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Make.TV is seeking to do to the video acquisitions business what Napster did to the music industry nearly two decades ago, which is to make widely available and quickly accessible an unimaginably large library of content .
The fast-growing Seattle-based startup has developed a cloud-based solution that finds and opens pathways for video to be shared between content creators, producers, programmers and advertisers, on a scale and with a speed not previously seen. This makes it easy to acquire content quickly, and deliver it across broadcast, online and social media networks. It also makes obsolete the traditional infrastructure of large control rooms, satellite dishes and uplink trucks usually used to stream live events with high production values.
With investment from Microsoft’s Venture Fund, Vulcan Capital and Voyager Capital, Make.TV’s services have already been embraced by media giants including Major League Baseball, NBC/Universal, MTV/Viacom, Warner Brothers, and German media giant Bertelsmann.
Tricia Iboshi, a tech industry veteran and well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, serves as Make.TV’s Chief Operations Officer. Having spent over 17 years in IP video technology, including nine years at thePlatform (which is now part of Comcast Technology Solutions), her current role is to help Make.TV scale its operations and drive sustainable growth.
She spoke with Karma Network Contributing Editor Michael Moran about the ongoing revolution of live video and content delivery.
Michael Moran: Many of us think “TV” and picture glassed-in rooms filled with engineers, show-runners directing traffic, and massive satellite dishes on roofs. So you seem to be saying all of this is going the way of the typewriter?
Tricia Iboshi: In many ways, yes. Make.TV is the next step in what I call the video stack. In the video-on-demand world we live in, you have the content delivery networks and the transcoding and digital rights management (DRM) and content management systems, plus ad insertion. A lot of those pieces have been solved. Live video, however, has been a unique use case.
Firstly, for a long time, you just didn’t have the devices needed to record or stream video, and you also didn’t have the bandwidth. Today, we have devices everywhere that can record and send live video, at any time in the world, and from any place. Now we have mobile devices, drones that carry cameras, and backpacks that contain everything you need to broadcast live from a remote site.
But the feeds are overwhelming traditional broadcast infrastructure. And so the mission for Make.TV is to help companies bring in all those different live feeds — from anywhere, at any time, without hardware dependencies, without buying a whole bunch of infrastructure, and to run those live video applications in real time.
The crux of it is this: Make.TV is the first live video cloud. It’s a native cloud application, meaning that it is designed to run across multiple cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. By doing so, we are able to find the fastest way to not only aggregate the initial live feed, but to also route it to the right location anywhere in the world. That’s the core of what we do, and no one else is doing that right now.
Michael Moran: What is the current state of play for live video? Streaming is very well established, but how are you changing the game?
Iboshi: A lot of consumers interact with live video via Skype, Twitter, Facebook Live, or YouTube. Each has a live video solution. But strangely enough, what hasn’t been solved is how to bring in all those live feeds into one central location before distributing them.
While more consumers are actually creating live video, they’re also consuming it. What we’re seeing at Make.TV is a demand for more live content, at any time, from anywhere.
So we look toward the cloud to handle that capacity. The cloud models at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all have amazing transcoding capability, security, and storage. We sit on top of all that infrastructure while providing the logic and interface to configure how we capture the speed and position. And then you add things like 5G and [additional] bandwidth, so now we can really move high quality video assets around.
Michael Moran: Who’s your target customer, and how do you see this developing?
Iboshi: Our primary customers today are broadcasters. These are sort of typical television news broadcasters who have a master control room but recognize that there’s a range of news from breaking news to local news, as well as other forms of video content that come from social media and other places. So we’re the bridge that allows them to bring in other third party live feeds into the master control room.
The second are e-sports providers, and we work with ESL, who are one of the largest e-sports providers in the world. We’re recording a little over 600 hours of sports matches a day for them. We live-broadcast them, but we’re also recording them. So then it allows ESL to take those segments and chop them up, and then we play them into linear channels and distribute them out. So e-sports is really another growing sector. What’s also interesting about the e-sports world is they don’t have existing infrastructure, so they look for, and they understand the benefits of, a cloud-based infrastructure.
The other thing, of course, is that sports broadcasting is often about multiple angles. So maybe I’m in the audience watching a game. I can record something that I see happening, but if the stadium or the NFL or whoever could pull feeds from different points of view in the stands and add that content to their content feeds, [I could access those too]. And of course, that’s where it’s all going for users — more content, more angles, more views. So we give sports broadcasters the ability to record content really quickly and aggregate it from anywhere.
Michael Moran: What can you tell us about your client base? Who are your customers, and who are your investors?
Iboshi: We just completed a Series A round from a number of investors that have worked together in the past: Voyager, Vulcan Ventures, and Microsoft. They saw Make.TV as the next piece of the video stack.
As for customers, our largest one is the e-sports firm ESL, and we’re in partnerships with a few others, including one of the largest broadcasters in Germany. We’re based in the United States but the core product engineers come from Cologne, Germany. So we do have a number of German companies that we’ve worked with. We’ve done a number of POCs (proofs of concept) with a lot of the biggest brand names in media in the United States. One of them is Al Jazeera, with whom we launched what’s called a “newsroom in the cloud,” which is a collaboration with Avid Technology, Microsoft, and Haivision.
There are a number of other vendors in that project, and our mission was to showcase how a newsroom in the cloud will ultimately operate. As I said, it really is the next step in the video stack.