Is Live OTT Content a VOD Killer?

7/11/2017
Interview by Brian Mahony with Israel Drori, Founder and President of Zixi
 
We caught up with Zixi Founder & President Israel Drori at NAB to discuss Zixi’s platform, customers, and the
future of the industry.

Brian: Israel, thanks for joining us for our executive Q&A series with OTT industry leaders. To start, can you tell us a little bit about Zixi?

Israel: We founded Zixi over nine years ago and we have been in the live broadcast business for most of those years. We are based in the United States, and our R&D is Israel. Today we have over 300 customers, ranging from BBC, FOX—all the large TV broadcasters and TV stations are using us, mostly for news and live linear occasional use. In the past we have always focused on live. While many right now are focusing on VOD, for the
last two years we see a lot of customers transitioning to live. For example, we recently won a project with Amazon video managing all their live channels. Echostar is also using us the same way for all their live ingest, as well as DirecTV.

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We are a software company and we sell services, both managed services and cloud-based services or software-as-aservice. One of the key reasons for our success was the ecosystem we created around our products. Today we have 30-35 vendors, including Harmonic, Cisco, and Ericsson, who are integrating our software whether it’s as a coder, decoder or platform... even Encoding.com is using us. From players like Amazon and Echostar, these multiple cloud platform devices are embracing our technology. At NAB, there are 35 or so different vendors presenting our product. To mention one specifically, JVC cameras come with our software embedded already. We see
a growing trend for live linear type of services.

Brian: What is driving that trend? Can OTT services become true traditional TV replacement services by adding live content?

Israel:
In my opinion, the main issue is user engagement and stickiness. With just VOD, it’s really hard to keep the user engaged— they can use when to come in and when go jump back out. With live however, if the content is interesting, people will stay watching. For optimal monetizing, you need engagement from the user, and live can help one do this. For a long time people thought VOD would be the way to monetize content, but it was not easy. When you add live you have more tools to engage users. Look at Facebook Live which creates an environment and a community where people can actually interact around the content. In VOD you don’t have that.

Brian: So do you think social is helpingto drive the live trend?

Israel: The potential to interact live with the content and the people around the content brings the opportunity to monetize you content much easier. Maybe not in the media itself, but as one watches a video on Facebook, there will be ads on the side while you are viewing. It seems clear that live is a major trend and will continue to be so.

Brian: Can you tell me about the Zen platform and what’s new?

Israel: When you go to live, unlike VOD, managing live workflow is very complicated. It requires a knowledge of different technologies, different networks… the workflow itself is very complex to manage. Especially if you have a large number of live channels, or occasional use for a sporting event, to make this work in a manual way takes a lot of experience and expertise and handholding. The main objective of Zen is to try to simplify the process and hide and abstract the complexity of that workflow. What Zen does is allow any person with a knowledge of a web interface to click and initiate the live channels and contribute it into the cloud or into a CDN without needing to understand what is taking place in the background.

Brian: Does your platform play any role in managing the asset, as a VOD asset adding to the library after it’s live?

Israel: Yes. We have ways to record a live broadcast and the technology to manage the file transfer. Companies like Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg TV are customers who can take the content, which goes live into the cloud and at the same time turns into a VOD file that they can replay after the event. So yes, this is one of our more common workflows, live to VOD. The objective of Zen is to allow you to scale that type of operation.
We have customers that currently might have two or three live events a day and want to turn that into hundreds of events simultaneously running from over the world on a digital format so people can choose to watch an event in France or in Chile, and those events can take place simultaneously. In order to manage such massive live channels, it’s almost a must to have such a platform.

Brian: Are there special requirements with managing that scale of simultaneously live events and then integrating it into a content management system that can then fit into the larger workflow for the operation?

Israel: One very fundamental requirement is to have a good transport mechanismthat allows you to move live high-quality content from one location to another and from one platform to another. You can have the best workflow, but if you don’t have a good transport mechanism then it doesn’t work. In live, you don’t have the
time to fix errors while it’s happening. You have to have a reliable transport and that is the fundamental capabilities that Zixi offers for live events. We are the most robust transport for live, high bit rate, 4k, 16k, broadcast quality type of video.
Next, field experience and integration with the platform allows us to understand how that flow works. It’s very different from file management type of workflow. Again, how you connect, monitor, what type of information you monitor-- it’s different than a simple file system. In a live workflow, it’s important, in real-time, to see the video, the quality of the video, all the parameters of the video internally in order to detect errors. On the other end, you have to keep all the SCTE-35 markers in place and you need to have the management of the markers themselves. We provide you a way to see where the markers are, what the content of those markers so you can see where they are going and see things like whether the ad was inserted in the correct place.

Brian: Tell us more about advertising and monetization of live content. What does your platform do to help enable that?

Israel: First, we maintain the SCTE-35 markers and we know how to identify those markers in RTMP, HLS, DASH, etc. In a transport stream there are other splicing technologies and we know how to transfer that. In live, especially in the internet, there are different mechanisms to do this and our platform allows you to maintain transparency and workflow. With our software platform, one does not have to think about how to transport their live stream—we take care of it. The idea is to allow you to manage live content, the experience, and initiate channels and bring them down as fast as you can. The whole workflow is a cloud-based, with all the resources automatically allocated to those events. For live, if you want to be cost-effective, you have to bring them up
as fast as you can and bring them down when you don’t need them and that’s what our system does.

Brian: From your prospective, what are the top two or three trends that are happening in the OTT industry based on your experience working with partners and customers?

Israel: Live content is king now. Another interesting trend we see with a lot of our customers is to create live content that is customized and targeted to an individual group of users, something our platform allows customers to execute. For example, if you go to a sports channel and you want to watch a basketball game but they are showing a football game, the OTT provider will be able to monitor your habits and know that you prefer basketball and can quickly switch the game from live football to a previously recorded basketball game or highlights to keep you from leaving the channel. They can make it more of a linear channel while you are watching. We’ve seen this with some of our customers, they are creating personalized live channels for users. They can bring up that content very quickly and create a channel and allow the transition of what had before into the new content very, very quickly.

Brian: So the last question is where do you see the OTT industry going? Are we going to see these OTT services being replacements for traditional TV?

Israel: I think it’s already happening. People are going to consume the content they like. Maybe over the top TV is replaced by over the top video because it’s not really about TV anymore. People are consuming content all the time from any device whether it’s live or VOD. A good example is what DirecTV does with live channels and services. Basically what they say is here are all of our live channels—watch it any way you want, whether it’s TV, satellite, or a mobile device. That is the future of OTT.
 
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  Israel Drori , Founder and President, of Zixi has (over the past 24 years) founded and operated numerous technology companies.
Since founding Zixi in 2006, Israel has served as the Company’s CEO and is responsible for Zixi’s vision, long-term planning, market strategy and product development. Prior to
founding Zixi, Israel served as the CEO and President of Integra5, a real-time voice, video,broadband and mobile data communications company. Prior to leading Integra5, Israel founded and served as CEO of Legra Systems, MeetU, and NetXchange. Israel also served as the Vice President of Wireless Access at BreezeCOM (NASDAQ: ALVR). In the early 90’s, Israel founded and led LanOptics (NASDAQ: LNOP) as Vice President of Corporate Development.


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