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7 May 2020

Google Cloud, ATSC 3.0, new CTO all feature in packed SynaMEDIA Day

Synamedia’s virtual press event this week was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it showcase we have come to expect from a company so successfully turning legacy to advantage in its new clothes. Video compression was the star of the show, making investments we have detailed in a separate story, while SynaMEDIA Day itself provided more detail on a slew of recent PR activity, including the recently inked partnership with Google Cloud – which initially only added to the confusion.

Elaborating on last week’s plan to expand its video network portfolio with new OTT as-a-service offerings via Google Cloud, Synamedia’s Sabine Bravo, VP of Business Development, said, “We are cloud-agnostic, however, moving forward we need to make sure models work so we need to partner with one to do this – so we chose Google.” This left us scratching our head. Cloud-native and cloud-loyal at the same time?

Synamedia reiterated its cloud-agnosticism in response to Faultline’s qualms, telling us that Google is looking to be a reseller for Synamedia products and services, while Synamedia will serve as a reseller for Google Cloud infrastructure. It appears then that Synamedia will default to Google Cloud for deployments on an as-a-service basis, but if a customer prefers AWS or Azure, then of course Synamedia will accommodate this.

“We are not replacing infrastructure with Google Cloud as such. Our technology is based on Kubernetes, so we will deploy into multiple clouds. We are also engaging with other cloud providers and will work with everybody. For example, AWS is the infrastructure platform for our Infinite Video platform as-a-service for Vodafone, which we actually helped migrate to AWS,” explained Julien Signes, SVP and GM of Video Network at Synamedia.

Synamedia’s Google Cloud partnership came only a few weeks after rival MediaKind made an almost identical announcement. Synamedia says the collaboration combines its own low latency technology for live linear delivery, with Google Cloud’s low latency network, achieving broadcast-level speeds from content ingest to device delivery in 5 to 7 seconds. Furthering AI and machine learning developments is also key to the partnership. Indeed, as we pointed out last week, there are fine lines between trends and copycats.

Elsewhere, Elke Hungenaert, the vendor’s VP of Product Management, chose to tread thin ice with the claim 2020 will be the year ATSC 3.0 takes off. Faultline’s reservations about ATSC 3.0’s potential to gain market share are well-documented as the window of opportunity narrows, with 2021 now looking like a more realistic aim for commercial launches in the 61 proposed markets.

Nevertheless, Synamedia wants a slice of what should still be a lucrative pie once the baking process eventually completes, not just in the US but further afield following the ITU’s recent endorsement. To this end, Synamedia has just partnered with Triveni Digital (the go-to encoding provider for ATSC 3.0 deployments) and French electronics manufacturer Thomson Broadcast.

The three-way tie-up will see Synamedia’s encoding and packaging capabilities working with Triveni Digital’s GuideBuilder and Broadcast Gateway, along with Thomson’s tower transmission products for on-prem and cloud-based ATSC 3.0 deployments.

“We recently launched our first-to-market professional ATSC 3.0 receiver, allowing MVPDs to receive signals from broadcast stations and start exploring new augmented services, or to check out what 4K or enhanced signals can bring to set tops. They can do this at their own pace, and can use our ATSC 3.0 receiver as a bridge,” explained Hungenaert.

Of course, SynaMEDIA Day would not be complete without a few calming words from CEO Yves Padrines. The first quarter was a massive test for infrastructure providers like Synamedia and Padrines pointed to Astro Malaysia as an operator customer that Synamedia helped placate dramatic traffic spikes. “Astro offered OTT services free of charge to all households for a few weeks, so this meant a big peak and scaling of the Infinite platform which was a good test for us,” he said.

“Regarding Covid-19, an analysis from our security team observed a rise in pirated offerings in lockdown, which were so high that some of the biggest services actually apologized for subscribers’ credentials arriving on the dark web and they offered compensation,” Padrines noted on the security front.

Synamedia’s contract extension at Vodafone was the highlight of Q1 in terms of public customer deployment wins, but Padrines was unfortunately not at liberty to provide a progress update on converting Horizon TV subscribers over to GigaTV.

Last but not least, Synamedia’s newly appointed CTO Nick Thexton – a familiar face from the NDS days – made a brief cameo during the virtual press conference. “Coming back for nostalgia would be a very bad reason. I’m here because of trends within technology and the operator market. Since the Cisco and NDS days, the fundamental problems remain the same – making sure a platform is secure, with the best UX, and delivering value to customers. There is great innovation happening with remote experiences. I’m not going to speculate too much on strategy, but this is particularly strong within the video networks business,” Thexton teased upon his return to action.