Comcast is the epitome of both a media and technology company, so why not create its own media technology business?
As it turns out, that's exactly what the company has done.
Yesterday, the US cable giant unveiled the new Comcast Technology Solutions division, a combination of its Comcast Wholesale, thePlatform and This Technology business units. (See Comcast Debuts Technology Solutions Division.)
The services available under the new division fall across three broad categories: an Ad Platform, Video Platform and Wholesale Platform. Roughly speaking, these categories translate into ad production and distribution offerings, multiscreen video management and infrastructure services. No other company offers exactly the same capabilities, but as far as competitors go, Verizon Digital Media Services might be considered the closest rival. Other companies as varied as Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and even Facebook compete on different levels. (See IP Video Services Explode at IBC.)
As an advantage over many of its competitors, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) touts its history and experience as both a media business and a network operator. In talking about the company's content delivery network service last year, VP of IP services Barry Tishgart emphasized that advantage by explaining how Comcast has integrated video management services at every step with the actual video delivery process. That includes pairing capabilities like robust content ingest and encoding with content delivery in one, well-integrated workflow. (See Comcast Debuts CDN as Video Eats the World.)
Because Comcast is implementing many of these same functions in its core cable business, the company is also knowledgeable about how the technologies are evolving and what it takes to roll them out in a production environment. Advanced services like Ultra HD/4K video delivery and dynamic ad insertion are already deployed or on the roadmap for Comcast itself, and can be added with relative simplicity into the delivery infrastructure for another media customer.
Comcast has the necessary scale to support large media customers as well. That includes everything from infrastructure scale and the ability to transport large volumes of data traffic to the size of Comcast's ad delivery footprint, which boasts 18,000 media destinations.
The Technology Solutions business is different from Comcast's other cable technology initiatives, including its program to license the X1 video platform and its ongoing development work with the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software for both video and broadband customer premises equipment (CPE). (See Comcast Boasts Global Plans for X1.)
The new technology division is also separate from the many media businesses -- like Dreamworks, Buzzfeed and Vox Media -- that Comcast has acquired or invested in, which just goes to show how widely the cable company is spreading its interests. (See Comcast Nabs DreamWorks for $3.8B.)
For all of Comcast's strengths and expertise, however, the company is up against stiff competition in the media processing and delivery space. Verizon has built a solid customer roster under its DMS business; Facebook and Google own the world of advertising today; and Amazon boasts a global infrastructure footprint, just to cite a few examples. For the cable company to succeed, it will have to pick and choose where it can differentiate from these and other rivals.
Comcast has tapped its own Matt McConnell to run the Technology Solutions division. As an early customer reference, the cable company cites its work with Time Inc.'s new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Comcast helped launch the multiscreen PEN video service last month. The new network relies on Comcast's mpx monetization and commerce engine (including features like content syndication support and ad insertion capabilities) and Comcast's video delivery infrastructure.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading