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Another year, another IBC and my first impressions were that this one would be interesting only for its lack of interestingness. I was mistaken -- in a good way.
Kauser Kanji3 weeks ago6 min

Another year, another IBC and my first impressions were that this one would be interesting only for its lack of interestingness. I was mistaken. Whilst the show was quieter than usual – according to almost all the exhibitors that I spoke to, there was also the sense that this is a temporary calm before the next big wave of disruption. More on this and five other IBC take outs below.

#1. We’re now in a Mature Market

I’ve written before about how I think we’re now into the fourth big VOD product cycle which is characterised by, amongst other things, mature OTT products, a greater emphasis for broadcasters and service-providers on making – rather than spending – money and increasing commoditisation in the supply chain. Perhaps this explains why IBC may not have been quite as busy as the boom years of 2006 – 2015.

How then are the vendors handling this relative decline in the need for some of their solutions? I gathered that they were variously deploying four major strategies:

  1. Grouping together informally to discuss opportunities and pitches and formally in partner programs. Michael Lantz, the CEO of Accedo, for example told me that his company’s partner scheme, which launched in January, had proved to be incredibly popular having already signed 30+ collaborators;
  2. Emphasising their specialities. A good example is Axinom which, it’s CCO Stefanie Schuster said, is concentrating on promoting its best-of-breed content management system and DRM product. (For comparison, I dug out the results of a questionnaire we sent to 100+ vendors in early 2015 asking them in which of 21 areas of the supply chain they believed they had best-in-class solutions. 96 companies responded and the average score was 3.88. For reference, 33 companies thought they had just 1 BIC solution whereas one, rather optimistically, said that they had 19.) As a side note, Axinom too has a flourishing partner program;
  3. Account management. I took a small poll of exhibitors and on average 60-70% of their IBC meetings were with existing customers rather than new prospects. This is the opposite of their usual meetings ratio;
  4. Focusing on other markets. Recognising that broadcasters in particular now had smaller budgets (one vendor very candidly told me that they’d stopped pitching to broadcasters entirely), many of the suppliers I spoke to were looking afresh at pay-TV providers. Why them, specifically? Mainly because there’s a belief that with all the new D2Cs coming on-stream – from Apple, Disney, Warner etc., audiences will want to use aggregators as an access gateway for all their SVOD services. One company that championed this hypothesis was…

#2. Synamedia: The “New Bundle” & Combating Piracy

Viewers now have so much choice that “… there’s a need for operators and aggregators to offer a new [SVOD] bundle. If they do that, they [the pay-TV providers] will be the winners [of the streaming wars]”, said Synamedia’s CEO, Yves Padrines. “The death of pay-TV is premature,” he continued, “Long live the new pay-TV!

Do I agree with this sentiment? From a UI / UX perspective, it’s undoubtedly convenient to load disparate video apps from a single interface like Amazon Fire sticks, Apple TV, Sky Q. And TiVo, in its 2016 survey, “Millennials and TV: Big Appetites, Little Patience”, found that 54% of Millennials have “show-dumped” i.e., given up on a show they previously enjoyed, because it became too difficult to access.

On the other hand, although pay-TV subscriptions are still on the rise – according to Digital TV Europe – global pay-TV revenues peaked at $205bn in 2016, falling to $199bn last year. In this light, can the “new bundle” really be a new silver bullet for pay-TV? I’ll do some research and write again about this.

Synamedia offers an online video platform called Infinity, a video network that handles distribution, processing and delivery and a security solution that fights linear and VOD piracy and fraud. On that score, Synamedia believes that over 4.5 million “pirated credentials” – which give access to SVOD services – are now available to buy online.

We’re only at the beginning of pay-TV piracy,” said Jean-Marc Racine, Synamedia’s Chief Product Officer, “In some countries, the scale of piracy is such that it matches the revenues of the local pay-TV market”.

#3. The Great Supplier Consolidation Continues

Does specialisation make vendors more attractive not just to customers but also to potential buyers? Consider that over the past twelve months:

  • Massive (which had established an excellent reputation for design and UIX) was acquired by Deltatre
  • Brightcove bought (most of) Ooyala (the OVP part. Ooyala itself had previously purchased Nativ which supplied a superb media asset management system)
  • W12 (again, design and UIX) became part of the Tata stable
  • Comcast / Sky took a stake in Synamedia
  • Yospace (dynamic ad insertion) joined the RTL Group
  • And Amino Communications picked up 24i (award-winning tech framework and UIX)

At IBC this year, I learnt that Brightcove had recently acquired TV App Agency (self-explanatory) and that Metrological (TV app platform) had become part of Comcast. I understand that Simplestream, which is well-known for its live-to-VOD infrastructure products, will soon be making an acquisition announcement too.

As I wrote in my predictions piece in January, given the relatively challenging conditions for suppliers, M&A and consolidation is very likely to continue and even accelerate.

#4. TiVo and Intelligent Voice Search

I was watching the rebooted Star Trek movie (from 2009) with my nephew the other day and we had a good laugh when, despite it being the 23rd century, the Enterprise’s voice-controlled computer couldn’t understand Chekov’s accent!

That’s always been one of the more difficult processing tasks for VC systems to handle. Another, in the context of TV parental controls, is the content that can (or should) be presented to kids. If a child voice-searches for, say, “Rambo” on their TiVo / Sky Q / Roku remote control, should the software be smart enough to deny them access based on their age?

TiVo seems to have solved this problem with its “Intelligent Voice Search” feature which has recently been deployed by Vodafone in Portugal. Charles Dawes, TiVo’s Senior Director of International Marketing, gave me a demo at IBC and it’s seriously impressive – ask him to take you through it.

On a related note, Charlie Bonfield, a Data Scientist at TiVo, was recently honoured as the IET (Institution of Engineering & Technology) Best Young Professional 2019 for his paper on “Leveraging Acoustic Information for Enhanced Personalization in the Entertainment Domain” to enable voice control differentiation between children and adults. It’s well worth a read (it’s only 9 pages) and whilst it is fairly technical, it’s also illuminating in terms of methodology and explaining the nuances of content classification, metadata labelling and natural-language understanding.  

#5. ThinkAnalytics & The Burgeoning Addressable TV Market

Addressable TV – or the ability to let advertisers target specific audience segments or demographics – is, of course, reliant on data. Where does that data come from? At the simplest level, some of it emanates from the registration forms that we complete when we’re first signing up to use a broadcaster or stand-alone VOD service. This is usually rudimentary stuff: name and email address.

If we’re a pay-TV customer, the dataset broadens and will likely include our home address, postal code and credit card / bank account details.

The richest form of addressability, however, is when this initial information is allied with other third-party data about us – including perhaps our TV viewing, online and social media behaviours, buying and browsing history and other options like age, gender, location, the devices that we use and even the weather – to display more relevant, personalised ads. A good example of a third-party data provider is Experian Mosaic.

Now, the content discovery and recommendation supplier, ThinkAnalytics is getting in on the act and has launched a new addressable advertising solution. Building on what it has learnt from millions of in-house customer and demographic data points, Think is aiming to allow customers to generate a wide mix of individual-level attributes that advertisers can pick and choose from as a basis for affordable, highly targeted, dynamic ad insertion for broadcast and streamed TV.

It’s a good time to come to market too – SpotX, the online video platform, estimates that 40% of the UK television audience (12m Sky and Virgin Media subscriber households) is now addressable and this is expected to rise to 60% by 2021. In Germany, SevenOne Media, the country’s “leading marketer for audiovisual and digital media” tells us that 11.5m households of 38.8m are addressable (with 18m TV devices). In the USA, that figure increases to 64 million (or 50% of) households.

https://thinkanalytics.com/

Shorts

Among the other IBC briefings I had this year, I met with:

  • Varnish Software – a CDN whose customers include Sky, Virgin Media, Twitch and Tesla. Content delivery may not be the sexiest subject but, as CEO Lars Larsson told me, people are talking more about it than ever before because of the number of streaming services, file sizes, audience sizes, ad loads and latency. “Content delivery is a big deal!” he said.
  • Kaltura – who told me that they’d signed a new customer for their cloud-TV platform every 4-6 weeks over the past year. The company now services up to 1.3 billion worldwide customers.
  • Nevion – which supplies a live, real-time production environment that sits upstream of OTT. They explained “virtualised media production” to me with such enthusiasm that I have to namecheck them here! Nevion’s customers include the BBC, France Televisions and NBCU.

If you were at IBC this year, what did you think of the show? I’d love to hear your thoughts either via our website or on LinkedIn where I’ll also be posting this piece.

Kauser Kanji

I've been working in online video since 2005 and have held senior roles at NBC Universal, Trinity Mirror and Virgin Media. I've also worked on VOD projects for the BBC, Netflix, Sony Pictures, DR in Denmark and a host of broadcasters and service-providers all over the world.

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