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SMW 17: PCCW's Margareta Sauger Talks VR/360 Live Sports

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media West 2017. I'm Tim Siglin, Contributing Editor with Streaming Media and Media Strategy Principal at ReelSolver. Today I have with me Margareta Sauger. She's from PCCW Global. First of all, tell our audience what PCCW is because I know, but maybe not everybody else will.

Margareta Sauger: PCCW Global is an international telecom company. We have services available in about 150 countries in the world. That ranges from traditional telco services to what is applicable here, media broadcast and a whole suite of available solutions within that vertical.

Tim Siglin: Interesting. You were on a panel or you did a presentation about virtual reality video. Specifically, what was the focus?

Margareta Sauger: It was a use case that was developed earlier this year. One of my colleagues in Hong Kong, Alex Berriman, decided to do a live 360 VR event as a proper use case because little to none were available at the time. That's how the ball got rolling. We already have internet. We have talent. We have knowledge. Now how could you combine all of that, partner with the right partners, and make this a reality?

Tim Siglin: Who was the right partner from a talent standpoint?

Margareta Sauger: Internally at PCCW, we have many different organizations. One of them is now TV. So a lot of TV talent right there. Of course our own data, netbone, backbone infrastructure. We partnered with Harmonic, who had already done some similar use cases that we could kind of brainstorm together on what would be the right 360 live events approach. Then we wrote an RFP because we're not a production house. We did need to get that element as well. We partnered with an SI company, Ideal Services. They brought in a Nokia OZO and other elements to make the stadium component fully produced before it then gets handed off to our network.

Tim Siglin: Okay. Tell me more about the event that was used.

Margareta Sauger: Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, one of the largest international sporting events. It takes place in Hong Kong. The beauty of it is that you have a dense population where the incumbent provider in that particular Hong Kong city. They had the content rights, we had the capability, the partnership. You combine all that into the perfect blend, if you will, to have a use case from an actual real-life experience.

Tim Siglin: In that live experience, was it geo-blocked where only people within Hong Kong could view it?

Margareta Sauger: Yes. It’s too bad, but as VR is still in some ways, in version 1.0, it gave us a lot of insight and experience to what went well, what kind of handicaps and struggles, the user experience, our client, Actually, NOW TV allowing us to do this, and what can we do next go round? How is this really helping the user experience?

Tim Siglin: So it's not just user experience, it's also gaining the experience within PCCW to understand the difference between virtual reality video versus standard video.

Margareta Sauger: Absolutely. You can watch this event in your traditional environment watching it on TV. You can now do this in VR, but you know your headset to mount the device, what do you use, a cardbox or any of the devices out there today. You get the sense and the experience of being in the stadium and seeing these players coming hurdling at you. Immersion of the 360 where you can see what's going on in the stadium and on the field in addition to just the traditional viewing methodology.

Tim Siglin: You had end users who actually consumed the content where they're using the Samsung VR Solutions, Oculus Rifts. How did you get viewers to actually watch it? Did you do a television commercial or social media to say, "Hey, call us today. Watch this thing live."

Margareta Sauger: Well, here's the kicker of this project. We had six weeks to get this up.

Tim Siglin: Oh wow!

Margareta Sauger: So the app store process alone is about two to three weeks.

Tim Siglin: Of course.

Margareta Sauger: We were only able to launch it two days prior. It did give us some limitations.

Tim Siglin: Oh wow.

Margareta Sauger: It was extremely positively received. It did get a lot of media exposure. The sponsors, the NOW TV, they were quite pleased with it because it did give them a good amount of exposure in the market.

Tim Siglin: Now that you have the app that's launched, you could potentially repurpose that app if you wanted to do a second use case.

Margareta Sauger: Possibly, but I think it's more a single-use app.

Tim Siglin: Are there lessons learned?

Margareta Sauger: Lessons learned, you gotta get your equipment in this stadium. You've got to get the angles of the cameras right. Those were elements that were unknown territory, unchartered territory. Getting the app approved process launched. Now we know. Then of course we've could have done a lot more advertising. Next go around hopefully we will get to that point. Ultimately, it was a positive experience. A lot of users that when you walk by, walked off with it with a "Wow. We had no idea that this could be done." We live and breathe this industry. A lot of people don't. It's yet another avenue to pull in viewers or new-generation viewers that otherwise might never go watch the game.

Tim Siglin: Right. Wow. Margaret, thank you very much for your time.

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