IBC 2018 Reflections: Verizon Digital Media Services’ Darren Lepke on How SmartPlay Session Management Has Become a Differentiator for the Company

It may feel like Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) has been a stalwart in the sports-video-distribution market for a long time, but it’s easy to forget they are still relatively new (only seven years or so). That’s largely due to the fact that VDMS has become such a big player so quickly, striking partnerships in the U.S. with the likes of ESPN (for its Watch ESPN app), Fox Sports (for Fox Sports Go), and Tennis Channel in a relatively short amount of time.

Darren Lepke, Marketing Director, Verizon Digital Media Services

Last week at the IBC Show, the company was on hand to show off continued evolutions to their services and productions – including general availability of the full suite of DRM to clients – but as more vendors across the industry flood the market with their own end-to-end live streaming solutions, VDMS is leaning hard to service what it feels differentiates them from the field: their SmartPlay one-to-one session management technology.

According to Darren Lepke, Marketing Director for Verizon Digital Media Services, the SmartPlay tech establishes a direct connection with each individual viewer of a live stream. It’s incredibly useful in sports, allowing for simple management of everything from hyper-targeted advertising to regional blackout restrictions.

“That one-to-one session management is something that no one else can really match,” says Lepke, “and to do it at the scale of the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl – like we’ve been doing for the past couple of years – is key.”

Speaking with Lepke at VDMS’ IBC booth in Amsterdam, he said that while much of the company’s successful legacy is built upon relationships with major broadcasters, the company has been seeing increased interest from individual professional sports franchises in the U.S. and soccer clubs in Europe looking to make their own media plays.

It can prove to be a challenge for individual teams to find value in an OTT play when all of the team’s rights to live games are sold off by their respective league, but teams are beginning to get creative with airing live content around scrimmages, practices, and other live studio-like programming to wrap around an SVOD subscription service in an app experience. Clubs are also looking to further monetize those experiences by integrating interactive ads for tickets and merchandise while also looking to Verizon to help them with connectivity for better experiences in venue, as well.

“One of the benefits of working with Verizon and Oath is we have this much bigger story that we can tell beyond moving your bits and bytes from Point A to Point B,” says Lepke. “It’s really a partnership where we come in and say how can we holistically help you better engage with your fans, whether you are a broadcaster or sports team.”

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