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The power of virtualization is coming to video

What if you could search a video, just like Google? This would give the marketing world an ability to tailor content like never before. Well, that future could be closer than you think. 

From VCRs and DVDs to live feeds and MP4s, the humble video may have kept its staple name in the years since its inception.

But the way we access, manage and manipulate video has already changed dramatically. And it’s not going to stop evolving any time soon.

When it comes to the future of content in the digital age, there is no question that video is, and will continue to be, king.

Whether it’s advertising, news sites, sportscasting, social media, education and even surveillance, video has immersed itself in our everyday lives.

Cisco forecasts that video will dominate the global online landscape, accounting for 80 percent of all internet traffic by 2021, and increasing its online presence at a rapid 31 percent annually.

First, two definitions:

  • OTT (over the top) media services means video streaming delivered over the internet without the control of a traditional distributor.
  • SVOD (subscription video on demand) is included within OTT. That would be a subscription-based service such as Netflix, for example.

In the US, the OTT sector, including SVOD, is estimated to grow to $30.6 billion by 2022, at an annual growth rate of almost nine percent.

So what will the next video revolution look like? And how will it impact content creation and advertising?

The answer: Virtualization.

Stay tuned: Video virtualization unpacked

In a nutshell, video virtualization exposes the data within traditional digital video.

It enables video content to be searched, spliced, and manipulated at an iframe-level, for the first time.

A recent Orbis Research report highlighted that opportunities in virtualization software had been tested by market leaders including Microsoft, VMware and Red Hat Software.

They noted that Linius Technologies, Ericsson and Cisco (which has since sold its virtualization to Synamedia) were among the few companies globally that were considering the potential of virtualization for video.

Video virtualization turns static video files into a malleable form. Digital video files are singular, static blocks of data. They can be thought of as being sealed in a ‘container’ — an MPEG of AVI format.

So that static video file can be turned into an interactive format through video virtualization.

Virtualization allows videos to be indexed, parsed, and spliced with other videos. Ultimately, it makes them searchable.

And if we have searchable video, we can bring the user-friendly, information-ready, personalized functions of, say, Google to video.

Searchability: Revolutionizing bespoke programming

Linius Technologies has developed a patented Video Virtualization Engine (VVE). This piece of technology lets users instantly search for — and assemble — data across an infinite number of video sources.

Users can take that data and compile it into a single video stream that’s ready for immediate playback.

In early 2018, Linius integrated its patented VVE with US-based higher education services provider MediaAMP’s video-first digital media asset management platform. They wanted to facilitate faster learning for university students.

The combined technologies could enable a nursing student, for example, to search for instances using the phrase ‘required dosage.’

The tech would output to them years of recorded lectures, stitched together without the need to edit any video footage.

Now let’s look at another application

Say you’re a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers basketball fan.

With video virtualization, you could pull together all the slam dunks, alley-oops and 3-pointers in your own bespoke NBA 2019 highlights reel.

“There is all this data around what is happening in the video. We can extract the pieces and parts of the video that are relevant to the user,” said Linius CEO Chris Richardson.

“So instead of watching that whole video, the user can search for certain parts of it and create their own video.”

Video virtualization can also unlock commercial opportunities for organizations — enabling content providers to deliver personalized content experiences to subscribers.

This also means that, for the very first time, broadcasters and streaming companies can track and analyze hyper-granular content consumption habits.

They can look down to the frame-level for individual consumers, delivering personalized content experiences to subscribers, for which they can charge a premium.

Advertisers: Cut through the noise to reach customers

The benefits of video virtualization also extend to advertisers.

Advertisers can use it to push hyper-targeted promotions to individuals by matching subscriber demographic data with frame-level consumption data.

Video virtualization takes dynamic ad insertion to the next level. It can provide advertisers with a tool that targets ads according to the viewer profile, determined by specific viewing habits.

For example, a makeup company may want to push out advertising for its new lipstick range.

Through video virtualization, advertisers can insert personalized ads into video files before they are received by the end user.

Ericsson has kept revenue generating opportunities like this top of mind, with the launch of its fully virtualized video processing platform in 2017.

“We are making it easier to monetize services and drive down processing delivery costs throughout the entire content lifecycle,” said (the now former) Ericsson vice president and head of media solutions, Elisabetta Romano.

“Ericsson simplifies operations for content owners, broadcasters and service providers by enabling the move to complete virtualization across the media processing delivery chain.”

Synamedia is another company hoping to boost support for multiple video sources, such as live and on-demand services.

But they also bolster better targeted advertising.

The company has developed a virtualization infrastructure known as Synamedia Video Processing (VP).

VP has been designed to reduce the complexity of video workflow operations. Users can execute encoding, ad splicing and encrypting (among other functions) on a single production line.

The future: Coming to a screen near you

Video virtualization has the potential to completely transform how video content is produced, delivered, and consumed.

And big companies seem to be taking notice.

In early January 2019 one of Europe’s largest media and entertainment companies, Sky, took a stake in Synamedia, to optimize its different video formats and channels.

But it’s not just broadcasters eyeing this new technology.

In 2017 Australia’s largest telecommunications organization, Telstra, integrated Ericsson’s virtualized MediaFirst Video Processing solution suite. They used it to power their video processing data center. In particular, they wanted to support the delivery of Telstra’s cloud platform for broadcast media workloads.

Telstra said the use of Ericsson’s MediaFirst suite aligned with its priority to optimize high bandwidth video processing and distribution. It also let them centralize media operation flow through cloud infrastructure.

Technology giants Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have all integrated Linius’ VVE into their video cloud services, via Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and IBM Cloud. Each of these aims to make video as flexible as all other forms of content and data.

Last year, the Australian chapter of Warner Bros signed a collaboration agreement with Linius for a technical pilot test of an on demand video streaming platform. With that, they aim to provide content protection through distribution to end user.

Stockholm-based video news service provider Newstag has also signed a commercial deal with Linius. They want to roll out its VVE technology across its platforms that provide customized newsfeeds to broadcasters.

Appetite for video virtualization

Linius CEO Chris Richardson said these deals had not only commercially validated the company’s VVE technology, but also the appetite for video virtualization.

“By matching frame-level consumption data with artificial intelligence and existing behavioral data, broadcasters can deliver personalized news experiences that drive subscription revenue, achieve one-to-one audience segmentation for unparalleled consumer engagement, and slash newsroom production costs,” said Linius CEO Chris Richardson.

Video virtualization opens up a whole new world of video use cases for everyone. And the market seems to be moving in that direction. What will the future bring for video virtualization?

Heidi Cuthbert is Executive Producer at Coincast TV.

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