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Inside Thomson Reuters: Creating a Global Webcasting Platform
A look at the inner workings of a worldwide streaming empire.
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In 2008, Reuters and Thomson joined together, becoming one of the largest webcasting service providers in the world. The foundation of the group was formed by Thomson’s acquisitions of CCBN (U.S.), RAW (U.K.), NeTVision (Germany), StreamX (Australia), and BroadcastOne (Hong Kong), each of which brought with it a strong sector presence and experience and/or technical excellence in a variety of key global territories. In July 2009, the company added Toronto-based Streamlogics to the mix.

Thomson Reuters delivers 25,000 webcasts a year, with 30% being delivered as video and the remainder being delivered as audio. The platform can delay playout so that, for example, a stream can be delivered at 9 a.m. in each time zone as the globe spins. They support a multitude of languages for simultaneous translation, and they have a worldwide presence, primarily delivering investor relations broadcasts but delivering across employee communications and marketing as well. With operations in 93 countries, they work with more than 5,000 companies worldwide, including 90% of the Fortune 500, 80% of the DAX, 80% of the ASX 100, and 50% of the FTSE 100.

Michael Cotter, senior vice president of corporate communications services, and Simon Ball, vice president of webcasting, gave me some of their time to look under the hood of the operation.

Figure 1
Michael Cotter, Thomson Reuters senior vice president of corporate communications services
Streaming Media: So what does Thomson Reuters bring to the table?
Cotter: With Thomson and Reuters coming together, we now have operations in 93 countries and a large media opportunity that we think will complement our webcasting business very well. One of the most important differentiators for our business—and one answer to the question, "Why Thomson Reuters?"—is our ability to distribute our clients’ content to the audience that they’re trying to reach and to provide unique analytics on top of the robust solutions that we provide with respect to the audio and video stream. The development of a single webcast platform to support our global client base is an interesting success story.

Figure 2
Simon Ball, Thomson Reuters vice president of webcasting
Ball: To add a little bit more colour to that from a workflow/technology perspective, if you can, imagine that you have these five entities that have all devised solutions to deliver webcasting with a very similar end product or end-user experience but have had five separate ways of arriving there—so five different workflows, five different technical infrastructures, and five different processes for acquiring and distributing their content. The challenge was then to decide upon which were the best components from each of these entities and consolidate them into a single workflow. So when we talk about a platform solution, it’s as much a workflow solution as single workflow. Obviously, the technology is a big player in it, but it’s aligning how we produce a webcast and how that flows through the various touch points and teams that go [in] to creating it on a global level. I think culturally that was a big challenge.

Streaming Media: You are able to support live translation in many languages. Do you do that centrally or do you take interpreters to the events?
Ball: There are two components to that. One is we have multilingual people who work for us, but they don’t generally do translations on behalf of our clients. We can work with our clients in their local languages. We do engage translation services for our webcasts. Our platforms support Unicode so we can have Chinese characters, etc. We have delivered webcasts where we have had nine simultaneous languages running from Finnish to Bulgarian to Mandarin, and in those instances we’ve engaged translators. In fact, in that specific instance, we engaged translators at one of our encoding centres, which had been connected to the video satellite feed that was coming in from the venue. We had them simultaneously translating and putting that up on the webcast.

Cotter: We have operating centres and support teams on four continents along with the local language capabilities. Many of our clients are similar to us in that they have major operating centres in North America and in multiple locations in Europe, Asia, and Australia. The fact they can work with one firm that is providing global solutions to their global team, in their local language, is important to them. In addition to all the redundancy and all the other benefits, they want a webcast partner who understands their individual needs, and we’re able to do that.

Figure 3
The viewer-facing GUI of Thomson Reuters’ webcasting platform
Streaming Media: Did you face challenges in integrating the five webcast platforms when encountering cultural differences?
Cotter: I don’t think there’s anything unique about our webcasting business to any other large multinational company. We’re all aligned from a common "DNA." In other words, we all came from very aggressive, successful startup companies that reached a leadership position in our respective markets. So we had a lot in common in terms of our approaches.