Video Streaming + Cloud
This blog is one of a series of Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem interviews.
Executive Interview with Joachim Bergman, CEO/COO at 24i
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.
Joachim Bergman has been leading tech innovation for over two decades, with a focus on media and entertainment tech for leading enterprises like Ericsson. Joachim joined Amino back in 2017. When Amino acquired 24i in 2019 Joachim became the CEO and COO of 24i.
In this interview, Joachim and I chat about video streaming, the cloud, and what he sees for the future of the industry.
Q: Tell us a little bit about 24i for those people who don’t know about it.
A: 24i is a video streaming experience company. We lead with something we call Smart Apps, which is our front end—our video applications for all platforms that you can find for streaming.
What makes us unique is the fact that we have a UI manager—which we call Backstage—which is where you can update the UI without updating the apps. You can also integrate different third parties into it. So, the promise is to do that quite seamlessly, both integration and also changing things, in a very flexible manner—without doing a very cumbersome update process for applications, etc.
And then, we have what we call Smart Video, which is our streaming platform. There’s a video engine which handles all the heavy lifting with transcoding, metadata enrichment, entitlements, and so on, to really get your end-to-end video streaming experience—which we provide to content owners and telcos, mainly.
Q: It sounds like when you’re talking about some of the technologies you’re offering, you’re deeply embedded in the cloud, clearly. How did you get involved in the AWS cloud space?
A: It felt natural to go to the cloud. Especially when we have evolved from being bespoke—bespoke front-end applications, bespoke in the sense that they become custom to every customer—and then built a new platform, which is based on React Native, and then also Backstage, which is cloud native.
It felt intuitive to use cloud. Also because of the speed and flexibility it provides.
Q: We love React over at Metal Toad. And I’m curious about the way that you fit into the —as far as media and entertainment goes, do you integrate with other players? What are the touch points that you generally have?
A: Sometimes we just provide what we call the Smart Apps, the front end, and we partner with companies like Verizon. Verizon is a partner of ours, and they do the streaming part. We can also do the whole end-to-end solution, including the streaming part.
But also we have a big partner ecosystem—we have, for instance, analytics with companies like Jump. And then we have the recommendations side, where we work Vionlabs and Xroad Media. We work with different metadata providers, and we use the Microsoft Video Indexer as well to use some of the things that provide a better user experience on the picture side.
So we have various partners that we work with, and it kind of depends on what the customer wants. If the customer wants to have some things, we are extremely proud of being the best in the market, but sometimes you have to realize that you’re not the best in the market. And that’s why we also bring in different scales of partners. If somebody wants to have the best of breed, then we bring in a partner. And if somebody wants fast to market—fast time to market and cost efficiency—then maybe they’ll be satisfied with our full end-to-end proposition.
Q: Makes sense. Talking about the cloud more broadly—are there any other cloud technologies that you’ve read about or heard about that you find particularly interesting?
A: In general, we watch the space very carefully for ourselves because, of course, analytics is a space which is extremely interesting. You know, we are on a journey, and we’re doing some things. I think that, really, the power of harnessing the data, and refining the data, and analyzing the data using AI and machine learning is extremely intriguing.
But on the video streaming side, what we see now happening—and we have actually launched it as well—is to do it live, to do complete live workflows very cost-efficiently that are also very rapid to deploy.
We recently launched a complete end-to-end customer fully in the cloud, both live, and on-demand in advance. And that really shows the flexibility and the power of the cloud—where you can, like a torch, light up a new service with different flexible models.
This was a sports provider, where they have some live—like a live channel—and then they can flex the events up to infinity. With this sort of thing, you can provide immense value with our software and also a really robust cloud infrastructure.
Q: Yes, the live capabilities, and certainly what you can do in real time, and what AI can then help you extract because you’re dealing with so much data, really is fascinating.
So, we’ve managed to dance around this, but we’re doing a Zoom in part because of the coronavirus. What do you think the impact of COVID is going to be on the media and entertainment industry over the next 12 months?
A: Well, we already saw it. We saw, from our existing customers, that they got quite a lot of interest. We saw some of our customers growing tens of thousands percent in just a few weeks.
And again, coming back to cloud, it’s very difficult to do that if you aren’t on the cloud and don’t have quite robust systems to handle and solutions. So, that’s one thing that we have seen.
And also, we believe that we help people out, being in lockdown, through our customers and through our services. We provide some comfort and maybe some sanity as well—and also information.
We work with public broadcasters. We work with people, companies that provide news and also general entertainment. I think what we have seen is that the big ones are not enough. People are switching to more and more niche services, where they would like to be entertained—because they can’t go, for instance, to a Broadway show.
And incidentally, one of our customers, BroadwayHD, is basically the digital Broadway. They were the ones who had immense growth during COVID.
And I think these things, where you cannot experience the physical world, I think that is here to stay. People think, okay, it’s actually not so bad to experience certain things digitally and in your home. You see that in remote working, as another aspect, but on the entertainment side, it’s similar.
With coronavirus, you’ll see these different windows that you used to have being completely challenged. I think that will become more and more blurry, partly because of corona—and I think it also instilled a new behavior in people where they say, “Well, I would like to get even more flexibility than before.”
Q: Yes, it’s interesting. I think that in many cases, corona not only provided the reason, but also that permission for things that people were already thinking about. You have the Trolls World Tour release that was released on direct. Perhaps we would say it’s a perfect storm, keeping with the cloud metaphor.
But for the last question, let’s go a little bigger. What do you think the impact of cloud will be on business over the next three years?
A: Generally business or media and entertainment?
Q: Yeah, generally business, beyond media and entertainment. Are you seeing trends that are essentially going beyond? I mean, I don’t think we would’ve thought of Broadway, for example, as a cloud-based business. And I’m fascinated by that. I’d love to know, are they actually doing the performances and broadcasting them live? And then every night? It sounds fascinating.
A: No, it’s more of an on-demand service. But there is also this thing about streaming from the theaters, right? These types of things are here to stay, these things where it’s partly virtual.
And I think in terms of the big trends: travel. I think that has changed. I think the airlines like to believe that it will go back to normal. Yes, it will go back to a normal—but it will not be the same normal, because people are quite happy with the fact that we will interact like this.
So you will choose much more carefully how you spend your time, and how you value your time, because the cloud provides so much flexibility in terms of how you can optimize your time and value. So we can have this meeting now. Imagine, 20 years ago, I would have to come to Oregon. You know, that would be quite a lot of work to have a 20-minute interview.
One thing is remote work, the way we work. Physical presence will become a little bit more important, but I think in a different way. Your office working will be more centered around working together in a group, whereas day-to-day will be distributed.
And if you think about it a little wider, I think when it comes to media and entertainment, we see this acceleration of things that we kind of could foresee. Like, we foresaw that normal linear experience would go down. Now we see that it also surpasses linear, even during this year.
And you could extrapolate that going forward; you’ll see much more of this flexing. Events will become much bigger. You could take a view that you will have different events, like the Olympics or different sports, which will just be mega-amplified in terms of different viewing experiences, because you can do that.
Before, it was extremely costly to provide those things: more cameras, more feeds—more, more, more. Because you were dependent on physical infrastructure. And through the power of software and the cloud, those types of things are not so difficult anymore. Maybe the quality isn't exactly as good, but I think people are willing to compromise on a little bit lower quality in order to get this sort of immersive experience, and also the flexibility of different feeds and always-on.
Q: It’s funny that you mention the Olympics, because when you think about that every-four-years cycle, the things that have changed over the past four years—radically different. And I think as soon as they figure out what they want to do, in terms of bringing the athletes together once things get easier, I would imagine the next Olympics we have will be radically different, or have the capability to be radically different, and that’s really fascinating insight in just one little microcosm.
So, one final final question. If people want to get in touch with you or 24i, what’s the best way for them to find out more information or to get in touch?
A: So we did a soft launch on our website, so I can’t really promote it heavily—but we will have a very good, updated website, which we soft-launched today. That’s probably the best way. LinkedIn works; follow us on LinkedIn, follow us on Instagram, and so on. We’re also active on social media. But I think the best way to find out more about us is through our website: www.24i.com.