Digital services provider Vubiquity is a jack of all trades within the entertainment industry, serving multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) as an aggregator of on-demand content and the technology backbone for video programming delivery.
Leading the effort for Vubiquity, formerly Avail- TVN, is company CEO Darcy Antonellis. The former Warner Bros. Entertainment executive recently sat down with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead to discuss the company’s brand, as well as its efforts to serve its affiliates with on-demand content, including day-and-date theatrical movie titles.
NTV: How would you define the Vubiquity brand?
Darcy Antonellis: First off, our history has always been in all things digital distribution. Today, we are a global premium content, managed services and technology solutions company. What that means is we’re a b-to-b-to-c. Today, you don’t see Vubiquity as a branded, consumer-facing service, but we power a number of the consumer-facing services — on-demand- related and linear-related services — that now span 39 countries with a reach of over 100 million households.
What has been exciting for us is that we sit at the intersection between the content community, with almost 500 content relationships, including all of the major studios and distributors. We really view ourselves as an enabler, especially now with video consumption continuing to shoot through the roof to our affi liate base of service providers. We really are able to support any consumer-facing service delivered to really any type of device; that’s the vertical that we get to play in now. So that’s been pretty exciting.
NTV: Where do you see the business now? Are we offi cially moving away from the traditional TV model to a digital streaming model for the delivery of on-demand content?
DA: Certainly, OTT [over-the-top] is a very popular topic, but I really see the entire, let’s call it video and media and entertainment world, continuing to evolve. I believe that the current set of [MVPDs] will continue to play a very important role. I think we’re going to see lots of new services that will provide consumers with a lot more options, the ability to think about what their viewing patterns are and what their interests are and what their overall connectivity requirements might be. There’s just a lot more flexibility that’s been enabled both by technology as well as new commercial opportunities and services.
NTV: From a content standpoint, you mentioned the hundreds of content providers that you currently work with. Is content still king in this business, as we talk about digital technology? If so, as a content provider, what is Vubiquity focusing on?
DA: Content remains king. I think it would be difficult to find a consumer that says: “Well really, no, I’m not interested in a compelling story.” [Laughter.] For us, the definition of content genres and fan bases just continues to expand. So feature films and premium television episodic and reality TV and so forth continue to be critical, so those are areas where we’re going to continue to invest and expand our portfolio.
NTV: A lot has been talked about regarding movies and day-and-date, and you guys seem to be working on that with the studios. How successful have you been at distributing day-and-date titles, and do you expect to see more studios line up in terms of offering that content?
DA: I think our role in that is to ensure that as those deals are done we’re able to support them proactively. With an increasing demand for independent films, availability and revenues for titles in the genre remain scarce due to limited theatrical releases and VOD visibility. Vubiquity’s independent fi lm day-and-date release initiative provides the distribution and affiliate- marketing promotion to bring titles to consumers front-and-center, on-demand, on the same day as theatrical premieres.
Predetermined key criteria allows us to see which films would perform well through this model. Our recent campaign for Cohen Media Group’s indie thriller Two Men in Town had record-breaking success. We’re excited to continue to roll out this offering and generate greater exposure for independent fi lms while bringing consumers more quality content on-demand.
NTV: Are you finding that your affiliate base is asking for more of that content to offer to their consumers?
DA: I’ve now been in the role about 18 months, and it’s been a fantastic time to see how the market continues to, in many ways, expand, because we are able now to really get a sense of how new products are playing in the market. It gives us the ability to make changes and adapt, and adjust campaigns, and really do a lot more things in marketing in real time to drive buys and to drive transactions. I think we are in the nascent days of, let’s call it a whole host of new video experiences.
NTV: Is the pay-per-view event category still a vibrant one for you with regards to looking at events and distributing them to your customers? You recently enjoyed some success with the Grateful Dead concerts over the July 4 weekend.
DA: I think the answer is yes. We’ve made some investments; I think you’re going to see in the coming months maybe some additional investments that will be interesting. [Success] really does all come down to a fan base and a dedicated fan base, and when you have that audience you have to make sure you can provide them with the appropriate experience based on the genre and the event itself. You also really want to make sure that you’re able to cater to access regardless of where that audience wants to experience the event and that is fun for us. That’s really exciting.
NTV: Are you concerned about competition that might be coming up in the marketplace?
DA: We’re kind of interesting. We are in some ways almost a vertical of one, because we’ve got a decade and a half of experience on the licensing side all the way through to delivering technologies that support the consumer-facing side for a storefront experience and then a whole set of services in between.
So we think competition is a good thing; it’s a good thing for consumers. It spurs on innovation and really helps to generate new ideas. So we have competitors, as probably every business does, but we are pretty excited about how the breadth of value that we’re grateful to provide and provide on an end-to-end basis.
NTV: Are there any specific categories, whether it’s on the technology side or on the content side that you see as being a real game-changer?
DA: We announced AnyVU Cloud last year. About more than 50% of our client base is already over onto it and it’s a very robust set of services that help to support what we coined as content as a service … a cache mode, to access deep libraries, lots of content pretty quickly and very efficiently.
When you look at things like supporting the electronic sell-through and promoting new commercial offers for consumers, it’s things like that that we’re excited to provide because, in our view, it lowers the barriers to entry and supports both our content partners as well as our affiliates.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.