Deeper Dive—Why Verizon’s Sidi left broadcasting for video services

Ariff Sidi (Verizon)

AMSTERDAM—When Ariff Sidi joined Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) in late July, he jumped over from a long career working in technology and digital products for traditional broadcasters.

Sidi, who now serves as chief product officer for VDMS, most recently served as senior vice president of digital products and platforms for Fox Network Group. He helped build Fox’s aggregated TV Everywhere product and ran the team that built Fox’s primetime livestreaming product. Before that, he worked at Walt Disney Company EMEA, Disney ABC Television Group and Disney Interactive Media Group.

But now, as consumers continue to migrate away from the traditional pay TV ecosystem into OTT, Sidi is jumping from broadcasting to video services.

“Me, as a technology guy, wanted to be in a place where I could actually spend my days working on the biggest variety of OTT platforms and products for all of the customers, not just one. That was the driving reason for me. Fox is doing some amazing stuff, but all of [Verizon’s] customers on a global basis are doing amazing things,” Sidi said.

With VDMS, Sidi is inheriting a fairly robust technology stack, though he still sees the need for improvement. Sidi said that today VDMS is already doing a lot with IP video delivery—from signal acquisition to delivery via Verizon’s content delivery network—but he said that customers’ requirements are getting more complex. Customers are asking for advanced features around advertising, subscriptions, personalization and playback across a variety of devices.

“We have an opportunity to help [our customers] solve a variety of problems that are new for them, that we’re not necessarily solving for them today. We can use the muscle of the organization and all of the engineering and product folks on the team to solve those problems for them,” Sidi said.

He said functions like rendering video streams across lots of different devices is something that VDMS could help improve, along with personalization and recommendations. Sidi said that Verizon doesn’t need to be in the business of building subscription video engines but that it can simplify the integration process for customers looking to manage customer accounts, reduce churn and launch marketing directly from the video platform.

He said that VDMS sets itself apart from other end-to-end OTT platforms through the levels at which it partners with customers. He said that VDMS employees often have direct access to customer facilities and they’re in there every day as part of the extended team.

Sidi said that the video stack at VDMS will continue to grow with additional services. But he said there are areas where the company is continuing to improve. Recommendations, subscriptions, players and CMS are areas that VDMS doesn’t necessarily work in today but will in the future. He said VDMS could add these services through development, partnership or acquisition.

“That’s where we have to do some analysis and figure out if it makes sense for us to build it ourselves. Can we do it better than the existing solutions at the right cost? Or are we better off partnering with companies or buying in the talent?” said Sidi. “All of those things are on the table for us.”