SVG Europe Sit-Down: Forscene CEO Aziz Musa on virtual ingest, viewer engagement and sports market USPs
The Forscene professional video editing software for collaborative productions and remote workflows has long been a staple of the sports broadcast world. 2016 has been another landmark year for the company, with continued growth existing markets as well as significant entry-points into Australia and the Middle East.
In a far-reaching interview conducted during the closing weeks of the year, Forscene CEO Aziz Musa reflected on some of the many recent developments surrounding the platform, including new capabilities and specific advantages for sports broadcasting users. There was also a chance to reflect on some recent sporting highlights and look ahead to what 2017 might hold…
How would you describe overall activity levels for Forscene in 2016, and in which specific areas have you seen particular growth?
Forscene has outperformed all of our expectations in 2016 in terms of usage, sales, geographies, use cases and events. It’s been our most commercially successful year ever. Our highest growth market has been in the US, particularly in sports. Yet we’ve also seen our first deals in Australia and our first agreements in the Middle East. Additionally, the events that we’ve attended in the last quarter alone have generated more leads in sport than we’ve ever had before.
What are the latest developments regarding the Forscene solution, and what benefits do they bring to the sports broadcaster?
Over the past year we’ve taken what was already an exceptional product in terms of what it could do – like edit without latency off a 3G network – and have extended this into multiple different use cases.
To begin with, we added virtual ingest capabilities to the Forscene platform. This allows customers to bring an HLS stream that’s running on Microsoft Azure or AWS into the Forscene cloud, with the stream appearing in the editor just 15 seconds behind live. This means that if you’re a digital rights owner, you can go from live to your edited video being distributed in under a minute. As everybody knows, when it comes to digital distribution in sport the first person to release content gets all of the social media shares, as well as the ad revenue and sponsorship opportunities.
Another area of product development that we’ve advanced is streaming and collecting content from mobile devices. There isn’t another solution on the market that allows you to do this in real-time like Forscene. You can record from any device and ingest directly into Forscene, where your editors can access that content from anywhere to edit and distribute it. This gives our clients total control of content created by an audience and the uses for this in sport are huge – imagine being able to not just take content from your broadcast stream, but also be able to collate audience content, player content, pre-game content and post-game interviews all through a simple app.
To the uninitiated reader, what would you say are the primary USPs of Forscene?
Forscene’s technology allows content owners to access, stream, edit and distribute video off incredibly low bandwidths – we have created a true NLE in the cloud. It seems unrealistic, but on a 3G network you can stream content, edit it, and distribute to multiple sources without any latency or buffering. We allow people to be totally liberated from their location and work on any device.
In sport specifically we have two USPs: firstly we get content to market quicker – you’ve paid to own digital rights and we can get your content out to market faster than any other platform. Secondly, we allow you to actually create edits. Gone are the days of treating digital content as second-class consumption – why would you allow a mark in, mark out solution to appear on your digital feed, when you wouldn’t have it appear on your linear broadcast feed? What Forscene enables you to do is create professional editorial content using a real NLE and distribute to your audience, no matter what platform they consume video on.
More generally, how are sports broadcasters’ expectations of video editing software – and the role this plays in the collaborative environment – changing?
As in all genres, I think expectations are increasing – but sport is the most unique of the sectors that we work in. The market dynamics are such that the value of sports content has a time limit that is greater than in any other genre. Historically, you could argue that news content had that same categorisation, but not so much anymore. In sport you purchase the rights to distribute content, but in news everyone has the right to break a story first.
In addition, there are lots of innovations that I’m seeing across linear broadcast, which is a space we don’t really play in. There are a lot of fantastic technologies out there allowing for different graphical interfaces, for virtual interviewing and things like that. However, where Forscene comes into its own is maximising the value of your content through a digital audience. 67% of breaking sports news appears on consumers’ mobile devices. We deliver an opportunity to not only get that content out quicker, but we actually get it out so quickly that you start to drive an audience back to your linear broadcast feed.
If there was one specific recent project that underlines the suitability of Forscene for sports broadcasting projects, what would it be?
All of the content that you saw on wimbledon.com this year came from Forscene. Interviews and behind-the-scenes clips were streamed into our cloud-based editor, where it was edited as highlight videos and distributed through our solution. By using our service, our client’s digital teams were able to access the content from any location and they didn’t need to be on-site at the iconic event.
What hints can you give about Forscene’s plans for 2017?
Our focus this year was solidifying the platform and starting to drive out our customer and revenue growth. This second part will become our exclusive focus for 2017. We’ve discovered a huge gap in the market for our technology and we do things that really shouldn’t be possible. We demo to clients all over the world, from Australia to Samoa to Japan, and in every market that we enter we offer huge value. Not just in sports, but also in broadcast, news, education and all verticals that use video. Our focus in 2017 is how can we further increase speed-to-market of digital content, allow people to engage with audiences in a totally different way and develop workflows that are going to drive our top line even harder.
Finally, it has been a remarkable year for sport… but if you had to choose one personal sporting highlight from 2016, what would it be and why?
For me it’s the rise of Anthony Joshua, the boxer. 2016 will be seen as the year that a true global superstar came into his own. He is as aggressive as Mike Tyson, as charismatic as Muhammad Ali, and he’s British! Joshua makes us all proud to be British boxing fans – his rise from the London Olympics will lead to him being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world by the end of 2017 and he will remain there for a good few years.