Viewers want nothing short of the best and expect their content of choice to be delivered in the highest quality, explains Endeavor Chief Technology Officer Nick Wilson.

In what primary ways have consumers’ expectations of interactive viewing experiences changed over the last couple of years?
As OTT services continue to emerge, consumers now have more choices available to them than ever before. At the early stages of the industry we saw the need for services to be available across a multitude of devices– no longer keeping the viewer confined to one screen, like a television.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Now, to keep viewers fully engaged and drive subscriber retention, we are offering advanced features, such as personalisation and customisation to give the subscriber full control of what they want to watch, when and how they want to watch it. 

What implications have these evolving expectations had for the solutions portfolio at NeuLion - acquired by Endeavor - in particular the NeuLion Digital Platform?
The NeuLion Digital Platform provides content owners with the proper tools to get their content into consumers’ hands quickly and easily, ensuring they will be long lasting customers. As the OTT market evolves, we ensure that our platform continues to innovate with interactive, advanced features that will set-up our customers for success.

NeuLion’s platform is built on real-time technology so we’re able to immediately customise the entire application interface for each individual user, acknowledging who they are, where they are, and their past viewing habits. This is another engagement and retention tool that is native to the solutions we provide.

What will be your other primary messages at IBC2018?
A large focus for us at IBC this year is to show content owners the true advantages of delivering live and on-demand linear programming over-the-top. There is plenty of space for uncovering untapped revenue streams for broadcasters, operators and media companies, specifically in Dynamic Ad Insertion, Content Flexibility and Consumer Watch Data. We are seeing these topics appear quite often in conversations.

Within these areas, OTT services give you the ability to create flexible and dynamic content packages, playlists and virtual channels which surface and play out like traditional broadcast channels. In addition, OTT gives you an in-depth view of your content, viewers and overall business, which when pulled together are critical to driving programming effectiveness, marketing tactics, and audience activation initiatives. 

Aside from sports, which other areas of viewing do you think will drive OTT growth in the short- to medium-term future?
eSports, which are already being introduced to the industry by some of the larger content rights owners. In addition, there is a lot of growth for the live events sector in over-the-top delivery – and not only for live sporting events, but for music events such as concerts, festivals, tours and shows.

One of the benefits regarding OTT delivery is the flexibility in making your content available from a monetisation standpoint. For example, pay-per-view, which is essentially a digital ticket or an individual pass to a live event.

Having growing industries tap into this OTT business model approach can uncover a new stream of revenue and increase accessibility to viewers who may not be able to be at the event live. 

How important is the current move towards higher resolutions integral to the overall trajectory of OTT and interactivity?
Viewers want nothing short of the best, and expect their content of choice to be delivered in the highest quality. Our MainConcept business has accelerated the shift from HD to UHD to 4K and now HDR video by equipping our professional market with superior video solutions.

Another leading factor in the adoption of 4K and HDR quality video is the widespread support it received from major movie studios, sports rights holders and equipment manufacturers.

Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of dialogue that takes place between NeuLion and rights holders to ensure you have an R&D vision that pleases as many people as possible?
In a thriving industry, like OTT, all technical components need to be flexible. Flexibility gives content owners the chance to create a service that adapts to the needs of the end user. Our technology is fully dynamic and agile, to not only meet, but exceed our customer’s vision for their digital business.

I think what really differentiates us is our experience. Rights holders and content aggregators can come to us and benefit from more than a decade of knowledge and, literally, hundreds of solutions delivered. 

We know what has worked, how to optimise the solution, and how to deliver success. In many cases, that transcends our great technology – it’s the experience of how to use the tool-set that matters.

If you had to pick one recent project that exemplifies the capabilities of the Digital Platform, what would it be and why?
The synergies of allowing NeuLion to handle the complete digital workflow for our customers are immense. Solutions we’ve delivered that leverage the entirety of NeuLion’s complete end-to-end platform are particularly powerful.

For example, we often see customers using our monitoring functionalities through QoS and NeuLion Ace Analytics to further enhance their service based on their subscriber behaviour patterns. This allows them to better understand how their subscribers are engaging with their service, to then effectively market to them, resulting in increased customer loyalty, lifetime value and higher conversion rates.

The sector in which you operate becomes more competitive all the time, so what measures do you take to ensure you remain one step ahead?
For us, it’s a careful balance of innovation and risk aversion. Our customers entrust us to entertain millions of their customers every day, so we need to ensure that we have a rock-solid infrastructure that can scale within milliseconds.

At the same time, we have to embrace the very latest technologies, for example advanced video encoding, deep device-level integration, and big data collection and real-time analysis.

We have a team at NeuLion dedicated to identifying, proving and implementing cutting edge technologies for our customers. I can’t wait to show some of the things we are working on.

Finally, can you pick a moment from your own recent viewing experiences that exemplifies the potential of interactive OTT experiences?
For me, it’s about how we transition the linear and on-demand TV-like experience of what we call ‘OTT 1.0’ into a fully immersive and interactive environment that pushes the boundaries of today’s consumption platforms, be they mobile devices or connected TVs.

The two-way nature of ‘OTT 2.0’ provides a completely different canvas upon which to present one’s content offerings, and every day we ask ourselves how to advance customers to use more and more of these advanced features.

We’re also starting to seed “OTT 3.0” capabilities such as the real-time display engine, auto-generated content clipping and seamless multi-feed support. OTT 3.0 is all about using the data we are collecting to enhance an experience in real-time, rather than just for post-event analytics.

Nick Wilson is Chief Technology Officer at Endeavor. Endeavor’s acquisition of NeuLion was announced in March 2018.