Our CEO, Philippe Léonetti, on the many changes in the industry and how a busy year for VO in 2023 has paved the way for an exciting 2024 for the company and its customers.
It is, without doubt, an exciting time to be working in the media and entertainment industry. At VO, we had many successes and deployed many innovations during 2023. It was good to finally enter the true post-Covid era and enjoy a complete cycle of dynamic, large-scale trade shows once more.
I enjoyed meeting our customers in exhibition halls worldwide, and I know the rest of the team did, too. Face-to-face meetings will always be a key part of our industry, and we look forward to many more in 2024.
But before we can talk about 2024, what can we say about 2023? From various conversations with customers and colleagues, we now have quite a lot of insight.
2023: A maturing industry
One of the key observations about 2023 is that the streaming industry is now a fully mature business. It is not an easy economic time for anyone, and there is likely to be more consolidation to come, but despite that, we are seeing more RFPs than ever before. These come from all regions VO is active in, forming a genuinely global picture.
The RFPs are issued by a wide range of companies, including some very major players, and we are seeing more broadcasters entering the streaming market and wanting to launch complimentary OTT services. In previous years, plans for new services tended to be restricted to individual territories. More and more media companies are looking to leverage economies of scale and introduce genuinely multinational offerings to consumers, taking a regional rather than a national approach.
Content security is increasingly becoming a central component of RFPs as content owners demand better protection. Watermarking technology is becoming a prerequisite in many plans as the biggest rights holders, such as the EPL, start to insist on its presence in the distribution chain. We are also seeing a widening of scope as companies look to broaden their offering and fold in aspects of the IoT and some of the new opportunities that 5G connectivity will unlock.
Another interesting facet of these RFPs is that they demand more. Not so long ago, you would often find simple questions such as ‘Do you provide service X?’ in a document. You would tick that box and move on.
In 2023, broadcasters and operators have a deep grasp of the complexities of a maturing industry, and their requests have changed. They want more than just paperwork; they want POCs. If your platform has a particular feature, they want you to ingest some content and demonstrate it in action. Customer wins in 2023 and 2024 are backed by a detailed process of concrete presentations, countless demonstrations, and robust tools. As a vendor, we have to prove we can deliver. Luckily, we have the technology in place to do just that.
2023: The year for VO
I am happy to say we have the expertise and the people to meet those challenges, too. 2023 was a very busy year for us at VO, as implementing our strategy of moving our teams closer to our customers has resulted in a growing complexity of our internal operations. As this strategy has clearly benefited our customers, I believe the investment we made in both time and resources has paid off, and I think we managed to balance it with the welfare of our people.
We definitely saw some trends in the business. The shift to the data world was very noticeable. Customers are realizing the power of leveraging their data on platforms, and there is a new acceptance of using a multi-cloud approach to access the best tools. Some customers were reluctant When we started talking about transitioning tools to the cloud in 2021 and 2022. Seeing the improvement in capabilities of the cloud-based approach has changed many minds.
AI has, of course, been one of the underlying themes of the year. We are busy integrating generative AI into many of our tools, but its use in the industry comes with a caution. To properly use the power of AI, you need to understand the business, the models that underpin it, the data it generates (and what that does and does not include), and the way it functions now and in the future.
AI is the cherry on top of the cake and adds value throughout the chain. It does not, however, replace the cake.
We have already mentioned the increased demand for watermarking. And our long-term investment in targeted TV advertising solutions is starting to bear fruit. There is enormous interest in this from our customers, and it has been one of the top topics of conversation in meetings and discussions with them. We have customer deployments in the field — still, unfortunately, for this article under NDA — but we look forward to sharing more next year.
Looking ahead to 2024
So, what can we say about 2024?
The year will feature some definite challenges. P&L is a significant consideration for many companies, even the largest ones, and the cost of content is increasing. Some consolidation in the industry is inevitable as a result.
Media companies will react to this by doubling down on optimizing their services. Returning to the subject of RFPs, two years ago, they were all about new functionalities and services they could offer their audiences. This has evolved to a new sensibility that prioritizes the optimization of operations alongside scalability — another sign of a maturing industry. Our customers want to know they are deploying a robust and reliable system that provides their viewers with the services they value.
There are, of course, still improvements to be made. Global search, for example, is an increasingly important feature still developing as aggregation and super aggregation become more normal. However, the critical metrics that will count in 2024 are performance, availability, and the ability to scale.
VO’s position as part of Orange certainly gives us scalability, and we also have a wide variety of deep partnerships in place that give us privileged access to a powerful ecosystem of expertise in many different areas. Partnerships with companies such as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud see us well-positioned to offer a genuine competitive advantage. Work we are doing in TV Personalization will also dramatically enrich our value proposition in the months ahead.
We have restructured the security side of the business over the past couple of years to reflect the move from CAS-based solutions to DRM, which is starting to pay dividends. Our sideways move into Industry 4.0 and our ability to secure the end-to-end digital supply chain with the VO Secure Manufacturing Platform is gaining traction as 3D printing and additive manufacturing gain critical momentum. Watch for more news on our Key Management System as 2024 progresses, which provides new and deeper levels of security to the virtualized world as all industry moves further away from physical device deployments.
We will have much more to reveal as the year goes on. But, to conclude, the current sales cycle is about performance, availability, and the ability to scale. If you like, it is about evolution rather than revolution, as the industry works to optimize the many new technologies introduced over recent years.
I believe the key to success in 2024 will be about how we implement that, innovate with existing tech, and continue to power the human side of technology.