OTT Execs From NBC, DISH, AT&T, Google, Comcast, Sony, Fubo TV & Cheddar, Highlight Streaming Summit Program

I’m excited to announce that I will be doing ten fireside chats with executives from Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Comcast, Google, Facebook, Cheddar, NBC Sports and Fubo TV – at my Streaming Summit, part of the NAB Show NY, taking place Oct 17/18.

The entire program is now live at www.nabstreamingsummit.com and we’ll have nearly 40 sessions and 125 speakers. You can register with a special discount for $595 at this link

We’ve got nearly 40 sessions and 125 speakers talking about the bundling of content, ad strategies, video codecs, webcasting production, sports streaming, SAAI, blockchain, direct to consumer, AV1 benchmarking, CMAF, SRT, and more! Check out the program and contact me if you haven’t yet sent in a speaking request.

We Need More Graphics In Live Video Streams To Enhance The User Experience

Data driven overlay graphics are ubiquitous in live television. The elements that are known in the broadcast world as lower thirds, over-the-shoulders, tickers and bugs have been sharing screen space with live video on sports and news broadcasts for well over 20 years. While some content creators and publishers have managed to integrate a few of these graphical overlays into their streaming-only productions, the results have been lackluster at best.

A poor imitation of broadcast with limited options, inferior production value and none of the interactivity and personalization that mobile or web viewers were promised years ago. More commonly, live OTT content from major publishers is simply the same television broadcast production but delivered to a different screen. To generalize, live OTT productions can be grouped into two categories when it comes to overlay graphics. Small, digital-only content that is created specifically for OTT delivery and broadcast television productions which simulcast certain content to digital platforms. In the former, you generally have few if any graphic overlays and the production value is subpar. In the latter, the viewer gets the exact same graphics which are burned into the video feed during production – the same experience as the television viewer. Less than ideal in either case.

But why aren’t unique overlay graphics more common in live streaming productions? A little history first. Data-driven animations have always been costly and complex to do well in a live broadcast environment. Companies like Vizrt, Chryon Hego and Ross (XPression) provide powerful graphics systems that are used to create many of the animating information graphics you’re accustomed to seeing in broadcast. From Super Bowls and CNN to local news affiliates, most of these productions are powered by traditional broadcast graphics systems. While robust and reliable – in other words perfect for live television production – these systems are also expensive, require on-prem hardware/software and have a steep learning curve. In other words, inappropriate for many streaming productions. Ultimately, live OTT productions demand distinct graphic production tools, not systems that were created for broadcast.

Strangely, with the continual advancements in streaming video quality, comparatively little has changed in the web video production space – at least in terms of overlay graphics. OTT viewers either get the same graphics as the television feed (which are frequently too small to read on their tablet, desktop or mobile device) or they get no graphics at all. Where is the interactivity, customization and personalization that the web already makes possible?

The good news is that low latency streaming has enabled new HTML overlay tools that not only give web video productions a similar feature set to traditional live broadcast productions, but even surpass them in terms of enhanced monetization possibilities. The same live overlay elements that you see on television are now available to web-based video productions but unlike broadcast, these elements can be interactive and personalized. HTML platforms like Singular.live allow content creators to add dynamic, client side overlays that compliment their live video by enhancing production value, engaging viewers and ultimately keep them watching longer. And because these native web overlay platforms don’t require custom hardware, software or specialized expertise to operate, the costs are minimal.

With client side HTML rendering, there are more monetization opportunities as viewers watch longer, are more engaged and can be targeted with specific information. A win win, and potentially a big point of differentiation between traditional linear television and video content delivered via the web.

Hosting Dinner With Fastly For Wall Street Investors, July 25th in NYC

On Wednesday July 25th at 6pm, in association with JNK Securities, I will be hosting a dinner in NYC for Wall Street investors with Fastly’s President (Joshua Bixby), Head of Strategic Partnerships (Lee Chen), and Fastly’s CFO (Adriel Lares). Hot on the heels of another big round of funding for Fastly, the company has spent the past seven years disrupting the CDN market, focusing on performance, security and media delivery.

We plan on discussing the changes in the competitive landscape with the need for platform services at the edge and the advent of serverless and edge compute trends. Attendees will learn about the innovative approach Fastly has taken with their network architecture and how it is disrupting the market in functionality, performance and underlying cost structure. We will also discuss the factors (i.e., scale, price, features, ease-of-deployment) that customers use to evaluate their CDN vendor and discuss some of the latest pricing, product and customer use cases for edge compute.

If you are interested in attending the dinner, please reach out to me but note that this dinner is only for those on Wall Street and space is limited.

Hosting Dinner For Wall Street Investors With StackPath, July 19th in NYC

On Thursday July 19th at 6pm, in association with JNK Securities, I will be hosting a dinner in NYC for Wall Street investors with Lance Crosby, StackPath’s Chairman and CEO. Lance previously founded what is considered to be one of the first cloud platforms, SoftLayer, which he sold to IBM for $2 billion in 2013. Attendees will hear how StackPath delivers enterprise-grade security and performance in a frictionless, on-demand platform with cloud-scale control and flexibility. We will discuss the latest needs by customers to protect, accelerate, and innovate for CDN, WAF, and Managed DNS, along with the latest trends in automation and virtualization capabilities.

If you are interested in attending the dinner, please reach out to me but note that this dinner is only for those on Wall Street and space is limited.

ISPs In Africa Say Netflix and Other OTT Services Are Taxing Local ISPs, Threatening To Derail Broadband Investments

The thorny issue of international content providers like Netflix selling online VOD subscriptions services in South Africa/Africa, whilst simultaneously not paying a cent of their revenue to South African Revenue Services in the form of company tax, has been reported from a number of different perspectives. In the case of Netflix, at 300,000 paying subscribers in South Africa at roughly $10 per month, it amounts to a lot of corporate tax avoidance. But to be fair to Netflix, right now the way the law is written, Netflix isn’t legally required to pay the tax.

Yet a different issue with much more severe impact, conveniently ignored until recently, is the issue of how OTT content players who generate vast amounts of local traffic, contribute to the expansion of the local network infrastructures, in Africa/South Africa. ISP networks are expected to carry large volumes of traffic, at peak times, without any congestion, latency, or buffering to end-users binge watching Game of Thrones in HD.

In recent conversations with a few ISPs in Africa, they are hugely reluctant to continue to put in place the capacity that is needed, when they have to pay all the costs to do so. Historically, Netflix has argued that they shouldn’t have to pay ISP’s to deliver its video content because consumers are already paying for Internet access. In addition, their dominance and huge appeal to VOD customers gives them massive leverage to force ISP’s into submission to host their hardware, or the ISPs risk losing disgruntled broadband consumers.

The harsh reality is that especially in Africa, ISP’s are being squeezed even more by consumers who are demanding lower broadband pricing, whilst expecting their access circuits to go faster and faster, whilst they consume more and more video at higher and higher quality. ISPs say something has to give and have commented that it is threatening the growth of broadband investments as a result. It has been well reported that Netflix has grudgingly entered into paid peering agreements with networks like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast in the U.S., but in Africa, it’s a different story.

When Netflix entered the market in 2016, they were not entertaining any paid peering negotiations but rather focussed on settlement-free peering and deploying their Open Connect servers in local networks. Generally, some ISPs were ok to receive the Netflix servers just to ensure that they could deliver on their subscribers’ content experience, and ISP’s also saved on the lowered usage of expensive international bandwidth as Netflix servers were now in the country, serving the local demand.

However, fast forward two years to 2018, and this “squatting model”, as some ISPs refer to it, is now completely broken, thanks to the exponential demand of video and arrival of many other content giants who are finding their new homes in locations like Teraco data centres. When ISP’s in Africa factor in the likes of Google, Netflix, DSTV Box Office, Showmax, DSTV Now, AWS, and Azure, all who have the expectation to put traffic on the networks and expect everything to keep working, without contributing to the economic effect, it’s not a model for success.

Teraco data centres have become the preferred hosting location for many local and international companies, due to their network neutral placement, which all the ISP’s have a fiber connection to. The previous hosting model of placing servers within an ISP’s data centre building created a situation whereby it was very difficult, if not impossible, to move away from an ISP who became unreliable or uncompetitive, thereby creating the perfect opportunity for Teraco to prosper locally.

Ironically, most ISP’s have built up substantial local hosting portfolios over the past 10 years, and traffic delivery fees have always been a component of the monthly bill. The economics at the time were well understood. However, whether company servers are placed in ISP’s data centres or Teraco’s data centres, traffic still flows in much the same way to end users, and must be charged for. Most ISP’s whose hosting business is migrating to Teraco, face catastrophic revenue loss, and no means to fund the exponential traffic growth emanating from these data centres.

Local ISP’s in Africa tell me they simply can’t keep the pipes open without these content giants contributing pro-rata to the financial effect they have on upgrading these networks to deliver their content at the quality they expect. For them, ISPs say the free ride has to come to an end, especially in markets like Africa where broadband infrastructure is not mature or pervasive, and enormous build-outs are still required to connect millions of households, who want a high-quality VOD experience.

Some ISP’s have calculated that the local IP transit cost attributable to Netflix alone for delivering their content to a subscriber in South Africa, is roughly $0.40 cents per month, which is less than 5% of Netflix’s monthly $10 fee. ISPs argue that’s not a lot when you consider Netflix is taking out roughly $3M per month from the local South African economy and putting nothing back.

If Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google with their cloud platforms are successful in luring enterprise South Africa away from local ISP’s and onto their locally hosted cloud platforms, and traffic from the Teraco data centres continues to get a free ride, ISPs in Africa say it’s game over for everyone in the ISP value chain. Of course this debate is nothing new and we’ve seen Netflix and ISPs argue for years over who should pay for the network improvements that are needed to deliver all of the video that is going over the last-mile. But when ISPs say they are getting wary of continuing to invest, in a country like Africa where broadband still needs a lot of development, it’s bad news for all companies involved in the video ecosystem.