InterComms :: International Communications Project
  Intercomms Issue 23

MediaMano logoOnce Bitten, Twice Wise, Why There is a Future for CSPs in Media

InterComms talks to Mike Beattie,
Co-Founder and CEO of Mediamano

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Mike Beattie, CEO, Mediamano
Mike Beattie, CEO, Mediamano

Mike Beattie is a technology and media entrepreneur with broad international experience in mobile services, internet and multimedia content. He founded and was CEO of Sepomo, a mobile payments company, based in Spain and operating in Iberia and Latin America. He is co-founder and CEO of Mediamano, a broadcast media software company, based in the UK and operating in Europe and North America. His specialities include: start up ventures and executive management.

Previous positions include Director, Genie Mobile, Spain at BT and Interconnect Manager at BT.

Q: Could we start by talking about your own background in the Telecoms industry?
A: In total I was in the BT group for 13 years, both in the fixed telephony, mobile and latterly mobile internet space. Tremendous changes happened throughout the group during that time. When I started, Cellnet was a joint venture between BT and Securicor, telephone exchanges were exceptionally noisy, and the vans were yellow with a dotted T on the side. When I left, O2 was surging forward with data services and ventures across Europe, and BT itself had split into a number of different verticals to focus on emerging and core activities. Perhaps one of the most poignant memories I have of my time there was the constant reminder from senior management of the need to change. The environment, technology and customer requirements were all changing very significantly, and we were all keen to ensure that the group got ahead of the curve. It’s astonishing to see the landscape today, 12 years on, and how much of it is so radically different from what we were expecting, and so much is exactly as predicted.

Q: Could you elaborate on that last point?
A: Yes, of course. The internet was becoming really important and I was involved in the mobile internet at the time. We were getting excited about colour screens, data connections via GPRS and the possibility of reading emails on screen! Today of course, many of the things we expected to happen have happened, including emails, the merging of PDAs and mobile phones and the emergence of fiber to the home. But honestly, not a soul was talking about tablets, the monumental rise of Apple, WhatsApp, Social Media or even video via mobiles. Not a peep. It’s quite incredible, because these things are now so much part of our daily interaction with technology.

Q: So do you think that BT and other Teleco’s missed a trick?
A: Not at all. Quite the contrary. What I think those of us that work in technology have to keep in mind is that technology builds on technology, and a change of course brings new opportunities never conceived. Perhaps a great illustration of this is the spectacular rise in processing power of mobile phones. 12 years ago, people were building WAP gateways and programming WAP decks to be able to show information on the mobile based on very limited bandwidth and CPU muscle. But as these factors advanced, so it became feasible to view html via mobile phones. So the whole landscape changed, and of course the Telco’s efforts changed with them. We see technologies whose lifetime can be surprisingly short, especially in the internet space, and also we see that those factors that drive mobile development are often driven by entities outside the traditional mobile radar. So the walls that traditionally surrounded the Telco space have now become permeable, and in many aspects of the marketplace they must compete on equal terms with VC backed startups as well as hugely powerful companies from other technology areas and verticals.

Q: Could you as someone coming from our industry to the broadcast area, look at the pitfalls that people can walk into when looking to deploying new services in this area?
A: Firstly, investment in innovation is by definition risk intense. But this risk is doubly difficult, since not only do you have market and technology risk, where you are unsure as to the take up and eventual penetration of what you have built, but also you have to decide how much effort to put into each innovation. The potential multipliers in the internet age are of staggering proportions, but in order to get them, you often need to sink in very significant amounts of capital. It requires a great deal of skill and speed of reaction to decide which efforts need to have the taps opened, and which ones do not. The VC and investment community are more experienced in this, and can be subject to many less barriers in terms of time to react and ability to change course. I believe that the correct course for Telcos is to exploit their staggering inheritance in terms of network, their excellent reputation with a vast client base, and the ability to be an exceptionally attractive partner to a huge selection of innovative, market ready companies.

Specifically in the Media space, many broadcasters find themselves in similar circumstances, where they have an existing network and a very loyal customer base, but they are challenged by new entrants and younger, more innovative companies that are able to enter into rapidly developing niches before the incumbents are able to react. They also have regulatory restrictions, and business models that are more difficult to change due to the inevitable momentum that they bring.

So in terms of pitfalls, I would highlight the importance of a strategy based on leveraging their current brand, distribution capabilities and partnership potential in addition to the usual criteria for investment. This is where other potential competitors will have a much more difficult job in competing. Clearly the existing network, in terms of backbone, is important when we talk about media distribution. Far more important though is the ability to market to a loyal customer base, and develop product/service proposals that have enough clout to be able to differentiate against other companies. Here, the relationship with mobile operators is paramount. Think for example of a service whereby I have an app on my phone that registers my interests in terms of sports, entertainment, series, training, business networking... and via that app, I can have access to a feed of videoclips and stories relating to the things that really do interest me. I would be prepared to pay a little extra a month to be able to consume via my mobile phone, but also to be able to consume on my tablet, TV and PC. Here, the Telco’s don’t necessarily have to own the content, they can source it from 3rd parties, and concentrate on packaging it in such a way that they can both extract more value from their clients, and significantly reduce their churn.

Q: Could you discuss the benefits that can be achieved by working with yourselves for the Service Providers when they are looking at delivering content and video to their clients?
A: In the previous example we’ve looked at a possible service that could make sense to Telco’s. In fact, this is a model that is being pursued by many different companies... their true value is in the relationship that they have with their clients, and they want to be able to source and package services to meet their specific requirements. But often, the source material comes from different production sources, in different formats, and with different structures of data. And the distribution of that content also needs abstraction, since they will want to distribute the content to more than one channel. That’s where Mediamano can help. Our ingest tools help to standardise outsourced content, our Mediateca allows that content to be structured and managed (rather like a Content Management System) and then our Publisher tools enable the content to be packaged and distributed to different digital customers.

Q: As a company you are working with some of the biggest names in the media industry, what have been the main problems they have faced individually and how have you tailored your services to help them as individual companies?
A: In every single case, without exception, our clients have a requirement that they are able to articulate accurately, but have trouble locating a product that specifically solves that problem. Usually products are available that are able to partially solve it, but leaving significant holes, or charging excessively for features that are not required. We have a software model that is able to fit together different functions into one, coherent system. So it hits the nail on the head for them. In part we are able to do this since we started with a zero base 6 years ago, so our legacy code is non existent. And these days, frameworks exist to be able to rapidly develop systems that look great, are easy to use, and interface with our enterprise back end to provide a turnkey solution that fits seamlessly into their existing systems

Q: How do you see this area evolving and how are Mediamano future proofing their clients?
A: The number of channels for distribution will explode. The number of sources of content will grow significantly. The range of formats and standards will grow, as will the physical size of media files, the complexity of the compression algorithms, and the power required by devices to reproduce them. The way to future proof against this is for your back end platform to be agnostic with respect to these factors. By that I mean that the bulk of what you do, if you like the “heavy lifting” and logic of what is done and when, should not make any assumptions at all about the nature of the content it is managing. The part of the platform that is sensitive to this is the front end, which is typically much more flexible and subject to more frequent development. By keeping these two parts of the platform separate, our clients know that they will always maintain their core functionality.

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