Broadcast Beat’s “2019 NAB Show New York Profiles” are a series of interviews with prominent professionals in the production industry who will be participating at NAB Show New York (Oct. 16-17, 2019).
Dan Rayburn is generally considered to be the broadcasting industry’s foremost expert on streaming media and on-line video. I recently had the opportunity to interview Rayburn, and the experience was basically a crash course in the streaming industry and its future.
At the interview’s start, Rayburn corrected my assumption that he’d gotten his start in broadcasting. “I didn’t come from the broadcasting industry,” he explained, “but rather the computer repair industry, and got started with streaming media technology really by accident. After joining the military, I got out and become a certified system engineer for Apple products. I was responsible for going on-site to customers locations in NYC to repair Apple-based hardware that was under warranty by Apple. At around the same time, in 1995, Apple sponsored an event called the Macintosh New York Music Festival [see photo above], which was my first introduction to multimedia on the web. The event consisted of about a dozen clubs in NYC wired to archive music over a multi-day period to the web. In 1996, with 14.4 modems prevalent and streaming media technology from RealNetworks—then Progressive Networks—capable of producing audio streaming in near real-time, the event grew to nearly two dozen wired clubs, broadcasting over 300 bands over a 5-day period. That was my first introduction with the concept of delivering real-time content to users on the web, and I thought it was the future of music. So I quit repairing Apple gear and helped co-found a live webcasting production company.”
“As with any business, the goals and challenges change over time, based on market drivers and restraints. When I co-founded Live On Line, video didn’t exist, no one had broadband, and there weren’t off the shelf products and services that enabled webcasting. It truly was an art and skill to be able to stream live on the web and piece it all together. Today, no one really thinks much about it as the technology is so good, affordable, and easy to use. With Globix, that was in the 1998-2002 time period when video really exploded on the web, many people started to get DSL connections, and video streaming really took off. With StreamingMedia.com, that was a news company, so the goal there was simply to educate the market. The challenge is always to make sure you know what services the industry needs, how they want to consumer info and what type of content is most important to them.”
At this point, I have to confess that many of the subsequent questions I asked Rayburn were about aspects of streaming that I was personally curious about. For example, I asked him if streaming would eventually supersede traditional broadcasting. “One doesn’t supersede another,” he responded, “They are compliments to one another. Both mediums for delivering video to users will exist. It’s about using the right technology to deliver the right video, to the right user, on the right device, with the correct quality of experience. One technology typically never displaces another. The theory of a proposed replacement is always more appealing than the reality of a solution in use.”
I was relieved to learn that, despite being one of the biggest champions of streaming media, Rayburn does not buy into the myth that streaming will eventually displace physical media among aficionados of classic film and TV. Indeed, when I asked him if the two mediums would continue to co-exist, Rayburn’s answer was unequivocal. “Absolutely. Consumers have different needs and tastes in content choices and how they consume them. For some, they want physical media and it offers the best quality. Others would gladly trade quality for convenience. And the business models are all different from free (AVOD), subscription (SVOD), pay to rent, pay to own (digital download) and physical media. There is no one size fits all for every consumer and choice is a good thing.”
I then asked Rayburn if he saw any new companies giving the most high-profile streaming platforms, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, any serious competition in the future. “When you say ‘competition,’ many services don’t actually compete. Some are live-streaming, some just on-demand, and some are both. Some are more focused on family content, others on originals and others targeted around sports. But the ones to keep an eye on for sure are Disney+, Apple TV+, NBC, HBO Max, and Quibi. They all have deep pockets, big marketing dollars they can spend and many ways to promote their services.”
Speaking of promising newcomers to the streaming industry, I asked Rayburn what he thought were the chances for success of the upcoming streaming services being developed by Disney and Warner Brothers, and if Warner Brothers could avoid the failure of their Warners Instant Archives service. “That’s not really a fair comparison between the services,” he told me. “The Instant Archives service was a mix of films, TV shows, and made-for-TV movies drawn from the Warner Brothers library. It wasn’t the new content customers were looking for, and was only available on Roku and browsers. Warner is now owned by AT&T and the new service called HBO Max will include 10,000 hours of premium content. It’s due to launch in the spring of 2020, and we still don’t know pricing just yet, but the service, being backed by AT&T with HBO’s content, is going to have content consumers are going to want to watch.”
Per what has become a tradition at the NAB Show and NAB Show New York, Rayburn will be presenting his “Streaming Summit” on both days of the upcoming October event. “I began my partnership with the NAB producing the new Streaming Summits at their shows in Las Vegas and New York City in 2018. The show features 100 speakers over two days with two tracks and has a great lineup for speakers and presenters like CBS, Amazon, Hulu, NBC, WarnerMedia/HBO, Sling TV, FOX Sports, Disney, NFL etc. My job is to produce great content to help educate, inform and empower broadcasters, publishers, OTT platforms, advertisers and others on the monetization models and technology of OTT.
“Global OTT revenue will reach $129 billion in 2023. Whether through advertising (AVOD), transactions (TVOD), or subscriptions (SVOD), selecting the right monetization option and learning how to successfully implement it in a multi-device, web-driven ecosystem is challenging. The show teaches attendees how to capitalize on direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings and hear how some of the largest companies in the world are monetizing their video library and building a brand relationship with their customers. At the same time, consumers expect the best video quality on their devices and TVs anywhere, anytime. OTT platforms and broadcasters continue to be challenged and are continuously improving their video workflows to give their audience the best possible viewing experience. So we cover everything they need to know about packaging content, transcoding, media management, playback, etc., all from industry leading experts.”
I concluded my interview with Rayburn by asking him what his plans for the future are. His answer revealed his amiable nature. “My job is to share information, be it on my blog, in person at the shows, with members of the media, on TV doing interviews, etc., so I am always trying to be aware of opportunities that cross my path that allow me to do that in a better way. It’s why I list my cell phone number on the home page of my blog (917-523-4562), and I answer all calls. You never know who you will speak to, what opportunities present themselves, or ways you might be able to assist others, which in turn helps the entire industry grow.”