Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

14 January 2021

Firstlight Media signs Struum, SSIMWave in Canadian love-in

Firstlight Media is ratcheting the pace of its expansion up, starting 2021 with two new deals with fellow countrymen and a Californian for good measure. The first is with Struum, a new streaming service that is being built using Firstlight’s services on top of Microsoft’s Azure platform, and the second with SSIMWave, to add quality perception capabilities to the suite. Finally, Evergent rekindles a partnership that dates back to 2015.

For those of you new to the name, Firstlight Media first came to our attention when it bought-slash-merged itself with the Quickplay Media technology assets that AT&T was offloading. Essentially the death knell for AT&T’s U-verse IPTV offering, the assets that powered that video service are now housed inside Firstlight – along with Firstlight’s own OTT user engagement platform.

At the time of the deal, back in March, Firstlight CEO Andre Christensen said that “with Quickplay’s best-in-class content delivery capabilities and Firstlight’s next-generation, AI-driven personalization and engagement software, the combined company will offer its customers a true carrier-grade, tried and tested, ‘one stop shop’ suite for OTT premium video delivery.”

Not long after, in a sit-down with Faultline, Christensen outlined how Firstlight believes there are no rival or in-house systems that offer the same carrier-grade scalability and AI-assisted engagement, in a modular cloud-native environment. That’s the target market that Firstlight is chasing, and a partnership with ThinkAnalytics in September brought personalization and discovery capabilities to the Firstlight CMS.

So, Struum is a new one to us. Backed primarily by the Tornante Company, which is the investment vehicle of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the elevator pitch is that Struum is a new way for consumers to seamlessly discover, view, and redeem content from multiple SVoD providers. Essentially, Struum is going to aggregate content from smaller SVoD services, and then charge a single subscription for access.

Founded by former execs from Disney+ and Discovery, it hopes to tap up the 250 niche SVoD providers it says are out in the market. Inspired by the ClassPass experience for gyms, Struum isn’t providing unlimited access. Rather, you get a certain amount of tokens. Should Struum find a user is spending lots of tokens on the library of one particular service, it will then guide the user towards that service directly. Struum is then acting as a customer acquisition vehicle for those services.

Claiming that it has access to over 20,000 TV series, films, and shorts, Struum hasn’t yet taken the wraps off the line-up. Most of the sales pitch for consumers is in the user experience, of not having to manage all those separate trials and paid accounts, rather delegating them all to Struum. As having more than a handful of SVoD accounts is becoming rather commonplace, there does seem to be mileage in this business plan.

Of course, having the supporting infrastructure is a prerequisite, which is why Firstlight has been brought in. The promise of being able to spin up more capacity as needed is central to the value proposition of being ‘cloud-native.’ Similarly, if Struum goes down the drain, spinning that capacity back down doesn’t leave the new streamer with a capex burden.

Shortly after the Struum deal was announced, the tie-up with SSIMWave was made public. The move integrates SSIMWave’s SSIMPLUS system into Firstlight’s modular lineup, and is intended to offer video stream quality measurement capabilities. The idea here is that you can tell if a customer is going to be upset with the video quality delivered, and then tweak your toolchain as required, to solve that problem before they call you up and cancel.

There’s a lot of hyperbolic gumpf in the announcement, but it’s another step forward for SSIMWave. The firm told us, in November, that this technology was being evaluated by virtually every major North American video service provider, and that many had developed into deployments already. Via Firstlight, SSIMWave should be able to extend its reach into nascent video services, and not just the incumbent or legacy providers.

Lastly, just as we were putting the finishing touches on this piece, Firstlight dropped another announcement. An integration partnership with Evergent has been unveiled, pairing Firstlight’s Content Management System with Evergent’s revenue and customer management suite, which is pitched at video services that need to enhance subscriber management capabilities.

Evergent and QuickPlay Media have history, reaching back to 2015 in our archive, where QuickPlay was spinning up an OTT service for Singtel, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers. At the time, Evergent was being used for user entitlement functions, for access control.

Evidently, being absorbed by Firstlight hasn’t ended the relationship with Evergent, and the goal for the new partnership is to improve the CMS capabilities, so that service providers can ‘create the subscriptions and promotions that can convert discovery into long-term connections and revenue.’

“The creation and the management of relationships between consumers and OTT providers require two unique skill sets,” said Vijay Sajja, CEO and founder of Evergent Technologies. “Our partnership with Firstlight Media gives the industry the ability not only to rapidly create engaging user experiences, but also allows services to do quick market experiments with our flexible user management system.”