SES “probably” phasing out MX1 soon

Burying the hatchet with SES at this year’s IBC was of high priority after our run-in back at NAB and press conference clashes at events prior to then. Deepak Mathur, EVP of Global Sales for SES Video, offered up his own refreshing take on how a satellite fleet operator goes about adapting to an OTT video world without people (us) concluding that this equates to cannibalizing its core business.

In arguably more pressing matters, however, we also learned that the MX1 brand will “probably” be phased out in the near future, according to Mathur, after SES recently went about merging the video services subsidiary with the main SES Video division. Mathur described the coming together of the two supposedly disparate units (MX1 for OTT; SES Video for satellite TV) as not a direct replacement for legacy technology but as a supplement, enhancing the overall offering through MX1’s services, referencing our NAB coverage of a conversation with MX1 which ruffled a few SES feathers.

But amalgamating the two businesses only serves to solidify our view that SES sees MX1 as an increasingly important part of its transformation, and so it is ironic that just as MX1 was finding its own voice, the vendor is on the verge of vanishing inside its parent company’s core segment.

The term ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ springs to mind, but this comes across a little harsh for a unified entity which claims to deliver more than 8,400 hours of online video streaming, including over 620 hours of premium sports and live events a day, as well as managing some 525 channels. The first fruits of this MX1-SES Video unification saw the company launch the OTT video product simply called Satellite and OTT in Sync which we were treated to a demo of at IBC for the first time.

It works by removing the source signal traveling to the satellite and distributes it via IP in tandem with satellite, then by applying low-latency encoding and tuning to the IP stream at the source, the system can apparently deliver content to OTT platforms in sync with the satellite signal. Live sports is the core focus, aiming to reduce the pain of hearing a neighbor’s reaction to a match before it appears on your own screen. We mentioned Net Insight, the Swedish vendor which was way ahead of its time specializing in video synchronization several years back, but we were surprised to hear SES was unfamiliar with Net Insight’s work in this field.

We also touched on SES’s push into cloud technology, having last week increased its reliance on Microsoft Azure infrastructure. “We are not exclusive to Azure,” said Mathur, “this is about the need to allow customers to experiment.” By this, Mathur means getting satellite companies to play around with features like ad insertion, which he said can be fully completed and deployed in the cloud within 3 days.

Mathur also referenced our sentiments about the declining value of satellite transponders. “Today we are seeing between 24 and 40 channels per transponder, when previously it was just 1 channel per transponder and we are beginning to see UHD adoption.” SES currently carries about 40 UHD channels which is a tiny percentage of overall channels so isn’t bringing home any significant bread quite yet.

Mathur talked a very good talk – coming close to convincing us that SES will manage to offset sliding satellite revenues in markets where cord cutting is most rife. Fortunately, its next set of quarterly figures are just around the corner.

Appropriately, we should close out on the first thing Mathur said to us at IBC. “Ferdinand Kayser was right about OTT video not being a threat to our business. We’re following the screens (money) and augmenting new features but the core video business remains strong,” he said, to which we referenced the company’s ominous results filings (notably losing 3 million TV households in North America during Q2 this year. “Nothing in the world is linear, we are seeing the impact of consumer change,” Mathur swerved skillfully.