He might have joined the company at the height of the global pandemic, but MediaKind CEO Matt McConnell is able to reflect on a highly productive first 90 days, writes David Davies.
The two years since the former Ericsson Media Solutions business rebranded as MediaKind have represented a story of continual development. Its product portfolio – which includes solutions for media contribution, distribution and the consumer experience – has continued to evolve, whilst the company has also strengthened its messaging around technologies that enable customers to work ‘faster, smarter and more efficiently.’
Becoming CEO in July 2020, Matt McConnell has been repeatedly struck by “the passion and commitment of the team. I have been extremely happy with what I have seen in terms of the basic principles of the business – in other words, we are saying the right things to the right customers – and having the optimal product portfolio.”
The immediate future, then, will be one of further refinement and innovation “for our core customer market, as well as looking at new markets into which we can take our technologies, such as education and gaming. Ultimately, it all comes down to how we package and leverage what we know about video delivery, which is very nuanced and complex.”
Read more MediaKind launches CE1 encoder
Among the very latest manifestations of the MediaKind mission is the CE1 media contribution encoder, which is based on cloud-ready software and coupled with hardware acceleration. Based on a powerful X86 processor, the CE1 encoder allows a flexible video contribution workflow that will accommodate new industry standards and codecs as they emerge. Consequently, CE1 can be utilised for demanding live event coverage as well as remote and at-home production, with support for UHD, SMPTE ST 2110, Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) and BISS-CA.
As McConnell explains, CE1 fits neatly into a production landscape that is in the process of profound change: “Many companies now talk about how to transition a software base or a native cloud base, and all of those discussions are really about customers demanding more flexibility, optimisation and scalability, and the ability to have increased velocity on the feature side. CE1 is the tip of that sphere on the contribution side and moves customers from on-premise to a cloud-based option that starts to enable other capabilities per customer, per segment and per geography.”
Like many in the sector MediaKind is acutely aware of the underlying shift towards software- and cloud-based operation. “A product like CE1 is the natural evolution of our technology,” says McConnell, “but it’s important to note that we remain a provider of both hardware and software. For the next 5-10 years hardware will continue to be a major aspect of the industry, and we will be a big part of that, but we are now working to show our customers how they can start to move into the next generation of operating environment.”
Enabling broadcaster transitions
MediaKind’s ability to support companies embracing new technologies and workflows is underlined by two specific recent projects cited by McConnell. Both of these revolve around making it easy to deliver more content more flexibly, with FOX Corporation using an integration of MediaKind’s container-based content delivery solution with AWS Media Services to allow the migration of its existing distribution network to a next-generation satellite-based network today – whilst also futureproofing for cloud-based IP distribution tomorrow. Showcased at a virtual event in October, the deployment will allow FOX to deliver both HD and UHD services – including live sports, news and entertainment – to hundreds of affiliate TV stations and thousands of operator headends across the US.
Moving across to newer methods of media delivery was also a priority for a recent project by production services and live video delivery specialist The Switch, on behalf of New England Sports Network (NESN). The Switch selected MediaKind’s Cygnus Distribution suite, including video processing and content protection technologies, to support the replacement of NESN’s existing satellite distribution platform with an IP-based terrestrial distribution solution. The new infrastructure will be used to deliver a wide variety of sports content in 4K HDR.
McConnell continues to observe the rise of UHD and HDR with interest, but also pinpoints another technology with a potentially huge impact: 5G. Both now and “for the foreseeable future, video will be the greatest driver [of network development], which means there will be a great emphasis on how to use that infrastructure more cost-effectively and in a way that ensures higher quality and scalability.”
There is no doubt that MediaKind is in an encouraging position here, not least because of “the heritage of its close relationship to Ericsson, which is a leader in that space and the development of 5G networks. But of course it’s an exciting area for development for a lot of companies and it also cuts across industry sectors, so I think we will see a lot of innovation around devices that help customers provide better services over [5G networks].”
One to watch over the next few years, then – but what of the present? For all its challenges the enforced downtime provided by the pandemic has given many broadcasters and content creators an increased opportunity for reflection about how their businesses might evolve in the future, and whether they have the resources and technologies to support these changes. And, of course, the same can also be said of many vendors.
In the case of MediaKind, says McConnell, it has become clear that “there will be some further structural alignment to do. It’s important to always be thinking about the company with regard to the employee base and whether we have the right talent. Because if you have the right people and the right products, the business will follow. In addition, a greater focus on the micro and macro trends in the world will allow us to have a more focused and clearer vision around where we are going to invest.”