Streaming Forum Preview: Netflix Aims to "Delight" Customers

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The secret of Netflix’s success would appear to be a simple one: Give subscribers a compelling collection of content they want, along with recommendations for movies and TV shows they might not be aware of, and let them watch it all on virtually any device—all for a reasonable monthly fee.

Of course, actually making such a service possible is anything but simple, and in each new territory it enters, Netflix—which just had its first billion-dollar quarter and added 3 million new subscribers (a third of them outside the U.S.)—must work with a multitude of content and service partners to create an experience that, to the viewer, is seamless and easy to use.

Netflix will be giving attendees of the inaugural Streaming Forum a rare look behind the scenes at how all the pieces of that supply chain come together to form the world’s leading over-the-top subscription video on demand (SVOD) service. Christopher Fetner, Netflix’s director of content partner operations/digital supply chain, will kick off the event with a unique keynote that will feature seven of those content and service partners onstage with him, talking about how they all work together to create the Netflix experience in Europe.

That presentation is a microcosm of what Streaming Forum sets out to do: help attendees better understand the technologies, processes, and business strategies that make for successful online video initiatives, whether they work in entertainment, education, enterprise, or sport. Over the course of two days—18 and 19 June—more than 70 speakers will present 30 panel discussions, case studies, and how-to sessions.

What is Streaming Forum?

We decided to take our annual Streaming Media Europe event, which we’d traditionally held in October of each year, and move it to June, in part to get away from IBC and other autumn events. More importantly, though, we’re taking the opportunity to revamp the event with eight highly specific “Focus Areas” and move away from the traditional exhibit-hall approach to the sponsor side of the equation. Our aim is to create an environment where attendees know they’ll be able to focus specifically on the topics most relevant to them and have quality time to network with their peers and the sponsors in our showcase, which will be just outside the conference session rooms at the Park Plaza Hotel Victoria.

Our eight Focus Areas highlight the topics and issues most relevant to our readers and attendees—the people who make online video happen, whether by commissioning and creating compelling content, optimising transcoding and delivery, or monetising the end result. Four of the focus areas—corporate communications, sport, education and training, and media and entertainment—highlight vertical markets, while the other four—live event webcasting; video infrastructure; encoding and transcoding; and formats, protocols, and standards—zero in on the technical challenges that cross all verticals.

As you can see, we’ve organised the sessions in such a way that means attendees who want to focus on a specific vertical won’t have to miss any of the more technical topics that also inform their workflows. So if you’re in charge of streaming for an educational institution, for instance, you can attend all the education & training sessions as well as learn about cloud encoding and get tips and tricks to improve your webcasts and webinars.

Netflix: “We Want to Delight Our Customers”

We’re thrilled to welcome Netflix as our kickoff keynote on Tuesday 18 June. In a panel presentation called “Forging the Links for a Strong Digital Supply Chain,” Christopher Fetner will share the lessons Netflix has learned after going through two major European launches, providing a unique perspective on the supply chains in Europe—where they’re ahead of their U.S. counterparts, and also where they need to catch up.

“Netflix is a Silicon Valley company that takes the best of the entertainment industry and the best of the innovative spirit of the valley and merges the two,” says Fetner. “The studios in Los Angeles are great, but the transformation is happening much more quickly in Europe. Europe is of course smaller, so people can turn the ships more quickly and be more agile and flexible.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that expanding in Europe—as Netflix has done in the UK and Ireland as well as the Noridics, with further European expansion to come later in 2013—has been without its challenges. “We want to delight our customers every time they use the service,” says Fetner. “Our goal is for people to log into Netflix and find something they like every time. To do that, we employ complex discovery tools and deep metadata that can correlate to always find something a user wants to watch. And we have to do that on multiple data points, in lots of languages.”

Fetner points to The Shawshank Redemption as an example. In the Nordics, the movie has three different titles. “So we have to have everything in equal qualitybut the correct language and name in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. It just makes it more complicated.

“Every country has a different set of players and buyers,” he says, “so every time we go into a market, especially if there’s no streaming competition, we have to educate. We set a high bar for the assets we collect from content owners. Whatever the highest quality demanded by the dominant service previously might not be adequate for what we need.”

But, he adds, that level of quality will be demanded by any over-the-top video services that follow, so the lessons content and asset providers learn by working with Netflix will benefit those players. Hence, the presentation at the Streaming Forum, which will feature—in addition to Fetner and Netflix’s content partner operations engineer Nick Levin and creative services manager Nick Nelson—representatives from Discovery Communications, All3Media, and Warner Bros. Entertainment in the UK and Nordisk Film and Dicentia Studios in Denmark, all talking about the challenges and opportunities they encountered in helping Netflix build its current European services.

“We learn lessons every time we do this,” Fetner says. “I guess we could keep it to ourselves, but that doesn’t reduce the friction the next time we go into a new territory. By making it easier for us to take delivery of assets, sure, it makes it better for everybody else, but we’re not going to differentiate ourselves by a better articulated supply chain. We’re going to differentiate ourselves by the user experience and content that we provide.

“We’re excited to meet future collaborators from different countries at Streaming Forum,” he says.

Other Streaming Forum Highlights

I can honestly say that I’m more excited about the program we’ve put together this year than by any of the Streaming Media Europe events we’ve put on in the past. But there are a few sessions that stand out in particular:

HBO Europe—A Broadcaster's Guide to the TV Everywhere Universe

HBO GO has been one of the biggest success stories in the emerging OTT market, but that doesn't mean that the deployment in Europe was an easy one. This session will offer great lessons for any organisation hoping to launch or expand its OTT offering in the European market.

The Future of the Fashion Show—The Live Streaming Social Networking Experience

2013 is shaping up to be the year that live webcasting really comes into its own, with interactivity and social network integration a crucial part of that success. In this case study, attendees will find out how Topshop, Google, and Streaming Tank put together a multi-platform, interactive live web event to create "the world's most viewed catwalk."

How to Choose a Cloud Encoder

Jan Ozer's how-to sessions on encoding are always some of our best -attended, and this year we've got four of them. In this one, he'll walk attendees through the pros and cons of choosing a cloud encoding service and present case studies of companies that have made the switch.

MPEG-DASH & HEVC: New Standards Enabling Ultra-High Quality Video Services

We've got three sessions relating to MPEG-DASH, but this one is especially exciting because it brings together engineers and researchers who've helped build and advance the standards, from bitmovin, Qualcomm, CISCO, Fraunhofer/HHI, and Orange.

Watching Sport Online: Better Than TV?

In a discussion featuring companies that have worked with major sport organizations including Manchester City FC and the Women's Tennis Association, panelists will discuss and debate the important role of data and viewer interaction to create truly immersive fan experiences.

Successful Models for Webcasts and Webinars for Education and Training

There are plenty of technologies that make it easy to create webcasts and webinars—but simply having the right technology is only one piece of the puzzle. What's interesting about this presentation is that it digs deeper into helping attendees learn what makes for successful online learning events

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