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Starting a new business: How Promethean is cutting through

Mon 25, 06 2018

Starting a new business: How Promethean is cutting through

This article originally appeared in the IABM Journal, issue 105 which is available to view online here

IABM introduced a new ‘Start-Up’ membership category in January this year. As its name suggests, the new membership category is designed to cater for new companies that have been incorporated for less than two years, enabling them to benefit from the full range of IABM membership services to support them at a critical time in their growth and development, all at a manageable price for what are typically cash-poor, ideas-rich businesses.

We asked Ian Sharpe, CEO of Promethean – one of the new Start-Up members – to let us in on the secrets of getting a new company off the ground successfully. That he replied with his insightful answers within just one hour speaks volumes; as he said, “You don’t start-up by sitting on your hands!”.

Give us a brief overview of the idea that inspired you to set up your own company – where do you see the opportunity in the market, and why?

The future of online is video. Cord cutters, binge watchers, content connoisseurs, sometime streamers – we spend more time on screens than ever before. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. But ROMI has proven elusive.

The future of online is video. Cord cutters, binge watchers, content connoisseurs, sometime streamers... If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million - IABM Article - Starting a new business Click To Tweet

The Promethean founding team previously ran Azubu, an LA-based live streaming company. We witnessed first- hand how broadcasters are unable to monetize effectively through video, and how brands are unable to drive ROI due to a lack of in-line engagement. We developed our platform to address this gap in the market.

Powered by Promethean, any broadcaster can serve intelligent commerce and engagement opportunities to viewers in real-time, so the audience can watch, click, and buy while never leaving their screen. Imagine watching your favorite sports team, ordering pizza, getting live fantasy updates, buying your favorite player’s jersey…all while never missing a moment of live action.

Informa Telecoms & Media reports that with advertising, subscriptions and transactions, online video is already a $37 billion market globally. Mobile video is now the fastest growing U.S. digital ad segment per PwC research; it’s expected to be a $13 billion market by 2020.

In broadcasting, over-the-top content (OTT) is the audio, video, and other media content delivered over the Internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator (MSO) in the control or distribution of the content. At the start of 2018, the broadcast industry is stepping into an ‘OTT 2.0’ era: companies in the space are harnessing the hard-earned OTT lessons learned over the past few years of experimentation and rising competition. They’re evolving to meet new business demands and opportunities with more original digital content, more direct offerings to consumers, more data, and more advanced technologies.

But click fraud and ad blocking continue to be thorns in the industry’s side, on web and mobile and particularly among Millennials. According to Pagefair’s latest report, worldwide online ad blocking rates have risen to 11% of global internet users; Asia-Pacific mobile ad block rates increased 40% in 2016, and nearly 75% of American ad blocking users said they quit sites that prevent ad blocking.

Online ad blocking rates have risen to 11% of global internet users; Asia-Pacific mobile ad block rates increased 40% in 2016, and nearly 75% of American ad blocking users said they quit sites that prevent ad blocking - IABM Article -… Click To Tweet

The broadcasting industry needs creative ways to address this problem (estimated to cost $35 billion in lost revenue by 2020) to keep viewers from tuning out and keep advertisers tuning in. The 30-second spot, auto-play ads and pre-rolls are losing their impact in the online world, as shorter formats and less intrusive placement types are gaining favor among traditionally ad-intolerant audiences.

The sector is still growing: Technavio’s analysts forecast the global online video platforms market to grow at a CAGR of 16.43% during the period 2017-2021. But this paradigm shift in advertising is spurring more innovation around digital video ad formats, better user experiences and advertising environments – which in turn drives them to Promethean.

The Promethean Digital Video Platform

Our platform delivers measurable, engaging, contextual overlays for video:

  • Direct selling of relevant and contextualised products, overlaid on any video
  • Deals and discounts to be published live immediately, real-time and in-broadcast, to all concurrent viewers
  • Enhanced advertising offerings that deliver a much higher return via CPA
  • Driving subscriptions and downloads with a single click at opportune moments
  • Interactive social media campaigns that create immediate engagement with the audience
  • Quickly adding future content to your calendar, increasing viewership for any series
  • Direct engagement in real-time, minimizing channel surfing

What are the most rewarding aspects of launching a new company and product/service?

Undoubtedly, seeing it all go live and make a difference. Traditional advertising often peaks at only 1 or 2% CTR, but we routinely see 5-10%. In fact, we’ve seen a peak of 56% CTR with clear, contextual, and relevant messages with a clear call to action on live streams – where the broadcaster speaks to the message he pushes live, and supports it online with chat.

That level of interactivity is the future – Amazon/Twitch knows it and has created an open framework called Extensions to harness it.

What challenges did you face in getting started?

The most challenging aspect of getting started is getting traction. We had proven the concept in the live esports streaming space but have found the traditional broadcaster space to be slower to embrace the future. Luckily, we have an excellent beachhead customer in Thai Telco giant, True.

The most challenging aspect of getting started is getting traction. We had proven the concept in the live esports streaming space but have found the traditional broadcaster space to be slower to embrace the future - IABM Article - Starting… Click To Tweet

True is Thailand’s largest cable TV and internet services provider, as well as one of the country’s largest mobile operators. Although a telecoms company first, True isn’t comfortable sitting still and is constantly pushing the boundaries to deliver the services that tomorrow’s customers demand. Reed Anderson, CTO, is keen for the company to think several steps ahead of the competition.

“Just like in the music industry, the business models for telecoms and content producers will be turned upside down by new technology in the next ten years. People’s viewing habits are changing, and they want the right content, on demand, on their favorite device. The lines between content producer, distributor, and exhibitor are blurring too. You have to stay innovative to stay ahead of the game and keep your customers.”

True engaged Promethean to deliver a video platform to power True apps, while offering viewers a premium interactive experience. Built by Promethean, the True Video player is an HTML 5, low latency, stream redundant media player with an IMA SDK3 for easy ad server integration. The player provides the foundation, while the Promethean platform delivers innovation.

One such innovative service is Privilege, a loyalty platform True has built with the support of Thailand’s leading retailers. True customers can earn points by visiting partner retailers like 7/11, and points can be redeemed on more items or watching movies on the True network.

“When we launched Privilege, it was about offering our customers that next-generation television experience. Our customers won’t always want to passively watch television, they’ll want to actively be involved. That’s why we decided to partner with Promethean TV to bring Privilege to life. There was no-one else doing overlays in the same way as Promethean TV,” said Anderson. “After the success of our initial partnership, we trusted Promethean TV to deliver that extra level of innovation we were looking for. The overlays provided the whole package – interactivity as well as new commerce opportunities.”

With over 1500 vendors jostling for attention at major shows and in the press, how have you set about getting noticed by potential customers?

You have to be surgical rather than scatter-gun. Potential customers have a problem they need solving: perhaps they have anaemic digital revenue, perhaps they need new ways to engage customers, or better ways to measure ROMI. Perhaps they’ve decided that pre-roll and mid-roll advertising just doesn’t deliver.

Someone in that organization will have been tasked with finding a solution. Those are the customers who are most likely to engage with a start up like Promethean and plan a pilot. People who intrinsically understand that which is measured, improves.

As a specific example: we’ve recently integrated with Brightcove and partnered with them at their PLAY event in Boston (21-22 May) to present to a new swathe of customers. Existing Brightcove customers can very quickly and inexpensively try out our overlays.

Based on your experience, what key pieces of advice would you give to someone considering starting their own company in the media technology business?

Leverage your network. Building a business requires trust, and ultimately, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Ask yourself, who is going to trust you to deliver for their business? Who understands your passion for innovation? Your early partners need to share the enthusiasm for the future and to be willing to experiment. If you stand still in the digital space, you’ll lose your audience to the likes of Amazon and Facebook.

Who is going to trust you to deliver for their business? Who understands your passion for innovation? If you stand still in the digital space, you'll lose your audience - IABM Article - Starting a new business Click To Tweet

You have taken advantage of IABM’s Start-Up membership package. Which are the most useful services to you, and how have they helped you?

It’s early days, but we see IABM membership as a means of creating awareness – both for our business and the potential of our technology, but also how audience trends are shaping the evolution of the broadcast industry.

That means interviews like this, call outs at trade shows, and other opportunities to engage with strategic thinkers across the space.

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