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28 April 2022

Cloudification at NAB featuring Firstlight, Kaltura

If you weren’t in the cloud at NAB 2022, were you really there at all?

This is the prevailing message we got from our time in Las Vegas speaking with the video technology ecosystem. This trend is not new, admittedly, but the proactive response from video software vendors to demand for cloudifying products was a standout theme from the exhibit floor.

The unspoken reality is that there are a lot of companies with a lot of products that cannot be made available in the cloud. Against this background, this is where we can see the true benefits of being a cloud-native company – one like Firstlight Media, for instance.

Hidden away in a private suite away from the hustle and bustle of the convention center, the former Quickplay Media outfit announced that its suite of services are now available in Google Cloud.

It endeavors to create new monetization, personalization and content delivery capabilities for OTT platforms, with a fierce eye on free ad-supported TV (FAST) services. In the pipeline is video stitching and manifest manipulation for server-side ad insertion and work with Google Ad Manager. Firstlight’s migration of services to Google Cloud data tools will also explore real-time data for recommendation engines and looking at how Google Cloud’s Media CDN can improve VoD performance regarding low-latency streaming.

In this type of announcement, it is more about shining the shoes of Google than in polishing your own products, but that is what customers want. Embrace it or become irrelevant.

The team tells us this is a huge transformation – and it feeds into Firstlight’s longer-term strategy to upgrade its Gen5 OTT architecture to Gen6. This will arrive by the end of this year, we are assured, involving expansions into metadata analytics and a strong push to full automation and heavy customization.

Virtual channels are big, we are told, reacting to the trend that SVoD is reaching saturation point. Firstlight is effectively using the CMS as a tool – an orchestration engine of sorts – to drive business by creating value across personalization metadata on large scale architectures.

Meanwhile, in a separate solitary suite, we have Kaltura – one of the pioneers of cloud-based video – bringing us up to speed on its cognitive TV and telco TV strategies. Cognitive TV is no longer a concept as we thought, with Kaltura quietly making features available since we first stumbled across the Cognitive TV demo at IBC 2019.

This strategy is based on AI and big data, with a rules decision-making engine designed to act behaviorally based on user reactions to TV. The idea is to use TV as a primary data source, not just a primary data tool. Cognitive TV is not a product or brand in itself, but is something that exemplifies Kaltura’s roadmap – with these proactive features becoming intrinsic to the broader service offering.

The idea is that Cognitive TV will allow operators to evolve from multiscreen to omniscreen with adaptive UIs, hyper-personalized experiences and new opportunities in monetization. With Cognitive TV back offices, processes will become pragmatic and intuitive, unified under a single console and offering new marketplaces for syndicators and aggregators.

Kaltura wants to bring machine learning to static things, drawing parallels to how context-aware transcoding and context-aware CDNs behave, but on a higher level.

Media companies, rather than traditional operators, are where Cognitive TV will come to life, according to Nuno Sanches, GM at Kaltura. The R&D department is focused on creating data visualizations autonomously, building dashboards for what Kaltura sees as new media customers. Outside of Vodafone, the flagship tier 1 operator customer for Kaltura, the company has been very successful in the education video and virtual events space, buoyed by the pandemic, although we note that this part of the business does not follow the open source story that was integral to Kaltura’s early success.

Like a lot of similar-sized video software vendors at NAB, Kaltura was testing industry waters – getting a feel for how the latest feature sets of its cloud TV technology resonate with the video ecosystem. We are promised bigger product announcement at IBC 2022 later this year.