Businesses need highly flexible, hugely scalable platforms to pursue the right strategy according to the state of each market’s maturity, says CSG Ascendon director of sales Bill Gash.

Bill Gash

Bill Gash

These are increasingly competitive times in the OTT sector. What is it about CSG Ascendon’s offer that is particularly distinctive?
CSG Ascendon enables OTT service providers to deepen customer engagement, build loyalty, reduce churn, and grow their revenues with premium content by creating more personalised, relevant and valued Customer Experiences. Ascendon allows CSG clients to substantially improve how they manage, merchandise, market and monetise OTT content. Our story is about how do you monetise OTT at scale.

In terms of OTT realising its global potential, how far along the trajectory do you think we are as an industry now?
There is still huge potential for growth but, worldwide, market conditions vary. As consumers in mature markets pare back the number of services they subscribe to, churn reduction and retention are key. In emerging markets, the challenge is to get to viable scale and provide easier ways for consumers to pay for access. Businesses need highly flexible, hugely scalable platforms to pursue the right strategy according to the state of each market’s maturity.

Can you tell us about CSG’s association with Formula 1, and the ways in which you are helping them to develop their online/streaming services?
CSG is proud to partner with Formula One. F1 uses CSG Ascendon as the ‘business layer’ in its direct-to-fan OTT strategy, managing users’ identities, subscriptions, payments, entitlements and devices. F1 is all about the build-up and the live races. Ascendon’s use of AWS cloud ensures it can handle peak demand as fans rush to access their account or acquire an entitlement to watch services like F1 TV as the cars line up on the grid. In addition, F1 is able to package, price and promote dynamic content offers, at speed, to more deeply engage the fans and maximise revenue.

The company seems to be especially strong in sports at present. Where do you see the new market opportunities coming from in the future?
Sports as an OTT experience is developing quickly as more clubs, teams, leagues and organisations seek to engage directly with their fans and better exploit their brands and assets. Presenting live OTT sports is especially challenging and these organisations really research the vendor market. CSG is keen to advise them.

More broadly, CSG Ascendon has evolved as a monetisation solution for premium content (i.e. video, but also games, music, ebooks and now also digital services). Pay TV businesses, broadcasters, media and sports brands, and telcos are looking to redefine their customer’s experience as they transform to become digital brands. CSG is playing a big part in these types of programmes.

What are the technological or business issues that are most frequently overlooked when broadcasters are preparing new OTT services?
The challenge today isn’t ‘How do I get these video assets presented as a quality experience, on a connected device?’ Look around IBC: there’s still a lot of focus on video management, where one could argue customer management or the customer experience is the real battleground in OTT today.

Broadcasters are not used to acting as D2C businesses, so becoming truly customer-centric is new and quite challenging for them. Simple, intuitive onboarding for new D2C customers, free-registered or paying, is key, as are easy buy-flows and self-care tools, so users can manage themselves. Too often these are overlooked, and as a result the quality of the customer experience is undermined. Beyond that, broadcasters must move from a one-to-many mindset, to a one-to-one approach, creating more personalised OTT experiences that recognise each of us as individuals. That can be difficult as well.

If you had to select three milestones from your own long career in the industry, what would they be?
When I get to writing my memoirs, I think the Formula One deal at CSG is right up there in the top three. Also, persuading Universal Music in 2005 to launch U2’s music with Entriq, only to have the deal rescinded by Steve Jobs and Bono (it launched on a limited edition black and red iPod instead). Then I would say persuading easyJet in 1998 to advertise on Yahoo! and become the ‘web’s favourite airline’ in the process. I have been around a bit as you can tell!

Finally, can you outline CSG’s plans for IBC2019 and what you are looking forward to seeing yourself in terms of new technologies?
We are here to meet people – our clients, prospects and partners – so we look forward to seeing everyone at our stand, and at our Content Everywhere sessions in the Hub Theatre. I’ll be checking out the Future Zone in Hall 8 too, no doubt, just to see what’s around the corner. I’ll also be looking in on any stand that’s showing the final match of the England versus Australia Ashes Test Series!