NBC, Roku executives discuss video app optimization and OTT evolution

Representatives from NBCUniversal, Roku, Vimeo and Vice spoke at a panel discussion at at Streaming Media East Tuesday.

NEW YORK—The future of TV is dependent on how video apps and OTT services can evolve to address consumer demands, according to a panel discussion Tuesday at Streaming Media East.

Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, led a conversation between Moritz Gimbel, vice president of product at NBCUniversal; Benarda Duarte, director of content acquisition at Roku; Will True, lead product manager of TV apps for Vimeo; and Drake Martinet, vice president of product for Vice on video apps.

Gimbel said NBCU is still a firm believer in human curation and that the company views setting things like the news agenda for consumers as a service. He said that NBC is in the process of rebuilding its apps and websites and is envisioning a new cross-platform OTT experience that doesn’t require consumers to make any choices, at least for the first few minutes.


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“I want to get away from search and scrolling through playlists as discovery,” said Gimbel, adding that NBCU only has about half a dozen platforms so it’s not so scary to address them individually.

Duarte concurred with the benefits of a UI that leads the viewer. She said that at Roku, the company recommends its video app partners simulate live TV viewing with their platforms by having them begin playing instantly when viewers turn on a connected TV or other streaming device.

For Roku’s part, the company has tried to help build a richer video app ecosystem by removing some of the barriers to entry. Publishers used to need the Roku SDK to publish on the company’s platform, meaning that they would also need a product and development team. To streamline and simplify that, Roku last year launched Direct Publisher, which uses an MRSS feed instead of an SDK.

While technology barriers could be an issue for smaller publishers, Martinet said Vice is more likely to consider economic and user experience reasoning when considering how to bring an experience to a platform. He said that Vice invested early on in a core API architecture which allows it to spin out front-end video experiences quicker and less expensively.

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