The availability of over-the-top video is rampant, thanks in part to the proliferation of apps and connected devices, but integrating OTT content on set-top platforms from traditional pay TV providers is painfully slow.
While some progress is being made — TiVo offers apps like Netflix on boxes that also support an MSO’s pay TV service, while Comcast has begun to tie its ad-supported, aggregated OTT offering, called Watchable, to X1 set-tops — fully-integrated OTT/TV offerings are mostly lame.
One company that’s trying to solve this video unification riddle is Frequency, a Los Angeles-based startup that recently landed $11 million in equity financing from a group that includes Liberty Global, Oakmont Corp., and YOU On Demand Holdings, a premium VOD provider based in China. Frequency, which has raised $20 million so far, will use those funds to fuel growth by securing international distribution and developing a distribution platform for Internet video-service providers.
A SINGLE-LICENSE MODEL
Under its model, Frequency aggregates and distributes content from a wide range of producers and integrates it with several platforms via a single license. On the monetization end, Frequency said it can integrate with partners’ video ad systems and have those companies sell the ads, or sell, serve and deliver ads on behalf of its distribution partners.
Among Frequency’s listed partners is Sling TV, Dish Network’s OTT-TV service, which offers traditional linear -TV channels alongside Internet-sourced content from partners such as Newsy, Maker Studios and Univision’s Flama.
Frequency started out in the direct-to-consumer business, but has since switched to the services business, CEO Blair Harrison said.
“We aggregate and license content from rightsholders and creators, and then do useful stuff like normalizing the metadata, transcoding and the other plumbing to service the whole video supply chain,” Harrison said.
Frequency’s underlying services platform, he added, allows partners to generate “personalized channels” that tap into social media and other data that can uncover their interests and provide offerings that expand and enhance traditional TV platforms. “We can look at a show you’re watching on TV — VOD or live — and automatically discover programming related to what you’re watching,” Harrison said.
As an example of this complementary approach, he said his platform could tie in webisodes from AMC’s The Walking Dead, or aggregate and surface other OTT content that’s available about the series’s actors.
“What that enables our television partners to do is to bring more content into the existing experience,” he said. “For example, there are online news services not on TV. Those should be as accessible to me on TV as traditional news is to me on TV.”
Examples of the dozens of OTT “channels” featured on Frequency’s website include CBS News, ABC News, Vice, ESPN, CNET, Comedy Central, The New York Times, Euronews, Machinima, Fail Army, JoBlo’s Movie Network, Digg, Food Network, YouTube Music and TED.
Frequency, a company founded in 2010 with about 30 employees, is not yet discussing its MVPD plans, but Ziggo, Liberty Global’s MSO in the Netherlands, will reportedly start to offer Web videos from Frequency on set-tops in the third quarter.
Liberty Global has been eager to fuse OTT content and apps at the set-top level, with UPC Hungary’s integration of YouTube among recent examples. Liberty Global is also pushing ahead with a next-generation cloud-based set-top box/video platform, EOS, that is expected to enter trials later this year.
Harrison said Frequency is also working with a “big operator” in the U.S. and expects to shed more light on that work later this year.
“There’s been a shift in that last year and a half whereby operators were all excited about app platforms and enabling apps to run on their set-top boxes,” Harrison said, adding that Frequency’s system also supports integration on other platforms, including Web browsers, smartphones, tablets and other types of TV-connected devices. While that’s still true among smaller, independent operators, he said, “the big ones have realized that what consumers really want is to have an integrated experience.”
“Consumers don’t want to make those distinctions [of what’s on regular TV vs. what’s available online],” Harrison added. “They just want to watch stuff.”
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