Artificial Intelligence + Cloud
This blog is one of a series of Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem interviews.
Executive Interview with Greg Loose, Head of Media & Entertainment at Veritone
While in-person events have been curtailed by COVID-19, innovation continues to advance in both tech and media and entertainment. I’ve been sitting down (virtually) with leaders of some of the leading AWS Partner Network (APN) Technology Partners involved in the M&E ecosystem—and their insights can offer a lens into the future of the industry.
Greg Loose is a long-time leader in the technology space, including SaaS cloud strategy, data management, and marketing and business development. In his current role at Veritone, he leads the M&E vertical, where he drives engineering and strategy for award-winning products like Attribute, Digital Media Hub, and aiWARE—the industry’s only AI operating system.
In this interview, Greg and I chat about artificial intelligence, the cloud, and what he sees for the future of the industry.
Q: It’s good to have you here. To get everybody familiar with Veritone and what you guys do, tell us a little bit about the company.
A: Veritone is a leading artificial intelligence company, and we’ve built the world’s first operating system that we call aiWARE, which has the ability to process thousands and thousands of hours of unstructured data and media and help turn that into structure and more importantly, actionable insights. And we allow our customers—through applications that we develop and that they develop on their own—to infer and make decisions based on that unstructured data.
We help turn unstructured chaos into something that’s meaningful and that helps customers make intelligent business decisions. And we do that across major industries including media and entertainment, government, legal and compliance and most recently, energy. We have some exciting things happening in energy right now. We are pretty excited to be where we are, in an artificial intelligence revolution, and to be able to power specific use cases and solve business problems for our customers.
And for a little bit about myself: I’m general manager of the media and entertainment business unit and oversee product management, engineering, product marketing, marketing and sales efforts. I come from a long background working at the Tribune Company and formerly Wazee Digital, which was acquired by Veritone a few years ago. So I have a lot of experience in media and entertainment, and AWS and cloud technologies in particular.
Q: Tell us a little bit then how you got involved in the AWS/cloud space.
A: I was part of the Wazee Digital acquisition that Veritone made about two-and-a-half years ago. Wazee was a company based in Denver, and when I joined, I inherited an infrastructure that was largely outsourced to a managed service provider. And we were running into some massive issues.
We had started doing some prototyping in AWS and had great experiences. But I had an aging infrastructure: I had an old tape library, I had switches. It was very impressive, but things start to break, and when you look at the replacement cost—of what that would’ve taken—versus going to more of an OpEx model...
So we went through a journey. It was fascinating. We learned a lot, but we ended up transferring about six petabytes worth of media from our data center to the cloud. We didn’t have any downtime—well, we had about 10 minutes of downtime when we did the final database switch.
Q: You know, that’s not bad. I’m not sure what that is per petabyte, but that’s impressive.
A: It took us a while. What was great was that it focused us on what products we wanted to do, and what businesses we wanted to be in. It allowed us time to build a proper migration plan, but also get to where we thought the world was going: cloud services and variable operating costs. We were able to get down to the penny as to what every service—and what every customer—was doing.
With Veritone, Wazee met a “like sibling,” in terms of beliefs about where the future of compute was going, and the ability to harness the power—of not just cloud, but also a scalable, reliable, deploy-anywhere ethos with software development. And obviously support and maintenance.
So what we’ve been able to do at Veritone is even better. We’ve been able to go to multiple regions within AWS, GovCloud environments—in fact, and we got the FedRAMP certification. We’re one of only about 150 companies that have that distinction of being able to run our service stack in a FedRAMP-compliant environment. So, that’s been a pretty good journey.
Q: I won’t ask you about that road—I’m sure it’s filled with red tape and bureaucracy, but congratulations for completing that! As it relates to the M&E industry, tell me a little bit about what functions fit within that M&E ecosystem you guys provide.
A: Yes, there are a couple great use cases on our radio and TV side of the business.
We are a direct buyer, through our agency business, of media on behalf of large brands and customers. But we also offer those same tools to do ad-check verifications—where we take in a customer’s set of playout logs, use artificial intelligence to verify that an ad was placed when it was supposed to be placed, and then we give the tools to our users to merge the two and correlate the data.
The power of our operating system allows us to take in not just unstructured data where we can use AI to enable that—but we can also take in structured data. So if the customer has playout logs, for instance, we can correlate all that information together.
Even in the last nine months, we’ve had customers at radio stations and television stations saying, “Hey, we’ve heard about Veritone. We know we have a license, but can you help me do this ad-verification check? Can you help us train? Because now I’m not in the office, and we have furloughed some staff—how can I use your tools to do my job and show value back to our advertising customers?”
The great thing about us being in the cloud—and having the security measures that we brought to the FedRAMP program as part of what we provide in our media and entertainment infrastructure—is that everything is secure. And it’s accessible to anyone around the world. So being able to get all of that data accessible to a remote workflow has been a boon.
We’ve had multiple webinars with existing customers for retraining and certification efforts. We’ve done a lot of great innovation on our own, with our customer success team building videos and how-to guides. We’ve just had to invent that stuff because we were getting so many requests and having to repurpose training material—and do it all in a remote setting. No one could get on a plane; no one could go to a conference room and deliver that training. Being able to do that and provide our tool set remotely has been fantastic for that segment of the business.
Q: What do you think that the impact of the coronavirus will be on the media and entertainment industry over the next 12 months?
A: That’s a fantastic question—very loaded. I think there will be fewer people to do the same jobs. So companies like ours—that not only provide software technology solutions but also monetization services—need to have a hyper-focus on figuring out how revenue can be optimized. I think that is going to be super key with fewer resources.
I think being able to do production—maybe not production so much, but certainly editing and post-production work—using remote and cloud utilities is going to be a necessity. In many ways, it’ll help. The lifestyle of being at home, as opposed to on the road, will probably be good for a lot of people, but will definitely necessitate a lot more innovation.
We’re also seeing a lot of our customers wondering how they can reuse the content they already have, whether that’s a bunch of B-roll footage or ENG (electronic news gathering) footage that’s been sitting there—one customer of ours, a major production studio, wants to create mini-episodes from existing content, and then publish that to their digital channel.
We need to be able to deploy AI and cognition to take this unstructured data to bring it to the forefront, to make decisions, to create new episodes. A customer can say, “Hey, I didn’t know I had this content. Maybe I can reuse it, as opposed to spending a bunch of money to go shoot something else—or perhaps even make it available to license to others.”
So I think there will be innovation—there has to be innovation, because there will be likely fewer people doing the jobs. But there’s still that insatiable demand for more and more media content. And that’s the paradox: more and more people are at home wanting to consume more and more content. How do the content creators make unique, compelling content that will satisfy that need?
Q: And you guys do a lot of work across that. Certainly the applications of artificial intelligence are huge and broad. Are there any other cloud technologies that you’ve heard or read about, other than yours, that you’re really excited about?
A. Yes. The nonlinear editing tools—I think it’s Adobe—those are enabling a lot of great workflows. Some of the great things are the automated clipping tools, the Grabyos of the world, that will allow for quick snippets of content for social media distribution.
We’ve seen those with some of our sports customers—part of supporting live events for those customers is being able to get content quickly into an ecosystem for quick decision-making, quick clipping distribution. So I think those are pretty interesting. And that’s more on the distribution side where I see that happening: more innovation and some cool technologies.
Q: That makes sense. So, let’s wrap up with a question that takes us out three years. What do you think the impact of the cloud will be, either on the media and entertainment industry or on business more broadly, over the next three years? Where do you think we’ll be?
A: I think any customer that has delayed any sort of redundancy, DR planning—that will need to be accelerated. And the customers who use that as an opportunity to enable production workflows—I think those are the smart companies. They will not only get more bang for the buck on a DR/BCP plan, but also enable new, innovative ways to actually produce content, monetize content, and distribute content. That’s where companies like Veritone and Metal Toad will be able to bring customers to that new world.
We’ve been shaken to the core in the last six months, but when we dust ourselves off and look to the future, those are the companies that are going to be maximizing their spend—while also getting more benefit from that investment. It won’t be two separate funding vehicles. It’s going to have to come out of the same place and use companies like ourselves to hopefully help innovate those types of workflow-reengineering efforts.
Q: Yes. Greg, thank you so much. If somebody wants to get in touch with Veritone, what’s the best way for them to reach out?
A: Thanks for this opportunity! We have a great website, and there is a “Contact Us” on that: www.veritone.com. There are also a lot of cool things on the site and resource materials about what we’re up to.