SVG Europe Sit-Down: Comcast’s Neil Berry on PLAZAMEDIA collaboration and future challenges

Neil Berry, Vice President and Managing Director International, Comcast Technology Solutions

Neil Berry, Vice President and Managing Director International, Comcast Technology Solutions

There can be little doubt that video content providers are facing a multifaceted ecosystem of screens, monetisation models, and vendors to get their material across platforms. From selecting an OTT platform and ensuring quality of experience, to content publishing and delivery challenges, it is a complicated equation to meet viewer demands.

According to Neil Berry, Vice President and Managing Director International, Comcast Technology Solutions, the answer lies in a comprehensive toolset that spans the ecosystem, but doesn’t require a one-size-fits-all approach. But, before that, we discussed recent developments in Comcast’s partner programme…

You have just announced a collaboration with PLAZAMEDIA. What does the joint venture involve – and what are the benefits to customers?

We are delighted to have recently announced collaborations with PLAZAMEDIA and QVest. We are embarking on an ambitious partner programme that will accelerate our reach into key territories by using the expertise of our partners in regions where local knowledge and understanding of local dynamics is essential. In this fast-paced every changing market our partners will now have access to a deep well of technical information and OTT solutions to offer their clients. By adding our advanced OTT workflow and monetisation commerce engine solutions into their own highly regarded service offering, our partners can support the OTT supply chain and advanced OTT workflows sought by key broadcasters and content owners in their territories. The collaboration with our partners delivers effortless management of premium video content from ingest to management through to playout and monetisation of the content. Our aim is to offer a modular solution, which is highly scalable and can, therefore, be individually and easily adjusted to the different needs of a wide variety of clients at any time.

A key solution available through our partner programme is our advanced monetisation and commerce engine, which enables content owners to accommodate a variety of commerce solutions including AVOD, TVOD and SVOD in addition to live and catch up TV. This gives unmatched flexibility for sports content owners who may wish to have a blend of commercial models to meets the needs of sports fans who may prefer to ‘snack’ on content through TVOD as well as supporting the more traditional SVOD distribution modal.

What do you see as the biggest challenges you face today?  

Our recent research study, undertaken in partnership with MTM, looked at broadcast business models across Europe. It identified that whilst most major broadcasters are well advanced in developing and deploying online video services, many anticipate that disruption will gain pace and the industry will become more polarised – between scale players, with leverage over advertisers and/or pay operators, and smaller businesses with well-defined thematic specialisms, appealing to particular audiences.

As a result, business model innovation is now widely believed to be a priority, as broadcasters look to integrate OTT offerings and broadcast services more closely, to maximise overall reach and revenues. At this stage, European broadcasters are pursuing a range of business initiatives to strengthen and improve their multiplatform offerings and to remain competitive in a multiplatform TV market. At Comcast, we believe these include Revenue diversification and flexible pricing which involves accessing new revenue streams by launching new services and introducing pricing and packaging innovations such as hybrid monetisation models, tiering, bundling and promotions. Then there are targeted products that means creating specialised or curated products, targeting well-defined audience segments. Third, there is windowing innovation. Here, creatively leveraging content windows will support the development of new services and distribution models, to maximise the returns from investment in content. And finally, Adtech. Here new advertising capabilities, formats, and solutions – including programmatic trading and various forms of data-driven targeting – are developed.

As broadcasters scale up their in-house teams, acquire and invest in content producers and digital businesses, and develop partnerships with best-in-breed technology suppliers, these business model responses will gradually transform the European market over the next five years, as the transition to multiplatform TV accelerates – creating further upheaval and disruption, not only at the channel and service level, but also at the platform level, as a new OTT aggregator battleground develops.

Achieving differentiated, sustainable scale will be critical, either with mass audiences or with well-defined segments, to avoid the squeezed middle ground. To succeed, tomorrow’s TV businesses will need to address clear strategic priorities, including a willingness to invest in content innovation and experimentation, flexible operating models that can deliver TV and video services across multiple platforms, a relentless focus on audiences and customers, and on understanding their needs, and a diversity of revenue streams, hedging against increased risk and uncertainty.

Earlier this year saw an expansion of your all-in-one direct-to-consumer (D2C) solution. What does this involve – and what are the benefits to your customers?

As mentioned, a key finding of our recent research highlighted the need for innovation in the content supply chain. We know there is significant need within content owners to establish and retain direct relationship with their consumers to better understand their needs and to extend the life of their content across any screen/platform, while at the same time they need simplicity, repeatability, and speed. We identified that many content owners don’t want to be locked into a one-size-fits-all approach that can’t evolve with their audiences and business needs. As a result, we created our direct to consumer solution that enables content providers to reduce complexity, accelerate time to market, and optimise their workflows, user experience, and monetisation models as needed.

The expanded D2C solution offers complete video processing, management, multi-CDN distribution, and playout capabilities, as well as a powerful out-of-the-box suite of monetisation options spanning subscription management, promotion, storefront enablement, and billing. The solution is built with an innovative UX integration layer that allows UX providers to easily develop pre-integrated multi-platform application templates for maximum speed and flexibility.

We have identified two initial UX partners, Accedo and You.i TV, to provide out-of-the-box integration into the solution’s cornerstone UX layer. Additional global partners will be announced in the coming months.

We feel that the D2C model brings an unprecedented level of design flexibility and allows more niche content owners and sports alliances the option to access greater control of their branded experiences from an out-of-the-box solution. Consumers who are passionate about a topic, genre or sport have displayed behaviours that tell us they appreciate accessing dedicated channels and they are less likely to churn if they can have a dedicated resource to satisfy their viewing needs.

Where do you see second screen applications going over the next 12 to 18 months?

At a recent tech summit, held for our clients, to share our roadmap for 2017, we ran a panel discussion around D2C and Second Screen and what has become clear is that the second screen could and should fulfil the consumer desire for a more personalised experience. We see with sports and live content that users are interacting with content in unique ways as they look to create their own experience of a key event rather than take an editor’s linear view, that is – they may want to choose whose car to follow in a F1 race and they are eager to share their experience through social media channels.

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