HITS Fall: VDMS President Stresses OTT Data Opportunities

LOS ANGELES — Among all the mainstage presentations during the Oct. 18 HITS Fall: Hollywood Innovation & Technology Summit event, perhaps the most telling moment concerning the state of legacy entertainment business came when Ralf Jacob, president of Verizon Digital Media Services, asked the hundreds in attendance a simple question: who here still has a cable or satellite subscription?

Only half the crowd raised their hands. The other half admitted to cutting the cord, after Jacob asked the obvious follow-up question.

Considering the audience — leading studio and broadcast executives, and the technology partners they rely on to distribute and manage their content — it was an honest accounting of today’s media and entertainment reality: OTT will continue to press the traditional pay TV models everyone’s been long accustomed to.

And this isn’t a bad thing, if pay TV stakeholders are willing to adapt, Jacob stressed in his presentation, “Why OTT Tech Will Drive the Future Entertainment.” 2017 marks 90 years since the invention of the first electronic television, he noted, and for nearly a century, TV has been a one-way relationship, with the consumer purely letting someone else tell them what to watch. “Television [has] just streamed in one direction, and you wouldn’t know what was happening on the couch,” Jacob said.

Now, that’s no longer true: The shift to OTT has enabled more insights into the viewing habits of consumers, what they watch (and skip), when they pause, where they’re watching from, what they really engage with.

Traditional pay TV advertising remains more lucrative today than that available for OTT models, Jacob conceded, but cable cord-cutting will only increase, he added, and “there’s a way to offset that” by using this previously unavailable consumer data, personalizing both services and the advertising.

“It all starts with … scraping the data from the home, feeding info back from those devices,” Jacob said. “The technology exists today. What doesn’t exist are the business models.

“The entire ecosystem is being flipped upside down [but] opportunities exist.”

The 2017 edition of HITS Fall was presented by Cast & Crew, with sponsorship by Ooyala, Sohonet, Microsoft Azure, Premiere Digital, TiVo, LiveTiles and Veritone. Produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), the event’s association partners include the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), the Smart Content Council, Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH), the Los Angeles chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), and the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA).