Ahead of IBC, Jonas Engwall, CEO at Bedrock Streaming talks to BroadcastPro ME, discusses the company's unwavering commitment to streaming and delves into their strategic approach, highlighting how it positions OTT players for continuous success in an ever-evolving landscape.
Could you give us an overview of Bedrock?
It’s essentially a joint venture between RTL Group and Groupe M6 in France. Everything falls under the umbrella of the Bertelsmann group, a prominent media conglomerate. Bedrock officially took shape as a joint venture in early 2020, coinciding with the Covid lockdown. We are around 400 people, and we have our headquarters in Paris, but we have personnel spread out across Europe. Our basic remit is to develop comprehensive video streaming platforms, covering various aspects of streaming. This encompasses SVOD, hybrid models, VOD content, linear channels, live sports, and more. We’re deeply engaged in all facets of the streaming industry and maintain a laser-sharp focus on it. Streaming is our sole area of expertise, and we intentionally avoid diversifying into other domains to uphold our specialisation.
You started in 2020 and you already have 400 people?
So just to give you a little bit of background, the JV itself is quite new, but Bedrock traces its origins back to a company with approximately 15 years of history. However, when we established the JV in 2020, we were operating with a team of around 150 individuals. Our collective vision was to strategically channel investments into streaming, employing a smart approach. Consequently, we centralised all streaming operations under the Bedrock umbrella and embarked on substantial investments in both people and technology to facilitate this transition. Over the course of three to four years, we’ve made substantial financial commitments and a portion of our team boasts 10 to 15 years of hands-on experience in streaming.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve been in the media tech industry for 24 years. I kind of started in tech, then I went into media, and then back into tech, and now it’s a mix of the two. I’m Swedish but I left Sweden 20 years ago and was in Asia for eight years. And then LA for a while and now I’ve been back in Europe for almost four years.
What exactly do you offer clients?
We build and power world-class streaming platforms, for leading media companies. Using our rock-solid technologies: We develop, integrate and operate from ingest to supervision. In essence, our offerings revolve around a core platform, and then we have tons of APIs, providing diverse avenues for integration across various areas such as engagement platforms and social media networks. Because we take a microservices approach, our platform offers remarkable flexibility. This means we can seamlessly accommodate a spectrum of solutions – whether it’s utilising any ad server, be it DLP or CLP, or any other preference the client may have. Our adaptability extends to harmonising with existing systems as we align our integration efforts with their specific needs.
Let me use the car analogy here. We don’t merely furnish individual parts like say, a steering wheel; rather, we provide the full engine and vehicle. Clients come to us for this holistic experience. Subsequently, they have the liberty to customise their ‘vehicle’ – whether it’s a truck, a convertible, or something else. This customisation potential empowers them to make a multitude of modifications. Our emphasis remains on delivering comprehensive solutions, much like selling an entire engine, rather than piecemeal components. In essence, the engine, which represents our core offering, is at the heart of our approach.
Who are some of your clients?
Our clients are some of the leading media houses or broadcasters in their respective countries. We cater to companies who take streaming seriously, especially those who were at the forefront in the traditional media landscape and are now making the shift to streaming. These are the strong local contenders who share the stage with giants like Netflix and Amazon.
We like to see ourselves as the perfect partner for those local streamers that are national champions or aspire to be that. That’s where we fit well, because if someone is just after a setup to tick a box, that’s not our style.
We assure local players that they’ll have the same top-tier platform that global players enjoy. It levels the playing field, allowing their content to truly shine. Often, these local players have exceptional content but lack the resources or time to create a robust platform. As a result, their experience might be a bit glitchy. In today’s streaming landscape, there’s a recognised standard, and it’s these essential features that ensure streamers stay competitive.
We have M6 in France, Videoland in Holland, and RTL in Belgium and Hungary among others.
Bedrock has a big footprint in Europe. We have roughly 40 to 45m users in Europe and support some 60-plus devices.
Can you talk about some of those projects that you have worked on?
All of our clients are united by a shared core platform that encompasses all the essential features and capabilities required to compete at the level of industry giants like Netflix. This ingenious “virtual” OTT platform, akin to Netflix, serves as a centralised hub where each client benefits from a unified solution tailored to their specific country of operation.
Yet, within this foundational platform, lies a rich spectrum of flexibility. This versatility translates into the seamless integration of each client’s preferred ad server, sales tools, communication platforms, and a multitude of other available components. This adaptability is key in ensuring that each client’s unique needs and preferences are met while maintaining the advantages of a standardised, powerhouse core platform.
Then we do all the adaptations and shape the platform to match their specific needs. I often liken this process to constructing with Lego blocks. We help them select the building blocks they desire – be it a fire truck or an airplane. Once the foundation is set, they can continually tailor it to their liking, making substantial modifications when needed. When we make these changes to the backend, the tweaks are seamlessly reflected on the frontend within 10 to 15 seconds, without any manual user intervention.
So, it’s extremely dynamic in that sense.
Videoland is one of the largest SVOD platforms in Europe and we were happy to work with them on their streaming service. Sometimes, big companies buy some pieces and try to stitch it all together. That’s what I would call a Frankenstein because that’s ultimately what it ends up being. It becomes difficult to maintain something like that and keep it stable. That’s why we always ask our clients to take our core platform so we can ensure that it is stable. Coming back to what we did with them, we did the migration and to our knowledge, it is Europe’s biggest streaming migration. We migrated 1.2m of their paying subscribers from the old platform onto Bedrock. And we did it within a couple of months.
Migrating AVOD customers doesn’t keep us up at night but with SVOD users, there is zero margin to manoeuvre.
So, the migration did seem daunting at the time, as numerous key performance indicators (KPIs), notably churn rates, were under the microscope. Fortunately, the transition was seamless, with churn remaining steady. In the aftermath, we noticed a surge in various KPIs, including customer satisfaction and app scores, and that showed a positive trend in the customer care domain.
Our endeavour bore fruit with heightened activity rates and improved ad fill. This transformative process unfolded last year, with a gradual testing phase culminating in full implementation by October. From humble beginnings with 10,000 in the initial weeks, we swiftly escalated to 20,000 and eventually reached 1.2m subscribers.
What were some of your big milestones?
One big milestone was in 2020 when we officially made the JV. Another big milestone was the migration of Videoland. Each migration with each customer was a big milestone for us. Some migrations were simpler because it was from one Bedrock platform to another. We hope to have another big milestone very soon although we can’t talk about it yet.
What’s your AI strategy?
Our AI strategy is multifaceted, operating across different dimensions. Firstly, we leverage AI for personalisation and recommendations, enhancing user experiences through AI and machine learning (ML). This part has been active for some time and is aimed at optimising the overall experience.
Secondly, we delve into two relatively newer categories within AI. We’re increasingly utilising AI as a predictive and assistance tool. This entails employing AI to aid in predictions and help. Additionally, our development teams harness AI to expedite code creation and conduct code checks, streamlining our processes.
These three levels contribute to our AI approach. It’s the recommendation element that has a longer history compared to the other two. On another note, we also employ AI for platform management, tackling stability concerns and scalability challenges. We monitor platform performance and utilise predictive AI to adapt to patterns. This enables us to proactively scale our platform in response to demands, ensuring seamless operations.
In essence, our AI strategy encompasses personalisation, prediction, assistance, and proactive platform management to provide a comprehensive and advanced service.
What trends are you seeing in the market with broadcasters?
Most broadcasters have transitioned to a hybrid platform. For free-to-air broadcasters, this introduces an additional monetisation avenue. These are the discussions we’re currently engaged in. Building a hybrid platform is a complex task. This complexity is evident as even Netflix faces challenges; it’s far from easy. Establishing a clean SVOD or AVOD platform is simpler in comparison.
While the hybrid platform is more intricate, it opens numerous opportunities for monetisation. We can also offer clients the option to expand on the SVOD tier and offer a better experience to the customer. It’s a bit like travelling by plane. All clients use the same aircraft, but the journey differs depending on whether they booked an economy or business class. We can craft an enriched experience for AVOD, with no ads for a nominal monthly fee.
I believe that hybrid platforms are here to stay, presenting massive opportunities for the future. It’s something for clients to experiment with though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Discovering what resonates with users is the primary challenge.
How do you distinguish yourself from other players?
Well, we’ve got quite a unique approach, and what’s interesting is that our roots in the broadcast industry give us a real edge. Of course, we can’t claim to have predicted every little thing, but it’s funny how in most meetings, the challenges folks throw at us are things we’ve either tackled them before or they’re like problems we’ve addressed already.
Back in the day, broadcasters mainly stuck to their own neighbourhoods. Crossing borders and collaborating globally wasn’t the norm because everything was so local. But now, thanks to technology, scaling up requires a whole new mindset. What’s cool is that we often find ourselves doing something in one country that comes in super handy when dealing with a client in a different part of the world. Those lessons we’ve learned apply universally – it’s like everyone’s facing the same music, just with different lyrics.
Think of us as this exclusive streaming club – way more than your typical vendor. Our platform keeps growing as we keep adding new features, all bundled together for a flat monthly fee. You know how it is these days – clients jot down their requirements on the RFP, but by the time they hear back, half their wishes are outdated, and the industry has moved on.
So, what happens when you are in an uncomfortable position where you have to negotiate new features?
We see ourselves not as a vendor but as a partner. We are like an exclusive streaming club with partners who bring their A-game from their own corners of the world. And it’s not just tech stuff – it’s about sharing the best practices. These companies are not competitors because they’re sailing in the same boat. What we are creating is an environment for knowledge sharing.
We’re all about that SaaS model. We give master classes, and on top of that, we get all our clients together four times a year to hang out and engage with each other. It’s like a big meetup where everyone swaps stories and ideas.
What’s your focus at IBC?
Our primary objective at IBC is two-fold: as exhibitors, we are excited to showcase our technology and engage with current and potential partners. Our discerning approach to selecting clients remains a priority, ensuring that we maintain the highest standards. However, while upholding this selectivity, we also recognise the importance of increasing awareness about our brand. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce our presence at the show. You can find us at hall 5, booth C78, and we warmly invite all attendees to visit us and learn more about what we have to offer.
What’s your interest in the Middle East market?
The Middle East, especially the GCC has some very big and ambitious players who want the best platforms and mean serious business. We believe there is an opportunity for us to go in there with our product because we can help them quickly set up a sophisticated streaming service that is on par with global players.