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Cisco's Eos Takes Aim at Internet Media Management

Media companies, take heart: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) says it's coming to the rescue.

Cisco says the Eos platform provides a way for media to recapture control of their content management, Internet audience development, and media distribution from the likes of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).

"What my hope is, is that Cisco is going to be able to come in because we're trusted, and we don't compete with these [content owners], and we can come up with a strategy where these people are actually making revenues -- that's our basic pitch," says Dan Scheinman, senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Media Solutions Group.

Cisco has discussed Eos for about a year and half, and the platform got its official debut at CES in January. (See Cisco Takes On New Media and Cisco Goes Content Crazy.)

Today, Cisco gave a more in-depth look at Eos from the Media Solutions Group's downtown San Francisco offices -- located in China Basin and literally next door to the San Francisco Giants ballpark. (The group also has a presence in San Jose.)

Cisco's goal is to let media companies recapture the money they're losing through new Internet-based avenues. The music industry is a prime example: Apple, through iTunes, has become the intermediary holding a lot of control over how consumers purchase and search for music. Because it is the de facto distributor, it gets a high percentage of the price consumers pay for each song. Music labels have tried to get around this by creating digital media groups, but those groups tend to be alienated from the actual music. Analogous cases hold in all sorts of media; the digital media group gets "access to everything the company does except the content," says Dan Scheinman, senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Media Solutions Group.

"What Eos is about is ultimately giving the media company back control of its life and giving access to end user data," Scheinman says.

Eos is a hosted administrative platform that wraps multiple functions -- content management and analytics, for instance. It also lets media companies offer up social-networking pieces that let users communicate with the company and with each other.

Scheinman describes Eos as an outsider's look at the way a media company ought to run its Internet presence.

The alternative so far has been a panoply of Internet/media interfaces glommed together -- things like Wordpress blogs, or video driven by Brightcove Inc. -- onto a company's Web site. Scheinman noted one sports league that has 24 applications packed onto its home page, meaning it takes 24 log-ins to collect all the customer data accrued.

"Can you imagine, when you go to build Site 2, what that costs in terms of complexity and so forth?" Scheinman asks."

According to Cisco, media companies are pouring money into their digital efforts, but not getting much return because the efforts are so fragmented and because they lose control of the content distribution. The firm says 75 to 100 percent of the money some companies put into their online businesses goes into the technology. One TV network putting its programs online was getting $86 million in annual revenues but spending $84 million to do it -- and that doesn't count any of the costs of the programs themselves.

Cisco says it's got plenty of customers working on Eos -- sports leagues, for instance -- but it's only allowed to disclose two Warner Music artists' sites: Sean Paul (a reggae star whose site includes possibly objectionable content, mon) and Laura Izibor, a lesser-known artist from the U.K.

Obviously, Eos lets the media company build the Websites, including temporary specialty versions (a Christmas site that uses all the same data and features as the regular site, for instance.) It's also got tools for uploading and maintaining a library of media and the metadata for each item -- tags, thumbnails, expiration dates, etc.

It's important to remember this is all hosted, being run on Cisco's servers.

"One reason for that is then it collects a single view of the user... People, if they went from All Sean Paul to Laura Izibor, we can now connect the dots," Brown says. Cisco won't have the data to tie that information down to individual users; it's only going to track trends and commonalities, much the way credit card companies do with consumer purchases. [Ed. note: Yeah. Right.]

That kind of data collection is an important way for media companies to stave off competition from the likes of Apple and Google, Scheinman says. To give up that data would be to resign to Google's worldview where media becomes commoditized. "I can't imagine a way out for them other than knowledge of the customer," Scheinman says.

What Eos has to do next is "prove the thesis is right," that all this customer data and love can translate into business for the media companies, Scheinman says. Eos also has to scale up, and show that this hosted service can work once lots more media companies begin using it.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:00:55 PM
re: Cisco's Eos Takes Aim at Internet Media Management

If Eos is a success, Cisco will end up with mounds of consumer data for its customers to pick through.

Now, Cisco notes that it won't have personally identifiable info -- it won't know who a particular individual is, although its servers will be able to track what that user's been interested in.

Scheinman likens it to the credit card industry.  Visa and Mastercard know what individual consumers buy, but what that really nets them is a view on how packs of consumers behave.  Are hat sales weak in southern California?  Do football ticket buyers eat at Dennys? (eh, bad examples. you get the idea.)

Even so ... are you comfortable with your media-consumption habits residing on Cisco-hosted servers?

sterno 12/5/2012 | 4:00:55 PM
re: Cisco's Eos Takes Aim at Internet Media Management

Are you kidding? You're worried about Cisco and privacy? Google is the truly evil killer of privacy. EVERY gmail, search, map annotation, phone number called on upcoming phone product using your phone number as your identity, is cross-walked massively idexed and abused. Receive a gmail with the word "car" or "Ford" in it and soon their double click ads will be given the information and your will be plastered with it. Don't sweat a Cisco product that doesn't exist. Sweat the new Microsoft (only this one is networked connected, and so much, much more dangerous monopoly. 


jjolcover 12/5/2012 | 4:00:54 PM
re: Cisco's Eos Takes Aim at Internet Media Management

Isn't Cisco invested in several digital media companies like Move Networks and Digitalsmiths? It would seem these are natural entry points to quickly extend their ability to address the media industry.  Both companies appear to have larger customer footprints than Cisco in Tier 1 media- including management, distribution and playout. Cisco has attempted to enter this market several times previously and not been successful.  Their investments seem to know what it takes to succeed in the industry.  Would be great to see the as a technology and network leader make a meaningful and sustainable business in the industry.

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