Special Report—9 people who are building the future of online video

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FierceVideo has pulled together a list of some of the executives who are leading the charge. (vertigo3d iStockPhoto)

The world of online streaming video is big and diverse, with hundreds of OTT services, connected devices and combinations of the two. Behind it all are thousands of technical experts designing, developing and deploying the products.

FierceVideo has pulled together a list of some of the executives who are leading the charge in areas including pay TV integration, virtual MVPDs, direct-to-consumer products, personalization, ad-supported streaming, APIs and cloud services. The list includes luminaries from Akamai, Amazon, AT&T, CBS Interactive, Disney Streaming Services, Hulu, iStreamPlanet, Netflix and Roku.

This is not a complete list of everyone who is making important contributions every day to the future of streaming video. But it’s a cross section of the industry today and it provides some insight to where the industry is heading and who’s steering the ship.

Andrew Bennett, director of worldwide business development at Amazon Prime Video

Andrew Bennett

Andrew is a former TV producer (NBA, HBO) who transitioned to digital video deal making. In his six years at Prime Video, Andrew has led multiple content acquisition teams (TVOD/Prime Video Channels) and is currently leading Prime Video business development teams in the U.S., U.K. and Japan who are responsible for partnerships with all third-party device partners.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Amazon is focused on its goal of ubiquitous distribution of Prime Video, which means Andrew stays busy working on partnerships that expand the company's relationships with current device partners into new territories and entering into partnerships with new entrants and existing distributors who are looking to add digital video services for their customers. The latter includes a number of agreements with MVPDs (e.g. Comcast, British Telecom, Airtel) for distribution of Prime Video on their set top boxes.

Peter Chave, principal architect at Akamai Technologies

Peter Chave

Peter has 20 years of industry experience, having held several positions at Akamai, Cisco, Scientific Atlanta and Barco including principal architect, product manager, system engineer and software developer. His background is in internet video delivery, MPEG encoding, encryption, modulation, multiplexing and ad insertion systems.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Akamai is focused on tackling key challenges facing broadcasters in improving quality, easing scalability and reducing latency to help them provide consumers with TV-quality, on-demand viewing experiences anywhere.

Peter is part of the team responsible for Akamai's recently announced support for ultra-low latency, which is an example of the company's efforts to create an online streaming experience that’s comparable to that of traditional pay TV. Latency is a currency the industry has historically traded for reliability when dealing with live OTT video.

In October, Akamai introduced ultra-low latency support for live and linear streaming to minimize the gap between live action and what a viewer watches on their device, bringing OTT streams in line or even ahead of traditional broadcast using the common media application format (CMAF). The company is achieving this by leveraging chunked transfer, which allows broadcasters to think about their video as the stream it is, while enjoying the benefits of cacheable, scalable, file based delivery that is compatible with existing ecosystems and players. In addition to minimizing delays for live event streaming and bringing viewers closer to the action, this new technology also opens the door more specialized use cases such as betting, gaming and interactive applications.

Connie Goshgarian, vice president of systems, engineering and architecture at AT&T

Connie Goshgarian

Connie started with Hughes Space & Communications more than 20 years ago, transitioning over to DirecTV in 2006. She has held various engineering roles during her tenure, most recently overseeing the company’s video software transformation into an agile microservice-based architecture. She’s also implemented a big data solution that drives business initiatives such as personalization and recommendations as well as feeding company business analytics. Connie holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and a Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Connie leads development for AT&T’s consumer video streaming platform (which is the backend system for DirecTV Now). Her current priorities are streaming performance optimization, cDVR development, personalized recommendations, improved VOD availability and scaling optimizations.

Liz Gupta-Harrison, senior product manager at Hulu

Liz Gupta-Harrison

Liz is the senior product manager who oversees the News vertical of Hulu’s Live TV service. In nearly two years at Hulu, prior to leading up this content experience, Liz championed a diverse collection of features including on- and off-channel sign-in authentication, mobile push notifications and user profiles.

Liz has been focused on putting TV on the internet for nearly her whole career. She built sites and streaming applications for A+E Networks’ A&E, History Channel, Lifetime and FYI properties. Liz holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Just in time for this past March Madness, Liz launched a feature that expanded Hulu’s ability to personalize the sports experience, which included mobile push notifications across Android and iOS.

With the launch of game-start mobile notifications, viewers receive banner notifications alerting them when their favorite teams’ games are about to start. From there, they can watch the game directly from their phone.

In order to prepare and deploy this launch, Liz had to take into account many complex considerations, which included Verizon’s NFL mobile restrictions. At the time of launch, Liz had to proactively exclude restricted games in order to comply with such regulations.

Another consideration Liz had to address was working around the complexity of the regionality of sports games. Under Liz’s direction, she ensured that viewers do not receive a notification for a game they’re not able to watch because the game isn't available in their region. This entailed keeping track of not only local affiliate sports rights but also each users’ devices and then, matching those devices to each of the up to six profiles on every individual Hulu account. Liz also ensured that these notifications deploy at precisely the right time.

Joe Inzerillo, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Disney Streaming Services

Joe Inzerillo

Joe has been with BAMTech for more than 15 years. He started with the company when it was still called Major League Baseball Advance Media before it was eventually acquired by Disney. Prior to that, he worked as CTO of the United Center and as video coordinator for the Chicago White Sox.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

As chief technology officer for Disney Streaming Services, Joe works directly with ESPN+, the network’s recently launched subscription streaming service. But his biggest profile project is Disney+, the hotly anticipated Disney streaming service launching late in 2019. Not much is known about Disney+ yet, but we do know it will have navigational features designed around separate segments for Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and National Geographic.

Scott Mirer, vice president of Device Partner Ecosystem at Netflix

Scott Mirer

Scott has been with Netflix for more than 10 years. He started as the director of product management and oversaw the SDK, tools and methods for integrating the Netflix app across different devices. In 2013, he become vice president of device partner ecosystem to help lead Netflix’s global efforts to get its app onto as many devices as possible. Prior to Netflix, Scott worked at Espial, Kasenna and Mediabolic.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Scott undoubtedly played a role in recent Netflix integrations like the Sky Q pay TV platform in Europe, and is likely working on bringing Netflix to platforms it hasn’t reached yet, like the Nintendo Switch. Earlier this year, he was at the forefront of Netflix’s partnership with Sony’s Bravia TV line for calibrated mode, a feature that takes advantage of Sony’s image processing to configure TV displays to match the way creators calibrate their monitors in post production.

Bill Shapiro, director of product management at Roku

Bill Shapiro

Bill is focused on development of The Roku Channel. He’s been with Roku for more than three years. Prior to that, he served as director of product management for mobile applications at Yahoo. He has also held positions at Ooyala and Adobe.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

The Roku Channel has quickly become a top 5 channel on the platform based on active accounts. Roku's experience building the channel has helped it improve the platform for its content partners and advertisers. Bill and the rest of the technical team at Roku have been busy adding new features, including new content categories like live news and entertainment and creating a seamless ad experience. The company also sees an opportunity to evolve and expand the scope of The Roku Channel with improvements to its content-first user experience and further expansion off platform.

Jared Wray, chief technology officer at iStreamPlanet

Jared Wray

Jared is chief technology officer at iStreamPlanet and has 20 years of experience in cloud services and as an entrepreneur. Prior to iStreamPlanet, he co-founded Fons, a scheduling and billing platform for business owners, and founded Tier 3, an industry-recognized cloud services provider later acquired by CenturyLink. Post-acquisition at CenturyLink, Jared held the senior vice president of platform role where he introduced agile software development and reinvigorated the company’s engineering core.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Jared helped oversee iStreamPlanet's launch this year of its over-the-top direct-to-consumer platform. The company onboarded B/R Live onto the service earlier this year and is currently working with a major international telco on their product expected to launch this year. Spark New Zealand’s Spark Sport platform is also built on iStreamPlanet's DTC platform, and will be launching early next year. To make it easier for the company's customers, Jared helped build a portal and expose extensive APIs to manage content, carousel curation, identity, monetization, entitlements, personalization and more.

iStreamPlanet also recently launched a new Event API for full automation of scheduling, starting and stopping live events including instant live-to-VOD live event management. This helps prevent human error and ensures the most consistent and reliable fan experience.

In addition to refining the company's platform through automation, Jared also helped revamp iStreamPlanet's packaging and publishing product this year. The company's new product gives its customers HLS packaging, DASH packaging, CMAF packaging with encryption and DRM, reduced downtime during code upgrades and newer monitoring and alerting tools for improved error detection and responsiveness.

Looking to 2019, Jared is going to be focused on continuing to build out the DTC platform with all the features iStreamPlanet's customers want to see. For sports apps in particular customers are interested in synchronized enhanced experiences with player bios, stats, highlights and DVR with timed events.

Chris Xiques, vice president of Video Technology at CBS Interactive

Chris Xiques

In his role at CBS Interactive, Chris is responsible for overseeing the creation of video products and services across all brands. Under his direction, Chris' team built a custom video player platform to deliver CBS Interactive's video content for initiatives that include CBS All Access, CBS' direct-to-consumer digital subscription video on-demand service; CBSN, CBS News’ streaming news service; CBS Sports HQ, a 24-hour streaming sports news network; and ET live, a 24-hour direct-to-consumer streaming network dedicated to all things entertainment.

What current and upcoming streaming video features and products are you working on for your company?

Chris and the team at CBS Interactive are currently working on a tool to enable media groups to take advantage of cloud-based encoding services for live events. By creating an abstraction layer on top of these services, the company hopes to make it easy for editors and other media professionals to quickly spin livestreams without having to manage encoders and other aspects of the video delivery pipeline.