SVG Europe Sit-Down: SIXTY’s Henriette Sæther discusses the benefits of AI and reveals the challenges of the year ahead
Since it was founded in 2002 SIXTY has been helping broadcasters globally to make every click and pixel the best it can be. The company is now using this experience to ensure that broadcast and Internet TV services provide consumers with the freedom to choose how and when to view and interact, with products such as the unique award-winning technology, Ease Live, that enables on-screen graphics to be “viewer clickable” on any device. Our Sit down with Henriette Sæther, the company’s Chief Commercial Officer, started with a reflection on comments made in 2017…
During last year’s Sit Down you said: ‘The adoption of interactive technology and its ability to work alongside an increasingly AI-controlled distribution and metadata driven video industry will play a key role in retaining viewers.’ What has happened in the last 12 months in this regard?
That’s an interesting question. We believe that the reasons for utilising AI are growing stronger by the day and that this is widely understood throughout the industry. The combination of content metadata and user data with AI is unbelievably powerful. AI can understand how individual consumers watch and interact and also know what’s happening in the broadcast and make that data available so that content-relevant triggers can shape the way we are telling stories. AI will increase engagement and broadcaster ratings by making TV more relevant and we’re building this into our Ease Live solution. We will see AI be increasingly used for specific tasks around customer care, targeting, advertising, and so on. The AI holy grail for broadcasters will be to simultaneously use AI in customer care, interactivity, production, storage and distribution to really turbo-boost the cost-savings, efficiencies and engagement advantages of AI in broadcast.
Earlier this year you announced a collaboration with Avid. How does this benefit sports broadcasters and production companies?
The collaboration that we have with Avid recognises the increasing need for broadcasters, content owners and distributors to find new ways to engage with their audiences. Consumer demand for responsive, personalised and interactive experiences is at an all-time high, and as a company, we understand the importance of putting these TV experiences in the hands of the user.
As we move forward, major industry players within live sports, news and entertainment will increasingly need to innovate to make the most of the benefits of bringing video and data together as part of one converged, seamless experience.
Our rich, user-friendly Ease Live solution enables Avid Maestro | Live to unify the linear and online TV experience for broadcasters, providing a consistent brand and design while enabling on-air graphics to come to life by making them responsive and ‘viewer clickable’ across all devices. Ease Live provides Maestro | Live with a pre-integrated solution that enhances sports broadcasts through the delivery of interactive experience. Ultimately, we are responding to the consumer demand to change the way viewers watch TV by making the TV content itself interactive across all touch devices.
How do your solutions help content providers to monetise their offerings?
Our platform gives broadcasters the tools they need to ensure viewers stay engaged with the content and its advertisements. With our solution interactive advertisements and sponsor messages can be predetermined via logic-based timelines. This completely automated flexible solution enables multiple revenue streams through the attribution to specific broadcast events. Offers and promotions can be added during the broadcast so that direct purchases can be made without ever leaving the broadcast experience.
The e-commerce experiences are driven by the broadcast content. Now, for the first time, we are enabling broadcasters to have new opportunities to sell products and services that are appropriate to the audience and directly relevant to the on-screen content. Ease Live is able to leverage user information and behaviour to enable contextually relevant offers and in-stream purchases, with targeted call-to-action opportunities. There is no doubt that this is one area in which the benefits of AI will be understood and deployed earlier than in some other areas – partially because the ad industry and major brands already know and completely understand the benefits of AI.
In the past you have spoken very enthusiastically your Platform. What are the latest developments?
Traditional broadcasts have always relied upon expensive and cumbersome operator tools and graphics engines, alongside skilled operators, to provide live production graphics. This represents a challenge when broadcasters are looking to scale their productions, especially for multiple outputs in different languages and regions.
We are continuing to develop and enhance Ease Live Cockpit, a web-based tool that uses cloud-based rendering and is not dependent on specific hardware or SDI video connections. Cockpit controls and triggers Ease Live features within a programme, instantly taking graphics on-air, with preview and live on-air monitoring. Varying sports logic and rules can also be configured in Cockpit to prepare automated graphics generation for multiple games across a number of different sports. Cockpit includes the ability to configure pre-built design components in the Ease Live library for different types of programmes. The flexibility of Cockpit means that it can be used standalone for OTT, or in collaboration with other graphic control systems.
We started out supporting the major mobile devices and this year we are moving into living room products, launching SDKs for Android TV and Fire TV, with more platforms to come. This provides a whole new era to interactive television across screens, all in perfect time synced harmony.
We have continued to work with a major sports league in North America throughout the year to launch interactive on-air graphics for mobile viewers using its premium subscription-based live and on-demand product. The project began in the fall of 2017 and includes an interactive score bug, play-by-play highlights during the game and the ability for fans to dig deep into team and player stats while viewing scores from other games.
What can we expect to see from you at IBC?
We’re going to show a whole host of enhancements to Ease Live that will make it even easier for broadcasters to deploy Ease Live and enhance the consumer experience, such as improved support for Android TV and Fire TV. We will also be launching new pre-built modules that bring genre-specific interactive features, so that Ease Live can be launched quickly across all programmes that can benefit from interactivity delivers via user-clickable graphics.
What do you see as the challenges for the next 12 months?
Our top-level goals are, first to enable our customers to reach as many platforms as possible, next to make it easy for our customers to design and develop Ease Live solutions with internal or third party resources, and thirdly to provide tools that simplify integrating Ease Live with existing broadcast infrastructures and workflows.
Broadcasters need to ensure viewers stay engaged with content, and their eyes firmly on the message. The challenge is achieving this in a non-intrusive way. Enabling advertising or sponsorship to be predetermined via logic-based timelines and allowing for multiple revenue streams that can be completely automated and attributed to events that happen during the broadcast. We already have solutions which allow this to happen as well as allowing offers and promotions being added during the programme, with direct purchases being made without leaving the broadcast.