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28 April 2022

Signs of demand for metaverse evident at NAB, but still low priority

Despite being a broadcast show at heart, expectations were that NAB 2022 would be a metaverse vessel not too dissimilar to the hype experienced at MWC two months ago. This was not the case, we are pleased to report (against the grain of a certain metaverse report from Morning Consult which we picked apart last week).

Naturally, metaverse mentions were being thrown around the exhibit floor if you went looking, with certain vendors claiming that demand is strong from existing and prospective customers – both new media and pay TV – wanting to be early into some areas of the conceptual metaverse.

For instance, Ateme has just formed a Strategic Advisory Board, hosting the first meeting at NAB 2022 with representatives from Liberty Global, Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery, Pearl TV, and Microsoft Azure. While the thought of Ateme being told what to do by a group of lumbering US companies hardly sounds disruptive, the idea is to explore ways of making money from NFTs and micropayments.

The prevailing point is that, someday, we think (we hope) the term metaverse will be forgotten as TV experiences become part of a bigger global connectivity revolution.

Ateme’s Chief Strategy Officer, Remi Beaudouin, would not give anything away about the takeaways from the group’s first ever meeting in Las Vegas. To us, that sounds like it was an unproductive session consisting of blowing hot air around a table, but we are assured that this is a long-term view – maybe 5 years into the future – rather than a strategy that is expected to reap immediate results.

A surprising candidate bringing immediate results from relevant trends is Wyplay. The French middleware vendor’s recent exploration of blockchain has caught us off guard, in a direct reflection of the benefits of having young people in the R&D department stressing that the decentralized revolution is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

Wyplay Community is a blockchain-based video delivery offering aiming to build bridges between traditional pay TV operators and the world of cryptocurrencies. Constituting Community is Wyplay Blockchain, Wyplay Peer-to-Peer Video Delivery, and Wyplay Distributed DRM – together allowing operators to provide monetary rewards to subscribers who share content with others.

The harder part – more so than developing the actual technology – is that Wyplay is selling to aging customers with aging subscribers. Flagship clients such as Canal+ and DirecTV have average viewerships well into their 50s. These are not people who are interested in purchasing NFTs or creating digital avatars, so monetizing an idea like the metaverse is not an overnight fix. This is why many operators are so keen to get early into this space, those that arguably missed the boat into streaming and are now scrambling desperately for a final paycheck that does not disrupt their existing infrastructure.

Interest is strong at NAB, CEO Dominique Feral tells us, some six months since launching the platform.

Community connects to any existing services, without operators having to completely rethink their back-ends. Reducing carbon footprints is another mission of Community, although the subject of sustainability is something that was sidelined at NAB 2022, being a US show. IBC 2022 will be a very different story indeed, as European operators are actively working sustainability goals into RFPs.

We slide over to Veritone, which is taking the metaverse more serious than most. The AI-based enterprise platform developer has a dedicated metaverse team for a new product which it has coined the Veriverse. We wince visibly at the branding, but clients don’t care what Veritone calls it when their own branding is placed front and center in metaverse experiences. It wants to help license content, going further than a rudimentary media asset management system by allowing customers to mint NFTs and leverage Veritone’s impressive synthetic voice technology.

This voice synthesis, for example, can take your podcast recording and translate it into a multitude of different languages. Imagine the type of scale that is possible with that, so no wonder content creators are salivating. Applying this voice synthesis translation process to video would be an even more impressive feat, and unsurprisingly we learn that Veritone is planning to expand this to TV content, but there are tons of challenges here including the arduous dubbing process.

This symbolizes how the idea of a metaverse cannot be tied to VR headsets, which were few and far between at the show. It must be more than that, something omniscient, and this is what certain people at NAB 2022 were trying to figure out. We will attempt to join Ateme’s Advisory Board at the next in-person event, as our invitation must still be lost in the post.