“At my earlier stint as a technology lead at an OTT video streaming startup in 2012, we got digital streaming and monetisation rights for a cricket match between India & Sri Lanka. Our digital sales team wanted to put our own video ads during breaks, but couldn’t as we didn’t know the start and endpoints of the ad break,” – Mahaboob Khan, cofounder and CEO, Vidgyor.
Even today, unlike GEC, news and sports channels don’t have fixed ad-break schedules and most of them don’t have the technology to insert digital ad-markers in sync with their dynamic ad-break schedules. With Vidgyor, Khan and cofounder Parth Desai are looking to bring this technology to TV broadcasters globally.
Khan credits his background at Yahoo!, where he was working in automatic content recognition technology and computer vision, for the creation of Vidgyor’s flagship V-Spot algorithm — that can automatically detect and insert digital ad-markers during TV ad-breaks using AI (artificial intelligence) & ML (machine learning) in real-time.
Apart from V-Spot, the startup is offering many other solutions, products and services to its clients, such as:
- Products: Enabling live streaming ad-monetisation using V-Flows (client-side ad-insertion), V-Fusion (server-side ad-insertion) and V-Alchemy (in-feed ad-insertion) and more.
- Services: V-Plex and V-Stream (downlinking, encoding/transcoding, ad-marking, OTT apps, such as FireTV app and Android App for TV9, and more)
- Ad-monetisation: V-Dart (video ad marketplace)
Vidgyor has a wide reach in both TV channels and OTT, although the pandemic has seen it gain major traction from the latter than the former.
In the last few months, the company signed up various new TV channel partners due to the increase in the focus of broadcasters to OTT. Even then the challenges of the current scenarios cannot be denied, “It has led to cuts in digital video advertising budgets from programmatic and advertiser partners,” said Khan.
While OTT video streaming platforms were already widely accepted by the public, there is no denying that the pandemic has further boosted their business in India. With the near-global lockdown and the resultant shut down of theatres and movie halls, OTT platforms are now being leveraged for movie releases as well.
The OTT segment is set to grow at a 21.8% CAGR to reach INR 11,976 Cr by 2023, indicated PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023. With India being the second largest mobile data consumer in the world, prediction of KPMG’s report that by FY2023 India will have 500 Mn online video subscribers, doesn’t come as a surprise at all. And with more users, platforms also need to build up ad capabilities.
With this increase in the shift of viewers to OTT, brands have also started to shift to these platforms to increase their visibility and attract targeted user base. However, while there are a host of opportunities for advertisers, Khan said, “Our media channel partners were carrying the same set of TV advertisements during ad-breaks on digital streaming platforms and OTT. There was no scope of personalisation or specific targeting, Thus, causing revenue loss to both TV broadcasters and OTT platforms”.
Cloud Infra Boosts Vidgyor’s Adtech Platform
To ensure that its services are up and running 24×7, Vidgyor has partnered with cloud infrastructure services providers such as DigitalOcean, for smart storage and server solutions. For a startup, cloud service providers are imperative in helping achieve seamless operations, infrastructure provisioning, management, maintenance and more. Additionally, cloud-based tech operations help startups become more cost-efficient in the long run, decreasing their tech spending and helping them scale efficiently.
Khan told Inc42 that leveraging cloud technology to build its adtech products is one of the most important facets for all video streaming companies. He added, “Cloud computing helps us scale our services and work on a pay as you go model without upfront costs.”
Currently, the startup is working with more than 70 TV channels and OTT platforms. Some prominent names amongst them are Indiatoday, NDTV, Republic TV, Network18, Times Now, ABP, Zee, India TV, TV9, Asianet etc. Hotstar, Zee5, SonyLiv, MX Player and more.
While it already has expertise in using AI and ML, the startup is also investing into new products in smart video publishing and contextual advertising. For instance, it told Inc42, TV broadcasters can add subtitles of different languages on Live news broadcasts. “Our V-Dart adtech platform analyzes videos using computer vision techniques such as object, scene, activity, brand logo, face detection for identifying contextually relevant video ad placements opportunities. This enables advertisers to deliver when the user is most engaged while ensuring compliance and brand safety”, added Khan.
Khan dived into Vidgyor’s operations, its use of cloud computing and the impact of the current crisis on its business.
Inc42: With Covid-19, there has been an increase in businesses adopting cloud and enterprise technology. What is your take on the role these technologies play in growth and survival?
Mahaboob Khan: Working with the right cloud technology provider is very important for business in these times, especially as Covid-19 has forced all businesses to focus on saving costs.
Cloud technology costs pile up very fast, if not optimised or reviewed on a regular basis. This is especially true with media or video streaming companies with high data transfer and streaming requirements.
Inc42: What has the impact been in your tech spending after working with DigitalOcean? Has it helped you become more cost-efficient from a tech point of view?
Mahaboob Khan: Our data transfer costs are higher due to the live video streaming and syndication services. With a partner like DigitalOcean, we could save data transfer costs and become more cost-efficient. The cloud cost optimisation that Vidgyor has seen in the past few months is approx 25%, which is a big amount for most companies and in these tough times, any savings will go a long way.
Inc42: The pandemic has forced more Indians to adopt OTT platforms. Has this helped you attract more companies to your platform, considering that both advertisers and OTT platforms are looking for greater reach?
Mahaboob Khan: Absolutely, our TV channel partners and OTT players have seen huge traction from viewers due to the pandemic.
We now have close to 80% market share in News category TV channels in India for our Live streaming ad-monetisation products such as V-Flows, V-Alchemy. Some of our prominent clients include IndiaToday, NDTV, Network18, ABP & Zee groups. For some of our TV channel partners, we also help them syndicate their live TV streams with ad-markers to OTT platforms such as Hotstar, Zee5 etc.
Inc42: What are some of the major challenges for you in the current market given the pandemic-induced slowdown?
Mahaboob Khan: The current challenge is to move fast enough to fulfill diverse requirements coming our way in a post covid environment. Since with increased focus and consumption on OTT, our 3 year product roadmap needs to be delivered in 12 months.
Another challenge is to transform our video platform to have generic interfaces to tap the opportunity of relevant use cases from different industry verticals apart from the broadcast/media industry which we are currently working with.
Inc42: Are there any plans of expansion with respect to new geographies, products or services in these times?
Mahaboob Khan: Right from day one, we knew that we needed to scale our tech and products to reach the global market. However, we want to establish market leadership in the Indian market first before we scale to the global level as most of our sales happen through a referral from the leading channel partners and OTT platforms using our products and services.
While the pandemic caused some delays in our plans, we have resumed our work towards these plans and hope to achieve them soon.
Inc42: Cloud technology is revolutionising things across operations for companies. Tell us how DigitalOcean is helping you on that front? What are some of the plans in the future in terms of your partnership with DigitalOcean?
Mahaboob Khan: Cloud technology has enabled us in delivering live video streaming at scale, with a pay-as-you-go model, reliable SLA (service legal agreement) and ability to add/remove streaming capacity based on traffic. We have been using DigitalOcean for two years now and are happy with their services.
Going forward, we look forward to working in a partnership model with DigitalOcean instead of as one of their cloud customers and explore further synergies. With this partnership, we aim to penetrate various markets where DigitalOcean is already present. We can work in collaboration with them to offer our services to the companies already leveraging their services.
This is just an example of how we can go ahead with the partnership, we are still exploring the best ways to go about it.
Inc42: Who are your major competitors? What are you doing to stay ahead in the market?
Mahaboob Khan: Given the breadth of the product and services we are offering, we have competitors such as Amagi. We are looking to double down investments in AI products to bring cost efficiencies in media workflows and deliver next-gen user experiences.
Inc42: Where do you see the next big innovation in your domain coming from?
Mahaboob Khan: Media workflows are moving from on-premise models to cloud based software and use of AI and ML technology in live/video streaming, publishing, personalisation and contextual advertising. Going forward, video ads will become interactive and the next wave of consumption will happen from smart TVs, as we are already seeing the evidence of.