Stakes Are High, but Joe Inzerillo Is Batting 1.000 With BAMTech
Has it gotten easier since then? The “pipes” have gotten fatter, he says, pointing out that while certain areas of the U.S. still have poor broadband access, most people now get internet via a cable modem and have plenty of last-mile bandwidth. And he points to the work done by the Streaming Video Alliance, of which BAMTech is a founding member and Inzerillo is chair, on creating best practices for open caching as also helping to make the job easier.
But now peering is an issue, Inzerillo says, along with wireless delivery to myriad different viewing devices. “It’s an enormous amount of entropy that you have to fight every single day,” he says. “It’s not like when vendor X decides they’re going to release a new box they call us up and say ‘Hey, we know that our brand and our box is really important to you. Could you check it out and make sure it works great?’ Sometimes people just put updates in their own little world, and you have to react. The overall ecosystem is just as inhospitable as it was in 2015, if not slightly more, but the challenges themselves changed complexion over time and will continue to change. The internet can be a very hostile place.”
At the moment, Inzerillo says BAMTech faces two primary challenges: expanding internationally and the lack of standardization. The first challenge is one that became a crucial issue after BAMTech became part of Disney, a global entertainment brand. Inzerillo says that companies like Disney, Amazon, and Netflix have great opportunities, but those opportunities come at a tremendous cost. “You can’t just be good in your home territory. You have to be good everywhere, and you might not be able to make the kind of investments you need to make in content” he says. “The international side of it is a real challenge because there are different currencies, different privacy laws, things like that.”
The other challenge is one faced by every OTT technology company and content publisher: the lack of standardization. “The one thing about the internet that everybody agrees about is that it’s IP (internet protocol)-based. Beyond that, it’s lots of different things for lots of different folks,” Inzerillo says. “The plurality of digital rights management [technologies], the plurality of codecs, etc., just adds complexity to the players and everything else. And it’s not just that new things enter, it’s also that the old things don’t leave immediately. You always have this trail of someone who is sitting there with a 5-year-old Apple TV. At what point in time do you not support those?”
Inzerillo says that the standards question hinges on a delicate balance: making OTT video easier to deliver on one hand, and not stifling innovation on the other. He points to protocols like DASH and HLS as being de facto standards, which may be good enough for now, but also says that, “if you never have standards, you’re never going to get ubiquity in the consumption of these devices.”
Luckily for BAMTech, the infusion of money from the Disney investment means that it has more money to solve these problems than most tech companies. And even though the stakes are high, Inzerillo keeps his job in perspective. “I’m not launching missiles. I’m not curing cancer,” he says. “I’m making an entertainment vehicle for folks to enjoy content and feel connect to artistry ... and athleticism. The people just want it to work. They want it to satisfy them, and have the ability to see things in the
quality and the times they want to see it, the places they want to see it. The dad who’s at the little league game but wants to check 5 minutes’ worth of video because his favorite fantasy player is playing? Those are real use cases and real people behind them.”
But the stakes are higher than ever. When MLBAM first streamed a baseball game in 2002, it was a “parlor trick,” Inzerillo says. “Nobody’s day was getting ruined, other than the folks who were building the streaming experience, if it worked or didn’t work. If a big streaming service goes down for 6 hours now, that’s a huge deal to a whole lot of people. Now, it’s expected to work.”
[This article appears in the January/February 2018 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Joe Inzerillo: Batting 1.000 With BAMTech."
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