Live Content Discoverability, Reliability, and FAST 2.0

How will consumers find content in the approaching FAST 2.0 era, and how will FAST providers maintain QoE with high-reliability performance as the platforms and their reach continue to grow? In this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2023, Jonathon Barbato, Co-CEO, Best Ever Channels, talks with Rema Morgan-Aluko, Vice President, Software Engineering, Platform, Fandango, Vudu, and Rotten Tomatoes, and Kevin Parks, Senior Director, Field Engineering, Zixi, about the technical challenges Free Ad-Supported Television will face in the coming years and how to meet them.

“Having been around in the 80s when television and live TV had appointment viewing, and Thursday nights were some things, and Monday nights were some things – that's gone, or at least it's going away for a lot of the younger viewers,” Barbato says. “And live certainly matters when it comes to sports, events, and other content. But how are people going to know about it?”

Morgan-Aluko emphasizes that Fandango focuses on agile adaptation for all types of programming discovery on all kinds of platforms. “From a Fandango perspective, our view is that the consumers are really just looking for choice,” she says. “We want to make sure they have a choice. They're chasing the content. They're not necessarily chasing the mechanism and where that content is. They just want to find the content, and we need to be [on] whatever device they are, whatever system they are, and provide them with the best experience possible.”

Regarding the post-pandemic changes to film release windows, Morgan-Aluko says that Fandango has now adapted to shorter and smaller-scale theatrical releases by providing a high-quality viewing experience outside of theaters. “If you're not a consumer who goes to the theaters as much anymore, we want to make sure you have access to that content and have access to it quickly,” she says. “So on our Vudu streaming platform, we provide the best in class amenities and video and 4K to ensure that the experience is just as good.”

Further underscoring Fandango’s aim to guide discoverability on as many platforms as possible, Morgan-Aluko says, such as on the menus for Roku, LG, and Samsung, along with offering as many ways to consume the content as possible. “Do they want to rent it? Do they want to buy it? Is it available for free via advertising? Are they seeing the trailers? We want to make sure that they have that content everywhere because we can't predict where this industry's going to take us,” she says. “In the pandemic, we've seen this whole shift, right? And I think so many companies and studios are trying to come up with the thing that's going to get the most eyeballs. And everyone's trying different things and you just have to be ready to pivot. From an engineering perspective, our focus is let's build for as many situations as we can in a cost effective way so that the business can pivot how it needs to based on the different consumer behavior changes.”

Barbato asks Kevin Parks of Zixi what he thinks about live discoverability. “What Zixi does is get the content there incredibly reliably,” he says. “So whether it's a live event, [like a] sporting event where you're doing kind of the traditional contribution of that back into a production environment, or if you're actually doing the distribution of the FAST channel out to different platforms, or to third parties like Amagi, who then get that content on out to different platforms.”

Parks mentions that the ways TV was broadcast essentially remained the same for decades, either via transmitter towers, cable, or satellite, and consumers came to expect that reliability. “So replicating that sort of reliability in the FAST channel world or in the streaming world is part of is where we come in,” he says. "In terms of actual discovery, like Rema said, there's all sorts of traditional paths where you're marketing it, on websites, there's still platforms that have guides there, there's that sort of thing. But then there's also social media, and even doing things during a sporting event, the live clipping and then generating viral interest in a show because there's a great play or whatever, and you start getting that out on the social media platforms and then having people discover it that way.”

Parks also highlights the large potential of social influencer marketing. “We haven't talked much about influencer kind of content,” he says. “But there's a lot of rumors about YouTube getting into the FAST space soon and probably with a lot of influencer content. I was interested to find out in China, they'll do live events where some influencer will go shopping. They'll get a million people watching that at one time. So there's that kind of content too. And again, doing that with the same level of reliability that we've all expected from television, it's got to work. That's where [Zixi] comes in.”

Learn more about FAST, live streaming, and discoverability at Streaming Media East 2023.

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