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A VOD Helper for Advertisers

Charlie Lougheed

President, Everstream

As a lead consultant with the Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group and an executive with Keybank, Lougheed navigated the data forest of the banking and retail industries. He co-founded Cleveland-based Everstream in 1999 out of faith that the digital media revolution would spawn a need in cable for the same data granularities prevalent in retailing and finance.

Today, Everstream is owned by video-on-demand technology company Concurrent Computer Corp. One of its fastest-growing businesses has to do with mining VOD systems for data about viewing trends that are important to advertisers.

Q. How did the idea for Everstream happen?

A. Early onset insanity. It’s funny, I didn’t come from the communications space; I came from banking and finance. What brought me here were the parallels between what the retail and banking finance worlds have done compared to what cable and broadband in general hadn’t done: understanding and working with its inventory and its partners.

Q. How has the introduction of advertising into VOD streams and around VOD programming changed the need for metrics and reporting?

A. Advertising is certainly important. You look at video on demand, and some of the things that are growing it include the adoption and the rollout of free on demand content. You can only have so much pay per view content that subscribers will tolerate paying for.

The Holy Grail is really around free on demand content. The problem is, if you’re in the business of producing that content, you’re selling that inventory to advertisers. And the more you send on demand, the more you erode your traditional linear base. The issue for content providers is, they want measurement. And if they have measurement, they’re not so concerned about moving to the on demand space.

Q. What’s the influence on media buying that comes from the very measurable Internet ad sector?

A. Media buyers are seeing TV budgets shrink and go to the Internet, but media buyers love television. They want to get back to it. The issue is that it’s just not as measurable. So we’re at an interesting crossroads of not only providing measurement that’s not been available before, but realizing that also now with 25 million VOD households, you now have frequency and reach.

Q. What are examples of some types of data advertisers are interested in?

A. Certainly you can do share. That’s a well-established currency. Rating is a little more of a challenge, but you can do it. The other thing is engagement. That’s what you don’t have in linear. But what companies like (Canada’s) Videotron is doing is a form of telescoping advertising, and there, you know darn well viewers are engaged because they’ve selected a video. So it’s important to be able to measure at that level.

Q.How do you fit into the ecosystem that also includes companies like Nielsen Media Research and Rentrak Corp.?

A. People have been asking me ‘Who’s your competition?’ for some time. I’m hesitant to say they’re our competition. But we introduce a dynamic to the market that could very well put our customers in a different role than they’ve historically had with those folks.

Our customer base consists of broadband operators: Time Warner, Comcast, Cox and others. Our focus is to provide them the capabilities to do an enterprise roll-up of data that is time-sensitive and standardized across the industry, so that they can get that information either directly to their content providers, to their advertisers, or funnel that through Rentrak or Nielsen or TNS.

Q. Should advertisers trust data that originates from the very companies who are charging for the advertising on these platforms?

A. That’s a good question. I think that’s yet to be determined, what level of trust there is. I do think there are going to be folks who audit the process. Everstream might even get into that business.

Q. You’re owned by Concurrent, but you actually measure usage associated with other VOD platforms such as those from SeaChange International. How do you balance the competing agendas?

A. Carefully. When we got started, our focus was to be the Switzerland of video on demand reporting. Our customers could buy reporting solutions from SeaChange or Concurrent, but it wasn’t their mainstay. To our customer base the value was taking these pretty good reporting systems and making it a great one that standardizes across all these platforms. It’s a small market. Integrity matters.

Q What’s next in VOD advertising data?

A, One area is media exchange. Today we’re deployed over 16.2 million subscribers throughout North America. But most of that data is being used internally. Some moves directly to Rentrak, others build their own batch jobs to send that data to an advertiser or a third party. We believe the industry needs an exchange to send information in a standardized way to share information with everybody at the table. So we see Everstream being a company that can provide that exchange.

Customers are asking for it already.

--Interviewed by Stewart Schley