Ed Laczynski and I met more than six years ago over a dinner at the Rijks in Amsterdam. My first impression of Ed was that he is highly analytical and an inspiring serial entrepreneur. Ed is one of the founders of Zype who have been talented in the ability to build end-to-end Smart TV experiences with the ability to manage videos and applications across one platform. The dinner led to a partnership between our two companies at that time, Zype and Opera TV. Since then, I have followed the team at Zype and continue to be impressed in their way to navigate the Connected TV industry.
Last year, Zype announced its acquisition by Backlight, a global media technology company. Backed by $200M in funding from PSG, Backlight invested in Zype and four other fast growing media tech companies, ftrack, Iconik, Celtx and Wildmoka, all sharing a common vision to dramatically improve the way content producers, owners and distributors create value with video and rich media. Earlier this week Backlight announced All five brands have since become product lines of Backlight with the company’s two divisions: Backlight Creative and Backlight Streaming.
Ed and Wildmoka co founder Cristian Livadiotti, are now Divisional co-CEOs of Backlight Streaming.
I asked Ed what his 2025 vision of the FAST industry was and where he sees Backlight emerging in this space?
Our vision is to be the platform for hyperdistribution, and FAST is such an important and impactful part of that for our customers. We partner directly with both the streaming endpoints (connected TV manufacturers, OTT platforms, Apps marketplaces, social media) as well as owned and operated services on behalf of our media and entertainment customers. We expect continuedgrowth in FAST in North America, and by 2025 we expect to see Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East starting to grow as well. Backlight is already in these markets, and we are excited to be a force for change in these regions.
What sparked your interest in jumping into the FAST Channel industry?
I think the first IP-based FAST service that piqued my interest was Xumo. We did some early work with them, along with companies like Opera TV (where we met you, Daniel!) who were innovating in OTT by pushing the envelope to make it easier for publishers of all sizes get quality distribution. That said, I think that FAST is so natural for us children of the digital age, who were born during the transition from analog, to digital, and now to IP-based video. FAST is as “at home” for us as our old cable box and broadcast TV channels.
Tell us about Backlight;
Backlight is a leader in FAST technology by virtue of our Zype Playout and Zype Streaming Platform products. We provide an intuitive programmable interface that supports all major standards for distribution and integration with the FAST advertising and subscription economy.
What are the biggest challenges that you see today and in the next couple of years for FAST Channels and your company?
I think the broken ads and broken slates in FAST are a big drag on the user experience. We are investing and realizing better yields for our customers with superior ad tech integration strategies, lower latency, pre-fetching, and other techniques to make sure viewers don’t tune out.
Another big challenge is going to be developing a solid and profitable ad-revenue marketplace in markets like Latin America and Europe to support the costs of delivery.
Finally, we see the convergence of ad delivery, server-side ad insertion, and content delivery with some distributors and vMVPDs turning into a tug-of-war between publishers and distributors over data and access to engagement and behavioral insights that drive great programming decisions. That is why we already have the leading data aggregation platform at the edge, as well as hooks into OTT and social media platforms to collect and report on content engagement when the publisher isn’t responsible for delivery.
What other companies do you look to for inspiration in the FAST industry and what inspires you from them?
I look at Apple for inspiration in user experience and discovery design—but not the Apple TV remote which is a source of much frustration in our house these days☺
For understanding value and needs and feature opportunities for our Playout product, which powers millions of household views in FAST today across the US, Europe, and Australia, we look to our customers. We seek to deeply understand and integrate with their workflows and existing investments to make their journey to FAST as seamless as possible, while providing an innovative set of tools and APIs for them to program, build, and innovate on their own.
What’s your favourite FAST Channel and why?
My favorite FAST Channel is Vevo Retro Rock (love that metal goodness).
Time flies quickly in this industry and it has been great to follow Ed and his team at Zype throughout the years. The Backlight roll-up makes a lot of sense and they have managed to gather a lot of great talent as well as impressive technologies. I am looking forward to trying to meet again at Rijks in Amsterdam in four years, and discuss the evolution of FAST & Connected TV with Ed.