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Sigma Systems: How to get entitlement management right

Parental controls are one example of how carriers need to manage access to content and services in new way; doing it right is crucial to new business models.

In-app billing is widely seen as a development that will provide extra stimulus to mobile commerce, triggering that ‘impulsive purchase’ moment unique to the mobile environment.

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However, it can easily get a bad reputation. Playing a free game aimed at pre-teens, an eight year old recently racked up a bill of $135 by accepting the payable triggers for different stages of a Smurfs’ game. The console had been left on and connected by a parent, so any parental controls had been effectively by-passed.

Entitlement management (a fancy name for the parental controls in the above scenario) is an important and tricky area, argues Sigma Systems CEO Tim Spencer. As the trend towards personalization and a better ‘in home’ experience drives service providers to bring new products to market faster, entitlement management – including parental controls – becomes an issue that is critical to the customer experience.

“Because of a lack of standards, a legacy of traditional delivery platforms and the emergence of IP as a video delivery vehicle there is a lot of change happening,” says Spencer, who is finding many different strategies within his operator customers.

These approaches are, broadly: OTT delivery, hybrid service delivery and IP from a central office to the set top. The increase in connected TVs and a range of other devices such as tablets and consoles brings complexity as well as opportunity. As telcos and cable companies attempt to see ‘beyond the living room’ and provide services to all members of a family, “the OSS challenge becomes more complicated,” says Spencer, “you need to manage not only which devices can accept which content, but also what entitlements each customer has. For example, the trend towards ‘stop on one device, start on another’ is a great opportunity but difficult for MSOs to manage.”

As with other areas of communications, a new ecosystem is developing and new technology is needed in the home will require operators to partner differently. Sigma has been doing some work with TIVO in the UK, in order to “build a quality of experience into the viewing lives of customers.” The problem is that the legacy platforms for cable companies had quality built-in and IP does not. “We are working on this with the IPDR standard that is managed by the TM Forum. We can get key information around the delivery experience from IP and our CTO is pushing this area within the Forum (CP: The opportunities and risks of TV Everywhere). The aim is to have OSS embedded in CRM and fulfillment systems in order to manage entitlements intuitively,” says Spencer.

While developments in devices, personalization, in-app billing and greater flexibility for in-home offerings drive the market, operators must take seriously the trust that they forfeit when parental controls or new billing methods go wrong.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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