Comcast Tech: Experience Is Key in OTT Monetization

Last fall, Comcast grouped three of its businesses—Comcast Wholesale, thePlatform and This Technology—into Comcast Technology Solutions, with the goal of providing industry media partners new content distribution and monetization solutions. At CES, Comcast Technology Solutions announced it was expanding its direct-to-consumer (D2C) solution—which focuses on helping content providers launch and manage over-the-top covering everything from video processing to multi-content delivery network distribution. Barry Tishgart, VP of Comcast Technology Solutions, spoke with Next TV about the need for the creation of this division, ways the division stands out from competitors and some recent (and publishable) success stories. An edited transcript follows.

NTV: What was the impetus for Comcast Technology Solutions, and why was this business unit necessary?
Barry Tishgart:
We launched Comcast Technology Solutions as an organization to help partner with the industry, to provide new innovations for what’s going on in the media space. We built this on top of our robust media infrastructure. From your writing, you know what the company has been doing around X1 and OTT, and the work that it takes to deliver high-quality video.

What we decided to do was build an organization that had the capability to bring multiplatform video services to the market, and really try to help the broadcasters and programmers out there as a technology service provider. Some of the ways that our solutions help them is we offer a lot of benefits across the different business models that you see being developed out there today. If you want to run live channels as part of your service, we can integrate that. Or, we can offer different capabilities to help bring the content to the platform. And with the distributor, we can help with moving between content over to all the [multichannel video programming distributors], and through the online output units like Amazon. So that’s really the business we built. We did it by taking the capabilities of the platform, putting it together with our video-on-demand business, and building that on top of our media infrastructure, which does all of the transcoding and video processing.

We’re really out there working with the biggest in the industry, trying to solve big problems, and partner on solutions that really carry the business forward. So that’s just a bit about the high-level business direction of Content Technology Solutions, and where we’re going on the video platform.

We’ve been doing numerous online video platform capabilities for 10-plus years. As part of our business, we ultimately saw demand increasing in scale and complexity, so we’ve been working hard to try to find solutions and markets in a repeatable and scalable fashion to meet the high-quality demand of our broadcaster, programmer-type customers.

So an area that we see out there that we endeavor to solve is trying to bridge broadcast IP convergence. With more video being consumed online, as everyone knows, the quality has really been an issue there, and the workflow has been an issue. So it’s been a stress point for the content providers to meet all the contractual requirements of the different MVPDs of each online outlet. We have great ways of helping there, both for VOD-type content and live content.

Also, monetization is key here. The handful of companies that figured this market out, and a lot of others, are still straddling the line between TV Everywhere, what type of content they want to do direct-to-consumer, and what types of content they want to do live. We found that one of the most important pieces here is to have one of these flexible and open platforms that allow you to move between business models. Have strong advance monetization and commerce initiatives that allow for indication and different types of merchandising in ultimately a tag-supported, ad-insertion.

And finally, what we have seen develop in this space is there have been a lot of companies who come and have solved a particular problem really well. But the larger customers are, they no longer want to be vendor managers. And if one company can come in and provide it, there’s some favorability to that, at the point of contact. We’ve seen some news about that recently, obviously from some competitors—[ about] broadcast and IP convergence, and advanced conference capabilities. We work with many vendors of technology there. That’s really how we see our capabilities.

NTV: What are you guys doing to stand out from your competitors? What are you doing that they aren’t?
A couple of things. Having the complete portfolio out. So whether it’s managing or monetizing, there are a number of integrators, and you can string together various components. Also, being able to bridge the broadcast IP convergence and support traditional broadcast information, in a move to bring that to IT, that’s a key strength of ours. And the monetization is as well, being integrated into this with ad-insertion or direct-to-consumer-type commerce capabilities that allow for various payment processing, gifting, referring friends, those kinds of things.

NTV: You guys are doing work for companies such as Viacom and Time. Without naming names, can you share some use case examples, instances where you guys had clients who were extremely satisfied?
There’s probably some other case studies we could share with you, but just to give you examples along the lines you’re talking about: We’re working on a very large project now for an owner of soccer rights throughout Europe, and will launch a direct-to-consumer service around football in most of the key markets across Europe. Also, we work with most of the major broadcasters and programmers to contribute to all the MVPDs on a VOD basis. We have most of the files within our repertoire today with our customers’ authorization and direction. We can publish them to almost any outlet. All that being said, we are able to take over a significant portion, or outsource a significant portion, of the engineering and operations functions within many of the content businesses. That’s a positive.

NTV: We’re pushing around content in 4K, with HDR, sometimes even with higher frame rates. How are you managing with all of these big files? Is this proving to be a challenge, or do you have the codex down to where we can do this easily?
I don’t think it’s a huge hesitancy of the services and the content owners to make the content available. It just becomes a question of, is it a differentiator in the marketing? Do the customers really care? And what we’ve actually seen is a huge improvement in video quality, the watchability of whatever the content is, if it is of a much higher quality. With 4K, will it be worth it? Will marketing 4K as part of my service yield me more customers? That’s the question most people are asking. For us, as a provider of services, we’re finding the right cost model and scale to handle it. And we can. It’s just a matter of we haven’t been pervasive yet because of the marketing equation.

NTV: How would you sum up your message?
What we want to get out there is the strength of our multiplatform capabilities, and being really targeted and specific around audiences and regions, and specific monetization models that we can create, and a wide array of e-commerce work we can provide. What we want to get out there is more brand recognition of Content Technology Solutions as a provider in this space, and just more about our strengths around how we can make that happen, and the convergence of the broadcast and IT workloads, repeatability and scalability, and advanced monetization to work. We really want that to resonate with customers, and to look into talking to different buyers about helping them with different projects so we can help with various parts of their infrastructure. We want to be in a strong position moving forward to get as much of that business as we can.