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16 September 2021

Telestream teases Wirecast upgrade following odd virtual events buy

Media processing and quality measurement vendor Telestream recently dipped into the M&A honeypot for the fourth time in twelve months with the purchase of a virtual events company called Sherpa Digital Media – in a deal which just doesn’t quite seem to fit the typical Telestream mold. Now, Faultline has picked up exclusive insights into what Telestream’s plans are for the virtual venture.

Software empowering virtual events has been the hottest thing since sliced bread over the past 18 months or more, but since the acquisition was announced a fortnight ago, we have struggled to see where Sherpa Digital Media slots into the extensive Telestream product portfolio – except if the company plans to continue operating it as a separate business.

Telestream’s VP of Marketing, Scott Murray, mused to Faultline this week, “I can’t telescope too much on plans, but have you heard of Wirecast?”

Of course we have. This is the Telestream technology used by tens of thousands of users around the world, primarily for news distribution, including by big hitters in the US like Sinclair Broadcast. For our UK-based readers, we were given an insight into Wirecast being extensively used by the UK government during the Coronavirus pandemic, supporting the live weekly Covid-19 public addresses to the nation and distributing these to numerous broadcasters and social media channels. Effectively, Wirecast is an all-in-one TV broadcast and live streaming control room – with software handling capture, live production and encoding for broadcast to multiple platforms and servers simultaneously.

Back to the point at hand, Murray described Sherpa Digital Media as highly complementary to Wirecast, implying there is potential for Telestream’s latest purchase to form the future front-end of this live video streaming production technology.

Sewing a virtual events platform into Wirecast – one that hosts everything from basic webinars to fully customizable virtual events to hundreds of thousands of viewers – would be an intriguing evolution of the Wirecast offering.

“We have the fundamental technology to expand Sherpa Digital Media,” added Murray, attempting to convince us that Telestream can springboard Sherpa Digital Media to new heights without giving the game away. He also couldn’t comment on the issue of branding for the time being, assuring us that the current focus is on taking care of customers who are mostly happy with the acquisition.

Deflecting, Murray also noted that each of Telestream’s acquisitions is made with an eye to augmenting the existing Vantage media processing platform. “You can’t throw a rock without hitting a Vantage customer these days – at enterprises, in education, and for churches – so we can put more capabilities into the Sherpa platform,” he continued.

Our guess is therefore as good as any on what shape this hypothetical crossover between Wirecast and Sherpa Digital Media will eventually take, but is one that could prove a trendsetting moment for the broadcast industry.

Another thing we do know is that, under Telestream ownership, Sherpa Digital Media is looking at expanding into the high-quality media and entertainment space. Its ten years in the online events business has picked up Fortune 500 companies including Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Hyundai, and plenty of retail brands, so the platform is not so comparable to a Microsoft Teams or a Zoom, and perhaps a little more like a Kaltura if we’re going down the education and marketing route.

Sherpa Digital Media’s platform can host live and on-demand webinars, featuring all the mod cons the industry now expects, including breakout rooms, video hosting, marketing automation integration, secure streaming, and UX customization. And because Sherpa Digital Media has its own in-house encoding capabilities, just as Telestream does, the two should make for a complementary marriage.

Sherpa Digital Media’s founder and CEO, Mark Strathdee, was also on hand during this week’s call, describing his company as one of the industry’s best kept secrets of the past decade. Indeed, Sherpa was a new name on our radar until very recently, and standing out in the swelling virtual events space is a job that is only getting trickier.

He lauded the two sacred S’s – security and scale – as key to Sherpa Digital Media’s mantra, and Strathdee’s vision is to head more into the corporate streaming sector, again reiterating an abundance of features and more flexibility than the mainstream crop of platforms on the market. This is one such instance where a live demo would have proved infinitely more useful for our understanding of what Sherpa brings to the party than any sales pitch, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible in the current circumstances.