Thursday, December 27, 2012

OTTCONversations: Andrew Kippen, Boxee - Reinventing Broadcast Television

I caught up with Andrew Kippen, VP of Marketing at Boxee, earlier this year at OTTCON 2012 to talk about the future of television and how Boxee is reinventing broadcast TV. In January 2012, Boxee Inc. released Boxee Live TV, a new product that added live TV content from the big networks: NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS to the Boxee experience. According to Kippen, this $50 add-on solution to the Boxee Box combined the best of everything available Over-the-Top and live broadcast TV. However, since my conversation with Kippen, Boxee discontinued the original Boxee Box it released in November 2010, to make way for a new streamlined $99 Boxee TV box, which was met with strong criticism from both Boxee users and technology blogs like and Popular Science.

The new Boxee TV includes an an antenna to pick up live HD channels and added a subscription-based cloud DVR with "no limits" and built-in Internet apps like Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, Vimeo and Pandora. Boxee also struck a deal with Walmart to sell the new Boxee TV device direct to consumers in time for the holidays. Kippen says that Boxee's major consumer markets are the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and is available in 35 countries, giving it a much broader footprint than other companies in the space.

In his recent article, Tim Siglin points out, that two main features of the new Boxee TV aren't even available in all markets.
"For the company to avoid disappointing customers again, it would make sense to have the most important features -- the USP, or unique selling proposition -- ready to go at product launch. Yet, the two primary features still aren't available, almost a month after launch: live television pause and cloud- or network-based DVR (nDVR). Those two features, which the company touts as part and parcel of the "Boxee Rebellion" on its packaging, are not ready for widespread use. In fact, the nDVR functionality that Boxee calls unlimited DVR is only available in beta in eight cities in the United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C." 
Siglin added that there's also a mismatch in the Boxee-Walmart retail strategy, because Walmart has a limited presence in many of those urban markets and faces a big hurdle to sell to sell the Boxee TV to its rural markets, where the unlimited DVR service is not yet available.

Although, the Boxee TV blog states that:
"As we begin service in these markets we assume there’s going to a few growing pains so we’re marking the service as BETA, but most users should have full functionality (and it will be FREE during this period)." 
While Boxee continues to innovate its product and strike deals with content providers, many of its early adopters have expressed their frustration at being abandoned. The company started with an agnostic business model and a free software-based OTT social media center and devoted user community, but has phased out the software platform, and locked out popular features and development as the Boxee platform matured over the last few years.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen wrote on the Boxee blog:
"Our small team has poured our hearts and souls into the Boxee Box and it has been great to meet users from all over the globe. Some loved it, some wanted more features, others complained, but everyone was passionate.  We hope you have enjoyed it and will continue to use it in your living rooms, dens, bedrooms or wherever else you set it up."
Kippen says that Boxee's focus has been to extend the feature set, streamline what they do to make it simpler and easier to use, and bring in as much content as they can. He says that the company has always seen Boxee as an ecosystem play.
"We want to be the experience that you have on your TV, on your mobile device, your tablet," Kippen says. "We could be on a set-top box, Blu-Ray player or game console. We really see Boxee as a great way to access all that content that's coming from the Internet, and now from your antenna or cable system. We do a great job of bringing that all into one place. So I think for us, we would really like to see Boxee in a lot of those different devices, and also powering more innovative experiences between different screens." 
According to Kippen, it all comes back to storytelling, which has grown beyond the traditional linear narrative into a transmedia experience.
"How do we take storytelling to the next level to where it's more than just a TV show, more than just a website or an iPad app," asks Kippen. "How do we create a story arc that goes across all these different platforms?"
Kippen is confident that Boxee can be a great way to experiment and build those experiences out.

About Boxee
Boxee Inc. is helping people fall in love with TV all over again. We believe TV should be personal and delivered on your schedule. That’s why we created the world’s first cloud DVR that allows you to record an unlimited amount of TV programs to the Internet, and then watch on your TV, computer, iPad…pretty much anywhere. Boxee also lets you watch shows from broadcast TV channels and shows & movies from online services like Netflix, VUDU and YouTube. Boxee is made with love in NYC.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

OTTCONversations: John Gildred, SyncTV - OTT Video is Replacing Traditional Broadcast TV

Earlier this year at OTTCON 2012, I met up with John Gildred, Founder and CTO of Silicon Valley-based SyncTV, to discuss how OTT video is replacing traditional broadcast TV. According to Gildred, media consumption methods are changing, and mobile devices and OTT video is the main driver behind the shift. OTT is on the path to replace conventional TV, but for now, it's becoming a strong supplement to legacy broadcast platforms. Gildred says, video is such a focal point of what's going on and live television is going to be a big component too. An important theme in 2012 is making Over-the-Top technology be suitable for a full multi-channel live television services, and VOD, network DVR, accessibility on any device with all the things you would normally expect.

Another trend, Gildred says, is that broadcasters and content providers will seek and leverage OTT cloud-based video services.
"They may know they need a CDN, they know they need an app, but they don't necessarily know how to tie the billing in and the customer management, and the entitlement and the DRM, and there's so many other pieces they don't always know they need to have."
Those other pieces include; flexible CMS, VOD and live transcoding, rights management, availability windows, billing, branded apps, analytics and integration.

Gildred wrote, on the the SyncTV blog,
"As more people begin looking for alternatives to bundled cable subscriptions, some networks are exploring ways to retain the attention of a changing viewer base. A few prominent networks have also released apps for connected- device and TV app stores." "New standards, like MPEG DASH, and initiatives allow digital TV – think digital cable – to be shown over the Internet, and on connected devices. The idea is based on the different ways in which viewers receive content into their homes. Some watch digital TV. Others stream content, but often to a computer, or computer or connected device (and the required pile of hardware and cables) hooked up to a TV. Hybrid broadcasting would allow viewers to watch all of their streaming and digital broadcast content through one device."
The SyncTV provides an OTT platform for broadcasters and content providers for pay TV and pay-per-view. Gildred has experience working with companies like NBC Universal; France’s largest broadcaster, M6; AVAIL-TVN; LimeTV. SyncTV is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with representatives in France, Spain, UK, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and China. Earlier this, SyncTV's parent company Intertrust Technologies Corporation, signed a patent deal with HTC, giving it a 20% stake in SyncTV.

About SyncTV
SyncTV and its content distribution platform offers video content and service providers a turnkey solution for extending their offerings to millions of viewers across the Internet. SyncTV partners with television networks, broadcasters, content distributors, and content producers worldwide to distribute media across all forms of entertainment media including Internet-enabled connected TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, smartphones, tablets, and more. In addition to Dream Link Entertainment, SyncTV works with many of the world’s top entertainment studios including NBC Universal, Jaroo, Kidlet, Wieder.TV, Aim Flicks, Oasis TV, The Concert Channel and Bollywood Nirvana. Based in Sunnyvale, CA, SyncTV is a subsidiary of Intertrust Technologies Corporation ( For more information, visit or follow @SyncTV on Twitter.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

OTTCONversations: Sean Knapp, Ooyala - Developing the Next Generation of Connected Media Experiences

I caught up with Sean Knapp, Co-founder and CTO of Ooyala, earlier this year at OTTCON 2012 to talk about some of the latest trends in multi-screen video delivery, monetization and personalized video experiences. Knapp was there to speak on the executive panel discussion, "Over-the-Top TV 2.0 – Developing the Next Generation of Innovative Connected Media Experiences."

According to Knapp, a lot of questions are being asked as the growth in online video explodes across the web and devices, in particular, how do we make online video more monetizable and more of a revenue stream? How do we solve this problem of the old adage of, analog dollars to digital pennies and now, justifiably digital dimes, and how do we make that digital dollars?

Video has to be more of a personalized experience

Five years ago online video consumption was only 1% of video viewing, and today that's grown to 9%. That brings with it, some very serious implications, as Knapp notes, "We're no longer in an experimental phase, we're in a viable revenue stream phase. But we're also in a potential cannibalization phase."

Knapp says, video has to be more of a personalized experience for each consumer and each piece of content on each device. Whether it's a mobile phone, tablet, set-top box or PC – they all provide an opportunity to engage the consumer in very different ways that ultimately will build a much stronger one-to-one relationship with every consumer.
"This has huge potential for the market, but it does require a shift in mindset from broadcast, which is a one to many – to personalization, which is a one-to-one dialogue with each and every consumer."

Online Video is still only a small percent of the market, but it's growing...

If you go by hours of content consumed, YouTube is 2.7% of all video viewed online based on statistics from earlier in the year. According to comScore's most recent comScore Video Metrix, an all-time high of 188 million U.S. Internet users watched 37.7 billion online content videos in August 2012, while video ad views totaled 9.5 billion. The notable findings showed that 87.3% of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video, and video ads accounted for 20.1% of all videos viewed and 1.4% of all minutes spent viewing video online.

While the growth of online video viewing has seen a hockey stick trajectory over the last few years, Knapp notes that it serves as a really good reminder.

He says, "In the online world, we often times get caught up in this whole notion of revolutionary technologies and revolutionizing industries. We could go check Merriam-Webster, but I'm pretty sure "revolutionary technology" requires more than 2.7% of the market share."

That's not to underscore the impact that YouTube has had for the industry, and he acknowledges that it's been an incredible catalyst for the market and has accelerated huge massive growth and consumer adoption.
"But I think it serves as a very good reminder that we have a very long way to go, and that we're in very early innings. What is happening now in online video is that we're moving away form the early adopters, from the user-generated content and simpler business models, and we're actually taking that large body of content that you and I and every consumer has watched for decades, and we're helping that transition to screens. That's the great opportunity here. It takes a different approach and harder product and technology to build to do it, but that's really the promise of online video."

Also, with the growing adoption of OTT services, like Netflix, which boasts 27 million streaming members in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, it's clear that we're quickly moving into the next generation of connected media experiences.

Will all video be available over IP in the next few years?

During his OTTCON panel discussion, Knapp and his fellow panelist were asked their opinion of Anthony Wood's prediction that in four years time, all video will be available over IP.
Knapp says, "It depends on the definition. WIll all content be available over IP in four years? Yes, I think so. Because in four years I think we'll have solved a large number of these monetization problems. Will all content consumption be over IP? Absolutely not. I think we can expect in the next four years that we'll move from approximately 9% in the U.S. to a little bit internationally, to breaking through the 50% barrier in four years. I think it will be a significant turning point, obviously, but again it's very much dependent on availability of content on devices and the appropriate revenue models for that content."

Knapp believes that it will be a long time before all content consumption shifts to IP. But the primary need today is the availability of content, in new packages or bundles and through different monetization models.

What are Ooyala's customers asking for now and in the future?

Knapp says that along this evolutionary path the needs of the market are evolving as well. Three or four years ago, the needs of the market were largely around content management. Today, the needs have evolved to the second phase, he calls reach. Even though, content publishers can extend their reach across all connected devices, there's still a lot of fragmentation in the "10 foot" experience, and these problems are hard to solve. How do you create an engaging experience for consumers while keeping the performance fast and tightly integrated with your monetization model?

Knapp says that it's all about optimizing the experience for the consumer. Different customers have arrived at this set of needs sooner than others, and ultimately, two years from now all anybody is going to care about is the third phase, which is monetization.
"The reach problems will largely have been solved to some varying success. But the primary focus will be on monetization. How do I ultimately monetize my content better? The trick isn't, how do I show more ads or how do I just increase the CPMs of my current ads? That's absolutely part of the picture, but there's a lot more to it than that."
Knapp says it's more about using your analytics wisely to help you decide, how many ads should I show and where? And for each and every consumer, how do I change that? Some consumers respond differently to pre-rolls than overlays. It all depends on where they're at in their consumption cycle, and what state of mind the consumer is in.
"We're recommending content, and trying different pieces of content, and if we're in this exploratory phase, we should actually monetize less aggressively. Whereas, if we're in the recurring consumption phase, we should actually monetize more aggressively. And this is where the big opportunity is, that a few customers are starting to get to, but we will see this as the dominant need in the next two years."
Knapp says Ooyala designed its platform with studios, media companies and brands in mind, which has helped it attract big customers, including ESPN, Miramax, Bloomberg, Yahoo! Japan, Victoria’s Secret, Telegraph Media Group, The North Face, Rolling Stone, Dell, and many more on a global scale.

Where is Ooyala going and where will it be in four years?

As CTO and President of Technology, Knapp oversees Ooyala's technology and product roadmap. He notes that since its inception, Ooyala's focus has always been on how do they help their customers make more money. Not just in the short term, by showing more ads, but in the long term through better user experiences.

Ooyala is well known in the market for their analytics, their approach to data and monetization, and Knapp notes,
"We will continue to make major investments around monetization. It is the fastest growing and largest component of our R&D expenses. We all see this as a key component, not to just grow Ooyala's business but to growing the overall industry."
Just this past June, Ooyala announced that it had raised $35 million in new capital to drive standardization of its platform for online video streaming, monetization and discovery.

Where is content going and how will it change?

Knapp says that if we look at the introduction of online video, we're largely seeing the consumption of similar forms of content, and now we're simply seeing a transitioning of screens. Content producers are creating new forms of the same content, like the print industry had done when it when digital. We're staring to see major consumer brands like Victoria Secret, Dell and REI advertise through branded entertainment or tightly integrated into long-form content.
"We're seeing budgets shift as a result, while at the same time we're seeing premium content you and I consume everyday simply move to these same distribution channels. So it is the introduction of new content, but largely it's the same form."
The only caveat, he says, is that we're seeing mobile devices more clip based. ESPN as an example is repackaging it's popular television program, Sports Center, as clips and they're monetizing it incredibly well on mobile devices and on the PC.
"Similar types of content," says Knapp, "just different distribution strategies now fit to the devices."


About Sean Knapp
Sean Knapp is a co-founder of Ooyala. As CTO and President of Technology, he oversees all engineering and helps define and execute Ooyala's product strategies. Before founding Ooyala, Sean worked at Google, where he developed and launched iGoogle, the company's popular, customizable home page. He also was a tech lead for Google's legendary Web Search team, helping that team increase Google revenues by $1B. Sean has both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science from Stanford University. He is a member of Ooyala's board of directors. Follow @seanknapp on Twitter

About Ooyala 
Ooyala delivers personalized video experiences across all screens. It is the leader in online video management, publishing, analytics and monetization. Ooyala’s integrated suite of technologies and services give content owners the power to expand audiences through deep insights that drive increased viewer engagement and revenue from video. Companies using Ooyala technology include ESPN, Pac-12 Enterprises, Miramax, Bloomberg, Victoria’s Secret, Telegraph Media Group, Tennis Australia, The North Face, Rolling Stone, Dell, Sephora and Yahoo! Japan. Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Ooyala has offices in Los Angeles, New York City, London, Sydney and Guadalajara, Mexico; and the company works with premier reseller and technology partners throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. Follow @ooyala on Twitter

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

OTTCONversations: Sam Blackman, Elemental Technologies - The 2012 Summer Olympics Go OTT

As the world tunes in to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, more than 20,000 broadcasters aim to reach a potential global audience of 4 billion viewers with more than 4,000 hours of coverage. According to Sam Blackman, CEO and Co-founder of Portland Oregon-based Elemental Technologies, this year the Olympics are going over-the-top (OTT) and his company is serving up Olympic streams on a global scale with some of the biggest names in broadcast and media entertainment, including, the BBC in the UK, Terra in Latin America, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium and Eurosport. The company is also supporting customers in the US and Japan. Elemental estimates that its multi-screen video processing deployments in 70 countries will help its broadcast customers reach upwards of a billion viewers worldwide.

Elemental Technologies provides hardware and software solutions for adaptive multi-screen video processing. Elemental Live is a linear encoder that takes live streams in and creates multi-screen outputs for live distribution, and Elemental Server is a file-based server that creates multi-screen outputs for live distribution. Blackman says that many of its customers use these solutions for large-scale sports video streaming. See my 2010 interview with Blackman from Streaming Media East, where he also demonstrated Elemental Live and Elemental Server (Larry Kless' Weblog: Elemental Delivers GPU-Accelerated Video Streaming Solutions)

I spoke with Blackman earlier this year at the Over-the-Top Conference, OOTTCON 2012, where he discussed, The Olympics Go OTT: Lessons Learned from the last 12 months in sports video streaming. Blackman says that total available TV audience for the Olympics has grown from 3.9B in 2004 to 4.7B in 2008, and that it's by far the biggest global sports even. Not only has the number of viewers grown, so has the number hours of professionally-produced live video content. Consumers want to watch the Olympics on all of their screens, and this year a record number of viewers all around the globe will watch live and video on-demand (VOD) content on TV, PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other connected devices.
“When we began the intense evaluation process for streaming of the Olympic Games more than a year ago, Elemental had little idea of just how broadly we’d be adopted on a global scale,” says Blackman.
In this video, Blackman summarizes five of the key lessons Elemental learned from working with the sports industry which it's put to use in delivering the 2012 Summer Olympics video stream.

Destination Divergence

You never know when the next iPad will hit, quickly can you react?
The first key learning was around the divergence of output end-points. With its customer TF1, France's top TV channel and a leading media group in Europe, Elemental had to stream a very large event to multiple devices in Apple HLS and Flash, and set-top boxes in separate outputs for five ISPs across France, all with different packaging requirements.
"The key take-away from this sporting event," say Blackman, "was that to deliver effectively to this divergence of multi-screen devices, you absolutely have to have a software-based solution. Because only software is flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly changing multi-screen world."

Instant On-Demand

Content windows are collapsing to hour = 0, speed can be your differentiator.

The second key lesson was learned working with a company called deltatre, that powered all the highlight reels from recent the Rugby World Cup games. In this case, Elemental was taking highlights that DeltaTRE was creating and very quickly making as many as 20 multi-screen outputs for all its different highlights.
"The key here is that speed is critical," Blackman points out. "Fans want to see highlihgts of big plays as soon as possible, and having a highlight read for VOD, video on-demand consumption in two minutes, as opposed to 30 minutes is a huge difference in terms of how effectively DeltaTRE's customers were able to monetize that VOD asset. So speed of processing is very critical."

Going Global

The Olympics is a true global phenomena but every live event is now geo-agnostic.
The third lesson was learned working on a project with Brazilian-based Terra Networks which had the streaming rights for the 2011 Pan American games and was streaming to 17 different countries across Latin America. Terra was one of Elemental's early international deployments, and Elemental learned a lot about international deployments and requirements that are different internationally than domestically. In this case, multi-channel audio support was required and Elemental had to create many different audio channels and have them associated with a single video file, so that regardless of what of language is being put on top of that content, the end user could view the video and hear the audio in their own language.

The second key learning in working with Terra was around sub-titling and captioning of content, which are very different based on geography. Sub-titling and captioning requirements have changed dramatically over the past few years, and transitioning and translating between one captioning format and another is becoming more and more difficult.
"So being able to successfully translate captions across different end devices, screens and geographies is absolutely critical", stresses Blackman. "Having a solution that really has been through the wringer, in terms of international deployments is absolutely critical."

Personalized Playback

Content playback on the fans terms. just might put more fans in the seats.
The fourth key lesson was from Stanford University that deployed real-time wifi replay system where, if you are attending a Stanford football or basketball game, you can actually pull up a replay on either your iPad or mobile device, either a close call or great play. By leveraging Elemental Live which created an archive file in real-time, Stanford was able to make these on-demand highlights available instantaneously. So with in under a minute of the play occurring, fans could pull up that video clip on their mobile device.
"What this is a sign of," Blackman notes, "is a trend, that to make sure that venues and stadiums remain exciting events to attend when they're competing against really big screen televisions and fancy audio systems in living rooms. People are still going to want to go to the stadium because they get to watch the action live but they also get this personalized video replay system in their hands on their device. So as the fourth learning, and this is going to be important in more and more sporting venues moving forward."

Protocol Proliferation

Hope the DASH 'collapses the world', but be prepared in the event that it doesn't.
The final learning was from Eurosport, the Paris-based equivilent of ESPN for Europe, that is using Elemental for both live and VOD to 11 different countries.
"Here the key is that Eurosport is creating streams for devices as disparate as iOS devices (iPads, iPhones), Roku boxes, Apple TV, Flash Player on the PC and Android devices and then, Silverlight for Xbox 360 and other Microsoft applications," states Blackman. "They are creating 29 different outputs simultaneously, and having to manage the network requirements of all those outputs."
Blackman says that there's hope with MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), an emerging video standard that they've been developing with several other companies in the space, that it will help reduce the number of outputs from 28 down to just a few different adaptive bit rate (ABR) outputs with standardized packaging. If that happens, it holds the promise that ‘collapses the world’ into a single video standard and the proliferation of formats will start to get reduced.

Elemental recently raised $13 million is a series C funding round, with an eye on global expansion, and the 2012 Olympic Games will be Elemental’s largest live deployment to date. See this this recent press release for on Elemental's multiscreen delivery of the Summer Games: Elemental Unveils Plans to Stream the 2012 Olympic Games with Leading Broadcasters Worldwide | Elemental Technologies.

About Elemental
Elemental Technologies is the leading supplier of video solutions for multiscreen content delivery. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, the company pioneered the use of graphics processors to power adaptive video streaming over IP networks. Providing unmatched solutions for top media and entertainment companies worldwide, including Comcast, Disney and HBO, Elemental helps content programmers and service providers bring video to any screen, anytime – all at once. The company has offices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. To learn more, please visit and follow  @elementaltech on Twitter.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

OTTCONversations: Roku CEO and founder, Anthony Wood

The future of television, as Roku Founder and CEO Anthony Wood sees it, is not as futuristic as you'd think, where we'll be able to watch every movie ever made, in any language, day or night. Wood says the future is getting close. I caught up with Wood earlier this year at the Over-the-Top Conference, OTTCON 2012, where he delivered a keynote, "Future of TV: Why OTT is a Game Changer." Well regarded as a pioneer and innovator in the TV and digital media industry, Wood has had an influential hand in shaping the future of television, as inventor of the digital video recorder (DVR) and the popular Roku streaming player. He discussed the different themes in what's going to happen to OTT over the next few years, and noted the skepticism around the OTT industry when the OTTCON started 3 years ago.

Distribution Models are Changing

Wood says the industry is maturing and distribution models are changing. Once a upon a time there were 3 networks, but OTT has changed all that.
"Over the top is really about distribution. It used to be television was distributed over networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and then there was cable and VCRs, and satellite, now television is moving to the next phase, which is distribution over the Internet," says Wood. "And it's creating a lot of opportunities and risks for some of the incumbents, and a lot of opportunities to create new brands, like Netflix and Roku."
He uses a 1999 commercial by Qwest Communications, Qwest - Every Movie, to illustrate his point.

Description: "A tired man goes into a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere and asks about amenities. When he asks about entertainment, the girl responds "all rooms have every movie ever made in any language anytime, day or night." This Qwest ad aired in 1999 and 2000 and was before website such as YouTube or cable services such as OnDemand were available. It was shot at Roy's Motel and Cafe, a historic Route 66 landmark in Amboy, California, in 1999."
As Content Increases, Usage Grows

Roku has sold more than 3 million boxes to date. Wood says sales of Roku boxes tripled in the last year as the demand for Netflix increased, and as traditional models of distribution like Blockbuster died and quickly faded away. He expects his company to sell 19 million Roku devices over the next 3 to 4 years. Wood also predicted the end of Blu-Ray in 4 years at the recent "TV of Tomorrow Show" in San Francisco last month, as the industry and consumer trend is shifting to streaming devices and smart TVs.
"But like all television, the most important thing is the content, the television show. If there's not a lot of great TV, people won't watch it."
Content is available on Roku through it's channel store. Netflix was the first channel available on Roku, and now the list has grown to over 500 channels with new ones going live every day.
"As we've added more content, the usage on our platform has grown as well. So, what used to be about 6 hours a week on average people used Roku has been growing consistently to 12 hours a week, and that's going to keep growing until we get to 35 hours a week, which is the average amount of TV people watch in the United States."

Wood described the emerging content packages available to consumers through OTT platforms. One category of content, OTT Bundles, are available from new brands like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, who have taken existing and back cataloged content and bundling it into new low cost packages over the Internet. There also new companies he calls, New Brands, like Glenn Beck TV, YouTube and Revision3, that are creating content just for OTT distribution where they don't have to go through a cable company. (Note: Revision3 was recently acquired by Discovery Communications and may create an even newer category of content bundles across all screens.) 

There's a third group of content that's just starting to come onto devices like Roku, and that's the incumbents like ESPN, Disney and HBO. As an example, the entire HBO catalog is available on Roku through authentication, or through a "TV Everywhere" subscription. Disney has recently signed a 10-year agreement with Comcast to bring ESPN to all it's platforms, but, when can we get ESPN without all the extras for $9.99/month? Wood, says, "Probably, never." Companies will try packages, prices will come down, but, everything is based on bundling, and will not be changing anytime soon.

OTT Platforms are Shifting

So, how are most people getting their OTT content?

Wood says that game consoles and PCs lead in streaming hours and that content owners attempt to be platform-agnostic to reach consumers. That's because there are so may game console out there. But the future trend is that game consoles will decline, and inexpensive Smart TVs and streaming players will be on the rise. As more and more of the general population gets into streaming, they're looking for simpler devices.

Wood notes that we'll continue to see rapid consolidation within the space as it continues to get more complicated to maintain all the R&D that goes into the streaming platform software. Everything under the hood is always in development, and will cause a shake out in the platforms. He predicts that there will be only a handful of players within 3 to 4 years.

Who Will be the First Virtual MSO?

Will it be Xfinity? Verizon FIOS? Direct TV? Intel? Wood says that there is some hesitancy in the industry to be the first, but we'll probably see one emerge later this year.

"I think another big question people have is, when will I be able to get that package of content and not have a subscription to my local cable service? Something the industry calls, Virtual MSO, and that's a good question" says Wood. "No one has said they're launching that kind of service, but  my guess is, I think maybe sometime this year that could happen."
The Virtual MSO (Multiple System Operator) model, or online cable company, and is based on the bundling of TV channels and delivering them to consumer over the Internet without any geographic restrictions that confine traditional cable operators. While there's been some skepticism in the media about the emergence of a Virtual MSO, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, shared Wood's his prediction that a Virtual MSO shall rise later this year.

The Future of Television is a Squiggly Mess

In the final slide of his keynote presentation, Wood uses a simple graphic to describe the present, future and end state of television, which he defines the current state as a squiggled mess. He says the future of television is coming faster than you think.

Wood pointed out that a lot of industries have been revolutionized by the Internet, for example, music, books and e-Commerce. But video took a little bit longer because bandwidth requirements are higher.
"But now we're at that point where video distribution over the Internet is a real possibility, and it's happening mainstream," says Wood. "So, now we're in this squiggly mess part where there's a lot of stuff happening, a lot of different things being tested, but over the next 4 years there's going to be some big milestones. I think Netflix will pass 50 million customers. We'll see fairly soon, the launch of the first virtual MSO, over-the-top cable package. Most TVs will start getting their content delivered over streaming over the Internet instead of a cable or satellite box. All these things are going to happen over the next 4 years and what comes out of this is the new world, where all TV is delivered over the Internet and every TV show ever made is available on demand, and customers have an incredible amount of choice and options with their TV viewing."

Why OTT is a Game Changer

Wood says that most of the industry incumbents are embracing the change and seeing more value in getting their content on more devices and more places inside and outside the home. They've seen what's happened in other industries and they don't that to happen to them.
"The industry as a whole is very engaged and I really don't see any major obstacles. I think this is happening now."

Wood says, “Roku is about being an open platform," and that future development of will be focused on further enhancing the user interface and creating upgradable devices like the new Roku streaming stick unveiled earlier year, which is a small USB flash drive-sized Roku streaming player that simply plugs into a TV equipped with a Mobile High-Definition Link-enabled HDMI port to transform it into a Smart TV. The company has not been caught in the latest Internet IPO craze and continues to expand into new markets, launching earlier this year in the U.K. and Ireland and in Canada and signing a deal with DISH Network to bring more than 50 international programming channels to the platform. The 150-employee company did about $100 million in sales last year, up from $46 million in 2011. But it has yet to turn a profit, due to huge investments in product development and marketing. But Wood says the company will probably be profitable in 2013.

About Anthony Wood
A pioneer and innovator in TV and digital media, Anthony Wood is the Founder and CEO of Roku, a name that means “six” in Japanese to represent his sixth company. In the early days of Roku, Anthony also served as the vice president of Internet TV at Netflix, where he developed what is known today as the Roku streaming player, originally designed as the original video player for Netflix.  Prior to Roku, Anthony invented the digital video recorder (DVR) and founded ReplayTV, where he served as President and CEO before the company's acquisition and subsequent sale to DirecTV. Before ReplayTV, Anthony was Founder and CEO of iband, Inc., an Internet software company sold to Macromedia in 1996. The code base developed by Anthony at iBand became a central part of the original core code of Macromedia now known as Adobe Dreamweaver. After selling iBand, Anthony became the vice president of Internet Authoring at Macromedia. Earlier in his career, Anthony was Founder and CEO of SunRize Industries, a supplier of hardware and software tools for non-linear audio recording and editing. Anthony holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University.

About  Roku  Inc.  
Roku is a leading streaming  platform. Delivering entertainment to millions of customers in the U.S. and in a growing number of countries around the world, Roku streaming players are affordable, are  easy to use, and feature  the  best selection of streaming entertainment. Channels on Roku vary by region and include Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle,  Hulu  Plus,  HBO  GO,  MLB.TV, Pandora,  Facebook, Disney, Angry Birds and many more. Based in Saratoga, Calif., Roku was  founded by Anthony  Wood,  inventor of  the DVR. For more information, visit and follow Roku Player on Twitter and Facebook


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Calling All Online Video Bloggers!

For those of you who have followed this blog you've probably noticed that things have slowed here bit over the last year, due in part to my busy work schedule. But while things have slowed down here on Klessblog, it's been picking up on my other site, Online Video Publishing [dot] com, with a number of new posts by guest bloggers. I've been running Online Video Publishing [dot] com, as a companion site to my blog, and over the last few years it's become a resource for sharing strategies, best practices, news, tips and how to's for online video publishers.

So why am I spending time on my other site instead of producing new content here on this blog? Well, as a matter of fact, all the most recent articles on Online Video Publishing [dot] com have been written by guest authors. So, I've written this post as an open invitation to any guest blogger who would like to contribute an article or series to Online Video Publishing [dot] com.

The articles on the site are all focused on video publishing for multi-screen platforms. In the most recent post, Peter Smith provides some practical tips on How to start your own Videography Business. He says, one of the first things you have to consider when thinking about starting your own videography business, "is whether or not you are suited to owning your own business. As difficult as it may be to hear the truth is not everyone is capable of being in business for themselves. It takes discipline and dedication and owning a decent video camera does not automatically qualify you to be in business." Read more here.

In another guest post, Apple's Thunderbolt Display Port Dismays the AV IndustryLorin Nelson, SF Bay Area-based Technical Panic Alleviation Technician, describes the current dismay within the AV industry resulting from HDCP encryption in Thunderbolt mini-DVI ports, and what current solutions are available. He sums up the challenges within the article in his sub-title, "AV Industry Challenges Brave Mac Techs Who Are Confined to Speaking In Terms of Re-Branding, With Little Success Given the Fact that They Are Unaware of Specs, Really want to Help, but Are Rendered Helpless by the Apple Core Design Team." Read more here.

Also, Joe Kukura, a writer for the RealPlayer video technology blog contributed an article on how music legend and recording artist, Neil Young rocks online music with a new high resolution audio format. Apparently, Neil Young had been working with the late Steve Jobs to bring this new HD audio format to future iPods and was quoted as saying, “Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, but when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you've gotta believe that if he'd lived long enough, he would eventually have done what I'm trying to do.” Read more here.

In addition to individual writers, video companies are also welcome to provide content, like UK-based Vidify, who shares 5 ways online video can increase your business revenue. The article points out that, "Video has been proven to be an effective tool in increasing conversion rates online. You should note however that a bad video is going to do just the opposite. When you decide that it is time to join the major brands in online video, ensure that you are providing your website visitors with a professionally produced video that explains your business message and presents you as an expert in your field." Read more here.

The posting guidelines for Online Video Publishing [dot] com are that articles be video topic related, and can be news, informational, analysis, observational, opinion, how to, production tips, best practices and can be any length. Articles can include videos, graphics, embed codes and can be in html format. Author and company will receive mention and backlinks within the post. Sponsored posts are also accepted, but posts that are just promotional, pure marketing, direct sales pitches or press releases are not accepted. 

If you're interested, please feel free to submit any article or series, contact me at if have you any questions.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

10 Tips for Producing Live Events

Over the last twenty years of producing live events I've learned a lot about how things can go right and wrong, and from good to bad, and from bad to worse. Most problems stem from the things that have fallen through the cracks. Forgotten tasks that didn't make it to a list or get delegated, and either creep up on you or blow up in your face. But you can avoid most problems with proper planning and clear communication. The best shows are the ones where everyone knows what to do and the show comes off without a hitch. Whether you are in studio or on location, the same rules apply if you want to be successful. I've worked on this post on and off over the past years adding a bits and pieces of what I've learned that's helped make my shows successful, and now present it as my ten tips for producing live events.

1) Know your client(s) - if you are the event producer you need to communicate directly with the main client. Most executives and professional speakers have handlers, communications staff who write their material maintain their messages, admin staff who directly support them and maintain their schedules and a variety of reporting staff, directors, managers, leads, you get the point. There are layers between you and the main client, who in the end, is whom you are working for. Whether you are planning the event logistics, identifying the technical requirements, working on content or estimating the budget - all things flow from the wants and needs of the main client. You can save your self a lot of work if you can get a meeting with the main client in advance and discuss staging, presentation style in advance. With all the handlers, you get a lot of filtered information and waste a lot of time getting through the layers.

2) Conduct a site survey - knowing your location is your best defense against failure. Not only are you able to assess the space for room dimensions, ceiling height, power needs, lighting, noise, Internet connections, access to loading dock, etc...  you also get to meet the people who manage the venue – and who will ultimately be the ones that support you and your production. Some venues will let you bring in all your own gear, without any buy-out fee – but some venues have exclusives on lighting and audio, and can even be within the jurisdiction of a local I.A.T.S.E. union, like Local 16 in San Francisco, and you'll be required to hire union labor. If you're a producer, it's best to work with a meeting planner who can deal with the hotel contract so you can focus on the AV and event production. But be sure to make friends with the venue, both the in-house AV and banquets staff. Don't forget that you're in their house and they are key partners in your success. The two most important aspects of your site survey are to gain intelligence and build relationships.

3) Have a plan - with every live event there are various templates that can be applied to the production. While each set up is distinct there are standards to follow when the space allows. Most live events takes place in an auditorium, conference room, convention center or ballroom. Video village, as it's called, or video control is back stage and is where the director, technical director, producer, engineer, graphics, projectionist and webcast or videoconference producer and that's the central nervous system of your equipment set up, signal flow and distribution, connectivity, interactive tools and lots and lots of cabling. Go into each set up with a game plan on how you will set up video village, where each station will be and what needs to connect to what.

4) Have an A-Team - it goes without saying that there's no "I" in team, and the best way to achieve your results is to be surrounded by people you trust, people who are professionals and experts in the field, and people you can rely onto do their jobs. With so many moving parts of your live event, you can't micro-manage, or keep track of every detail within each department. So that's where your team comes in to help you be those extra eyes and ears to catch any issues and ultimately get the job done right.

5) Stick to budget and deadlines - It's easy to go over budget when you start adding extra wireless microphones, Internet and power drops, cameras, and probably one of the biggest cost over-runs is not correctly estimating the amount of time it actually takes to produce your event. In most cases, labor can be your biggest cost, and if you don't account for overtime, and even double time, you run the risk of being way over budget. Having the proper staffing ratio is crucial to staying on time and budget. You need to have the right amont of labor to get the job done, and not either under or over staff. If you're producing a video webcast with a live audience, you'll have core costs that will cover equipment and labor.

6) Stick to the plan - Go into each show with a scripted game plan. Even a simple a simple agenda can be something that your crew follows, but a detailed run of show document that maps out the show flow is the best document to use. Your plan should also include set-up diagrams that shows signal flow; floor plans that shows they room layout and location of AV, cameras, lighting, catering; and, any other documents like webcast information, call sheets, production schedules and checklists for both the crew and clients to follow.

7) Plan a rehearsal - The more you know, the better the you do... and the best way to know is to practice. Aside from presenters being able practice clicking through their slides and getting comfortable with the environment, you need to know their transitions, cues for videos, music, camera angles and blocking, along with how the show will open and close. Will your presenters have walk-on music, on screen graphics, or need Internet access? Is there an announcer or VOG? How will Q&A be handled? It's best to have that all figured out in advance and rehearse with your presenters and crew. If time permits, try to gather the crew together for a show flow meeting, then go through a tech rehearsal with the crew, followed by rehearsals with each presenter. Beginnings, middle and ends, along with transitions, video rolls, lighting changes, and every audio and video cue should be rehearsed.

8) Avoid last minute changes - Last minute changes can be either highly disruptive or no harm at all. Fixing a typo on a slide or slight change to an element on stage usually won't upset the apple cart. But adding new content at the last minute, like a brand new slide show or video, should be avoided. Especially, if you don't get time to test or practice, that last minute change could blow up in your face, and make your presenters and clients look foolish. But be prepared for last minute changes and if there’s time  – update your script, rehearse if possible, but say, “No, we’re out of time” when you have to. Really, there’s nothing worse than a major on-air blunder.

9) Be prepared, and always have back up - As the Boy Scouts' motto says, "Be prepared." Not only for emergencies, but, "for any old thing." Live events are just that... they're live. Anything can happen. The presenter's wireless microphone could go out. You could lose power which could effect audio, lighting and the live feed. Make sure you have back up microphones and a reliable power source. If you have a lot of lighting, make sure you have a head electrician who can manage the power needs for all the lights so you don't trip a breaker or blow a circuit. For graphics, it's common to have a primary and back up computer to run your slides, and always wire the stage. You never know when a presenter will come with their own laptop and have videos they want to run, so having the cabling already set will save your

10) Roll with it - the old show business phrase, "the show must go on" applies here. Regardless of what happens, there is an audience out there waiting to be educated, informed or entertained, so you have to deliver. The that the fact that a live event is "live" makes it both easier and more difficult at the same time. There are no second takes. When something goes out live that shouldn't have, there are no take backs. So, when you're live you have to roll with it. That means when presenters are late or go off script, or when there's equipment failure, or a crew member calls in sick, or any unplanned situation you have to roll with it. When you're video recording, you can always "fix it in post." But the key is to keep a cool head, don't let them see you sweat and be a leader.

1st draft - 6/22/08
Final draft - 5/27/2012

Update 6/9/12: I forgot to mention how important it is to feed your crew. Bring snacks and plenty of water to keep their energy up, and be sure to budget crew meals on those long production days. That's the best way to keep them happy and on their toes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Videoconferencing Best Practices: Designing Graphics For Effective Use in a Videoconference

It's often a challenge for presenters to design graphics effectively for use in a videoconference. Many presenters overdo it on slides and tend to cram as much information as they can on each slide, rather than follow the "less is more" approach. I've seen a lot good, bad and ugly graphics in my time, and this post focuses on tips for creating more compelling graphics for videoconferences. This post is also a follow up to a series of articles on Videoconferencing Best Practices, which includes: 12 Tips for Moderating a Panel Discussion10 Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Tips and 7 Presentation Tips for Speakers

Graphics work well in support of your message, but be careful you don’t become too dependent on the slides. Your audience should only see slides about 10% of the time you are speaking. If your audience is watching on a single screen, think of the how the 6:00 o’clock news is paced, and alternate between speaking, graphics, video and then back to speaking. No segment lasts very long – use this as your role model. The ideal ways to show slides are directly from the computer, and most all videoconference rooms have a PC connection for both in room and remote presentations.

For broadcasts, meetings and instruction the same rules apply when you prepare your slides.
  • Keep things simple and concise
  • Use a horizontal format
  • Use a large sans serif typeface (Arial Bold)
  • No less than 30 point size fonts
  • Follow the 6 by 6 rule (6 words per line, 6 lines per page)
  • Leave border room around the edges
  • Fill the screen with the image
  • Use simple graphs, illustrations, scanned images
  • Use restraint with colors, high contrast works best
  • Avoid transparencies and small type written pages
The take home message is that presentation materials need to be as clear and concise as possible. Unlike meetings or instruction, a broadcast is not two-way, so you can’t get instant feedback from the viewing sites on visual clarity.

The rules for producing successful computer graphic designs for video are the opposite of desktop publishing. Choices in text, color, and design varies between the two because they are very different mediums and different rules apply. Graphics for use on television should conform to broadcast guidelines.

Sans serif typefaces (Helvetica, Arial) are more legible than serif typefaces because of their clean letterforms. They are used where quick legibility is vital (street and highway signs), or to catch one's attention with short bursts of type (newspaper headlines). Serif typefaces (Times, Garamond) tend to be more readable for large amounts of text on paper. However, they are ineffective to use as text on the video screen.

The most basic rules for preparing presentation materials are to Keep It Short and Simple, and Keep It Large and Legible. The following tips should provide you with a basic set of graphic guidelines.

1. Keep primary text in the center
Although "dead center" is usually an area to avoid in print media, viewers are used to watching video this way. Don't crowd the screen, instead use several screens to focus attention. Use a horizontal page format, and use six words per line and six lines per screen {Rule of Six}. (Figure 1)

2. Work within the STA (Safe Titling Area)
The STA is the cut off area for all screen images.The screen size between computers and TV monitors is not equal, and things can be cut off if they get to close to the edges. Leave at least a one inch border of empty space around each side of the page to be safe. (Figure 2)
3. Avoid thin horizontal lines, single dots, busy patterns and finely detailed grids
Always use 2 Pt. lines or larger, thin lines just don't cut it. Lines need to be thick and bold or they will flicker. Like thin lines, fine grids, patterns and dots cause flickering and picture distortion also. Avoid shading on printed hard copy because it creates buzzing patterns on camera. Supply details verbally, making charts and graphs simple (Figure 3) . Also, use clip art and flow charts sparingly, remember less is more.

4. Avoid highly saturated colors
Chroma crawl can be seen when two neighboring colors (text and background) bleed into each other. . The more saturated your colors are the more chroma crawl is added to the image. Don't overdo your use of color.

5. Make text large and legible

  • Use 30 Pt. for body text, and 40 - 48 Pt. for titles.
  • Use no more than two typefaces per presentation
  • Use drop shadows to add depth to text, drop shadows help separate text from the background (Figure 1)


  • Keep text large and legible by using 30 pt for body text, 30-45 pt for subtitles and 40-48 pt for titles
  • 48 pt serif title: Times Bold
  • 30 pt sans serif-body text: Helvetica Bold
  • Use sans serif typeface for body text and serif typeface for titles (the opposite of desktop publishing)
  • Use no more than two fonts and only one background per presentation
  • Use white text on a dark blue to black background, this works the best readability from across the room
  • Use drop shadows to add depth to text, drop shadows help separate text from the background
  • Use a Truetype font like Monotype Sorts as bullets, it's more expressive than Option-8 (•)


  • Don't use Script fonts, they are too fancy for presentations
  • All caps works only for TITLES, but not recommended

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stay Tuned... For More Online Video Conversations

Who hasn't noticed how fast the year has gone by so far? The first quarter of 2012 came an went before you could blink an eye, click on a link or even write a new blog post. I won't bore you all with the usual banter about why I haven't been updating things here on Klessblog. I did though want to provide a quick update to let you all know what's coming up on this blog. There have been a number of interesting developments within the online video space over the last few months, and I've been able to catch up with a number of industry executives to hear about how their companies are innovating in the ever-changing online video and mobile space.

Just last month, I attended the 3rd annual Over-the-Top TV Conference, at it's new venue in the Santa Clara convention center in Silicon Valley, and the interest in that event was indicative of the growing innovation within the the OTT space. The conversations at the conference were not just about set top boxes and the last mile of the network that leads to the living room, but discussions have shifted to how companies can adapt to new business models within the multi-screen environment. Everyone I spoke with agreed that while online video has reached a mature state for delivery over the web and mobile devices. But still, the overall industry of content delivery to any device, anywhere, anytime is still in it's infancy and there's a lot of debate as to how long this initial cycle of growth of growth will take.

I interviewed a number of speakers and exhibitors at OTT Con 2012 to get their insight on some of the issues within the OTT space, which I'll be posting here on the blog in the coming weeks. Here's a quick snapshot of some those upcoming online video conversations.

I also recently met with Stephane Roulland, CEO of DaCast, again at his San Francisco offices to get an update on his self-service, live streaming platform. I first met with Roulland a year ago when his company first launched its "Pay-in-Play" pay-per-view enabled player and live streaming on Facebook.

Look for these interviews along with several others I've previously mentioned coming soon.

As always, I want to thank you all for supporting me here on this blog. Stay tuned for more upcoming Klessblog content and more online video news and information.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Daisy Whitney Bids Farewell to the New Media Minute

Since September 2007, online video columnist, producer, reporter and author, Daisy Whitney has provided insight and analysis of the business of online video through her weekly web television show, The New Media Minute. This past week marked the final episode of her four and half year run. In her last episode she featured an interview with Metacafe CEO, Erick Hachenburg, who shared tips to better optimize your videos for search and discovery. While Whitney is retiring the New Media Minute, she says that she will continue to be very active and is "just going old school reporting on media in articles and columns instead!"

She explained the news on her Twitter page:

In Sept 2007, I started an online newscast covering new media. Four and a half years later, I'm saying goodbye to the New Media Minute.

But never fear! I'll still be reporting on online video and new media for many outlets including MediaPost, Cynopsis,  and more!

But all good things must end, and it's better to end on a high note as George Costanza taught us.

And on that note, here is the farewell episode of The New Media Minute! Complete w George Costanza too

Many friends and fans have expressed how much they'll miss her weekly online video news updates, but as she said you can read her daily Mediapost column, VidBlog and articles other media outlets. 

As a big supporter of her and her husband, Jeff Brooks, I wish both Daisy and Jeff all the best for continued success.