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On Demand: Distribution Technology Improving But Market Remains Fragmented

With usage increasing and devices multiplying, the technology behind delivering on-demand content is keeping pace, though the marketplace remains fragmented.

That core sentiment was the main thrust of a wide-ranging distribution panel at Thursday's On Demand Summit moderated by Jeff Baumgartner, tech editor of Multichannel News.

Search algorithms and refining discovery have emerged as key priorities in the space. Panelist Yosi Glick, cofounder and CEO of Jinni, which powers several VOD platforms, stressed the need to rethink standard categorizations.

"Genre was born as a descriptor but it has become a filter," he said. "But comedy means nothing, drama means nothing. Is a new release better than other titles? It is not helping the consumer."

Picking up on Glick's anecdote about drilling down to find specific content such as titles classified as "dysfunctional family infidelity" (e.g., the film American Beauty), Kevin Parks, VP of technology for Vubiquity, said that tag applies to many tech firms reckoning with the VOD free-for-all. "It might be a good description of what Vubiquity tries to do - we are the moderator," he said.

Facilitating content across platforms is a constantly challenging task, panelists agreed. The rise of OTT services like Netflix has made it trickier to compete. Quoting an unnamed cable exec, Glick said, "Netflix is the punishment of the cable industry for neglecting on-demand."

Over time, predicted Christopher Thorpe, CEO of Philo, the Harvard-based campus TV service formerly known as Tivli, Netflix content will "take its place alongside other commercial-free content that is provided by operators."

With Netflix and many other considerations in the market, Jeffrey Reiss, a television and VOD pioneer and now an advisor to Tablet TV and Motive Television, emphasized the need to not stick to one absolute. "It isn't either/or," he said. "It's often both."