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14 January 2021

ContentWise slides into PCCW after suspect ThinkAnalytics withdrawal

In snatching a tier 1 contract from right under the nose of ThinkAnalytics, recommendation software rival ContentWise appeared to have made a significant statement of intent for the year ahead after the company burst back onto the scene with a facelift just before Christmas.

However, soon after ContentWise announced the breakthrough deal at Hong Kong-based giant PCCW Media, Faultline established that ThinkAnalytics actually vacated the PCCW account under mysterious circumstances some time last year.

“We decided to commercially withdraw last year from PCCW,” said ThinkAnalytics CEO Eddie Young, in an emailed statement to Faultline that sparked our speculation.

The real reason for ThinkAnalytics losing the PCCW contract – or rather throwing in the towel as this one short sentence suggests – is unlikely to ever be uncovered, so we should therefore focus on looking forward at PCCW’s new personalization era driven by ContentWise.

The Italian vendor’s digital experience automation and personalization software has been deployed by PCCW to completely rebuild the back-end of the Now TV services on set tops and connected device applications. The new Now TV design integrates the ContentWise Analytics and ContentWise UX Engine platforms – boasting machine learning capabilities for expanding the range of Now TV’s personalization and discovery features.

ContentWise talks of a “new user experience paradigm” where the dynamic interplay of data-driven personalization and assisted editorial input adapts to individual subscriber’s intent and tastes. New features include a personalized home page and use cases designed to simplify content exploration, while using AI to strike a balance between algorithmic personalization decisions and editorial input to maximize programming ROI and repeat usage.

Now TV is sold with broadband lines in Hong Kong using IPTV multicast, while Viu – the service for which we understand ThinkAnalytics plied its trade – is a totally open, freemium-based streaming service. Premium rates are around $3.50 a month, but are usually sold as part of a bundle bought via mobile operators. Content licensing for Now Player and Viu are very different, with Viu having more overseas content and Now TV buying sports rights like the EPL soccer from the UK, currently listing 150 channels and dozens of VoD categories.

Viu’s previous owner, Vuclip, paved the way for the service with investments in streaming technologies including its patented Dynamic Adaptive Transcoding technology. Vuclip was responsible for recruiting ThinkAnalytics, as well as Verimatrix for security and Harmonic encoding.

The focus on AI for PCCW’s Now TV reminded us of a ContentWise webinar we attended last quarter, when the vendor was preaching a “trust in AI” message as fundamental to the next revolution in personalization. ContentWise reiterated that AI should be human and algorithmic, not human or algorithmic – combining deep automation and machine speed with editorial manageability and human curation.

We also recalled how ContentWise perceives the personalization software journey, one in which it was so influential particularly for some of the earliest IPTV projects in Europe.

In the beginning, everyone became familiar with personalized content via the classic ‘Recommended for You’ carousel. The first evolution then came with applying the same recommendation techniques to optimize multiple objectives, where the AI learns from multiple dimensions of interaction – creating horizontal and vertical recommendations. The next evolution came from shifting to a completely adaptive UX design, applying AI to every component in a given platform. This entailed adapting the UX to a user journey, across different devices, screens, and context, with the ability to change and interact.

Now part of the Miviri Group, ContentWise is fully profitable and self-funded, reinvesting everything it makes straight back into in-house R&D. ContentWise started back in 2007, working on one of the first IPTV projects in Europe with FastWeb, before launching its recommendation product officially in 2009. Fast expansion followed, adding new products including the analytics suite and metadata foundry, helping ContentWise break into the US and APAC markets.

Then, as of 2019, came a brand new identity – bringing personalized experiences into new verticals such as fashion and publishing. However, replacing the market leader in recommendations at one of APAC’s most progressive operators is a reminder that ContentWise is very much still in the media and entertainment game.