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1 November 2018

Start-up Zype chases Kaltura, Brightcove contracts

After drowning in analytics dashboards back at IBC and struggling to see much in the way of uniqueness, Faultline Online Reporter drew the conclusion of a saturated market where casualties will inevitably be claimed. We were therefore skeptical about diving into a conversation with CMS and analytics software vendor Zype, only to discover this is the type of start-up actively taking business from the old guard of OTT video like Ooyala – which actually explains a lot.

“A lot of people turn their noses up when they hear CMS,” admitted Zype CEO Ed Laczynski, but in just 4 years the company has built what looks on the surface to be a comprehensive product portfolio around its core CMS API – catering for ingest, transcoding, curation, monetization tools, app distribution, a live video streaming platform, and of course analytics. It might sound convoluted, but Laczynski talked about all the other pieces falling somewhat naturally into place around its CMS just a few months after launching, rather than a sense of too many eggs in too many baskets.

Around 180 B2B customers later, Zype claims that no other company has more platform connections, in terms of the integrations with distributors it offers – for example going above and beyond the usual social media suspects to niche and emerging services like Xumo and Pluto TV.

The way we see it, there are an abundance of legacy content management systems out there and every one of them has recently added an analytics dashboard and many have added features like machine learning powered churn predictions. Having only launched in 2014, it’s impossible to describe Zype’s CMS as legacy but Laczynski certainly wasn’t shy in describing Kaltura and Brightcove as such, saying these were designed for a web player era and with so many devices now streaming video their relevance is being questioned. That said, Laczynski noted that Zype’s CMS is not built purely for handling video so already it has a flexible database advantage.

Zype prides itself on being engineering focused and attacking the market with open arms, allowing customers to experiment, while avoiding vendor lock-in and using other components from other vendors, for example if a large customer already has a bunch of Elemental encoders installed then no problem. Interestingly, we learned that Zype incurred cost savings of over 300% when it decided to develop its own transcoding platform and leave AWS behind – not the first time we have heard a vendor express such a sentiment.

We scrutinized the analytics angle and Laczynski brought up a quick demo, a feature we liked was seeing exactly when a consumer subscribes to something and on what device, whether it be Roku, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV or desktop. It isn’t trying to be anything too fancy and its APIs appear easy to navigate. Laczynski believes the bar for features like churn prediction in these dashboards is yet to be raised and is why Zype hasn’t jumped on this opportunity just yet, although we were told it will probably introduce machine learning capabilities next year, starting from the recommendations angle. We interpreted that as recommendations for reducing churn as opposed to a content recommendation engine but wouldn’t be surprised to see Zype getting into both.

There is a confident demeanor that Zype is in a strong position to take more contracts from struggling streaming technology vendors like Ooyala, US cable channel Rural TV being the example we were given of a customer migrating fully from Ooyala to Zype. There could be more switch out jobs to come, but Zype is still yet to secure what we would call a major customer, citing high school sports service Texan Live, Christian movie outlet Crossflix, and a handful of other small deployments. Criticizing a four-year-old start-up for a lack of big customer names is perhaps unnecessarily harsh but we must also fight the corner of vendors like Kaltura, which we must not forget is one of Vodafone’s main video technology suppliers.

Looking back only slightly rather than speculating forwards, Zype has made a slew of announcements this month, the latest of which is an update allowing customers to quickly publish VoD titles directly to Facebook without getting involved in any complex media or metadata management. This is separate from its recently introduced Instant Social Video platform, a neat sounding tool with a short code base allowing customers to spin up an instant video page without interruptions like a page filled with cat videos, Laczynski joked.

Something Zype is most proud of is the introduction of the VidOps framework which it carried out earlier this month. The idea is to unify work from different teams, for example bringing a developer team closer to the business guys, as well as the technology itself in the video lifecycle – brought together in one workflow. We have heard this fairytale marketing concept a million times yet execution stories are scarce. Clearly unifying and streamlining a complex organism like a large media company is easier said than done, but Zype claims that VidOps can effectively solve technical issues and ultimately allow organizations to better serve their video products to customers.

Zype also added Social and OTT Multicasting capabilities a few weeks back which is more up our street, rolling out software and infrastructure for simultaneously broadcasting live events to websites, connected TVs, mobile apps and social platforms like YouTube Live. One last new capability worth noting, before we run out of pages, is its App Distribution marketplace, essentially helping to increase footprints with integrations, highlighting one with Xumo’s video platform as its latest, the ad-supported OTT video start-up we interviewed for the first time in August.

It is perhaps easiest to imagine Zype as a technology vendor targeting the persona of a VP of Product or Engineering in media, ecommerce and enterprise sectors rather than those going straight for the jugular with a tier 1 pay TV operator CTO, as is more customary in our line of work. Zype markets itself as just that and its cloud-based SaaS model attracted $6 million in a Series A round last year, with key investors including Runa Capital, Point 9 Capital and Revel Partners.