Vewd continues decade-long quest to make idiot boxes smarter
Active in 140 countries, except in its HQ, Norway, Vewd currently enables an estimated 1,500 leading OTT apps and services, offering over two million indexed videos through the Vewd App store.
Headquartered in Norway, Vewd is one of the global market leaders that enables over-the-top (OTT) content on smart televisions. Active in 140 countries, Vewd powers an estimated 50 million connected devices each year.
“Funnily enough, we have no customers in Norway. All our customers are spread across the globe. We are headquartered in Norway, because of our heritage - from Opera,” reflected Aneesh Rajaram, CEO of Vewd, during a recent conversation with YourStory when he was in Bengaluru.
In India, Vewd has content partnerships with players such as EROS-NOW, ALTBalaji, Hungama Play, YupTV, BigFlix & SONY Liv, SPUUL TV, music services like Raaga, and multi-channel networks (MCNs) such as Culture Machine. On the global front, Vewd’s software ships on TVs from Sony, HiSense, and Alibaba.
Talking about how their partnerships and how they operate in the smart TV space, Aneesh explained,
We work all the way from silicon vendors to content partners and everything in between (TV manufacturers, MCNs), which is a lot of different parts of the value chain….
Looking at my perplexed face, Aneesh said that while it is a complex endeavour, Vewd’s track record shows that their model works and can also work at scale.
From Opera TV to Vewd
Since its early beginnings more than 15 years ago, Opera TV, a subsidiary of Opera, was in the business of making products for smart TVs, set-top boxes, and content providers. The team was acknowledged for delivering the browser engine in the Nintendo Wii, and shortly after for enabling the world’s first Smart TV, launched by Philips in 2009.
More recently in September 2017, Opera TV rebranded as Vewd. Talking about the transition, Aneesh explained that about one-and-a-half years ago, Opera was going through a restructuring and saw an opportunity to accelerate the growth of Opera TV by spinning it off as a separate entity. To enable this, Opera sold a majority of its stake in the business to a New York-based tech investment firm that had a background in media and entertainment. Opera still retains a minor stake in Vewd though.
At the time of the rebrand, Vewd Core, formerly known as Opera TV SDK, had become the most deployed HTML5 SDK in the industry, shipping nearly 50 million devices each year and more than 200 million devices in total. Vewd was estimated to be the world’s largest connected TV device ecosystem. During the rebrand, Aneesh had noted,
Our new visual identity highlights the universal elements of our industry – a play button, a screen, and the fragmented content landscape.
Vewd currently enables an estimated 1,500 leading OTT apps and services, offering over two million indexed videos through the Vewd App store. Aneesh noted that Vewd has been operating profitable for over a decade and currently has an employee strength of about 200 employees spread across their headquarters in Norway and 14 office hubs like Sweden, Poland, Taiwan, US, and China.
Aneesh explained that one of the reasons for Vewd’s success is because they strive to learn and earmark some of their profits for Research and Development (R&D). He also counts Vewd’s ability to make their software stack compatible across both high-end and low-end TVs for their success.
How Vewd works
Vewd offers a suite of nine products and services for end customers and their partners to make streaming services accessible. Some of the important consumer facing products include-
- Vewd Browser
As an open internet browser, this product provides full web-browsing experience optimised for today’s range of connected TVs.
- Vewd App store
The Vewd App store has about 1,500 TV apps from leading content and technical partners and includes content from YouTube, HBO, BBC, Hulu, Amazon, and others.
- Vewd OS
Aneesh described VewdOS, one of the company’s more recent offerings, as, “A video-first experience that is a culmination of everything from the Vewd ecosystem. Static apps icons are replaced with dynamic thumbnails to give users a real-time review of content.”
The revenue model
Vewd includes cohesive integration of content from multiple sources to cloud-based app access and also eliminates the need to download apps because of the cloud integration.
On the manufacturer and brand’s side, VewdOS provides analytics, monetisation opportunities, and also lets them choose between a turnkey solution, or a mix-and-match option. Aneesh noted,
Everything in VewdOS is modular. Manufacturers have the ability to pick and choose what they want. More often than not, they picked the entire stack….
Vewd’s revenue model mainly consists of licensing their software to silicon vendors, TV manufacturers, and PayTV operators. The company gets paid for every device that ships with VewdOS. Aneesh said,
Silicon vendors rely on us to be silicon ready with an OTT ready solution...On the other hand, content partners are just partners. We actually provide them with free tools to enhance the video experience for end users.
Some of these tools include Snap, which lets content owners create a TV app that is ready for instant distribution to Vewd’s network of smart TVs. Another free tool is the TV Emulator tools that allows brands to test and debug apps on Vewd-certified devices
Sector overview and future plans
Talking about the sector, Aneesh joked that Vewd likes think of itself as the “Switzerland of the smart TV space”. He elaborated,
We are neutral. We want to enable rivalries to exist across the ecosystem and let everyone from content owners to silicon vendors compete with each other. VewdOS is fully modular so we are always open to working with partners.
Aneesh added that since manufacturers have the option to leverage a turnkey solution like VewdOS, so in a way, Vewd competes with players like Android TV and Roku (operational in USA). Aneesh estimated that Samsung alone shipped close to 30 million smart TVs in 2017, while Vewd along with its partners shipped an estimated 25 million smart TVs.
Aneesh noted that Vewd’s products and services are used by market leaders such as Sony, Verizon, TiVo, and even perceived competitors like Samsung and Android TV. Aneesh estimated that 90 percent of all Android TVs that shipped have some Vewd software on them because there are many specifications and up to seven standards that Android doesn’t provide
Looking at global trends, Aneesh believes that within the next five years, 90 percent of global TVs will be smart. China is currently the world’s largest smart TV market. “China is a good learning ground to understand how you if can get OTT functional across the entire paradigm of TVs, content owners will also enjoy distributing content. They have homegrown operating systems that can run across a span of TVs - from high-end TVs ($2000) to low-end TVs ($200).”
With their turnkey solution, VewdOS’s long term goal is to bring in more smart TVs and enable streaming services for everyone.
Talking about the Indian market, Aneesh noted that since pay TV is really affordable in India, smart TVs haven’t gained much ground. Once broadband goes further down and is more reliable, Aneesh believes that more people will look to buy smart TVs as their default viewing device.
Aneesh said in Norway almost 40 percent of people have cut the cord and rely mainly on OTT services. So, pay TV operators were shifting to becoming broadband providers. Drawing a parallel with the effect that Jio has on the Indian market, Aneesh said,
The moment that broadband penetration comes to a point where a company like Reliance makes a big move and others are forced to compete, prices may drop drastically and smart TVs may become mainstream.