VOD Syndication: an updated definition

Syndication is a term that continues to evolve along with the way consumers and content interact. Originally, it simply referred to the act of selling a piece of content, be it print, radio or TV, to multiple sources for publication or broadcast. When talking about video delivery in today’s multi-platform environment, here at Comcast Technology Solutions we refer to video on demand (VOD) syndication as a necessary extension of the term to include the entire process of preparing and delivering content for distribution to syndication outlets – destinations that cater to both traditional broadcast and over-the-top video products.

Monetization strategy and VOD workflow are intertwined

A modern VOD syndication workflow needs to have the inherent agility to answer two simple questions for content providers:

  1. Where do you need your VOD content delivered?

  2. How do you plan to make money from it?

The truth is, each question opens a Pandora’s box of delivery challenges, and the delivery workflow has to solve for every permutation of syndication outlet + end user device + business model. That’s a lot of workflow complexity, even without factoring in the unique metadata needs of each VOD program.

Based on the destination for each VOD asset and the content provider’s business model, initial ingest might be file-based, but it’s not the quickest path to the “play” button. In order to accelerate VOD delivery to capitalize on Nielsen C3 windows, a more effective approach is to capture the live linear program during initial broadcast. For delivery to MVPD syndication outlets like pay-TV or TV Everywhere platforms, ad-supported VOD properties, over-the-top virtual MVPDs or to OTT services, live capture means not having to wait for a file to be transferred. Programs can be recorded upon initial airing, edited, and immediately prepared for cross-platform syndication. Here are a few possible use cases:

  • Pay-TV set-top boxes (STBs) and TV Everywhere platforms are a use case all on their own, requiring a combination of live capture, specific MPEG-2 HD and SD file types, and metadata output that directs ad-enabled content to every STB.
  • Virtual MVPDs and subscription OTT services require different file formats and metadata, but still must reach a complex ecosystem of devices, access points, and subscription permissions with uniform high quality that supports the brand.
  • For some ad-enabled content it’s especially time-critical to maximize the C3 window, otherwise dollars are left on the production floor with every delivery. For others, less so, but there’s still an aim to make the most out of D4-D7, additional Nielsen metrics that impact the price an advertiser is willing to pay. In either case, the ingest approach needs to be modified in order to reflect the needs of each program – there’s no viable “one size fits all” workflow.

The right strategy? Technically, all of the above.

A hybrid VOD Syndication workflow is the smartest delivery strategy from a long-haul perspective, providing programmers and content providers with the agility to present a top-tier viewing experience across as many syndication outlets as possible, and then to extract the most value once the content is available for consumption. Advertising is getting more and more sophisticated, but each video asset needs to be prepped for the technique in question. Some need to be “pre-baked” with ad spots incorporated into the program, whereas “clean” assets can be used for dynamic ad insertion (DAI).

Look at it this way: aside from an increasingly disparate device / delivery landscape, 4K and VR are on the horizon – and those exponentially larger files can add even more time and expense to storage, management, and delivery. Even if they’re not this year’s revenue focus, our industry has a way of innovating itself into compressed timelines on a regular basis, so successful video brands either adopt the technology and processes to stay on top of it, or build a partnership that can help them to be most flexible. VOD Syndication is really an all-encompassing term that takes this into consideration and helps media companies to step back and assess their business from a more holistic, big-picture standpoint without worrying about all the technical and operational complexity. While we work to update the dictionary, it’s worth an update in vocabulary to consider VOD Syndication with refreshed context.