NeuLion’s Chris Wagner on building a successful OTT platform

Chris Wagner, executive vice president and co-founder of video technology specialists NeuLion, explains how the company has responded to consumer trends to become a reliable partner in an increasingly competitive market.

NeuLion’s Chris Wagner on building a successful OTT platform

The ways in which fans consume live sports are changing, and as over-the-top (OTT) broadcasting continues to redefine the norm, rights holders and broadcasters are constantly being challenged to develop their offering.

Since being founded in 2004, US-based video technology specialists NeuLion have been powering the OTT platforms of major brands around the world, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the National Football League (NFL). The company’s multi-faceted service doesn’t only entail digital video broadcasting and distribution, but also the monetisation of live and on-demand sports content to virtually any connected device.

Ahead of his appearance at the SportsPro OTT Summit in Madrid between 29th and 30th November, Chris Wagner, NeuLion’s executive vice president and co-founder, discusses the challenges involved in building a successful digital platform, and explains why the company has become a market leader in what is an increasingly competitive space. 

SportsPro: What's the starting point in building a robust digital platform?

Chris Wagner: Content owners and content rights holders are racing to offer direct-to-consumer OTT services, and many of these new businesses follow reoccurring subscription and transactional pay-per-view payment models. Digital subscriptions are happening across all industries, but nowhere is it happening faster than in sports. 

Before you can fine-tune your content packaging and marketing approach to attract new OTT subscribers, it’s important to get the fundamentals down. That means delivering high-quality video available on any device, coupled with a customised user experience that makes finding and personalising content exciting. Without these fundamental quality of service (QOS) and quality of experience (QOE) elements, acquiring and keeping new subscribers will be challenging.

What sets NeuLion's solutions apart?

NeuLion provides a complete end-to-end video technology platform spanning the entire digital video workflow from content ingestion to delivery.  NeuLion’s technology powers the OTT experiences for the world’s leading brands, delivering the highest quality video, up to 4K/HDR, with advanced interactive features for consumers across multiple devices and continents. All components of the NeuLion digital platform work together to provide content rights holders with a single platform to build, deliver and grow their OTT services. Since NeuLion provides one OTT platform, from one provider, content owners can launch OTT services faster, with less complication, and for a far less cost.    

How do changes in viewer behaviour affect the products you build? What effect does it have to see continued increases in digital consumption?

Viewers today have many choices when it comes to online video. For content owners of OTT sports services, addressing this challenge with personalisation services will help attract and keep OTT viewers. 

Offering advanced personalisation features and services for individual viewer preferences is key.  Let your audience choose their viewing content. By implementing robust content search and discovery features, subscribers should be given the ability to create watch lists, favourites, custom preference settings and more.

In today’s marketplace, leading OTT services offer viewers personalisation features which, in turn, provide genuine viewer attraction and engagement, increasing customer retention. Viewer engagement is enhanced when rights holders create a personalised OTT experience for each individual customer.  This changing dynamic makes it important that the digital platform supporting the OTT service offers advanced personalisation features that allow viewers the opportunity to fully customise their own experience, catered to their own interests. This not only gives them full control of what they want to watch, when and how they want to watch it, but drives them to consume more content, for longer periods of time.

What are some of the new elements rights holders and broadcasters are seeking from their digital platforms? How is technology keeping pace with demand?

Delivering high quality video that operates seamlessly across devices in today’s market is critical.  Today, you must give sports OTT viewers an experience that will be hard to forget for both live and on-demand video. That means delivering flawless video in the highest quality, including 4K/HDR, ensuring that any video delays are eliminated, with no buffering and no video errors. Rights holders and broadcasters need to cater to a digitally-connected world, viewers have access to multiple devices all day long, enabling them to no longer be confined to one area to watch content. Making content readily available on all leading consumer devices, including web, PC, tablets, mobile, gaming consoles, smart TVs, streaming devices, VR headsets is an important element of any OTT service that will increase consumer reach and accessibility.