Talking Tech: Abhijit Bhide, SVP Engineering, Vuclip


Abhijit Bhide, Vuclip's senior vice president, engineering, talks about big tech challenges, radical differences and what he wishes tech vendors would say/do. 

What's the biggest technology challenge you face in adding (or boosting) your online and/or streaming video elements?

There are a couple of challenges, ranging from reliable infrastructure in different region and, different secure streaming standards for different device types to unavailability of technical solutions for next gen ad features on the majority of video players.

Reliable infrastructure: Looking at the diverse regional presence (From existing Southeast Asia to newly Africa), it is very important to have a very reliable CDN (content delivery network) partner to deliver the streaming service that is closest to serving as per customer expectation of instant streaming without buffering. It is amusing to find that even the most known names in the industry don’t have the same level of reliable presence in all those diverse markets where we operate. This ultimately pushes us to adopt the strategy of keeping engaged with more than one CDN partner in different regions with advanced technological solutions to avoid any latency evolving from resolving queries - around which CDN to choose for a particular delivery. This is one of our main challenges.

Secure streaming: The term “multi-screen” has literally replaced “second-screen”. Gone are the days when smart phones are only alternative to big screens (TVs). Now it is almost everything that has screen, is delivering the OTT content. This brings multiple operating systems and various other system resources in to play to ensure highest level of content protection. So, gone are the days when one type of content protection was possible for all type of devices. Now it is required to carefully observe the spectrum of devices in every market and plan the business strategy around Hollywood-grade content protection compliant streaming methods on each type of device.

Next gen Ad features on players: To drive engagement and monetisation, the industry is trying to move from ad related features as we now know as interactive ads. As there is a variety in the devices through which content can be consumed, each having different video player, it makes it difficult to come up with technical solution around integrating the players with different types of ad related features. For example, there is no word from Google about support of interactive ads (VPAID standard etc.) on its android video player “exoPlayer”. So, even if we solve this problem, we may not be able to offer similar experience to user across different devices. 

Is there any one particular technology that has made a radical difference to the way you operate? What is it?

Being a technology driven company, Vuclip has invested in developing multiple tools and functions, which have been core to business and operations of this company. However, with changing times, Vuclip being a content company has realised that management of content rights and files has become more important today than ever before, especially when awareness and compliance towards IPR related requirements of content has really matured. At the same time, the industry has moved from USB-based direct ingestions to OTT system to sophisticated and controlled ingestion and management systems. Vuclip has been no exception to this change. We are in process of adopting this change where more complex rights can now be handled by click of few buttons; and the entire process from ingesting a piece of content, transcoding it and making it available for delivery has become automated with operational simplicity like a BPM (business process management) tool. These are our next gen CMS (content management systems) and RMS (Rights Managements systems). 

What do you wish broadcast/streaming tech vendors would do (or say, or offer) for you that they aren't doing now? 

Modular and flexible solutions (which are not always bundled). We came across many technological solutions that are bundled as one product and may be very suitable for companies that totally rely on technology partners. But for the companies like us, who not only rely on external tech partners but also make investments to develop some differentiator technology solution; the entire bundle may not be suitable, but a part of the offering may be. But, solutions providers have been seen shying away from offering smaller piece of the overall solution offering. For example, a tech partner can name a service a recommendation service. But the underlying solution may include more than one component that may involve interactive ways of programming/scheduling the content library (with or without recommendation as provided by the original service). But the solution providers won’t offer it.

Also, we wish that technology partners can pay attention to different type of business models adopted by different OTT service provider before making commercial offers on same but unrelated parameters. Eg. Number of users (in a free OTT service) doesn’t really mean number of subscribed users; so if a solution cost is based around how many total number of users are engaged with a service, then it may not be fair to free service providers (unless it is a revenue share type of arrangement). 

What's at the top of your tech wish list for 2019?

We are focusing on technically transforming our platform to providing the highest operational efficiency and end user experience. With this in mind, we are marching towards adopting robust metadata operations tools and processes, integration of unified video player for all of our target devices with all possible next gen ad features, implementation of most modern encoding systems, implementation of all required security standards on our platforms and last but not least, real adaptation of AI/ML in our operational process for creative groups and subtitles etc. and also in providing higher video quality with reduced data consumption (hence driving more engagement). 

Published on 17 June 2019