IP&TV News speaks exclusively with Mano Kulasingam, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Digiflare ahead of TV Connect London.
1. For our readers who aren’t aware, can you provide an overview of the projects DIGIFLARE are involved with?
Digiflare builds OTT experiences for mobile, tablet, game console, and connected TV devices. We’ve helped launch OTT offerings for TV networks, pay TV operators and online video distributors. Some of the clients we work with include Charter Communications, CNN, Discovery, Starz Entertainment, Univision and Vimeo.
We also recently launched Videa, an app publishing platform that gives media brands the power to build and publish apps quickly as well as to manage and update them without the need for coding or designing applications. It’s significant because it means these brands can get production-ready apps to market on multiple devices quickly. At the same time, they can do it without the need for dedicated development teams for each device. Also, Videa integrates with every major provider of video delivery infrastructure services so media companies don’t need to uproot their existing infrastructure. A media brand is able to target whatever range of screens makes sense for their strategy and manage the whole suite of apps from a single platform designed to be easy-to-use for non-technical users. The responses from the Media & Entertainment industry and our technology partners, like Akamai and Verizon Digital Media Services, have been tremendously positive.
2. What are the things that excite you about the evolving Connected TV market?
Today’s consumers expect to watch whatever content they want on the devices they already have. We’re excited to be able to provide that capability through a platform like Videa. It’s a very interesting space to be in because it’s evolving year after year. People are consuming video in different ways now through various social networks – Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. “Bite-sized” videos are becoming an important way brands connect with consumers outside of long-form content.
We’re also seeing a number of new markets spawn out of these direct to consumer channels: how-to videos, educational videos, and a lot of interesting cultural things, especially within travel, music, and even traditional cooking and baking. Consumption habits have changed somewhat from someone learning a recipe from a half-hour episode on the Food Network, for example, to now watching a quick two-minute video through a Food Network app. There are a lot of interesting evolutions happening within the Connected TV market, and the sources through which viewers are consuming video.
We’re also starting to see a lot of flexibility in how consumers can purchase content. Whether it’s through a subscription service, pay TV authentication, or the increasingly popular direct-to-consumer model, we’re seeing pay TV operators provide consumers with more options outside the traditional package. There are also a lot of great transactional and ad-supported offerings that are taking the industry in many new directions. We’re excited about using Videa to give these companies a simple, flexible way to tie-in all the components of a successful video service, from video workflow, CDN, ingestion and encoding to analytics, DRM and monetization into a single platform. This way, they can launch a multiplatform OTT service, livestream or on-demand, in a much shorter timeframe.
3. What do you think the future of Smart TV / OTT Content / video on demand looks like?
The future of smart TV, OTT content and VOD will be an enhanced ability for brands to offer unique user experiences across the spectrum of devices that are specific to the needs and preferences of their audience. When we think of multi-channel networks and how they might potentially look at going over-the-top, a major factor may be the opportunity to own their user experience on the devices they target. This way an MCN can act as a traditional streaming channel on a Roku device or a more interactive experience on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. What we find is that with MCNs, it’s the specific personality of the content creator that draws viewers. Now, viewers have the ability to interact with that creator not only through social media but within the specific application or platform that the creator owns. Those are the kinds of unique experiences we’ll start to see in terms of the future of smart TV and OTT content. We built Videa in part to ensure we could help MCNs bring their unique, personality-driven content directly to users on a larger set of devices and provide a user experience that matches that personality.
The future of video encompasses a number of other factors, and one of them is user-generated-content (UGC). Now that everyone has access to a pretty high quality camera on their smartphone and the ability to stream live feeds to their audiences through services like Periscope or on Facebook and YouTube, we’re foreseeing the next step in the evolution of UGC. We’ll see a lot of interesting exploration of how to make effective use of live streaming and DIY video. Quite a few blogs and online media outlets are producing live video feeds and changing the way people can view and interact with their content throughout the day.
4. What are DIGIFLARE’s goals for 2016?
In 2016, our focus is on helping TV networks, pay TV operators, and online video distributors find a place on connected devices without sacrificing quality in performance and user experience. With Videa, we’re really trying to help the premium brand and the niche player, whether that’s an MCN or a content publisher with a very specific audience, to reach consumers and be competitive on every device that’s popular with consumers, like Apple TV, PlayStation 4 or Roku. We also aim to use Videa to bring these advantages to media brands on a larger, international scale.
5. In a world where everyone is moving into everyone else’s space, businesses are having to redefine their offerings to remain competitive in the short and long term. How are DIGIFLARE meeting this challenge?
We’re meeting this challenge in a few different ways. We’re allowing a lot more niche market players to build offerings on devices that already have a large audience, such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. These are audiences that may not have the same expectations of video as those on more traditional outlets. We see these devices as entertainment hubs with large and growing audiences. While many brands are already on iOS and Android platforms, game consoles and connected TV devices are still somewhat new on the scene. I think we’re going to see a lot of enticing new content available on these platforms and that will help to drive new markets. Videa tackles this challenge by making it easier for content owners to really connect with their audiences.
6. How many years have DIGIFLARE been attending TV connect?
This is actually going to be our first year attending TV Connect.
7. What is DIGIFLARE presenting at this year’s TV Connect event?
I’ll be participating in the “MCNs and the YouTube Generation” panel that’s happening on Tuesday April 26th at 3:15 pm. The other panellists and I are going to discuss our take on MCNs, where they fit in the OTT space, and the new opportunities that are emerging with them. Along with Nathan Ng, our Director of Product Management, I’ll be demonstrating Videa at the Connected Entertainment Hub on Wednesday the 27th at 3:30 pm. The focus will be on Videa’s unique power to help content owners get apps in market quickly while providing a customizable UX that lets their brands shine through.
8. Why it’s important that you’re attending this year’s event?
What we really want to do at TV Connect this year is get our message out to a global audience. We’ve worked with a lot of the biggest media and pay TV brands in North America to launch their streaming services. With Videa, we can scale to a larger marketplace to help companies in other markets that don’t necessarily have deep engineering benches or all the technical know-how to build high performing apps on iOS, Android, Windows 10, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. We have a platform that makes hitting all of these devices a possibility within a short timeframe.
9. What are your forecasts / predications for the rest of 2016 in the connected TV space?
A lot more traditional services, like TV networks and pay TV operators, will explore the over-the-top, direct-to-consumer model. We’re going to see a lot more exploration of monetization options outside SVOD and that is going to yield some really interesting new business models.
More MCNs will make the jump to OTT to take advantage of the opportunity to own their user experience end-to-end and find new ways to cross-promote certain marketing and advertising initiatives. You have much greater control in that area if you own the user experience and the application and we’ll start to see more MCNs take a serious look at that option. We think Videa will be a platform that can help them in this area.
We’re also going to see some interesting hybrid concepts that connect digital and real life experiences. We’re talking to a lot of companies who have an asset and want to showcase a lot of video content, but perhaps merge it with a live event and find cross-promotion and marketing opportunities in that space.
10. What are you looking forward to seeing at TV Connect at the Excel Centre in London this month (April 26th – 28th)?
I’m excited to see what the industry is looking forward to on a global scale with a focus on the OTT and TV Everywhere space. What’s really compelling about TV Connect is that is serves a truly global audience and offers us a chance to learn key insight on how other regions around the globe are addressing the OTT market
Mano Kulasingam, Co-founder & Co-CEO of Digiflare
Mano Kulasingam is the co-founder and co-CEO of Digiflare, a leading provider of multiscreen TV app solutions. Named “Class of 2015 – top 40 under 40” by MultiChannel News and 2016 Innovator of the year by CableFax, Mano has defined and implemented Digiflare’s technology and growth strategy for the past 9 years. As a result, Digiflare has grown from a two-man operation working from a suburban garage into a firm staffing more than a hundred full time employees. Under Mano’s leadership, Digiflare has launched multiscreen TV experiences for some of the biggest names in the North American media and cable industry, including Charter Communications, Rogers, Bell, CNN, Discovery Communications, and Starz. His focus on technology strategy and business growth at Digiflare has led to strong partnerships with multiscreen device manufacturers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Samsung. At the same time, he has delivered key insights into the app publishing process that have poised Digiflare to offer multiscreen video solutions to cable industry players worldwide.