Ostmodern takes Skylark down dangerous roads after early promise

UK video software company Ostmodern has almost doubled in size since Faultline Online Reporter last spoke to the company in February 2016, helping BBC Worldwide go live with Telekom Malaysia in the meantime. A catch up with Ostmodern’s CEO Tom Williams this week revealed new business angles being addressed including recommendations software, refined billing services and two particularly popular poison chalices at the moment, analytics and virtual reality.

Scanning the Ostmodern website will probably leave many people scratching their heads, unclear as to whether it is a classic content management system (CMS) vendor, or an API developer for third party CMSs’, or a consultancy business. Williams explained that it all started when becoming frustrated with technology companies such as Accenture, leading to Ostmodern taking a step back and building its Skylark integration framework – essentially bridging the gap between data platforms and CRMs, providing an API and a toolset to control ingest workflow.

Skylark will be two years old in early 2018 and now accounts for around 20% of the Ostmodern team, and has become central to the company’s plans to move away from the front end and tackle back end services. One such venture is to enable data-driven decision making inside a CMS, to provide editors with a way of presenting more personalized content, working with US personalization software firm Iris.TV, although this functionality is not yet live.

Maxdome, ProSiebenSat.1’s German streaming service, is another major contract for Ostmodern, boasting the largest VoD library in Germany.

The conversation turned to analytics, specifically analytics for live sports, a space Williams said Ostmodern is putting a lot of effort into. The issue we have with analytics is that it’s all well and good identifying a problem, but if there is no way to predict an issue happening and rectify it before it causes hiccups in content delivery, then really there is little point in the first place. This is probably most challenging for live sports, and Ostmodern is looking at enhancing live sports viewing experiences by helping customers identify opportunities within a workflow – but focusing more on data such as camera angles rather than the network side of analytics.

We mentioned that this reminded us of Net Insight, the Swedish IP video vendor known for synchronizing linear and OTT feeds. To our surprise, Williams said, “Oh yeah, we built the proof of concept for Net Insight’s Sye product,” which apparently elicited a “wow” reaction from the Net Insight team when Ostmodern showcased it, and having seen a demo ourselves we can confirm it is impressive. The two companies are still listed as partners, but there are apparently no hard feelings that Net Insight never mentions Ostmodern and there are no current projects in the pipeline.

Most recently, Ostmodern teamed up with billing services company Paywizard to launch a new pay-per-view (PPV) system called Venue, designed to help rights holders, sports clubs and broadcasters enter the PPV market – combining Paywizard’s Decision Moments framework with Ostmodern’s CMS. Williams added that Venue is about providing flexibility to match user expectations, giving the example that if a sports fan comes home after a few drinks and mistakenly orders something via the red button that cannot be refunded, this may damage the relationship, so the vision is to make this more consistent.

The Paywizard deal, announced last month, does not mean a switch out for its existing payment services partnerships with Stripe and Vindicia, according to Williams, who also highlighted that Ostmodern is not the same as Massive Interactive, referencing a similar announcement between the UK software group and Paywizard in the same week.

Ostmodern is another company hedging its bets on the uncertain VR market, although not focusing purely on headset VR experiences, but outputting stories from its CMS to give producers the ability to control a 360-degree story experience on a website or app. “VR should be treated more as an augmented experience. We are looking at patterns and tying different content types together,” said Williams, adding that Ostmodern is focusing on three R&D projects in this space. These are problem paradigms, rich media articles, and identifying the next logical step – some first-rate marketing terms that Ostmodern aims to have some real evidence of in the coming months.

Ostmodern has promised us a couple of announcements by the end of 2018, one we identified as potentially opening a door to a real powerhouse in technology and content.