Upcoming Industry Conferences
Streaming Media West [19-20 November 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [19 November 2019]
Past Conferences
Streaming Media East 2019 [7-8 May 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Content Delivery Summit [6 May 2019]
Streaming Forum [26 February 2019]

Streaming Spotlight: Going Dutch
Forget wooden shoes, windmills, and tulips. Forget Rotterdam Harbour, the world's busiest port for 40 years until it was surpassed by Shanghai in 2004. The Netherlands wants you to understand that it has a new business—as a major accelerator for digital media services on a global scale.

A Cooperative Approach
“We are a very open society, and we have always been internationally oriented, both culturally and tradewise. We are open to do business with anyone … as long as you pay,” says Stef van der Ziel, founder of CDN Jet Stream and operator of StreamZilla, the leading pan-European streaming CDN. “We tend to do things lean and mean: innovative, efficient to the bone, so we can be competitive, even though salaries and taxes are higher than in most other countries.”

He cites the Video Working Group established between Jet Stream, local telco KPN, computer network SURFnet (usually
reserved for academic research), and domestic public broadcaster NPO.

“The main goal was to get everyone round a table in [the] same room instead of seeing each other as the enemy and talk about scalable distribution over the internet,” van der Ziel says. “The value chain is changing for broadcasters—mainly due to the internet—but they still need to be part of the value chain.”

Convinced that deep-edge distribution (small-edge servers deployed deep within ISP networks close to metro rings and end users) offered the only true scalable solution, Jet Stream deployed CDNs based on its VideoExchange software for each of the partners before linking them as a federated CDN. “This enables large-scale content delivery for the content owners, dealing directly with the ISPs, at much lower costs for both the ISP and the content owner,” van der Ziel says.

“Before the Dutch Media Hub, it was a struggle to find partners who could do a job with us,” van der Ziel says. “Thanks to the Hub, we now know who is active in the industry, and we can find them much more easily. It moves business from an ad hoc level to a permanent one.”

Leading local soccer club Ajax, for example, asked Jet Stream to host the streaming of its match-day content, but it also required transcoding and video management and a new content management system for its website.

“By forming a partnership with members of the Hub, we won the pitch. One company in the Hub may win the business and act as the clientface, but it will subcontract specialist work to other members,” van der Ziel says.

“The Hub will broker arrangements between customers who want to innovate together with a couple of consortium partners who can help facilitate their plans,” Freriks says. “These act as pilots, a proof of concept. Once we have a practical business solution, we can ramp it up to a business on a much wider scale.”

NPO and the commercial broadcasters SBS and RTL are cooperating in a Dutch Media Hub project to stimulate the tapeless exchange of all audio and video material between themselves and independent facilities in the country by Oct. 10 this year (10/10/10).

Beyond the Netherlands

There’s an idea to foster a European cloud computing and storage market for digital cinema and TV assets. “It will be an ecosystem where content is stored in its highest resolution, once rights are exchanged, and copies transferred to multiple channels in multiple versions for all the major studios on a wide scale,” Freriks says.

Another project is set to explore advanced search techniques for mass data storageincluding text, image, and speech recognition.

There are also plans to centrally store, process, distribute, and archive all commercials in the Netherlands, initially for local broadcasters as the first step on the way to a pan-European distribution.

A key partner in this endeavour is Eindhoven-headquartered digital watermarking and fingerprinting specialist Civolution. It was spun out of local tech giant Philips in 2008 and subsequently acquired broadcast monitoring and verification business Teletrax and the watermarking division of Thomson.

Civolution already works with all the major U.S. studios and TV networks to watermark prerelease content as well as digital cinema copies housed in the servers of specific cinemas.

“Our technology can track any potential camcorder copy of a film back to its origins,” says Civolution CEO Alex Terpstra. “Since we already watermark content in prerelease and in the cinema itself, we are now closing the gap between distribution of files to digital cinemas so that illegal copies can be identified at any stage in a project’s life cycle.”

Beginning in 2011, the enterprise intends to head east into India to tap the Bollywood market and to perform a similar distribution and management role for movie content emerging from Asia.

As a first step, though, the Hub needs to get a critical mass of studios on board. Most of the studios are already working with the individual companies, and the Hub is setting up trials with Warner Bros. amongst others as a start, but discussions are ongoing with all the major players, Freriks says.

“We have excellent collaboration with the Dutch consulate in California and have enlisted homegrown stars (Rutger Hauer, Paul Verhoeven) to support us,” Freriks says.

According to Freriks, the larger members of the consortium are being connected by fast fibre, but the Hub is less a physical infrastructure than a coalition of companies making effective use of the umbrella organisation as a marketing force. A classic case, perhaps, of the sum being greater than the parts.

“It would be extremely expensive for any of us as a sales and marketing force if we approached the global market and especially the U.S. individually,” van der Ziel says. “And even then, you’d only win a very small part of the value chain. Now, we can go as a combined group to NAB or other markets and carry some clout when we say ‘if you want to do business in Europe—go Dutch.’”