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4 February 2021

NOS adds linear on-demand with Media Distillery, ditching former partner  

Picking up on a theme of linear on-demand viewing, Portuguese cable operator NOS has injected its pay TV platform with Deep Content Understanding technology from Dutch vendor Media Distillery to create engaging new viewing experiences. Faultline has, however, spotted a glaring omission from this latest venture.

We have come to associate Media Distillery as a specialist in applying a mix of machine learning techniques to identify visual and audial aspect data inside video – including faces, speech, objects, logos, and text. Using its Deep Content Understanding software to identify what comprises a piece of content, Media Distillery claims this is the most efficient way of yielding accurate results to determine relevant topics, events, or specific time markers in real-time.

This is really a fanciful way of describing EPG Correction, a technique Media Distillery has crafted for automatically adjusting start times for TV programs as they are broadcast, regardless of source. This could more simply be described as delayed replay. Either way, it works, with NOS choosing to deploy Media Distillery’s EPG Correction/Deep Content Understanding product across its 70 most popular channels.

More significantly, Media Distillery’s software opens up new monetization opportunities for NOS by allowing the operator to insert pre-roll ads into the linear on-demand experience, which appears to be a milestone new development for Media Distillery.

Flicking back, we have seen Media Distillery nail similar deployments to this week’s, with a helping hand from personalization expert XroadMedia to create flexible linear on-demand channels. However, Media Distillery revealed exclusively in a statement to Faultline that XroadMedia was not involved in this project, and in fact most of its current clients are without involvement from third parties, including European operator heavyweights Proximus, Telenet, and YouSee.

Based on XroadMedia’s Ncanto technology, previous joint projects with Media Distillery have taken learnings from selection patterns and viewing history across multiple sources of content – including third-party OTT video services – for presentation in navigable linear playlists.

The exclusion of XroadMedia’s content discovery software from NOS may well be testament to Media Distillery’s in-house ML clout evolving to take on more of the personalization data required to piece together an appealing linear on-demand channel. But it could just as easily be a result of the two vendors specializing together on Android TV-based deployments, while NOS operates a video platform using an RDK 2.1-based framework from Espial, featuring HEVC and a custom UI designed by NOS itself. This is secured using the Nagra anyCast Connect conditional access and DRM system. As such, we believe this is the first public evidence of Media Distillery winning an RDK-based deployment.

Specifically where the NOS account is concerned, we also suspect XroadMedia might now be an ex-partner of Media Distillery’s due to ThinkAnalytics being deployed at the Portuguese cableco, and there being a possible conflict of interests between the two personalization software vendors.

Faultline has a call penciled in with Media Distillery in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow up.

We first heard a vendor talking seriously about the term linear on-demand back at IBC 2016, when German multiscreen specialist 3SS was using it to demonstrate increasing viewer demand for highly-personalized, playlist-like channels created on the fly. Linear on-demand has since taken flight, particularly as a source of differentiation among pay TV providers launching Android TV and RDK platforms, but also with OTT heavyweights including Netflix exploring what linear TV has left to offer.

Of course, linear TV for the new age streamer was being touted long before 3SS, Netflix and a bunch of tier 1 operators jumped on the bandwagon. Notably, we have observed companies like Pluto TV burst onto the online video aggregation scene with linear on-demand capabilities, prompting a $340 million swoop by Viacom almost exactly two years ago.

Media Distillery’s approach is a little different. Its content tagging technology takes about 15 seconds to create a comprehensive picture of what is being viewed. For example, if a viewer jumps ship after only a few seconds into viewing a title or an advertisement, then it can be safely assumed they didn’t like what they were seeing. Of course, there are countless factors to consider here. Say it was a car advert, switching channel doesn’t necessarily mean the viewer dislikes cars, or dislikes a particular brand of car, or isn’t on the market for a new car right now. It might just mean it was a bad advert. The database must take personal taste and external factors into account too.

The NOS deal arrives on the back of Media Distillery securing a $3.6 million funding round to expand its analysis platform. The company already serves the likes of Telenet, YouSee, Eutelsat, Proximus, and VTR.