Rob Collins of Starz Talks D2C Streaming App Development & Delivery

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Tim Siglin, Founding Executive Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, sits down with Rob Collins, Director of Software Development, Starz, to discuss streaming app development and delivery in this exclusive interview from Streaming Media East 2023.

Siglin begins by asking Collins to describe his title and role at Starz.

“I’m Director of Software Development,” Collins says. “I’ve been with Starz since about 2016. I came with an application development background. I came in to help them with direct-to-consumer (D2C), to help them build some of the bigger applications, and so forth. I liked it and stuck around, and now I'm part of a lot of the ingest, the streaming, that kind of thing.”

Siglin asks Collins to describe the talk he presented at Streaming Media East earlier that day, Multiple Platforms, Multiple CDNs: Challenges and Rewards. “It was mainly about a couple of different aspects of streaming,” he says. “One of them being client development, like how you approach different platforms, the application development piece of it. That was the gist of it. And then working with CDNs as well, some of the ways you can utilise them for effective streaming, how to get to your customers and do it economically.”

“I know you weren't here for Content Delivery Summit yesterday, but multi-CDN was certainly a topic there,” Siglin says. “There’s an interesting presentation by Yuriy Reznik from Brightcove talking about the mathematical step models to figure out how to use different multi-CDNs. I'm assuming Starz uses multiple CDNs.”

“It does,” Collins says. “What people might not realise about Starz is that we've been streaming since the Stone Age, essentially. Since about 2004 or 2006, Starz [had a] partnership with Netflix. That was with RealNetworks and so forth. So it's been kind of a gradual maturation.” He notes that back then, working with multiple CDNs and command and control types of switching wasn't available.

Collins says that Starz now has a relatively robust set of client apps that are worked on by separate teams and platforms specialists, and there is plenty of logging and instrumentation to check performance. “We're able to use that to do switching and do a configuration and so forth,” he says. Regarding using more contemporary approaches, “We may go that direction if it is valuable enough to not only do that job but to justify the effort to make that change.”

Siglin asks if Starz is entirely Video on Demand (VOD), and Collins confirms this. “So from that standpoint, the solutions already exist,” Siglin says.

“We are a subscription service,” Collins says. “There's no plan for ad tier. So when we go to a CDN, we have a fairly straightforward use case.”

Siglin says, “One of the things that sort of fascinates me, and I'm curious about it from Starz standpoint, you've got these experts on different platforms, whether it's Roku or what have you…how do you deal with the decisions around long-tail legacy devices? Somebody who's sitting on Android Lollipops…at what point do you say, ‘That's too old, we're going to move you forward on it?’”

Collins says that as an early entrant into streaming, Starz wants to be careful with how they handle delivery on legacy devices. “Our default is to not deprecate,” he says, but it ultimately must come down to good business decisions. He recounts an unnamed platform they worked with, which they had been trying to deprecate for an extended period of time. They finally got an agreement to end the use of the outdated tech, which led to the client team all signing the legacy device and sending it to him as an amusing and playful “present.”

Learn more about D2C streaming app development & delivery at Streaming Media Connect 2023.

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