News and Press on Products and Services
Switch Media CEO Christopher Stenhouse talks with Alan Kohler on Qantas Talking Business.
Qantas Talking Business is an Inflight Entertainment radio program, hosted by Alan Kohler. Each month business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators are interviewed about theirexpertise, business, and careers.
Click the following link and select no.10 on iTunes to listen: Christopher Stenhouse talks with Alan Kohler
CHRISTOPHER STENHOUSE TALKS WITH
ALAN KOHLER ON QANTAS TALKING BUSINESS
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
A Kohler: Well joining me now is Christopher Stenhouse, the CEO of Switch Media. G’day Christopher, thanks for joining us.
C Stenhouse: Hello Alan, good to be here.
A Kohler: Now … to start with, explain what it is that Switch Media does.
C Stenhouse: Yeah, sure. Switch Media in essence is a software company and we design, build and operate online video services for organisations that want to deliver their video over the internet.
A Kohler: And you primarily to do this with mobile phones? I notice that one of your customers is Foxtel Go where you’re organising the video for to be streamed to phones, and also Free TV I think you’re doing the same thing for… But is it just phones or other devices as well?
C Stenhouse: All devices basically, yeah. So you’re quite right… Basically anything you see with a Foxtel brand on it that is coming over the internet is actually coming through our systems and our servers and what we deliver is, as you say, to phones, apps to phones but it can be to tablets, it can be to gaming consoles, to your laptop, to your connected TV, really an exploding plethora of devices these days.
A Kohler: It is indeed. So what other sorts of customers do you have apart from Foxtel and the TV companies?
C Stenhouse: Well the TV companies I guess are the starting point. I mean, really, our customers can be anybody who either owns or has access to video content that they wish to deliver over the internet and so the starting point was media companies and so we now, over the course of 11 years here in Australia and New Zealand, work with and have worked with pretty much every single broadcaster.
You mentioned Foxtel, also ABC, we worked with ABC at the launch of iView back in ’09; with Channel 7 we’ve done — we’ve live streamed the Australian Open for them; with SBS we’ve delivered solutions and we have also worked with Freeview Australia here, the free to air organisation. Similarly, Freeview New Zealand, the organisation for the free to air operators there. But to your point, it moves also beyond broadcasts. One of our other customers is the Australian Federal Parliament, which actually has 70,000 hours of on demand content and we manage that for them as well as their live streams. They are, in effect, a broadcaster themselves.
So it can be government organisations, anybody who wants to deliver, either to customers or to fans or to employees.
A Kohler: So you’re one of the old 11 year overnight successes.
C Stenhouse: [LAUGHS] That’s right, yes, we’ve been toiling away for 11 years now.
A Kohler: Is the business now what you thought it would be?
C Stenhouse: Uh no, I would say that’s probably… If you’re saying what have you learnt over 11 years, I would say one of the main things I’ve learnt is that the business that you think you are about to start is not the business that you actually end up running. We started around the same time as YouTube and we thought well there’s an opportunity for something like a curated YouTube and so we went and collected a lot of short film content from film schools and animators. We put that into a website and then we sought advertising for it because we thought that this would be a way of monetising, of funding this service.
And I can still remember the day we were sitting pitching this to an organisation and there was a little pause and they said, look, not that interested in your content but I really like your platform. Could you get rid of all that content and just let us use your platform?
A Kohler: That must have been a moment.
C Stenhouse: Yeah, well that was the penny-dropping moment where we went ah, okay, maybe that’s the business we should be in. And so that’s the path down which we moved.
A Kohler: And do you still own the business?
C Stenhouse: Yes. Yes, we do. We started it ourselves, bootstrapped it 11 years ago and started literally in our living room and then moved to a two bedroom apartment and now after 11 years we’ve grown to have over 70 employees and we’ve been growing, revenue wise, at over 40% year on year and making money and cashflow positive, so we’re very happy with progress.
A Kohler: What sort of revenue do you bring in?
C Stenhouse: Oh look, we don’t try to get too specific about those numbers, but in terms of over 70 employees and profitable and growing at 40% a year, I hope that gives you some sort of indication as to perhaps where we’re heading.
A Kohler: So obviously it’s not just your business that’s changed a lot in the past 11 years. I mean everything has; YouTube has become colossal and, more importantly, we’ve had Facebook in the meantime. What sort of changes have you had to deal with over that time, you know, in the environment?
C Stenhouse: Well I see increasingly understanding and acceptance of what is there and the technologies that are now available. I mean the fact that the bigger pipes are there and that you can deliver ever-greater quality of video with ever-greater reliability means that it starts to open up, as you prescribed, in ways beyond traditional broadcasters and so while the starting point has been in broadcasting, for us in particular, we’re seeing new content owners and players. So, for example, sporting associations and people who either traditionally have gone through broadcasters or now are saying well we could actually take some of this directly to our own customers or to our own fans and so we’re starting to see that come through.
And beyond that, I think what is starting to happen is completely new fields beyond just entertainment and information and where the people who need access to high quality video streaming, that could be in completely different fields. It could be health, education, transport, for example, even Qantas — we’ve been this year part of trials with Qantas looking at some options for what they can do for providing some alternatives for in-flight entertainment.
A Kohler: I suppose one of the reasons you’re growing at 40% per annum, if not the reason, is that more and more video content is moving to the internet rather than terrestrial broadcasting. Do you imagine there’s going to be a time when all video is distributed that way?
C Stenhouse: I don’t think so. I think there will always be a spread of distribution channels in the same way that cinema’s never really died. I mean we thought they were going to be challenged by DVDs. I think televisions will still always play a role. I think how people choose to watch it will continue to change and one of the things we’re starting to see, in fact we were part of that even when with Foxtel we were delivering the London Olympics. You had the opportunity obviously to watch traditional channels, the live channels on your Foxtel service but at the same time we were providing an iPad or an iPhone version where you could literally have a visual TV guide and you could see all those live channels simultaneously and you could pick and choose which one you watched. So you could actually watch one thing on your screen, on your television, another thing on your iPad and I think we’re starting to see a lot more of that, this what they call ‘companion app opportunity’ which gives you either that or it gives you the opportunity certainly in a sports setting to offer alternative camera angles or the ability to interact and comment on what’s happening. I think those are the sorts of things that seem increasingly to come to pass.
A Kohler: Well I was watching YouTube on my TV the other night. It seems to me that there’s increasing breakdown of what you might call the terrestrial broadcasting monopoly of the television set.
C Stenhouse: Yep, I think very much. I think that’s the case. The monopoly has certainly gone but I don’t think it will go as a channel and I think it will just be something that is an augmentation or it is augmented by these other devices as well.
A Kohler: How far do you think your business can grow? Are you looking at international expansion?
C Stenhouse: Mm, yes, we are and we’ve only just recently returned from a trade show in Las Vegas which is international, one of the biggest broadcasting trade shows there where we launched one of our new products, the service side ad insertion product, because one of the key elements of any of these services is obviously the ability for providers to monetise these services and so we launched our new AdEase product, as we call it, service side ad insertion, which is a much more broadcast like experience at that trade show. And the level of interest is, to be honest, was far better than what we expected and so we’ve already started some… We’re in some quite serious discussions with a number of organisations who are interested in pursuing that a bit further.
A Kohler: So are you finding that you’re doing some things that aren’t being done elsewhere in the world?
C Stenhouse: Yeah, well yes, not being done perhaps with the same speed and innovation because I think one of the things that seems to set us apart from a lot of other players in this space is that we have the three main product elements that anybody who wants to operate in this space or provide an online video service needs, you basically… The first element is you need a basic platform that can take in live content, video content, it can encrypt it, you can edit it, you can associate metadata with it.
The second key product element is what we touched on before, the fact that you can provide these apps that the users or fans or customers install on their different devices to consume, to use the service.
And the third element is this monetisation product, the ability to provide a reliable and much more broadcast like experience, and to have all those three products, which are really the key elements of any of these services under one roof provided by one company, we’re finding this particularly compelling.
A Kohler: Well congratulations Christopher, it’s been a great journey and you’ve built a fantastic business.
C Stenhouse: Thanks Alan. Yeah, we’re very proud of the progress and it looks like there’s plenty more things for us to do.
A Kohler: I’ve been talking to Christopher Stenhouse…
Leading up to Switch Media’s presence at the SMPTE Conference in Sydney on 18 – 21 JULY 2017, CEO Christopher Stenhouse shared his views and expertise around the adaptation required for the effective monetisation in OTT.
READ PRESS RELEASE BELOW (source: Further Monetising Content Through an Omni-Platform Approach, Posted by Phil Sandberg on July 19, 2017).
Video content creators and broadcasters need to rethink their over-the-top (OTT) streaming strategy and the technologies they use to attract and successfully monetise audiences, according to a leader in streaming technology.
At the start of SMPTE17, CEO of Switch Media Christopher Stenhouse said while OTT streaming has exploded in recent years, many existing players will fall by the way-side unless they adapt to the rapid changes in technology and audience behaviours.
“It is no longer good enough to create apps that only show content on one or both of the mobile device platforms and TV,” Mr Stenhouse said. “Today’s audiences want to be able to view content on any device, anywhere and at any time, seamlessly and without interruption.
“Content should be delivered in a high-quality format not only for mobile devices, but also for platforms such as Chromecast, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TVs and the various IPTV streaming devices such as Telstra TV. What’s more, content owners and broadcasters must accept that if viewers can avoid advertising, they will, particularly if there is a time lag or buffering.
“Yet many are failing to adopt solutions that not only address ad-blocking technology but also improves the ad experience for viewers through seamless and targeted ad insertion in the delivery of content to the multitude of platforms Australian audiences have embraced.”
As an OTT service provider, Switch Media developed and delivered Foxtel Now.
Mr Stenhouse said the recent rollout of the new streaming service is one example of a major broadcaster adapting to the changes in technology and consumer behaviours around media consumption.
“In the initial stages of development Foxtel acknowledged the changing dynamics of how people are consuming media. This resulted in the product being rolled out across multiple platforms including PCs, Macs, iOS and Android mobiles and tablets, and the fast-growing Chromecast and Telstra TV platforms at launch.
“It has also only last week been made available on PlayStation, and in the near future will be further enhanced to be readily available on even more devices including Xbox and select Smart TVs.
“The omni-platform approach enables Foxtel to grow their audience significant and through Switch Media’s server-side ad insertion technology, AdEase, they will be able to better monetise their content and deliver better outcomes for advertisers.”
- Many current industry players will fall by the way-side unless they adapt to the rapid changes in technology and audience behaviours.
- The industry must accept that if viewers can avoid advertising, they will, particularly if there is a time lag or buffering.
- An omni-platform approach enables broadcasters to grow their audience significantly and through Switch Media’s server-side ad insertion technology, AdEase, they will be able to better monetise their content and deliver better outcomes for advertisers.
Switch Media is showcasing its OTT solutions – including AdEase, Switch Live2VOD and MediaManager – at SMPTE 2017 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney on booth G-40.
At 5.30pm tonight (19/07/2017), Switch Media will host a presentation by Foxtel’s Director of Product, Michael Ivanchenko, Mr Stenhouse, Switch Media’s Lead Solutions Architect for Foxtel Karthik Sivaram and Switch Media’s AdEase expert, Tim Armstrong. This presentation will discuss the technology approach, challenges and key learning’s for the development of Foxtel Now, as well as insights around server-side ad insertion technology to support enhanced user experience and revenue optimisation.
Visitors to SMPTE can scan their conference pass at the Switch Media stand for the chance to WIN a 12-month full subscription to Foxtel Now.
Luke Durham, CTO of Switch Media shares his insights on TVC adaption for online streaming. READ PRESS RELEASE BELOW.
Source: Global Ad Industry Urged To Adapt TVCs For Streaming Or Lose Millions, B&T, 29 JUNE, 2017
Advertising creatives must produce TVCs specifically for the burgeoning content streaming audiences around the world to deliver maximum return on investment, according to the chief technology officer (CTO) of an Aussie-based over-the-top (OTT) content company.
Luke Durham, CTO of Switch Media, has warned that to achieve this will require all stakeholders, from platform and content owners to advertisers and their agencies, to collaborate.
“To be blunt, conventional TVCs aren’t high quality or smart enough to engage streaming audiences in an increasingly demanding and competitive content and entertainment market,” he said.
“It’s clear there needs to be a greater understanding and cooperation between industry sectors to ensure uniformities and efficiencies are improved on both the creative/production side and the technical delivery side.
“There has been too much focus on keeping costs low to support the bottom line rather than producing the right type of creative for the appropriate channel and audience to grow the top line.
“But standard 30-second ads produced for broadcast television do not cut it. In fact, the use of TVCs online is one of the key drivers behind the growth of ad-blocking technologies.”
Switch Media has delivered millions of hours of OTT content over the past decade for Australian clients including Foxtel, SBS, Seven, Network Ten and Freeview.
Durham said that from Switch Media’s experience, content and ads need to be tailored specifically for digital devices.
“There are two sides to the problems that we all need to solve,” he said.
“Firstly, the advertising creatives and producers must consistently produce clever, engaging, original ads with shorter timeframes.
“Studies have shown that six to seven seconds is the optimal length of video for the average user attention span, with 10 seconds being the maximum to not only maintain viewer attention but to engage them.”
Durham said the second major problem is the speed and accuracy of the back-end technology responding to millions of constant content searches literally every second of the day.
“The ongoing challenge for agencies and OTT companies is managing the rapidly escalating volume of content that’s becoming available – literally tens of thousands of programs being accessed by millions of end users simultaneously from multiple sources,” he said.
“The accuracy of metadata provided by the content owners and ad agencies is imperative for each OTT transmission source to identify the content being sought by the viewer, and delivering them simultaneously to millions of devices across the country.”
As a key sponsor for the event, Switch Media is excited to exhibit and present at TVOT in San Francisco on 28-29 June 2017.
At the event, Switch Media CTO, Luke Durham will share his in-depth experience and knowledge around OTT during a discussion around OTT TV Infrastructure.
We will also showcase our world class online video solutions for OTT including our server-side ad insertion solution AdEase. With advanced anti-ad-blocking and audience targeting capabilities, AdEase enables world-class multi-screen server side ad insertion for both Live and VOD content for a continuous TV-like experience and maximum revenue.
As the Coffee Break Sponsor for the event, attendees can grab a coffee on us before popping over to the Switch Media stand to find more or get a demo on our services from content management, app development and live streaming, through to on-the-fly ad insertion and delivery to viewers across multiple devices.
If you plan to attend TVOT in San Francisco and would like to set up a time to chat, please email Bruce Hume at firstname.lastname@example.org
The annual TVOT in San Francisco is the global gathering for executives, technologists and creatives working in the Interactive and Multiplatform Television industry/community. The two day conference is also the venue for the presentation of the highly regarded Awards for Leadership in Interactive and Multiplatform Television, presented by itvt since 2004. More on TVOT.
An evolution of Foxtel Play, the key additions to the service are High Definition streaming and Chromecast access. Foxtel Now is available on PC & Mac via Google Chrome browser, Telstra TV, iOS and Android devices while a range of other devices like PlayStation and Xbox and Smart TVs will be updated to include HD over the coming months.
READ PRESS RELEASE BELOW (source: Foxtel unveils its new streaming service Foxtel Now from $10 a month, Holly Byrnes, news.com.au, 07 June 2017).
Foxtel unveils its new streaming service Foxtel Now from $10 a month
FOXTEL will take the fight for online audiences up to its TV rivals, announcing bold new plans for a budget streaming service.
At an all-star gala party in Sydney, the pioneering pay-TV company unveiled a new look logo and on-demand platform, Foxtel Now, which will give viewers low-priced and flexible subscriptions to their favourite lifestyle, drama, sport and movie programming.
An evolution of the existing Foxtel Play package, Foxtel Now will ensure subscribers have greater freedom and access to Foxtel’s content, from as little as $10 a month.
Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh said: “Foxtel Now represents our most flexible and affordable entertainment service and brings with it HD streaming, a great new look and feel and the freedom to jump in and out based on your viewing preferences.”
The drama and pop packs are expected to be the most popular, allowing access to Foxel’s award-winning HBO slate including Westworld, VEEP, Big Little Lies and the upcoming season seven of Game Of Thrones for only $15 a month; as well as the stunning local dramas including A Place To Call Home (starring Abby Earl), Wentworth and new productions including Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Foxtel Now’s movies pack is available for $20 per month in addition to an entry level pack; while the sports pack is available for an extra $29 per month, meaning sports fans can now get access to Foxtel’s extensive sports programming from $39 per month.
Mr Tonagh said: “We believe everyone deserves to experience the world’s best entertainment.
Unfortunately, not enough Australians are able to enjoy this incredible programming. “We think it’s time to change that, so we’ve taken some big steps to diversify our service to offer the biggest, most affordable, range of options for everyone.
“From tomorrow, all Australians can watch what they want, when they want and where they want at a price that suits them best, from low-price, no-commitment, HD streaming up to a state-of the art viewing experience via our cable and satellite iQ3 set top box.”
Australia’s premier pay-TV service has invested more than $100m each year on local programming (outside of news and sport), with its Foxtel Original productions garnering numerous industry awards in recent years.
Foxtel Now, which launches tomorrow, will be available on PC/Mac via the Google Chrome browser, Telstra TV, iOS and Android mobiles and tablets, and Chromecast.
Additional devices will be updated in the coming months, until then, other devices, including PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One and select Smart TVs are able to stream Foxtel content in SD via the Foxtel Play app.
Broadening its Foxtel On Demand library, Foxtel will now offer a selection of more than 16,000 titles of on demand TV and movie programming with over 1,200 of the hottest movies available, including 98 of the top 100 box office movies of 2016.
Foxtel’s 20th Century Fox recent-release titles arrive 12 months before Netflix and Stan, including blockbuster movies Eddie The Eagle, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence and Ice Age: Collision Course.
News Corp, publisher of this website, owns 50 per cent of Foxtel.
For more information, or to try out a free two-week trial, see Foxtel Now’s website.
As service provider for Freeview FV, Switch Media are proud to have assisted Freeview to add Chromecast functionality to their Android & iOS Freeview FV apps, so viewers can now stream live TV to their TVs without an antenna!
“Freeview Australia has partnered with Switch Media, a leader in the development of high quality technology solutions for the television industry. Switch Media provided a flexible and innovative approach to the integration of our FTA network’s live streams and catch up assets resulting in a seamless Freeview FV user experience. ” – Liz Ross, CEO, Freeview Australia.
READ MEDIA RELEASE (ausdriod.net, 19 May 2017)
Freeview’s FV live TV streaming app sees a major update today with the addition of Chromecast to both the Android and iOS versions of its app.
The addition of Chromecast puts a neat bow on Freeview’s live TV streaming functionality – you can finally put live TV on a TV set without an antenna.
Freeview FV first launched late last year, and has seen a number of bugfixes and updates since. The app has also picked up some international recognition at the Connie Awards earlier this month taking out both the International Grand Prix and Best TV/Video Service Update or Launch awards.
If you haven’t used Freeview FV yet, you’re missing out on live streaming of every Australian free-to-air TV network – you don’t need to miss your favourite programs because you’re not near a TV any more, as FV works anywhere, anytime.
The updates for both the Android and iOS versions of Freeview FV are now available in Google Play and Apple’s App Store. We haven’t heard anything official from Freeview yet, but a press release can’t be too far away and we’ll update with news of other changes when we hear it. Download the updates now:
Link to press release (ausdriod.net, 19/05/17): Freeview FV update brings Chromecast support to Android and iOS; stream live TV to your TV now!
As proud service provider for SBS On Demand, Switch Media is excited to have assisted SBS to bring this functionality to their audience.
SBS On Demand enhances user experience with launch of Chromecast for iOS
SBS On Demand today launches Chromecast functionality on iOS devices, allowing users to cast programs from SBS On Demand’s premium international and multilingual library to their TV screens to enjoy anytime, anywhere, and for free.
Already available on Android, the Chromecast upgrade comes at the same time as the streaming service announces the exclusive Australian premiere of the highly anticipated adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s award-winning novel The Handmaid’s Tale – available to stream in full from Thursday 6 July.
Last year, SBS On Demand rolled out a complete user interface upgrade to enhance user experience, including a brand new video player, smoother navigation, improved search functionality, ability to add shows to a favourites list, and playback resumption.
SBS On Demand is a world of inspired entertainment – a curated selection of over 6,000 hours of premium world class-drama, documentaries and movies from across the globe.
The update can be downloaded on the Apple App Store here.
For more information visit sbs.com.au/ondemand