Concurrent Adds Cloud Support For UGC, Niche Content in VOD

Kshitij Kumar, VP, video solutions, ConcurrentDecember 6, 2010 – Concurrent in recent weeks has taken several steps toward transforming traditional VOD into a multi-screen on-demand services environment that vastly expands the range of offerings while facilitating all the operational aspects essential to monetization, branding and quality of experience.

One step in this process entailed acquisition of intellectual property developed by start-up TellyTopia, which has made it possible to streamline the aggregation of user-generated content, Web videos and premium content sources into easy-to-configure service categories suited to localized or demographically targeted exposure. More broadly, Concurrent has introduced a new video ecosystem that connects media creation, publishing and delivery service companies with consumers using a unified video delivery and data collection platform that can tap into any screen.

“Six to 12 months ago we saw the emergence of a need for a solid foundation for distribution of multi-screen content,” says Erik Weston, director of on-demand product line management at Concurrent. “So we put our focus into the core platform that’s required to handle the ingesting, transcoding, formatting and other operational aspects.”

The company’s video-to-TV, video-to-PC, and video-to-mobile software modules operate independently or as a single solution, Weston notes. “We’ve designed the platform to support a new generation of revenue-generating video applications, such as Web and mobile TV, network DVR, 3D video-on-demand and interactive television from a common platform,” he says.

The solution delivers TV-quality video to any device and enables key media-related metrics to be captured from each screen at a census level. The whole monetization pipeline is streamlined by ensuring that the various stakeholders’ needs are addressed at each step in the video and advertising supply chain, Weston says.

The TellyTopia capabilities fit right into this ecosystem by making it easier to compile and offer content components that might otherwise be hard to come by, but which can enhance a service provider’s ability to differentiate service and draw the attention of subscribers to the VOD platform. “TellyTopia’s next-generation, cloud-based video delivery solution directly aligns with Concurrent’s strategy of delivering commercial-grade solutions that can generate incremental revenue and enable development of innovative new business models,” says Dan Mondor, president and CEO of Concurrent.

The user-generated content capabilities are especially key to enhancing monetization and value as operators build multi-screen service reach from the Concurrent product portfolio, Weston adds. “User-generated content becomes an application that generates stickiness,” he says. “Whether you’re uploading pictures of your kids to share with your family and friends or making a video available as VOD content, you’re engaged with the cable service in a way that was never possible before.”

As described by Kshitij Kumar, TellyTopia’s founder and now vice president for video solutions at Concurrent, Concurrent has positioned the video solution to go well beyond its earlier implementations as an independently supplied support system for small providers’ VOD needs. “In a nutshell, this is a cloud-based approach to supplying hyper-local and long-tail content,” Kumar says. “It encompasses collection, ingest, monitoring, metadata management and delivery of content into cable VOD and broadcast channels, as well as mobile, PCs and other devices, all running the same content in the format required on each of those devices.”

The platform gives MSOs the option to use the system not only to organize and deliver content they proactively license but also to create an environment subscribers can use to upload content for general availability in their local areas or for private access on the part of friends and family. “A person who shoots a video of a football game, hockey game, band practice, whatever, can go to the MSO’s Web site and upload the content and put in metadata that determines whether it’s exposed locally to all viewers or privately,” Kumar says.

“There is a set of tools running in the cloud that allow the MSO to make sure the content coming in has copyrights and the quality you want on TV,” he adds. “You can look at the metadata of the content and look at the content itself, reject or accept content and inform the person who uploaded it what’s good, what’s not and ask them to upload it again if you want to.”

There’s also a playlist scheduling tool that allows the operator to create specialized channels for local content or for ethnic and other types of long-tail programming that can be made available on a local or national basis. “We also provide a complete tool set for advertising,” Kumar says. Like the content, ads can be uploaded to the MSO’s Web site, placed, tracked and billed as part of the niche VOD environment.

The platform also opens a path to acquiring content from independent professional sources that can help the MSO build audiences in specific areas of interest, Weston notes. “The cloud-based software-as-a-service component of the VOD platform becomes a VOD library extender where you can pull in and publish content to all devices on the fly,” he says. “You can add all these hours of content without burdening your traditional storage resources.”

Of course, when it comes to monetization in this new world of personalized, any-device content the fundamental step that remains to be taken by most service providers is to establish a means to collect, organize and use their vast repositories of data. This is a big part of what Concurrent is offering in its efforts to drive the new on-demand business, as reflected in its landmark engagement with Charter Communications (see April issue, p. 10).

The MSO, with Concurrent’s help, is pulling data from all sources across its service footprint and formatting it into a centralized repository that will support an end-to-end interactive television and cross-platform data management system. “Other operators aren’t as aggressive as Charter, but they all want to do what Charter is doing,” says Scott Ugran, who’s responsible for media data and advertising solutions at Concurrent.

It’s not easy. “We’re midway through deployment,” Ugran says. “We have markets up and running that are pulling data, but it’s gone a little slower than we’d like. It’s not easy to get everything in line with all the network components.”

Data has to be pulled and aggregated every day from more than a dozen different sources, each of which requires the creation of an interface specific to that component. Many of these interfaces were already built going into the project, but some had to be constructed from intellectual property acquired from third parties.

But the ultimate goal is in sight, and it’s one that everyone will have to pursue if the industry is to achieve long-sought revenue gains from on-demand and advanced advertising as well as open new opportunities with value-add services such as managed home networks and personalized enhancements. “We’re shoring up the tie-in between our video servers and all the data Charter collects from linear, ITV, VOD and DVR usage as well as online and mobile video plays,” Ugran says. “Once that’s accomplished Charter will be able to manage applications and advertising knowing what device every piece of content is connecting to and who is using it.”

Concurrent is in discussions with MSOs here and abroad about similar types of data projects, including some that are close to deployment. “We’re in active support of Charter-like scenarios with other operators,” Ugran says.

In the case of companies like Charter with far-flung systems across large geographic territories the focus is on organizing the huge volume of data, he adds. In places where the territorial reach is less vast, the focus is more on aggregating data to support personalization of services. “We’re in the early stages, but everyone understands this needs to be done,” he says.