Telstra Plans To Spin Out Ooyala In Public IPO, Setting Unrealistic Expectations

ooyala-logo-dark-gradientNews site The Australian is reporting that Telstra plans to spin of Ooyala, the online video platform provider they purchased in August of last year, with an IPO on the NYSE or NASDAQ. I’ve been hearing these rumors for a few weeks now and while it would be good to see another online video platform provider join Brightcove as a public company, Ooyala’s not setting realistic expectations on the size of the market they are in, or how quickly they can grow.

Based on what some at Telstra have told me, Ooyala is predicting they will do $100M in revenue for 2015. At the same time, Ooyala keeps talking about how they think their business can grow to do $1B in revenue in a few years, which isn’t realistic. Last year, Ooyala said the market for the technologies and services they provide “will be worth tens of billions in the next few years,” a number not even close to reality. Vendors do this all the time where they take every single product or service in the video ecosystem, even if they don’t offer parts of it, and round it up to one big number. But the only number that is relevant is the direct market you sell into, for a specific service.

The market that Ooyala provides services to is around half a billion dollars today. That’s the real revenue being generated in 2015 by vendors selling similar solutions to Ooyala. I know some vendors will say the market “opportunity” is more, but that’s not a real number. What you book in revenue, what your competitors book in contracts, that’s what’s real. That’s the size of the market. Also, a good percentage of the revenue coming from these services moves from one vendor to another with contract renewals. So a shift in wallet share impacts revenue, but it does not impact the market size the way some count it.

Brightcove made this same mistake when they went public in 2012, by using market sizing numbers that simply weren’t real. Their S-1 filing said the market opportunity was “approximately $2.3 billion in 2011, growing to approximately $5.8 billion in 2015,” when they had revenue of $64M. Since Brightcove went public in 2012, their revenue growth has declined each year. In 2013, Brightcove’s year-over-year revenue growth was 20%. In 2014, it dropped to 12% and based on Brightcove’s projected revenue of $133M for 2015 that would put their revenue growth this year at 6%. Based on Brightcove’s market sizing projections, the company will capture 0.000002% of the market this year. These market sizing numbers are just silly. They aren’t real.

While Brightcove and Ooyala offer similar products, Ooyala does sell into operators, which Brightcove doesn’t. But that alone is not enough to justify their market or revenue projections. Even if Ooyala grew revenue 50% each year, it would take them six years to get to $1B. If they execute everything in their business perfectly, the market simply isn’t as big as they suggest it is, which doesn’t support their growth expectations.

Ooyala does have a major advantage over Brightcove, which is the fact that Telstra is pumping a lot of money into the company. Ooyala is due to move into their new 65,000 sq ft headquarters in Santa Clara later this year, and the company has been on a huge hiring spree. Ooyala currently has 63 job openings on their website and has been hiring 50 employees per quarter. So Telstra is doubling down on this business and betting big, which is great to see. But we also haven’t seen a single OVP prove to the market that they can become a profitable business based on their current business model. Ooyala doesn’t have to worry about profitability for a while since Telstra is clearly sacrificing profitability for growth, but at some point, the P&L of any vendor’s business is going to matter.

Ooyala has a lot going on with their current hiring spree, moving into a new HQ and potentially going public sometime soon. The company is also looking to hire a COO for the company, along with some other executive positions. They have all the tools to needed to grow this business, but one of the hardest things to do for any company is manage such fast expansion. This is something that has hindered many vendors in the online video industry. Just as they start to get big, we’ve seen QoS issues, problems with scaling the business and keeping up with demand. Ooyala had this problem in the past as their business started to grow, hence why it made sense for them to be acquired by Telstra and have the resources of a bigger company behind them.

I want to make it clear; I’m not knocking Ooyala, Brightcove or any other video platform provider. These vendors provide a valuable service in the market, making the complex video ecosystem easy to use and deploy. I’m just as excited about the market opportunity as they are. But setting false expectations simply sets companies up for failure and is bad for the entire industry. I want companies to grow, but the growth has to be tempered with expectations that companies can actually achieve. Be excited, but be realistic.

Job Opening: Head of Technical Operations, WSJ Video

WSJ-Video-LogoDow Jones has an opening for a Head of Technical Operations for WSJ Video in NYC. This individual is responsible for the day-to-day technical operations of the WSJ Video department. Candidates must have a minimum of 5 years experience in managing and mentoring technical staff, expertise in digital video engineering from both broadcasting and digital publishing perspectives, capital budget management, studio facilities management, construction project management, and deep knowledge of digital asset management systems, and video server infrastructure. For full details on the job, visit the website.

If you company has a unique job opening they are looking to fill, send it to me. I’ll highlight it on my blog or via Twitter, free of charge.

Windows 10 Traffic Data: Most ISPs Doing Well, Especially In The U.S.

Data is slowly starting to come in on how ISPs are handling the Windows 10 update and overall, it seems most ISPs are doing well, with a few experiencing some QoS QoE issues. Third-party data shows that the CDNs Microsoft is using for a large percentage of downloads have so far, not experienced any performance problems. Based on numbers I have been given, total traffic amongst all CDNs delivering the update looks to have peaked at around 10Tb/s, with more traffic on Wednesday than Thursday. It should be noted that Microsoft is still stating that Windows 10 is in a limited release, so this is only the start.

The below chart from a major ISP in the U.S. that I will not name shows Windows 10 downloads accounting for just over 10% of all the traffic inside their network on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.42.14 PMOther ISPs outside the U.S. I have spoken to have said Windows 10 downloads are accounting for 20% of their overall traffic, which is the peak number I have heard. The size of the ISP and the number of subs they have are some of the biggest determining factors when it comes to the numbers, so many will report variations from one another. Procera Networks has just put up a blog post, with charts, showing one European ISP seeing a spike of 30Gb/s. Sandvine has a blog post from today as well saying that Windows 10 traffic accounted for “between 6-8% of traffic during peak”, for a North American ISP they monitored.

It’s clear that ISPs in the U.S. have fared well, with Cox being the only one that I have seen so far, that’s had some Latency issues.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.55.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.55.13 PM
Microsoft’s approach of staging Windows 10 downloads in a tiered model is working well and was a smart way to go about it. They still have a long way to go, as updates still have to roll out for corporate versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 and plenty of users won’t update in the first 24 hours, so a lot more traffic is coming. But the way Microsoft is metering the delivery seems to have provided most with a good download experience. I have seen some users complaining their download is taking four, or even six hours to finish, but it does not seem to be the norm. Overall, Windows 10 will result in the largest number of bits being delivered on the web, for a single event, especially with the Windows 10 download file size being 3x larger than the iOS 8 update. Follow me on Twitter where I will post more numbers and charts as I get them.

Windows 10 Launch Could Seriously Break The Internet, Could Peak At 40Tb/s

Windows-10-logo-white(Update: Tuesday July 28th: As of 1pm ET, the Windows 10 launch is already massive with traffic over 10Tb/s.) I’ve never used the term “break the Internet” because most of the time people say that, they are simply overhyping  an event on the web. But with the volume of downloads that Microsoft is expecting for the launch of Windows 10 and the capacity they have already reserved from third-party CDNs to deliver the software, the Internet is in for some real performance problems this week. Based on numbers I am hearing from multiple sources, Microsoft has reserved up to 40Tb/s per second of capacity from all of the third-party CDNs combined. To put that number in perspective, some of Apple’s recent largest live events on the web have peaked at 8Tb/s. Windows 10 is expected to be five times that and will easily be the largest day/week of traffic ever on the Internet. QoS problems are to be expected, especially since all of the CDNs will be rate limiting their delivery of the 3GB download and many ISPs will max out interconnection capacity in certain cities.

Microsoft keeps changing the date of when the update will initially go live, but as of now, it looks like it will be available this afternoon (Updated: Will be Tues. morning) for those in the Windows Insider Program and then open up to everyone on Wednesday. That date could get pushed back again, but whatever day it launches, Windows 10 will surely create a new traffic record on the Internet. Microsoft will be using third-party CDNs Akamai, Limelight Networks, Level 3, EdgeCast and a few smaller providers to deliver the downloads. Akamai has the largest share of the traffic with Limelight being number two in volume. Microsoft’s own CDN will handle some of the downloads themselves, but I expect that will make up only a small percentage of the overall volume of delivery.

Unless Windows 10 is a complete flop and people don’t upgrade as quickly as Microsoft expects, Windows 10 is going to create some serious havoc with regards to the user experience. Expect to see some download times in the days, not hours, especially if any other content owners happen to have larger than expected traffic at the same time. Quality of service for downloads could deteriorate really quickly and remain poor for days, if not longer. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the traffic demands and delivery performance and will post the data I get from third-party companies shortly after the download goes live.

New Patent Pool Wants 0.5% Of Every Content Owner/Distributor’s Gross Revenue For Higher Quality Video

In March, a new group named HEVC Advance announced the formation of a new patent pool [see: New HEVC Patent Pool Launches Creating Confusion & Uncertainly In The Market] with the goal of compiling over 500 patents pertaining to HEVC technology. The pool of patent holders, which is “expected” to include GE, Technicolor, Dolby, Philips, and Mitsubishi Electric has just announced their royalty rates and are going directly after content owners and CE manufacturers. HEVC Advance wants 0.5% of content owners attributable gross revenue for each HEVC Video type. To put in perspective how unjust and unfair their licensing terms are, they want 0.5% of Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and every other content owner/distributor’s revenue, as it pertains to HEVC usage. Considering that most content owners and distributors plan to convert all of their videos over time to use the new High Efficiency Video Coding compression standard, companies like Facebook, Netflix and others would have to pay over $100M a year in licensing payments. The licensing terms apply to all content services that get revenue from advertising, subscription and PPV – which pretty much equals every content owner, OTT provider, broadcaster, sports league, satellite broadcaster and cable provider you can think of.

Making matters worse, HEVC Advance says their licensing terms [listed in detail here] are “retroactive to date of 1st sale”, so companies would be required to make payments on content they have already distributed using HEVC. In addition to content owners, HEVC Advance is also going after CE manufacturers of TV, mobile and streaming devices. TV manufacturers would have to pay $1.50 per unit and mobile devices incur a cost of $0.80 per unit. Streaming boxes, cable set-top-boxes, game consoles, Blu-ray players, digital video recorders, digital video projectors, digital media storage devices, personal navigation devices and digital photo frames would cost a manufacturer $1.10 per unit.

While HEVC Advance is quick to say how “fair and reasonable” their terms are, they aren’t. The best way to describe their terms would be unreasonable and greedy. MPEG LA, another licensing body for HEVC patents, charges CE manufacturers $0.20 per unit after the first 100,000 units each year (no royalties are payable for the first 100,000 units) up to a current maximum annual amount of $25M. HEVC Advance’s rates for TV manufacturers is seven times more expensive than MPEG LA’s licensing fees. In addition, MPEG LA charges content owners nothing for utilizing HEVC technologies in their business. (Updated 7/24: Removed reference to the licensing terms for AVC to make it easier to compare pricing)

Licensing groups typically don’t go after content owners; instead they go to hardware and platform vendors in the market who are customers of content distributors. But in this case, HEVC Advance is going directly after content owners and isn’t asking CDNs, encoding vendors or others in the video ecosystem to license their patents. What HEVC Advance doesn’t grasp is that this approach of trying to get a share of content owners revenues has been tried in the past and failed miserably. MPEG-4 Part 2, the original MPEG-4 video compression that pre-dated AVC failed in the market because of this licensing approach. Content owners are not willing to share in their revenue, and HEVC Advance is taking a fatal flaw in their approach. The fact that they think someone like Facebook, Apple or Netflix is going to hand over tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to them, each year, shows just how delusional they really are. While I don’t expect HEVC Advance to get any traction with content owners, their licensing terms could have some major impacts in the industry. Right now, content licensing deals around streaming media services do not account for the cost of royalty payments. So if more money is required to play back higher-quality video, content licensing costs will go up, and consumers are going to foot the bill for higher priced streaming services

Another big problem is that there are no caps on the proposed royalties. This creates an immense burden for Internet-based technologies and software applications that may be looking to incorporate HEVC, since there is, in most cases, no realistic way of predicting what percentage of your content will be consumed using HEVC each month. Secondly, the 0.5% royalty on all revenues attributable to HEVC-based content is, to put it mildly, a loose cannon. This umbrella is intended to cover both direct revenue such as from subscription and PPV services as well as indirect revenues such as advertising supported business models. One could argue that the definition could be pushed so far as to cover the purchase price of merchandise that is advertised using HEVC-compressed video. If Zappos has a product video of a shoe on their website encoded using HEVC, Zappos would have to give a percentage of the sale of that show to HEVC Advance. Furthermore, this is 0.5% of gross revenues, not net profit, and so it is effectively a “compression tax” that spans content licensing fees and all content delivery expenses that any content service provider needs to generate in order to be profitable. Recall again that there is no cap on fees, and you can see how this one’s almost inevitably headed to the courts.

Currently, these terms only capture B2C applications such as social media, streaming video and Pay TV but licensing terms for B2B use cases such as video conferencing, video surveillance and enterprise video webcasting are still being considered by HEVC Advance. It is conceivable that those use cases will not be licensed at the same onerous terms as the content-based fee, but the burden generated by the current B2C licensing terms is almost certain anyway to increase the perceived risk by enterprises of adopting HEVC. This is a shame because HEVC has the potential to begin to transform the video delivery infrastructure, and was finally approaching an inflection point where shipments and usage was projected to rise to meaningful levels. 4K content is already reeling under the pressures of unviable economics. From limited improvement in visual quality to storage and transmission costs that rise at a much higher multiple than monetization can, the financial argument for 4K was already hurting for the vast majority of use cases. The present curveball thrown by HEVC Advance further impacts this already risky value proposition.

Adding insult to injury, HEVC Advance has yet to provide any details on which patents they expect to be in the pool. The company has said they will have more details to share later in the year, yet they acknowledge that the patents have not yet gone through an independent patent evaluation process, which they expect to start next month. HEVC Advance’s CEO also mentioned that some of the patent owners that are “expected” to be in the pool, are still finalizing their paperwork, so there is no confirmation yet of exactly which companies are officially in the pool. No patents have as yet been identified by HEVC Advance as being essential to HEVC, even though HEVC Advance says many of the patents are essential. In other words, there is still room for patent holders to take the responsible road and monetize their intellectual property in a fairer, more scalable and more industry-friendly manner, on their own, or in other pools other than HEVC Advance.

While some content owners have told me they feel these rates don’t apply to them since they use cloud providers to encode and deliver their content, that’s not a valid argument. They are not protected in their contracts with vendors when the vendors are not required to have to license the technology. If content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance, which is what I suggest they do, HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable. Since HEVC Advance is simply a licensing body, they can’t sue anyone. The actual patents holders would have to legally go after thousands of content owners and CE manufacturers, which I don’t see someone like Technicolor, Dolby, Philips, and Mitsubishi Electric having the time or energy to do. But make no mistake, there is a lot at stake here. 0.5% of a market that is over $100B a year is a lot of money that HEVC Advance is going after.

Another interesting impact this could have on the industry is the potential for content owners and CE manufacturers to move away from HEVC and adopt Google’s competing VP9 codec, which requires no licensing. This might be hard for many who have already tied their services to hardware, but nothing is stopping them from re-encoding their library to use VP9 for playback via the web and apps and then only use HEVC for playback tied to TVs and other hardware devices. HEVC Advance’s licensing terms definitely put VP9 in the spotlight and are going to have many content owners running the numbers to see how much money they can save, if they had to pay the royalties, versus the cost to re-encode into VP9. The whole reason content owners are moving to HEVC is better quality, with fewer bits, which equals a cheaper cost. If the cost savings is now erased by new royalty payments for HEVC technology, what’s the point of using HEVC over VP9? This is a question many content owners are going to start asking themselves.

The bottom line is that HEVC Advance is bad for the industry, for consumers, for the growth of 4K and in my two calls with the company, it’s clear that lawyers are driving the licensing, not technology people. The company was under the impression that content owners deliver their own content, which most don’t since they use third-party CDNs. So even if a content owner wanted to license patents from HEVC Advance, they don’t currently have the data that’s needed to determine what they pay. This means they would have to spend more money and time to to set up a data collection process, in addition to the added cost of the license. HEVC Advance thinks content owners and distributors track what percentage of their content is consumed via different codecs, which isn’t accurate, and they were dumbfounded when I told them that. Almost all of their answers to my questions was that they would make it “easy” for companies and “work with them”, but of course they don’t understand the basics and don’t have the skills to even know what kind of help content owners would need.

HEVC Advance excels when it comes to being vague, speaking in lawyer terms, not being specific, and showcasing their complete lack of understanding of the market they are going after. Frankly, it’s insulting that their press release from today speaks to how they are providing “efficient and transparent access to patents”, yet, have provided no details on any of the actual patents. This pool is completely incompetent and lacks any real understanding of the market.

This won’t be the last we’re hearing about patents pertaining to HEVC and higher-quality video/audio as Dolby has already told content owners that they should expect another royalty, as it pertains HDR in addition to HEVC. So don’t assume that HEVC and 4K are going to get the kind of traction that many are predicting. (Updated 7/23: Edited post to reference Google’s VP9 codec, not VP10)

Frost & Sullivan Analyst Avni Rambhia contributed to this post.

Note: I am available to talk to any content owner, vendor, member of the media or anyone else who wants details on all of this. This is bad for everyone, and I am making it my job to try to educate everyone as much as possible. I have already had multiple calls with lawyers and intellectual property groups at content firms, MSOs and others potentially impacted by this. All calls are off-the-record and confidential. I can be reached anytime at 917-523-4562 or mail@danrayburn.com