Linear Television + Cloud
This blog is one of a series of Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem interviews.
Executive Interview with Igor Krol, CEO of Veset
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.
Igor Krol has well over a decade of experience as a high-level executive in the investment banking field. Seven years ago, he joined Veset as COO, and today he serves as CEO. In that role, he focuses on strategy and building toward the long term success of the company.
In this interview, Igor and I chat about new opportunities in playout, the cloud, and what he sees for the future of the industry.
Q: For people unfamiliar with Veset, could you introduce the company and talk a little bit about what you do?
A: Veset is a technology startup focused on developing a SaaS platform for linear television. Veset started in 2011, and from the very beginning, we were focused on bringing cloud solutions for content owners looking to create and manage linear channels in the cloud.
Our flagship product, Veset Nimbus, was launched back in 2015, and focused on professional broadcasters. In 2019, we added Stratus: that’s a simpler linear channel creation product available in the AWS marketplace.
Broadcast specialists refer to our area of expertise as playout. In layman’s terms, it means technology enabling creation of a scheduled channel combining real-time live and non-live content, which is then produced into a livestream distributed to various platforms—could be OTT, could be satellite, cable, and so on.
Conceptually, SaaS playout seems to be an obvious idea, but back in 2011, it was not obvious for anyone who was looking at the broadcast industry. We faced a lot of uncertainty—and linear television itself faced a lot of uncertainty—because lots of gurus predicted that VOD (video on-demand) would replace linear completely. But here we are today.
I think linear still exists as a form, and in the past couple of years, it actually has picked up in new forms of OTT linear. SaaS solutions like ours have been very successful in terms of allowing people to launch channels from the cloud and manage them flexibly across the world.
Q: Clearly the cloud is important to you—all the way into the naming of the products! Can you talk a little bit about why the cloud is so important?
A: From our perspective, cloud is very important because ultimately our industry—the video content distribution industry—has undergone a major disruption. That disruption was mainly driven by the on-demand business model. Instead of fixed long-term investments—which required having the equipment that distributed the video content and also the high cost of maintenance of that equipment—people started looking to distribute content in a much more flexible way. In that sense, cloud is the underlying resource required to achieve that flexibility—both technically and commercially.
Q: The shift from CapEx to OpEx sounds like it’s hugely important. I can only imagine the types of equipment and investments that would’ve been needed prior to you guys creating your offering.
A: Yes, that’s exactly it. In the past, you would have to have equipment; you would have to have on-premise equipment—and also tons of engineers looking after that equipment.
That’s a very expensive affair, and very few companies could afford it. But these days, obviously, access to these resources are through the public cloud and solutions like ours— software as a service solutions—offer that flexibility. We also offer the feature set required to originate and operate channels without much of the investment—and also with limited support.
Q: You mentioned playout being the category that you’re in within the media and entertainment ecosystem. Can you talk a little bit more about what other components you integrate with when you talk about M&E, or the workflow that your customers are looking at? How does playout fit within that overarching ecosystem?
A:. In terms of playout and what we do, we cover quite a bit—from ingesting content into the cloud, scheduling it, actually playing it out, and then delivering it to the customers. We sit after postproduction, and we work with various delivery mechanisms of live content, which contribute into our playout.
We also work with multiple partners, for example, the VOD platforms, which we integrate with. Whereas they deliver VOD content to different OTT platforms, we deliver linear channels based on the same content. We also work a lot with AWS products, such as MediaConnect, MediaLive, and so on—which are integral parts of our product offering.
Q: Yes, the folks over at the Media Services at AWS are fantastic. So, if I were to ask you about cloud technologies other than yours that you’ve heard about or read about, maybe you’re interacting with—what are the technologies that you find the most interesting?
A: Well, I would say there’s a very wide range of cloud technologies that are out there—and lots of our partners and competitors are developing in that space. We focus on our area of expertise, and we try to work with others who do the same in the cloud. From our perspective, it works well because integration is relatively easy. We have a REST API, and we work a lot with partners who have a REST API and can operate in the cloud.
For example, we are in the process of integrating with Singular.Live—a graphics engine, a very capable engine—which is a cloud-based solution. In the past, you would have to buy very expensive equipment to create live graphics, and they offer a very interesting alternative in the cloud. We work quite a lot, as I said, with AWS, and they recently launched Cloud Digital Interface—which is a very interesting product for tier-one customers who want to process and deliver high-bitrate content in the cloud.
There’s a very interesting space of ad insertion, which has a lot of competition, a lot of new ideas. We see a kind of explosion of different offerings there. And there is no obvious winner yet, so that’s an interesting space to watch.
Q: Yes, it’s real. I mean, today with COVID-19, getting to actually interface with customers, getting in front of people, is more and more challenging. If we zoom in on that for just a moment, what do you think the impact of the coronavirus will be on the media and entertainment industry for the next 12 months?
A: I think the picture currently is relatively mixed. We see a lot of side benefits from people staying at home—in the form of people watching more television and playing more video games. In that sense, media and entertainment is benefitting. But, it has its own challenges in terms of live events or live sports being limited, which limits the opportunities for high-quality live content production. But, we see that it’s coming back.
From our perspective, cloud as a technology provider will get a boost in this industry because people can see its benefits, like working remotely, working from home. Solutions which offer these benefits, using cloud, are benefiting from this crisis.
Obviously, there are lots of challenges still out there. Economically, there are quite a lot of risks, especially for smaller broadcasters, smaller content owners. So there might be some consolidation in terms of content production—that’s also a possibility.
Q: Yes, for our last question, let’s zoom out. Let’s go a little bigger and just talk about the cloud more generally and business more generally. What do you think the impact of the cloud will be on business over the next three years?
A: From my perspective, what will happen is that businesses will gain more flexibility from adopting cloud. So both technologically and commercially, they will be able to consolidate their operations. Especially for large organizations, which have disparate parts of their business—cloud allows you to put it all in one place or under the same roof.
When we talk about the business we are in—or the segment we are in, which is linear television—we believe that it will evolve as a form of content distribution. We see a lot of experimentation on the part of content owners, and I think the industry in that space will evolve. Instead of recreating what used to be 24/7 channels, there will be many different forms of content distribution overall.
Obviously OTT will be the prevailing form of distribution of content—and cloud will play a major role in doing that. It is already playing a role, but I think in many places it will replace traditional forms of distribution.
Q: Agreed! Well, Igor, thank you so much. If people want to get in touch with Veset, what’s the best way for them to do that?