Q&A with Rags Gupta, Videoplaza’s New CCO

Rags GuptaRags is Videoplaza’s newly appointed Chief Commercial Officer. Videoplaza help broadcasters, publishers and ad networks to maximise their advertising revenues from IP-delivered video advertising. Its sell side ad management platform, Karbon, is used to monetise video experiences across PCs, mobile devices, tablets, game consoles, IPTV and Smart TVs. The company is headquartered in London, with offices across Europe and Asia, and Videoplaza’s clients include M6 (FR), Canal+ (FR), SBS (NL), Sony India (IND), and TV4 (SE).

Joining Videoplaza from Brightcove, Rags was part of Brightcove’s founding executive team at a very early stage. Prior to that, he was General Manager and then COO for Live365, a web 1.0 Internet radio network based in Silicon Valley – the first webcaster to reach profitability. Here Rags speaks about his new role, the distinction between ‘VOD’ and ‘video’, the challenges faced by media owners, and Videoplaza’s road map for the future.

V: Congratulations on your new role at Videoplaza. Could you give a little background on what your role will involve and what attracted you to working with Videoplaza?

R: As Chief Commercial Officer, I am primarily responsible for the commercial success of the business and building out the sales, marketing and client relations functions across the Videoplaza global footprint. This means thinking about how the business scales as well as, day to day, being deeply engaged with our clients to understand their needs around video monetization and partner with them to innovate and grow our respective businesses.

Why did I join the business? For some time I sat on the Videoplaza board as an advisor, and over time was increasingly impressed with the team, the product and the success they were achieving with clients. For many years and coming from Brightcove, I have been a huge believer in the online video opportunity. I welcomed the opportunity to get involved at a deeper, operational level with Videoplaza, having seen from the board the great potential and traction within the business. All the data we see within our business demonstrates that IP-delivered video is growing exponentially and at a far greater rate than for example traditional media like TV advertising (a CAGR of 53% in the EU vs 2.5% for TV advertising).

Videoplaza work with both publishers and broadcasters. Publishers tend to describe their proposition as ‘video’ while broadcasters tend to describe theirs as ‘VOD’. Similarly, many ad tech companies position themselves as a service designed for one side or the other. Are the requirements of one side or the other really all that different, and if so, what are those differences?

We work with a range of clients including broadcasters, and publishers (for example media groups and newspaper groups) as well as gaming businesses and ad networks.

There are some differences between the groups you describe as ‘publishers’ and ‘broadcasters’. For example, broadcasters often offer long form content as part of their VOD solutions, where publishers often focus on delivering short form content. This means that we need a flexible approach to areas like ad insertion policies and ad loads, and we make a point of collating best practice across our client base to share knowledge and learning. The ad load for short form content on different devices like mobiles, will be very different to that going into a piece of VOD long form content.

Broadcasters also need specific support around areas like live streaming monetisation, as well as frequency capping and time based breaks. Their forecasting requirements are quite different to that of a publisher.

However our Karbon platform is designed to support both broadcasters and publishers, and whilst some of the features they require may be slightly different, at a fundamental level their needs are the same: to deliver fantastic reach and audience to their advertisers, and to optimise the revenue from their inventory. For Videoplaza supporting the sell side (whether publishers or broadcasters) is our ‘north star’ – arming them with the weapons they need to monetise video to its fullest effect.

What’s the greatest challenge facing video publishers today?

There are a number of challenges facing media owners in this fast-paced world:

  • Audience behaviour has changed rapidly over the last few years in terms of how people consume content. Now instead of watching TV in their living room, viewers consume video wherever they are, even on the go, via a range of devices from the mobile and tablet to the PC. Media owners need to navigate the complex device landscape (which is both technically challenging and requires a new commercial approach to ad sales) whilst delivering the optimum user experience to their viewers
  • The buy side is increasingly arming up with new tools and automated processes. As the buy side adopts programmatic buying and RTB, the sell side needs to be armed to defend and grow their position. This will be critical going forwards to enable the sell side to grow audience and revenue
  • In an online and multi-device world, there is a wealth of data that can be leveraged to add to the value of the audience. Publishers and broadcasters need a clear strategy around data and how it can be used to add value to CPMs and deliver greater results to their advertiser clients. It will be key for media owners to tackle this issue in 2013

Which of the European markets is the most active in terms of video? Are there any lessons to be drawn from that market that could be applied elsewhere?

We operate across a range of markets in Europe, and we do see differences between regions. There are two areas in which we see a highly developed approach to IP-delivered video.

France is a hugely evolved market in terms viewing video on multi-devices and IPTV – it is the most mature IPTV market globally. There we have seen the importance of early integrations with IPTV providers (through our client M6 we have integrations into 3 of the 4 major closed IPTV environments). We also saw our clients in France think very early on about how to tackle the multi-device issue – by delivering a great client experience across a range of devices, and selling one audience across the different devices their viewers are accessing content on.

In the Nordics, internet penetration is amongst the most significant globally. Viewers are incredibly internet literate and consumption per capita is high. This translates to the desire for real innovation with media owners in that market, who need to differentiate themselves. We see media owners being truly creative around interactive ad formats for example and very fearless in terms of trying new formats and being able to command a premium CPM for them; and things like live streaming monetisation – realising the huge viewing potential of live sporting events and working with us to monetise the audience. This is technically complex to achieve but offers a unique opportunity to their advertiser clients.

As more content is consumed on tablets and smartphones, do you think top tier premium content will be able to retain or even increase the value it enjoys today?

Approximately 27% of the traffic delivered through our Karbon platform today goes to non-PC devices such as tablets and mobiles. This represents huge growth from where we were 1 year ago. Premium content is increasingly available on these devices.

We believe that this type of content has the potential to increase in value as long as media owners handle it in the right way:

  • Build a device committed but device agnostic experience i.e. design the best experience or client for a device platform such as the tablet, but build this agnostically across all major device types – where the audience are. This means taking into account things like the form factor of the device – for example the real estate on an iPad offers greater opportunities for ad interactivity than a mobile device with a smaller screen size.
  • Look at second screen opportunities – think about how the tablet can complement and drive viewing around the TV screen or the VOD experience. Comscore recently concluded that multiscreen viewers tend to be the most loyal and engaged brand consumers. This is a highly valuable proposition to sell to an advertiser. Experiment with interactivity and innovative formats, allied to great first screen content; this can drive more consumption on non-PC devices
  • Leverage data in the mobile context. Collate data on those users and their habits and deliver even more targeted, relevant advertising to them – thus increasing the value of the audience again.

There are a lot of publishers, particularly tho started out in print, whose primary focus online has been content in the form of text images. Many have experimented with video in the past and have fallen down for various reasons. What could the industry do to encourage more of these publishers to become more deeply involved with video?

The industry as a whole needs to be more transparent around the value and growth potential of IP-delivered video. Video viewing across IP devices is growing – so audiences are shifting, and video delivers higher engagement levels. Providers like ourselves have a responsibility to share data and evidence to help publishers embrace the opportunity. This is the reason for our research report earlier this year on the IP-delivered video advertising space. Similarly we will be following up with our next research report in Q1 next year so watch this space….

Equally the industry needs to continue its work on standards to ensure media owners entering the video market have a clear and consistent way to start working with video ad delivery and formats. VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 ease the way for publishers who want to monetise video content for the first time and its key for the ecosystem to keep feeding into and developing common standards.

You worked with Brightcove up until the IPO. While we often hear how Brightcove do a great job of allowing publishers to monetize their content, surely there must have been conversations about the possibility of either serving ads and/or starting an ad network? Do you think Brightcove could ever go in that direction, or might Videoplaza go in the opposite direction, and integrate an ad network proposition or a content hosting model?

Ha! There weren’t just conversations but in fact experiments around building an ad network. This was back in the days of 2005/2006 at a time when there was a lot of experimentation in the market. We ended up ‘sticking to our knitting’ and focusing on being the best video publishing platform possible, which I think was the right decision. I have no idea if Brightcove would go in that direction now but would be sceptical on the wisdom of that.

For Videoplaza, our mission is to empower and support the sell side to make the most of their video content through monetization. We listen closely to our sell side clients and choose to develop in ways that achieve our mission. We embrace new technologies and commercial models that mean our clients can for example make the most of data and automation, in a way that decreases technical complexity and delivers strong revenue.

However it’s highly unlikely we would every move into the role of an ad network because networks, sitting in the middle between the buy and sell side, are fundamentally compromised by trying to please both. We will stay firmly anchored on the sell side. Equally content hosting and publishing is not our core business, and we are agnostic on this front. We integrate with not only Brightcove but other OVPs such as Ooyala, Kaltura and home-grown platforms. Videoplaza’s focus remains on helping the sell side monetise premium video content.

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