Column: The iTV Doctor Is In! Everybody's Talking about OTT and Kaltura

Dear Readers:

This is the season of OTT. To paraphrase Harry Nilsson: "Everybody's talking about it. I hear every word they're saying." And in another 24 months, all this talk will simply be the "echoes of my mind." Why? Because EVERYBODY'S GOING OVER THE TOP! The "analysts" get tied up trying to compare pricing models for the likes of HBO and Netflix, wrongly assuming that consumers will pick one or the other. That's an idiotic assumption, because the consumers will pick anything and everything they want.

And the key right now is speed-to-market. The consumers have clearly expressed their preferences, and it's up to us to deliver. And first-mover advantage has never been more important; just ask HBO how important is was to be first on Satcom 1 in 1975.

That's why I was intrigued when I met with the folks from Kaltura recently in New York. I was looking for an OTT platform provider for my upcoming TVOT panel on December 9th, and Kaltura fits the bill. Dr. Michal Tsur, Kaltura President and Co-Founder, will be joining my panel.

With their acquisition of Tvinci earlier this year, Kaltura is expanding their worldwide OTT customer base into the US with a suite of products that provide end-to-end solutions for content owners and distributors who are going OTT. And coupled with their rather ubiquitous OVP (Open Video Platform), it's an interesting way to capture viewers wherever they're looking.

The Kaltura OVP, in point fact, was just the topic of an article in Lost Remote, on the occasion of Kaltura launching Ellen Degeneres' new video channel, "ellentube."

I sat down with Kaltura's New York-based VP of Sales, G. Gooder, to learn a bit more.

iTV Doctor: G, right off the bat, please tell us a little about Kaltura, Tvinci, and the recent combination of your respective capabilities?

G. Gooder: Kaltura and Tvinci have collaborated in the past, as Tvinci was based in Israel, where Kaltura's R&D center is. Tvinci was at the time a boutique OTT shop. We were impressed with their backend capabilities to support any business model and also develop very slick mobile applications that customers love.

For us at Kaltura, it was clear that OTT was the next stage of the online video evolution. Just like we were early pioneers with our content management system and player. We decided to acquire Tvinci and leapfrog into OTT.

We are now the only independent, truly end-to-end OTT solution in the market. This is going to be a $17 billion+ market by 2017, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers; and the combined Kaltura-Tvinci technology is the "special sauce" that media companies need.

iTV Doctor: And who are your customers now? What are they using?

G. Gooder: We have a good mix of the two typical customers for this type of solution. On one hand, we see service providers and telcos looking to offer to their customers an OTT video service, on top of their existing business. This would typically include live channels coupled with a VOD library like iTunes or Netflix. Some of our costumers there are Eutelsat, a German cable-TV operator with 3.5 million subs, and Yes, Israel's largest DBS provider, and a few other mega-customers that we will be announcing in the coming months. On the other hand, we power next-generation TV experiences for media companies and content owners that are operating their own premium content subscription service (like their own Netflix) but usually with some free live channels and the option to buy one-time access to a specific video or live event. We work with some of the world's pioneers in this space like MediaCorp, Singapore's largest media company; Solar in the Philippines; and Cinepolis, Mexico's largest cinema chain (third-largest in the world).

iTV Doctor: If it's Tuesday, somebody else has announced their intention to go Over The Top. In fact, we're getting two or three announcements every week. What does that mean to Kaltura?

G. Gooder: I have been in online video for 15 years, and the announcements of the last few weeks have been nothing short of astonishing! Specifically, the HBO announcement to go direct to the consumer is one of those watershed moments. These are exciting (and scary) times for the TV industry, and an incredible opportunity for Kaltura as we are at the right place, at the right time, with the right products.

I think that by the end of 2015, Kaltura will see that more than 50% of its media business is related to OTT/TVE, rather than the traditional OVP ad-supported models.

iTV Doctor: One thing we've all noticed is that some of the traditional service providers are throwing cold water on the announcements, stating (correctly, I might add), that going direct to consumer with subscription television is a LOT harder than it looks! What has Kaltura learned about taking a traditional distributor to OTT?

G. Gooder: Content is King, and user experience is Queen. HBO has this with HBO Go. But not everyone is going to be successful with OTT. In terms of taking traditional distributors to OTT, our experience is that the MVPD needs to drive adoption of the platform. A case in point would be Yes Go, a service provided by Yes, Israel's leading satellite distributor. By initially "giving it away for free," they achieved relatively widespread adoption. Now they are charging for the service and they continue to have strong adoption.

Another example is Solar in the Philippines. They were smart to offer some free live channels on the app. People love free and the app was a big hit. Now that they have presence on the user's device, they can upsell them with their SVOD service and TVOD business. The ability to engage your customer base and offer them a few types of services is key, and our solution does that very well.

iTV Doctor: And, of course, some of the existing OTT platforms have very strong ties to traditional service providers; and that might worry folks getting into the direct distribution business. Independence would seem to be one of Kaltura's strong points.

G. Gooder: There have been four primary online video platforms in the US with scale: Brightcove, Ooyala, thePlatform and Kaltura. When it comes to OTT, Brightcove and Ooyala only represent a sliver of what is needed for a full OTT deployment--basically media management and playback (the commoditized part of the stack).

thePlatform is a different story. As a Comcast company they have been an integral component for many of the notable OTT and TVE deployments in the US market. But the fact is that they are owned, operated and controlled by Comcast, the largest MVPD and content-provider in the country.

Kaltura is really the only independent end-to-end OTT solution provider on the market these days.

Another strong point is our fast time-to-market. We can deploy a full-blown OTT solution within three months from kick-off to roll-out. This is a key differentiator which allows customers to hop on the OTT bandwagon extremely quickly.

iTV Doctor: OK--bottom line. Is there anybody in the OTT space who can do something that Kaltura doesn't do?

G. Gooder: Of course, it would be foolish to say categorically "no"; I am sure there is some niche player with some very specific functionality. But if you look at the major providers in the space today, including thePlatform, no one has the breadth and depth of technology for OTT that Kaltura does.

We are the only player in the market to offer an end-to-end OTT solution from ingestion, through back-end management and all the way to the mobile apps that stream the content. However, we are also loyal to Kaltura's core values--"openness, flexibility and collaboration"--and therefore we can integrate with other legacy services and create a custom solution, where needed.

iTV Doctor: And we'll see you at TVOT on December 9th?

G. Gooder: Wouldn't miss it!


The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms.

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