With the expansion of multiplatform viewing and TV companion services, pay-TV providers around the globe are realigning their software lifecycle tools and organizational structure to become more like software-oriented companies, according to a new survey by software firm S3 Group. The survey, which collected data from some 30 US and EU pay-TV operators and their suppliers, found that operators are embracing best practices such as DevOps (development and operations), Agile and Continuous Development.

According to the survey, 41% of respondents ranked service availability (ensuring services are properly configured and stable for end users) as their top priority, 32% rated speed as the top priority, and 27% cited efficiency as their top priority. In addition, 50% are deploying multiscreen TV software releases more frequently in 2015 versus the same period in 2014. Of those deploying software more frequently, 46% are increasing their number of software releases by more than 20% compared to 2014, 39% are increasing output between 11-20%, and 15% are increasing output by 10% or less.

Meanwhile, pay-TV operators and their vendors are all about modern software practices. When asked to describe their current software development methodology, only 10% classified themselves as using the old waterfall methodology, while 38% identified their environments as agile, 48% as hybrid, and 4% as continuous development. Historically, pay-TV video service providers’ software release cycles ranged from 1 to 4 releases annually. However, in 2014, 26% made more than one release per month on average—ranging from 13 to more than 50 releases annually. An additional 30% of operators made between 5 to 12 releases annually. About 25% respondents said a software change or new feature can be deployed in less than one week, once it has been tested and approved, but 67% said it could take up to a month or more.

Testing capabilities are being modernized to handle the scale, pace, and diversity of video platforms. About 13% of respondents said it takes less than one week to test a feature change once it has left development, before it is deployed. However, 67% said it still typically takes between a week and a month to test a feature change, and 13% noted it generally takes more than a month. When asked to rank the key challenges to pay TV software release cycle times, the volume of requirements and the quality (clarity) of the requirements were noted as the two biggest obstacles. Specifically, 25% cited the number of requirements, 21% cited the quality of the requirements, 17% cited inefficient departmental communications, 17% cited the variety of devices and deployment environments, and 17% cited the availability of test infrastructure. “Unlike yesteryear, pay TV providers’ reliability and innovation is no longer driven by the physical plant, but rather by software code,” said John Maguire, chief strategy officer, TV Technology of S3 Group. “Video service providers are striving to shorten innovation cycles, test and launch services faster, and make updates more frequently. As our survey shows, this trend is pushing operators to realign their software lifecycle tools and organizational structure to balance the need for speed and stability.”

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