As part of our new ‘Inside Video Tech’ interview series we are shining a light on innovation in the video and streaming space. UK-based Simplestream has been active since 2010 and offers over-the-top video services to clients like UKTV and Blue Ant Media. Chief Commercial Officer, Dan Finch, discusses the company’s strategy.
-Describe Simplestream and the company’s core focus?
As a software company at heart, we continue to evolve our product set to enable broadcasters, telcos and content owners to stay ahead of the curve and embrace new ways to increase their reach, understand their audience and most importantly make revenue beyond traditional ways of TV distribution.
The way we consume entertainment has changed forever and with the likes of Netflix and Prime Video setting the bar high in terms of features and functionality, for many broadcasters it is an unfamiliar and complex area to manage. That’s why we offer the simplest way for operators to create next generation TV services for broadcast, sport and media brands.
We saw early on how cloud technology would play a big role in future service provision and we’ve gone a long way down the track to ensure that our cloud-based solutions for content acquisition, encoding, packaging, distribution and management make our customers more efficient, cost-effective and profitable.
-When was the company founded and how has its strategy changed since then?
The company was founded in 2010. In one sense our strategy has remained the same – produce end-to-end solutions, combining systems we build with best-of-breed third party solutions, that cost-effectively provide the power and flexibility that enables operators of any size to match the service offerings of the media giants.
We regularly run our own RFP (request for proposal) process so that we are always innovating and staying ahead of competition – we continue to explore new verticals that we belive we can make a difference in. One of the biggest changes is that we now increasingly work with larger broadcasters, such as Channel4, UKTV, AMC, Sony and A+E Networks as well as leading European telcos such as Nova in Iceland.
-Who do you see as your biggest competitors and how do differentiate yourself?
We don’t have many direct competitors that can combine the end-to-end nature of our solutions with the scalability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness we offer – that is our USP.
–What do you see as the biggest opportunities in the video / technology space and what are the biggest challenges?
The market for OTT platforms has traditionally been skewed in favour of large, global players like Netflix and Amazon who have the capital and infrastructure to manage and deploy them. These OTT video giants have dominated the market by investing in orginal content while the smaller players find it difficult to gain audience share. However, we are starting to see customers that can compete through specialisation, either through language and localisation or through the niche nature of their content.
The demand for additional content services beyond broadcast continues to grow and remains the most crucial element that helps channels and networks of all sizes to meet this growing demand. Smaller players are finding success through spcialisation and they can operate profitably through the cost-effectiveness, flexibility and low-CAPEX nature of cloud-based technology.
-What innovation or development do you think has had the biggest impact on the video market as it stands today?
Multi-platform consumption enabled by streaming is now the norm for viewers of live and on demand content for all age groups. The box set bingers continue to erode the broadcast schedule model. As a result, broadcast platforms such as Sky, Virgin and BT have all opened their platforms to the services such as Netflix to stay relevant.
-How do you think the video market and viewing habits will look five years from now?
I think set top boxes will be a minority interest and broadcast hardware companies will transition towards being 100% software businesses.
We’ll see some giants such as Amazon and Apple selling TV’s with their own software such as Alexa, Fire TV and Apple TV built in.
The biggest change will be that the linear TV schedule will no longer be relavant to the vast majority of viewers. There will no longer be one EPG for everyone and instead each TV user will have a totally personalised viewing experience accessed through AI-based automated scheduling.
I think the inevitable consequence of all these developments is that there will be fewer broadcasters around in 5 years than there are today, but conversely there will be a 100 times more niche streaming SVOD services.