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Almost Live from NAB: Brightcove Helps Transition Broadcasters

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[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at NAB 2015.]

Broadcasters have had to re-think what it means to be a broadcast/digital company, said Albert Lai, CTO for media at Brightcove. Interviewed at the recent NAB conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Lai explained that broadcasters are in a state of rapid transition.

"They've asked themselves, what are they? What type of company are they? Are they a technology company and they need to be hiring software developers—teams, dozens, hundreds—building core software video delivery," Lai said. "Or, are they actually a content company, and is their long-term goal to acquire the best content, distribute that, and monetize it. Is that their business? I think the ones that will be the most successful will determine that they are content companies."

Besides helping broadcasters move to a cloud-centered workflow, Brightcove also spotlighted some new product announcements.

"We announced the general availability of Once VOD 2.0," Lai explained. "This enables our broadcast customers and other media customers using server-side technology to dynamically insert advertisements into content which can be delivered to any device. This really facilitates and makes it easier to deliver not just to a desktop experience but mobile web, mobile apps, game consoles, connected televisions. We introduced a new set of APIs, which makes it easier for our customers to adopt this technology."

For more on how companies can re-think the challenges they're facing, watch the interview below.

 

Troy:  Hi everyone. This is Troy Dreier, StreamingMedia.com. Coming to you from NAB 2015. I'm so pleased to be talking to some of the big news makers here on the show floor. I'm joined by Albert Lai, CTO for media at Brightcove. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

Albert:           Thank you for having me.

Troy:  We're just going to talk about some of the big issues facing our industry right now. Consumers are demanding more in their video. They want every thing in every place. They have high expectations. What does this mean for traditional broadcasters? How are they adapting to this.

Albert:           The conversations I've had with our broadcast customers worldwide, they are going through a transition. That transition is both internally as well as externally. Internally, from and organizational point of view, you've typically had a separation between the broadcast teams and people, versus the digital people, who are, in some cases, treated as second-class citizens. It wasn't just organizational, it was also the budgets, the systems, the workflows. For those companies that understand this transition, this evolution that's happening at a very rapid pace, they realize that they have to rethink what it means to be a broadcast/digital company. That means removing those barriers so they can think about delivering content to their consumer, not about which system did it originate from, or what format it's in.

            That really means many of these customs were fore-thinking, to re-look at their infrastructure. Making decisions on, are they going to spend another million dollars or more on on-premises encoding. Is that really what their core IP is, or should they use other capabilities like cloud encoding, and is that something that they can benefit from and take that money and that focus and focus on other added value?

            Externally, from a user perspective, they also have to determine, how do they take this content and offer it to their consumers? The easiest way of thinking about it is to just copy and paste. Take the broadcast model of content and advertising monetization and just do the same thing on digital. 30 second ads, being able to offer that out just as-is. That really hasn't worked. They now see this audience that wants content any time anywhere on any device, and they have to challenge themselves to determine how can they effectively deliver that to them while also maintaining a viable model.

Troy:  Are they adapting big new workflows to process everything to both markets, both audiences?

Albert:           I think the more aggressive and forward-thinking broadcasters and media companies, what they're doing is just re-thinking and challenging themselves as to what should they be focused on. A lot of the questions and changes that we've seen, and people have said this to me, they've asked themselves, what are they? What type of company are they? Are they a technology company, and they need to be hiring software developers. Teams. Dozens. Hundreds. Building core software video delivery. Or, are they actually a content company, and is their long-term goal to acquire the best content, distribute that and monetize it. Is that their business? I think the ones that will be the most successful will determine that they are content companies, that their focus should be on how to effectively deliver that great content to their audience, and if there are technology vendors out there, use those. They don't have to be wedded to the traditional broadcast workflows and assumptions around, on-premises software and hardware.

Troy:  I wonder a lot about broadcasters. Now we're seeing so many devices besides mobile devices. Set-top boxes, Apple TV and Roku, and you've got all of this WWE network and then the Sling TV and all these services feeding us online content. Is there a future for broadcast? Does it matter? Does it have a future?

Albert:           It's interesting. I think that we're seeing almost a race between several different groups within the ecosystem. You have the content programmers that have licensed their content to the operators that are making billions of dollars off of these carriage agreements, but they don't have direct control of that consumer. Some of them, like WWE, are reaching out and providing these OTT services directly to the consumer. HBO now just launching and doing the same. It is a risky, but exciting endeavor. From the operator side, they are also trying to control owing the living room. That's kind of been their default. They also have to understand, how do they take this content and offer it out to their subscribers when they typically can only control what happens within the homestead, but customers want to watch on a plane, in a car, on a bus, at work, on their game console. Not just on a set top box.

            One of the most interesting things in this race is as we think about these two participants as well as the pure digital folks, whether it's an Apple or a Netflix that are participating in this. It's all about access at the end of the day. Even if I am able to subscribe to many of the OTT services and I want to watch this on my phone or on my iPad, I need to be able to have access to it. If I'm out of the home, I'm using, in my case, Verizon. If I watch three Netflix shows at Hi-Def, I could eat up my entire plan. I've done that, and I've gone into $100 overage in one afternoon.

            That's an expensive endeavor for a consumer, but within the home where a lot of these OTT services are being delivered, who controls that fixed pipe. It's actually the pay TV operators, so they're actually in a very advantageous position just fundamentally from an access point of view.

Troy:  You touched on mobile in that answer. I've seen study after study all year about the growth of mobile. How fast it's growing. People are watching more and more on mobile. It's eclipsed desktop, I think. Is mobile now the first screen?

Albert:           For many of our customers, they certainly saw that trend and that shift happen last year, where the majority of their traffic was not originating from desktop. It was mobile or other devices. Is mobile the only screen? Is the primary screen? Well, it's an important screen. I think that as content owners think about how that video and the monetization model ... How that is offered, they have to think about the different screens available to the consumer, whether it's the television experience, the mobile experience ... A connected television experience in the home or on a game console. Is mobile the only or the primary? For now, it probably is. It's a very important device, because pretty much everyone has at least one. And so, content programmers have to think about what does it mean for a consumer to consume on that device. What does it mean when that consumption happens in the home or out of home?

Troy:  What are the mobile viewers going to do with those overage charges?

Albert:           That's going to be a really interesting question. At this point, when we think about mobile, we think about the issue of it's wi-fi, but in reality it's not, and it's expensive. I think one of the interesting trends that may happen is the whole discussion about spectrum. There's a lot of spectrum out there. Google has spectrum that they were rumored to be trying to sell. T-Mobile going after spectrum to try to allocate more. There may be ways that we can help figure out this issue of access and charges and overages. I hope that one is solvable.

Troy:  I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan and I'm never letting it go. I'm never letting it go just for that reason.

            Social networking is such a big part of how we watch TV now. How is the new future of streamed entertainment going to affect social networking?

Albert:           In the past, Twitter, YouTube, were I'd say one of the primary mechanisms for delivering content with a social audience. You just saw Facebook a couple weeks ago announce the ability for content owners to upload directly onto Facebook. They announced that at F8. The you also have other social platforms like Snapchat that have created a business, a very healthy business with rumored CPMs north of a hundred dollars. I think the great thing about that is video can be distributed, consumed, and monetized across all these different audiences, but you really need to think about what does it mean for a particular social audience. Within Snapchat, going back to our mobile discussion, most of these users are swiping, they're taking pictures, they've got their phone in their hand. Well, how do you consume video? In the broadcast world it's 16:9. That's the default. In the Snapchat world it's portrait, which means that not only should you be creating content that's tailored for that aspect ratio and for that audience, but your advertisements should be tailored as well. If you do it right, like Snapchat has, there is great engagement. People have been very surprised and excited about what they've done on the platform.

Troy:  Let's try to wrap this up with some product announcements. I know you just released a new version of Once VOD and Once Live. Maybe you could tell us about the new features and what else Brightcove has in the works.

Albert:           We announced the general availability of Once VOD 2.0. This enables our broadcast customers and other media customers using server-side technology to dynamically insert advertisements into content which can be delivered to any device. This really facilitates and makes it easier to deliver not just to a desktop experience but mobile web, mobile apps, game consoles, connected televisions. We introduced a new set of APIs, which makes it easier for our customers to adopt this technology. We're also now using Zencorder, which is our cloud transcoding service that we purchased a couple years ago. That has become the heart of that technology. It helps scale it and makes it even faster and more optimal for our publishers.

            We announced Once Live 2.0 and that's available in beta for our customers. We have many customers worldwide that host live events, whether it's a conference, it's a sporting event; or they have the rights to 24 by 7 simulcast. They want to be able to monetize that live content and using Once Live 2.0 this enables them to do a very similar method of server-side ad insertion in the cloud, and delivering that to multiple devices.

Troy:  Your company has it's own show coming up soon, right? You're going to have some more product announcements then?

Albert:           Yeah. Every year we've held what's called Brightcove Play, where we invite customers worldwide. It gives us the ability to a hint of what's to come, but it's also a great opportunity for us to showcase the different shared best practices. We invite a lot of our customers, a lot of our partners, a lot of other industry leaders. Most importantly ... That also gives us an opportunity to showcase our partner ecosystem. We feel that, for us, it's really important for us to grow into that platform model. That means working with best-in-class providers. The Play conference also gives our customers and prospects the ability to see how our ecosystem is built and how people have built really interesting and innovative solutions on top of Brightcove.

Troy:  Fantastic. Well we'll be looking forward to that then.

            Well thank you for joining me Albert. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from NAB 2015.

 

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