Viacom OTT engineer Tapper: ‘A company this size isn’t easy to turn’

Viacom Labs' MTV Australia livestreaming test. Image: Viacom

HUNTINGTON BEACH - Six months into his tenure with the struggling linear cable programming conglomerate Viacom, multiplatform engineering exec Jeff Tapper said he’s been pushing hard to reinvent internal process and workflows as it relates to digital streaming. 

“Change is hard,” Tapper said on numerous occasions Wednesday, delivering a morning keynote at the Streaming Media West conference. “A company this size isn’t easy to turn -- there’s an institutional resistance to change. It’s not easy to get new ideas through.”

Tapper’s comments give insight into Viacom, which has been struggling cratering linear TV ratings across is channels, and the resulting stock price declines and top-level management upheaval.

RELATED: Viacom taps third CEO in just over two months

Speaking to FierceBroadcast after his speaking gig, Tapper conceded that pay-TV carriage deals with Viacom networks are limiting the amount of direct-to-consumer streaming activity the company can conduct in the U.S. However, he said Viacom has been active with network brands like BET overseas. 

RELATED: Viacom Labs adding livestreaming fans to linear TV

During his keynote, Tapper noted a number of key moves Viacom has made recently under his watch in regard to backend streaming technology. 

One is the wide-scale adoption of Google’s open video compression format, VP9, which he said has made it possible to increase video delivery speeds in internationally situated networks, some of which might not be the fastest.

“If I’m able to stream 1080p in Bangladesh when everyone else is at 320, that’s a huge advantage,” Tapper said. 

He added that Viacom is moving away from dynamic packaging of its content with CDNs to preforming static packaging internally. Among the benefits: the company can separate the video from the audio file, enabling it to more easily add myriad language tracks for specific regions.

“It gives us a lot more flexibility and choice,” Tapper said.