• Grab Networks, Syndicaster, Others Offering Local TV Stations Opportunity to Reinvent Themselves

    Last Friday, in "Broadcasters in Transition at NAB Show. But to What?" I painted a pretty downbeat picture of local broadcast TV stations' prospects in the broadband era. Coincidentally this week I had briefings with Syndicaster and Grab Networks, two companies offering technology solutions that could set local stations on the path to reinventing themselves and capitalizing on the Syndicated Video Economy.

    Though quite different in the scale and scope of their product offerings, Syndicaster and Grab share a common starting point: local stations need to learn how to better leverage and distribute their video content into the broadband ecosystem. Doing so means local stations must have the right tools to ingest, prepare, distribute, track and monetize their content - all steps that go far beyond their traditional and well-understood broadcast work flows.

    For its part, Syndicaster capitalizes on its parent company's (Critical Media) position of capturing and digitizing hundreds of local stations' broadcast signals. Syndicaster providers a web interface to transcripts of each on-air segment, which an editor is then able to easily edit into clips, generate metadata and distribute online. The process is very straightforward, and in the demo I saw, clips from various stations already using Syndicaster were being added in real-time.

    More recently Syndicaster has added the ability to upload video directly from the field to further compress the time required to get video up online. It has also integrated with Brightcove, YouTube, Yahoo and others for one click 3rd party syndication. It plans for user-captured video to be incorporated into the video catalog and a widget distribution model. Yesterday the company announced Journal Interactive is using the platform, along with other customers Bloomberg Television, LIN TV and Bonneville.

    Separately, Grab Networks, a company that was formed from the merger of Anystream and Voxant last Fall has in the last 60 days begun taking the wraps off its integrated solution, with plans for a formal announcement later this quarter.

    Grab too, begins with multiple ingestion options. But a key difference is that Grab auto-generates clips from the video feeds, assigning metadata to them and indexing them for editorial review or straight publication. This process, which Anystream has been working on for a long while, uses its own algorithms to analyze 40 different "tracks" of information about the video (e.g. speech-to-text, scene detection, facial recognition, close captioning, etc.). It then statistically distills the information gathered to generate the clips, metadata and index.

    Grab believes this core proprietary process is the heart of its value proposition and persuading broadcasters of its efficacy has been a key part of its early sales efforts. Grab executives explained that many customers are initially skeptical that all of this can be done by without human intervention, but upon seeing the results have become believers. (I only saw a limited demo, but it looked pretty darn good). Recognizing that some producers will want to refine clips further, Grab offers an editing module. It's important to understand this process doesn't just make publishing clips more efficient, it also creates more inherent value in each clip as the greater intelligence each clip now has enhances its discovery and monetization potential.

    Beyond clip generation, Grab's solution encompasses capabilities that many other companies offer as their primary business (transcoding, video CMS and player, ad insertion, DRM and rights control, pre-integrated syndication to multiple 3rd party distributors, etc.) And via the Voxant deal, Grab also offers a large (Feb comScore rank #26, 6M uniques) built-in syndication network for broadcasters to distribute into and obtain rights-cleared content from. Grab's executives said its comprehensive approach is a response to customers' requests for all-in-one solutions.

    Grab is in trials with 5 large station groups and anticipates announcing its first deal for the solution in the next 30 days (remember though that Anystream is building off a core transcoding business that has 700+ customers). Beyond local broadcasters, Grab thinks it will be appealing to other media segments like newspapers, cable networks, magazines, etc. - basically anyone that needs a full solution to power their video efforts ("an operating system for the syndicated video economy" as Grab CEO Fred Singer puts it)

    A bold vision indeed. But for local stations ready to acknowledge the urgency of their situations, quite possibly a technology lifeline.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.