SNL Kagan | Ramki Sankaranarayanan on tech adoption, set-top boxes and NetflixFebruary 29, 2016
SNL Kagan caught up with Ramki Sankaranarayanan, Founder and CEO of Prime Focus Technologies to talk about content owners adopting cloud, how cloud is changing the means of video consumption and helping with challenges like digital monetization and ad blocking. He further spoke about the integration of OTT services into traditional pay TV platforms, security and piracy issues and growth opportunities across the world.
SNL Kagan: Are content owners moving too slowly when it comes to cloud and IP-adoption?
Yes. Cloud has been embraced by a lot of industries, but the media and entertainment industry has been late in adopting because of the fear that the content, which they value most, is put in a place content owners think they cannot control. Also, for the past several years, there was not a clear understanding of how cloud technology would be deployed in the broadcast environment, and what benefits it would bring. However, with a lot of their viewers online, content owners are slowly warming up to the cloud. Also, content owners understand that storing content in legacy formats, such as tapes and DVDs, will not survive decades of wear and that there still lies great value in older content.
A recent report by Devoncroft [a broadcast and media technology market research firm] shows that despite remaining skepticism about the cloud, not to mention security concerns, the acceptance of, or at least the willingness to consider, cloud technology and related services increased noticeably. Media and entertainment companies must embrace technologies like the cloud to drive outcomes like greater efficiencies, lower cost of operations and new revenues.
Do you foresee any security or piracy issues?
No. Unless they do not choose an ideal partner — a partner who is certified by the ISO, MPAA and such. Also, one of the key sources of piracy is DVDs being sent to external customers. With our SecureScreeners platform that delivers content digitally, and with multilevel logins and digital watermarking, content owners can keep a track of their content, see who has viewed and downloaded content, and put limits on how often or for how long they can access the content.
How is the cloud changing the way video is consumed?
More than the cloud, broadband availability has changed the way video is consumed. The cloud just helped push the transition with a much faster timeline. Now there are multiple devices in a specific house with viewers watching different content in different parts of the house and not fighting over the TV remote. Challenges for OTT will only be with content and connectivity. OTT players want to get content faster to viewers and retain them. In a country like India, spread across different languages and varied broadband access, the idea of an OTT service picking up numbers drastically is still debatable, though some like hotstar have pulled through and are doing well.
In which part of the world do you see opportunities for growth?
We think the growth will come not from countries, but from different content owners who deliver to multiple markets. For example, a sports body from APAC could be looking to digitize their content for their fans across the globe. A studio in the U.S. will need to integrate all their worldwide offices.
The integration of Netflix and new OTT services into traditional pay TV platforms has surprised some in the industry. What do you think?
The traditional boundaries of a studio to a distributor to an exhibitor are going away. Consequently, each player is redefining their business. Leveraging its multimillion consumer base, [a DTH player] wants to offer more through their installed set-top boxes via apps. Should that be Netflix? Sure. If you can buy Netflix through the iTunes store on an Apple TV box, why [not] through a traditional set-top box? We will see more of this in the future.
Netflix's global expansion is great because of the access to content it provides to a global audience. This audience would otherwise have to resort to piracy to access this content. But in many international markets, traditional TV is available at a much lower monthly subscription as compared to the U.S. The adoption will be linked to factors like local competition and mix of content targeted to local audience tastes. Profitably could take some time.
How does the cloud help with challenges like digital monetization and ad blocking?
With content loaded on the cloud, your options are greater. [You can] create multiple snackable versions, where you appeal to different viewers across different genres behind a pay wall, or offer exclusive premium content. With multiple options to record, watch online or download for later, viewers are skipping through even more ads. What customers don't mind is having ads that are contextual. We can have contextual advertising where the content is pulled from the cloud by the broadcaster and simultaneously the ad is being placed on the same screen, seamlessly, from a workflow perspective.
This article originally appeared in SNL Kagan
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