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18 February 2021

A wolf in sheep’s clothing called Clarissa slinks into video analytics field

There is no nice way to dress this up. If you are a company operating in and around video analytics or business intelligence – delivering data-based insights to video service providers in fields from content consumption, UI and navigation, device and account security, to advertising management, QoE/QoS, and more – then your business is about to be undercut by a new (but not) entrant.

Synamedia has released an all-knowing, all-seeing business insights suite called Clarissa (clarity personified) that threatens to commoditize video analytics and entertainment data in a similar vein to how AWS has drained value from media and entertainment software.

Ahead of this week’s announcement, Faultline spoke with Synamedia’s Amruta Shankar, Director of Data and Analytics, who described Clarissa as a sort of paradigm shift from data into insights – based on pulling together the siloed data frameworks that are commonplace among the classic Synamedia customer base.

With Clarissa, Synamedia wants to position itself as a video-focused data partner for service providers – a systems integrator for data if you like. Synamedia wants to make its mark on every data-based component in a company’s multi-faceted business, from optimizing personalized content experiences and marketing activities, to understanding how services are used across different and networks.

All the expected insight-driven business outcomes are listed – revenue growth, lower opex, reduced churn, higher engagement and satisfaction, more effective campaigns, and capturing increased value from advertising. Clarissa’s vision is to normalize data so that customers can get access to cleaner data formats, according to Shankar.

Faultline’s first thought was that surely Synamedia has been delivering many of these data-based business insights to customers for years, as a supplementary service to its highest paying clients?

While Shankar only half agreed, clarification was provided as she broke Clarissa down into two layers – Base and Advanced. The base layer includes business intelligence features for user experience, content consumption, and viewing quality – which are pre-defined insights offered at a lower bundled rate. The Advanced layer is identical in terms of application, except for advertising insights as an added bonus, while the advanced label gets you a more tailored experience for complex projects.

If your eyes rolled back upon reading the nebulous term “business intelligence/insights” then you are not alone. We learned that Synamedia intentionally kept Clarissa’s marketing vague to reflect its flexibility, to avoid stepping directly on the toes of existing providers of similar – but less holistic – business insights services. Ambiguity essentially helps Synamedia slide into a deployment and nibble on the lunch of the existing data cruncher, allowing Clarissa to gradually envelop the full meal.

Shankar identified user experience and content consumption as Synamedia’s two areas of expertise under the Clarissa umbrella that have been driven by lockdown trends. Clarissa’s approach to viewer experience boils down to improving content discovery by enhancing personalization, which could spell danger for developers of bespoke personalization software when tied in with Clarissa’s content consumption clout and viewing quality expertise.

Clarissa claims both service providers and content providers can change the way future programs are created and distributed, by understanding the peaks and troughs of user engagement, and the impact of commercial activities on viewing. Synamedia’s extensive experience in the video delivery chain makes its focus on QoS and QoE a particular concern for the video analytics market. Using Clarissa dashboards, customers can keep tabs on how users may be struggling to consume content due to external factors, user error, or service issues – in the form of quantifiable insights.

By democratizing video analytics and business insights dashboards with this holistic approach, Synamedia will force smaller vendors into narrowing their scope of vision further if they have any ambition of targeting the top accounts. Companies that have spent years building up presence in QoE and QoS video analytics, personalization software, advertising insights, and all manner of data-driven content insights, must become increasingly expert in increasingly specific fields to secure their place within an operator’s analytics dashboard.

That said, one criticism of Clarissa on first glance is its perceived focus on traditional pay TV customers, designed with the largest organizations in mind, suggesting Clarissa could struggle to win new business at emerging players. This potential weakness in the Clarissa armor could be a saving grace for competitors, although we can almost guarantee that Synamedia will contest this notion and probably come out with an impressive OTT video customer announcement soon just to prove it.

We were able to establish that Clarissa is designed to be flexible, making it easy to work with specialist partners at the customer’s request, although in the same breath Shankar said her team is designed to cut through partners with insights to create a huge competitive advantage.

Circling back to the important topic of commoditization, Shankar admitted that it’s easy to commoditize data, while highlighting that a lot of analytics don’t come from within our industry today. That has opened up a surprising gap in the market for a company like Synamedia with a suite like Clarissa to give customers this holistic view – tying in a whole bunch of insights to give a more complete picture.