Walking around the halls of IBC 2016, I am struck by the maturity of online video technologies. No longer ostracized to the kid’s table, online video (and, by consequence, the cloud) has been embraced by a variety of established technology companies who have launched offerings to address the growing OTT space. Take Accenture Digital Video for example. Just a mere 2000-person business unit within the much bigger consulting company, it represents Accenture’s growing portfolio of services (and technologies) that are specifically targeted at helping companies deliver and monetize their online video content. But their digital video platform isn’t an all-in-one offering. It’s focused on a few components that, through APIs and micro-services, can interoperate with third-party offerings, reflecting Accenture’s long-standing role as a systems-integrator.
But why didn’t Accenture just build an “end-to-end” platform like many other providers are attempting to do? Why did they only focus on specific components within the value chain? The reason here is simple—just like broadcast television, no one company can successfully and effectively offer all of the pieces needed for the back- and front-end of a video experience.
The ultimate problem here is that the online video value chain is shaping up to be a complicated beast. From content acquisition or creation to storage to delivery to playback to measurement to monetization, the necessary pieces to deliver a “broadcast quality” online video stream isn’t something that a single vendor can realistically provide. When you translate all of the activities required for online video delivery into discrete elements (the technology and the business), it’s dozens and dozens of different software and hardware components. Package them all up into a single vendor and you get a mess, requiring content distributors, network operators, and service providers to peel back the layers just to see where the deficiencies are with individual pieces.
Still, cobbling a solution together from disparate technology providers can prove messy as well. Even with APIs, integration and interoperability can be unicorns that purchasers chase for years with an end solution that is a rickety house of cards—unscalable, hard to support, and difficult to monitor.
That’s why it’s so critical for technology companies in the online video space to work together, to collaborate on best practices, guidelines, requirements, and specifications that make it easier for those needing the technologies to snap them together. Like LEGOs, if you will. In fact, I will argue with anyone that it’s collaboration which may be the Achilles heel in this long transition between broadcast and online video distribution. If technology companies in the online video space don’t agree to work together, to develop processes and interoperability that will enable anyone to put together a high-quality, consistent streaming experience, we will never have a complete transition. We’ll be stuck in the purgatory we are in now, where consumers have complicated processes for watching live-linear and OTT on the devices they want and the experience is anything but “broadcast quality.”