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Farewell, SXSW - Hello, F8!

Farewell, SXSW - Hello, F8!

The first three months of 2015 have started in high gear for Brightcove, with colleagues participating in events across the globe: CES (Las Vegas), IBC MENA (Dubai), Mobile World Congress (Barcelona), CASBAA OTT Summit (Singapore), and SPORTEL (Miami). Not only did Brightcove enable SXSW’s digital live and VOD experiences, but I had the opportunity to spend time in Austin at sessions and engaging in fascinating conversations with customers and partners alike.

Every year, there seems to be some start-up that becomes the water cooler – or more appropriately for SXSW, open bar – chatter for the Interactive audience. While there wasn’t a dominant “talk of the town”, the Meerkat-Periscope drama seemed to fill the vacuum, with some peers wondering if this was simply a well-timed PR play while others toasted a farewell to Gigaom.

A gracious thanks to the Samsung team that gave out free juice and had a killer demonstration of their VR technology via an immersive 4D experience: specialty VR content (promo for The Divergent Series: Insurgent) integrated with haptic feedback (vibrations and wind).

During the Fast, Fair & Open: The FCC’s Broadband Future session, Gigi Sohn (FCC) provided more background on the three bright-line rules (no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization) and the safety net rule (no unreasonable impairment of the user). She was also firm that the FCC would forbear rate regulation – one of the common fears – and pointed out that there was no evidence that Title II reclassification would slow investment in the ecosystem. Similar to my perspective on TechCrunch about this same issue, Sohn did emphasize the need for more competition for broadband access, noting even in the case where users have two options, it isn’t enough. During the dial-up era, users had 10+ options, a far cry from today. This was an early session on Monday and the late revelers missed an interesting topic.

Switching to an entirely different tone, Jeff Volk (MLBAM) and George Barrios (WWE) spoke about WWE’s OTT initiative in their Hit A Home Run with Content Creation and Streaming session. They spoke about the technical and commercial factors involved in streaming live and VOD content across multiple platforms. Barrios made a great point when he described WWE’s model of moving people across all platforms – free (4B views by 4MM YouTube subscribers), pay TV (worldwide partnerships), subscription (1MM viewers) – and using social as a key mechanism.

Barrios referenced the late David Carr when describing the journey of companies like WWE as they transitioned from established business models to the new era of digital. Barrios paraphrased Carr: companies like WWE are in one room but all the people are moving to another “digital” room. To get there, you have to go down “a long, dark hallway." An apt summary of this era of digital fragmentation, transition, and evolution.

Oh yeah, Hulk Hogan showed up.

In For Media, It's Platform or Perish, David Cohn (AJ+) and Trei Brundrett (Vox Media) discussed a similar theme related to content publishing. Their overall message was that content publishing shouldn’t be constrained to the antiquated notion of a CMS; instead, publishers should think about how they can create a platform for storytelling, including the need to create different content derivations and experiences based on the platform. Cohn referenced Facebook’s autoplay feature for videos and highlighted the need to create content that could be consumed without audio for the first ten seconds as a user was deciding whether to engage with it (with sound).

Dan Reed (Facebook) moderated the Sports on Facebook: Engaging the Global Stadium panel, discussing sports and social with Chris Golier (NHL) and Jeff Mirman (Turner). Reed shared an interesting note about Facebook’s video evolution. A year ago, Facebook was serving about one billion views per day, with “one and a half” engineers focused on video. Today, the views top three billion per day. While it’s unclear how many engineers are now working on video, this year’s F8 conference has a session devoted just to video. It will be telling if and how Facebook mentions video, which was devoid from last year’s conference.

And on that note, I’m off to San Francisco for F8 – reach out if you’d like to meet.