Elemental Technologies: “Only software-based video compression solutions can keep up”

Keith Wymbs, VP of marketing at Elemental Technologies

Keith Wymbs, VP of marketing at Elemental Technologies

Keith Wymbs, vice-president of marketing at US video encoding specialist Elemental Technologies, on the necessity of ramping up video processing capabilities, the ongoing shift to software-based video compression solutions, and the highlights of 2012 for him and his team.

Where do you see the multiscreen video market going next year?

Enabled by multiscreen delivery, TV Everywhere is the new norm for many sectors (18-24 year olds for instance), and a significant piece of media consumption for others (parents with children).

The ripple effect of this market evolution is huge – from how consumers receive their services to the readying of infrastructure for massive amounts of video processing.

IHS Screen Digest earlier this year reported that the number of multiscreen devices receiving services from the world’s top 43 pay-TV operators will catch up to the set-top box installed base in 2015, at which point pay-TV operators will supply TV services to some 310 million active multiscreen devices, while set-top-box deliveries will decline by just over 30%. That’s a fourfold increase in the number of multiscreen devices receiving pay-TV services.

As more viewers are drawn to multiscreen, it’s vital that video processing ecosystems keep pace. That requires infrastructure that reliably delivers professional-grade, high-quality content and the flexibility to evolve as new standards and technologies such as MPEG-DASH, HEVC and Ultraviolet emerge.

The days of traditional hardware (ASIC and DSP) based video compression and statistical multiplexing approaches with fixed performance improvements are over.

Would you agree that it increasingly looks like consumers are in the driver’s seat here?

Absolutely. Consumers are demanding content on their terms, and smart device proliferation is accelerating this shift with nearly 154 million smartphones sold in the second quarter of this year alone and predictions of global tablet shipments of 25 million units in the third quarter.

Consumers are formative forces: market research firm Parks Associates predicts that more than 2 billion people worldwide will own at least one smartphone in 2015, while Forrester Research forecasts there will be 375 million tablets purchased globally and 760 million tablets in use by 2016 for growth of 48% between 2011 and 2016.

Changing consumer behaviour is also key. Increasingly, end users are complementing their in-home viewing experience with a second screen or social interaction, and catching their favourite sports, entertainment and information on smart devices on buses, planes, subways and trains, on the desktop and in the park or café.

While multiscreen video delivery is not a complete substitute for the great majority of consumers today, we see this market growing beyond the early adopters into a mainstream market over the next 3-5 years.

How can operators best position their infrastructure to achieve long-term success?

The consumer shift to broadband-only and multi-device content delivery requires enormous scalability and interoperability. At Elemental, we see the video compression world moving to software, as only software-based solutions can keep up with the increasingly rapid rate of technical change.

These software solutions must offer quality and density superior to purpose-built hardware solutions and reduce the overall cost of ownership. These software solutions must not subject users to issues around open source development, third-party licensing and support, and poorly designed stacks. And, they must work across workflows (integration with CMS, DAM, CDN), across infrastructures (ground, could, hybrid), and across streaming technologies (HLS, HDS, SS, and MPEG-DASH).

With these key elements in place, content programmers and distributors have the opportunity to build a common IP video platform with ready extensibility into virtualised or cloud extensions, seamlessly integrate new industry guidelines such as HEVC/H.265, and build on existing investments instead of having to make completely new ones.

What were some of the year’s highlights for you and the Elemental team?

By any measure, 2012 growth has been outstanding for Elemental – a gratifying endorsement of our growth strategy and best-in-class product line. Sales of our flagship products, Elemental Live and Elemental Server, accelerated and our recently launched Elemental Stream solution is off to a strong start.

To be more specific, we more than doubled our customer base this year to include 250 leading media franchises across nearly 40 countries. Our revenue growth year-over-year exceeded 200% with new customer wins announced such as the BBC, Columbus Communications, Media Prima, NHK, and Red Bee.

Elemental’s growth is  driven by trends in content viewing behaviour as consumers increasingly shift to watching streamed OTT content on TVs, smart phones, tablets and computers, which is forecast to grow annually by 32% to reach $37 billion by 2016. Every day, consumers experience our ongoing success in helping companies such as HBO, Comcast and ESPN create content for delivery to multiscreen services.

Our growth in 2012 also included a focus on international market and pay-TV operator segment expansion. This definitely paid off, with our new offices in Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America each having landed significant pay-TV and broadcast multiscreen supplier agreements this year.

Of course, one of our best known successes this year was helping rights-holders worldwide stream the 2012 Olympic Games. The BBC, CTV, Terra and Eurosport all selected Elemental video processing solutions for the Games. We also provided file-to-file transcoding for over-the-top viewing of on-demand events in the US, as well as live streaming coverage of the Games in Japan, managed by NHK.

When it was all said and done, Elemental powered Olympic coverage in more than 70 countries across four continents, delivering an estimated 600 million streams.

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