoints.

However the market has another issue, many manufacturers want to become the new gatekeepers to content and take a piece of the value chain. This is the new part of the traditional value chain which has recently been declining, even with the shake-up, this isn't easy. Another part of the gatekeeper scenario is that these global giants struggle to implement individually for local markets, so they create global portals and switch on/off content to meet the local market. But this is a lowest common denominator situation, they struggle to maximise their revenue from premium content and they struggle to leverage their access to prime local content.

One of the biggest problems for device brands is that content providers want to manage which manufacturers get access to their content, the reasons for this are usually around protecting their brand. They want to assure themselves of security, quality, conformance and that in general the content is being presented as they intended. This creates a resource burden on the content provider to manage and conduct this certification. Whenever there are resource burdens there follows a process of prioritisation and the result of that is that not every device can use a service. Many content service providers set a minimum number of devices you must have before they will engage (often the number 250,000 comes up) but this then creates a ‘chicken / egg’ problem: you can’t make the product a success without content, you can’t get content without a successful product.

One thing Pixsan is keen to see is more use of delegation, where scaling partners and test houses are able to validate products on behalf of services. Another strategy that Pixsan would like to see is the recognition that often one product is built on the same platform as another, therefore a full regression test is probably not necessary. Defined acceptance criteria with high quality test scripts and automation to separate the platform from the product on top further facilitates this. The final approach that Pixsan is driving is the use of reference designs, where a configuration is pre-validated with the content provider and the integrators just have a duty to ensure consistency.

Some local companies are showing leadership, but the complexities of content access, certification and politics make success difficult. There is a division between the technical efforts of organisations like the DTG and OIPF, and the commercial arms of organisations. Until this is reconciled the market for IP content on retail TV worldwide will remain divided and fragmented.

By Bob Hannent, CTO, Pixsan Digital

At Pixsan we talk to a great many clients who want to launch TV products in the UK. In so many circumstances people go, speak to the experts and then they think they can do it themselves. Which is fine if you think you can spend money on the research, tools, test suites and development time. But most of the time I get told they will just tweak the software they get from their chip vendor that they've used in other markets. The problem is that the UK has had over 15 years of digital TV development and has lead the market in terrestrial products.

Features like series linking, accurate record triggers, alternate instances, HD linkage, target region descriptor and network change notification are mature and complex incremental additions to the basic DVB profile. Access to the test suites alone is expensive but also submitting your product for certification in order to get the Freeview mark isn't trivial. We are told that most products submitted to the DTG fail their first test, that is an expensive failure.

Yes, you can do your own development, but what volume of product are you going to sell? How quickly are you going to amortise that investment? Do you know the traps and pitfalls? Do you have confidence that you will pass the thousands of test suite tests for certification? 

Pixsan provides complete freeview software for digital television, television recorders and other multimedia products. We have shipped over 7m products to date and our developers have over 50years of experience in this sector.

Bob Hannent

Bob Hannent
CTO Pixsan Digital Software 

Pixsan Digital Software, a UK based specialist digital TV software development Company, has licensed the Reference Development Kit (RDK) from Comcast. Pixsan will offer outsourced professional services to Operators, OEMs and ODMs and semiconductor vendors who wish to benefit from RDK’s fast time to market software and hardware benefits.

The RDK is a pre-integrated software bundle that creates a common framework for powering tru2way, IP or hybrid set-top boxes and video gateway devices. It accelerates the development and deployment of next-generation video services such as cloud-based functionality and improved guide experiences. Comcast licenses the RDK to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), semiconductor manufacturers, software vendors, software integrators and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to create a community of innovators focused on bringing rich, multi-screen TV home entertainment experiences to consumers faster.

“Pixsan has been developing digital TV software platforms for many years and we are particularly excited about RDK and its recent progression into European DVB markets,” said Pixsan Managing Director Jon Williams. “The key to success for rapid broadcast+IP uptake at all levels of the value chain, namely consumer, operator and device, needs to be a common framework approach and RDK offers our markets exactly this opportunity.”

Ex BBC, Siemens and Humax technologist Bob Hannent has been named as the new chief technology officer for Yorkshire based Pixsan Digital Software Ltd.

In his new role, Hannent will shape, deliver and develop Pixsan’s future facing technology roadmap. He will be responsible for ground breaking methods of middleware and innovations in TV device software development as well as reviewing business models for Pixsan’s head-end software. In the short term, Hannent will be charged with a particular focus on educating and problem solving with Operators and device manufacturers in pursuit of lower cost but higher value DVB plus IP hybrid solutions.

Pixsan is putting significant effort into its existing Elgist, MHEG and Qt based software products as well as technology and market development of Pixsan’s new innovative hybrid middleware and the appointment of Hannent is a significant step forward for the company.

“For Bob to join us at Pixsan is a real coup. He brings tremendous technical knowledge coupled with the creative vision we were really looking for in the role. Additionally, his energy and drive for innovation matches those already at Pixsan. This is truly positive for everyone concerned, particularly our customers,” said Jon Williams, Managing Director and CEO of Pixsan.

2012 saw yet another wide range of products delivered in the Freeview and Freesat powered by Pixsan’s software including advanced MHEG5 and HTML5 based middleware. 2013 sees the company ready to deliver more simple and advanced products in the UK but a number of products in overseas DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 markets.

Hannent commences his position at Pixsan on May 11th. He is currently Senior Technology Manager for Humax in the UK serving across Europe where he is responsible for managing the technology products platforms in the region including Freeview, Freesat and Youview. He has significant experience in broadcast and particular digital satellite working for Telenor, Siemens and BBC Technology and holds an honours degree in Media Technology from Southampton Solent University.

Pixsan Digital Software Ltd, a UK based specialist digital TV software development company, today announced that is has partnered with Really Simple Software, Inc., makers of the award-winning Simple.TV streaming DVR, to bring Simple.TV to the European, Middle East and African markets. Furthermore, Pixsan also says it will be ready with a Freeview version of the Simple.TV DVR and service over the summer. Pixsan is actively seeking Operators, OEMs and retailers to adopt Simple.TV in their Digital TV product line-ups.

Two product versions are planned: A Simple.TV powered Set Top Box (STB) and a Simple.TV adaptor. In either product type, Freeview programmes are received, encoded and stored to a hard drive in an MPEG4 file format. Users then access that stored content across the cloud by the box or adaptor streaming the content to their favourite devices such as iPad, Roku, or other popular streaming platforms that support HTML-5. The key difference between the two products is whether the end user already has an existing TV service: In the case of the STB, the user can choose to use Freeview for use at home and on the move, whether in the house or traveling. If he or she chooses the adaptor, there is the great choice of Freeview programming on multiple devices without the need to change the main living room service being used eg Sky, Virgin or Freesat. Both products allow for remote management of new and existing recordings from chosen screens.

"We have been working with the Simple.TV product for some time and we think it's a really easy and robust way of accessing great content in multiple ways," said Jon Williams, Managing Director of Pixsan. "We at Pixsan are already using the early stage products in our homes now and we're hooked! We have built many DVRs and iDTVs and we think this is a great service feature for our OEM customers."

The partnership will enable Pixsan to provide VAR services to Operators, OEMs and retailers for Simple.TV across the entire EMEA region. Said Mark Ely, CEO of Really Simple Software, Inc: "Pixsan is ideally placed to help our expansion of the Simple.TV proposition across new and emerging markets. They have exceptional experience in the areas of broadcast STB and TV, having provided deployments in most of the key DVB countries. In addition, Pixsan are experts in OTT streaming integration, making them an ideal partner for us in the burgeoning hybrid device market."

Pixsan and Really Simple Software plan to further the co-develop the Simple.TV technology and service as a platform proposition, allowing public service broadcast (PSB) television to work seamlessly with OTT TV applications and multiple devices.

About Pixsan

Pixsan Digital Software Ltd develops digital television software solutions for broadcast and online devices and networks. Pixsan has developed middleware and interactive systems for terrestrial, satellite and cable markets resulting in many millions of devices deployed. Pixsan offers complete turnkey projects for hybrid TVs and Set Top boxes at a fixed price or provides professional service support. Pixsan also offers licensing services for critical core components. The company is a major supporter of open standards and open source. Headquartered in the UK, Pixsan has international presence in Hong Kong and South Africa. For more information on Pixsan, visit http://www.pixsan.com

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About Simple.TV

Simple.TV's mission is to deliver great television to connected devices everywhere. Filling the gap between over-the-top video and traditional broadcast TV, Simple.TV is the ideal device and application combo to record and watch the best television content whether you are at home or on the road. Simple.TV is designed by Really Simple Software, Inc. For more information about Simple.TV, visit http://www.simple.tv

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An article on the potency of the current patent battle between two power houses who currently are before US Federal Court. The arguments are worth considering given the effects on choices being made in our own digital TV industry.


Contact Jon Williams at Pixsan for further direct comment.


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