So many apps, so little time.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is filling out its Infinite Video platform with a new acquisition aimed at speeding up over-the-top (OTT) video app creation and distribution. The company announced this morning that it intends to acquire 1 Mainstream, a startup founded by veterans of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Roku Inc. and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), and supported by funding from TV giant Sky . (See Startup Automates TV Apps for Devices.)
The acquisition gives Cisco a solution for media and service provider customers that want to port their online video services to as many app platforms as possible. These include not only iOS and Android, but also app platforms for connected TV devices like the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire products. In addition to customized app production and management services, 1 Mainstream also provides analytics and monetization features that help customers plug into billing systems like iTunes, while also supporting advertising-based business models.
"I think it's pretty important functionality that Cisco doesn't have," says nScreen Media Chief Analyst Colin Dixon.
Despite Cisco's ability to shift video workflows into the cloud, Dixon adds that "the problem remains that it's very difficult to then launch a new service and reach all of the devices very quickly because you end up having to build a whole bunch of different apps and that takes a long time. And then you have to maintain all of those apps, and that takes a lot of resources. It becomes very expensive and a long proposition to actually deliver a service once you've got it in the cloud to all of the devices. And that's where 1 Mainstream comes in."
The 1 Mainstream platform works by offering app templates in a portal-type interface that customers can then customize using the content assets they have. For example, a service provider could decide to highlight "Game of Thrones" in the main window of its Roku app, but the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) original "Red Oaks" in its apps for Fire TV devices.
1 Mainstream CEO Rajeev Ramen describes it this way: "[We're] automating the process of creating native apps on different devices by using your content to program the app experience."
Dixon confirms that 1 Mainstream's approach is different from other vendors on the market, including NeuLion Inc. , which is one of the big players in the OTT video space. (See OTT & the Net New Effect.)
With 1 Mainstream, says Dixon, "you customize [the app] right there in the portal, saying which features you want, which features you don't, and colors and whatnot. Then you basically say 'I want it on these platforms,' and 1 Mainstream does the rest. And that's quite a big deal."
1 Mainstream also brings a stable of high-profile customers with it to Cisco including Sky, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and the NFL. And Cisco is optimistic that growing demand among its customer base is going to drive even more business.
"One of the things that we've seen in our Infinite Video platform," says Cisco SVP and GM Conrad Clemson, "is that especially with a number of our media customers, they're looking at us and they're going 'hey guys, what we're really trying to do is get our content to the main screen, and we want to get to the main screen on this plethora of devices that we know is in the living room.'" (See also Here Come the TV Apps!)
As an added bonus, Cisco is also bringing on board a new slate of talent as it acquires 1 Mainstream.
"This is a cloud team," says Clemson. "These guys are operating a cloud service at scale today. So adding that kind of talent to our team… that's a huge plus for us too."
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading