Cover Story – Tony Berthaud

tonyTony Berthaud is Vice President, Sales, Asia Pacific,at Harmonic. He has more than 15 years of experience in the broadcast industry, having served as VP of Sales and Services for Asia Pacific at Thomson Video Networks, and led the sales effort in Southern Europe for Thales Broadcast, as well as developed the Greater China market for Grass Valley, where he was director of sales for Northeast Asia, with responsibility for the cable and terrestrial TV markets.

1) Harmonic has been selected to provide media storage and play out server for NBC Olympics’ production of 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. It’s a big achievement. What’s your reaction on it?

Harmonic video infrastructure, including Spectrum™ media servers and MediaGrid shared storage systems, have been at the heart of the NBC Olympics production workflow since the 2008 Beijing Games, and we’re very proud to have been a trusted partner of NBC Olympics over the years. For the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, NBC Olympics will use the multiple Harmonic solutions in its most critical production areas: in 10 global locations covering the event for broadcast, on demand, digital, news operations and long-term archive. We’ve worked together to develop and refine this wide-area production model, and we look forward to watching as NBC Olympics uses it to deliver a spectacular multi platform offering of exciting, timely content.

2) 4K is the latest sensation in the world of television. Now what next can we expect?

Although 4K movie streaming services have helped video content and service providers move beyond HD, the next big thing in the world of television will be to offer content including genre-based TV and live sports events at a higher resolution and with the benefit of higher dynamic range (HDR) and frame rates. Of course, these advances come at a cost — changes in image capture techniques and formats, increased real-time processing requirements, and improvements to infrastructure and interfaces, among others. That said, consumer demand for a more compelling television experience will drive movement toward delivery of both on-demand and live content in a more engaging and visually striking format.

3) How would you differentiate Harmonic from its competitors?

Harmonic has shown itself to be an innovator in the technologies shaping the future of the media industry:software-based cloud-native offerings (VOS™ Cloud and VOS 360) and advanced media processing solutions(powered by the Harmonic PURE Compression Engine™),and media over IP support. By pushing the boundaries of media technology, Harmonic’s industry-leading products deliver the video quality, density and cost and bandwidth efficiencies that help pay-TV operators and broadcasters to differentiate their existing services and to quickly launch and supply new revenue-generating services to any consumer device.

4) How do you see India’s cable television’s journey from analogue to digital domain?

Cable television in India is a very large market. Until recently, this was mainly dominated by analog networks and digitalization was driven by the decision of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to complete the shift from analogue to digital systems in four main phases from 2012 to 2016. This completely metamorphosed the cable television landscape and significantly accelerated the migration to digital.

Even if the migration is not fully completed yet, we are almost there. I believe that the next steps for the cable operators will be to work on optimizing their content delivery infrastructures in order to deliver better video quality and higher resolution. I believe this will happen progressively and with the recent acquisition of Thomson Video Networks, we are able to offer ViBE XT1000 to the cable operators in India—a very dense solution that helps cable operators turnaround channels cost-effectively.

I also think that the cable industry will smoothly migrate toward offering more value-added services, mostly  broadband and OTT. This will help the cable TV operator to differentiate and be more competitive.

5) India is considered as one of the world’s largest television markets. Do you have any plan to tap the potential of this market in future?

India is a very dynamic market where Harmonic has seen a strong expansion for many years.

We continue to help our customers migrate to the latest technologies with respect to moving toward a new compression standard such as HEVC and introduce higher resolution content with UHD. We also support them in building unified architectures that will allow them to deliver their content through several networks and to multiple screens. In a rapidly changing environment, this is critical.

We also see an increase in terms of content distribution and a shift in how viewers consume content. On-demand delivery to connected devices is becoming very common as internet infrastructures continue to develop. As a consequence, OTT content delivery solutions are now an important part of our business and critical to our strategy. It is also interesting to note that both the content providers and the pay-TV operators are now investing in these new technologies. Their main targets are to improve the user experience while reducing the cost of delivery (CDN). In addition to our current solutions, we are working on launching new technologies that will help deliver very good picture quality at even lower bit rates than today.

Finally, it is also extremely important for us to optimize total-cost-of-ownership for customers.

6) Digital media is making content more & more personalized.  Do you think there is enough digital content available in the market to satisfy the growing demand of the customers?

We do see an explosion of content worldwide,and global screen time keeps increasing, which is a good sign for our industry. Certainly content is more and more localized, even personalized. In a world where people are extremely mobile, the demand for personalized content accessible anywhere on-the-go is growing significantly. Viewers want to watch content that matters to them and matches their expectations.

In our content delivery business, customers are now investing significantly to create more content and indeed more personalized programs. The first trend is for pay-TV operators to develop their own creations in order to differentiate themselves from competitors – some even launch their own channels and offer exclusive content via OTT or on-demand platforms. We help them build state-of-the-art production and playout facilities leveraging our servers and storage solutions Spectrum™ X and MediaGrid. A second trend is content regionalization for turnaround channels with local branding, insertion of local news, local programs and local advertisement.For this application, Harmonic offers the best edge playout solution on the market: Fuze-1. It is a very versatile channel-in-a-box capable of playout, switching, graphics insertion and encoding in multiple formats, all from one server.

7) Can cloud show its complete impact in shaping the media processing in near future?

The cloud is already showing how it can benefit the media industry. In addition to the traditional broadcast appliances (offering density) and new software platforms (offering flexibility), cloud offers a more agile content delivery approach. I certainly see cloud processing as an excellent solution for content providers and operators that need elasticity, either because they don’t have the resources in-house (whether platform and/or people) or because they require a very quick time-to-market. With our VOS™ Cloud and VOS 360 solutions launched at NAB 2016, we are at the leading edge of content delivery solutions providers for cloud applications. We anticipate continued momentum and are currently working on many projects around the world including in India.

8) Harmonic is a world renowned name in video content delivery.  How do you feel about it?

Harmonic has a long history starting as a fiber-optic company and transforming itself into the worldwide leader of video delivery infrastructure. Since the first significant external growth in 2000, the strategy has always been to build a global video powerhouse. The recent acquisition of Thomson Video Networks will continue to fuel our growth, accelerating innovation and R&D efforts, broadening our product portfolio and scaling up our global reach. This Gives us the ability to provide new technologies and more products that fit our customers’ requirements and budget expectations as well as a bigger team to support customers’ project planning and installation.

9) What challenges are there presently in the video content delivery?

Legacy distribution models are being challenged by many evolutions of the video delivery market. But from my point of view, content providers and pay-TV operators can turn these challenges into real opportunities to enhance the user experience and to grow and diversify the business.

First of all, there is currently a content explosion with much more content being produced and made available. That also means operators managing content delivery infrastructures need to search for exclusive and high value content so they can differentiate from their competitors. Typically, that’s why we see more and more pay-TV operators producing their own original TV series. Clearly, it is an opportunity for content providers and pay-TV operators to leverage the creativity of their teams.

Secondly, consumer behaviors are changing. Viewers are not only watching TV from the sofa. They want to be able to watch content on the move, on-demand and on connected devices such as tablets and smartphones. This leads service providers and pay-TV operators to spend more on building infrastructure that can efficiently answer these requirements, typically OTT architecture. Some may see this as a challenge, but I personally see an opportunity. Screen time increased significantly over the past five years, mainly driven by on-demand applications and connected devices. That certainly creates opportunities to grow revenue both through selling content and advertising air-time.

10) What keeps you busy in your leisure time?

I travel every week across Asia Pacific, so when I’m home I typically dedicate my leisure time to my family. My kids Elise and Nathan are very dynamic. We all love watersports so you will usually find us swimming, kayaking or on a boat.

11) Tell us something memorable about your journey so far in this industry.

It is actually quite challenging to pick one particular event among so many good memories! Let me choose one that illustrates that sometimes successful business can be made from a fairly casual encounter. About 12 years ago, I was working for a start-up selling content security solutions, mainly dealing with post-production companies. One day I met a famous director in a corridor, and in less than three minutes, I explained the benefits of our newly launched solution. The next day we heard he called most of the post-production companies in the area requesting them to deploy our solutions to protect his productions.I will always remember this short encounter as the beginning of the success for this business.

12) Your clients consist some of the world’s biggest names. Does it build any extra pressure on you?

Working with the biggest names in the industry gives me strong motivation. I have been in the content delivery industry for nearly 20 years, and my objective has always been to act as a partner rather than just a supplier. Whether the customers are large corporations or start-ups, my strategy is the same: I listen to them, I analyze their needs and I work with my team to design the best possible solutions for them, taking into account their short- and long-term requirements and budget constraints.

13) Last but not the least; is there any valuable suggestion / advice for the video content delivery industry from a tycoon of this industry?

We are working in a fast-changing industry, and it is important to consider these changes as opportunities rather than challenges.

From my point of view, the priority in terms of content delivery must be given to building unified infrastructure that can deliver content via multiple networks and various connected devices.

In terms of infrastructure, I would suggest migrating toward IP, software solutions and cloud services as these are powerful technologies that create agile, flexible and cost-effective content delivery platforms.

And always remember that content is king, so producing and delivering exclusive and good quality content must be a priority. It is also important to define a global content delivery strategy that includes not only linear channels but also localized content and video on demand.

And video is the No. 1 hobby in the world, so don’t forget to have fun.