Mary Frost, CEO, Globecast America
As Globecast America remakes itself from a teleport services provider into a “network agnostic content management, aggregation and connectivity company,” Mary Frost looks to be the perfect choice to guide the transition. The new role means that Globecast America will place more emphasis on packaging, transporting, storing and licensing content and providing transport rights to U.S. distributors.
Frost joined Globecast in 2003 as senior vice president of sales and later served as COO before being named CEO of Globecast America, the U.S. unit of Paris-based Globecast, in August. Her 25 years of experience in the broadcast industry give her a breadth and depth of knowledge from the customer perspective that will keep Globecast America at the top of its field, especially as the satellite provider mixes more delivery methods into its offerings.
“As more content travels as files, we are using more fiber transport,” she says. “Fiber is such a different animal from satellite, and we had to challenge ourselves to master this medium and to overcome its inherent points of failure, which affects even the best of providers. I am really pleased by this progress as we need fiber, but we are still passionate about satellite.”
Frost shared her biggest challenges and industry insights with the Via Satellite editorial staff.
Via Satellite: What are your priorities for Globecast America?
Mary Frost: My most immediate focus is on finalizing our move in Miami to HBO Latin America in Sunrise, Fla., where we are leasing technical space to provide program origination. We are closing our existing Miami production center, which was designed to support soundstage production, a business we got out of a few years back. South Florida remains our gateway to Latin America, thus, by leasing at HBO, we will be able to originate up to 60 channels if we choose.
We will, of course, be operating independently, but we will benefit from their state-of-the art facility, engineering support and Category 5 hurricane protection. We will continue to offer some satellite delivery, primarily to SES/NSS 806; however, the bulk of our transmission services will route through our principal teleport and broadcast center in Los Angeles and provides connectivity to our global network.
Via Satellite: What is prompting the transition to content manager?
Frost: The broadcast networks are moving their stations to digital in anticipation of the [U.S. Federal Communications Commission] requirements and to provide SD (standard-definition) and HD (high-definition) feeds. The entire broadcast value chain is moving to IP (Internet Protocol). That means that channels are being contributed and played out in an IP mode, which will seamlessly flow across these new telco networks. In this new IP-enabled world, broadcasters want greater control over their content. They still need the satellite and fiber connectivity, but they want to be able to control and schedule delivery of those files on our network.
Via Satellite: How is the wave of technology convergence affecting your operations?
Frost: It simply means we have to be a one point of ingest to take content out across any network and deliver it anywhere in the world. For us, this is the real meaning of convergence and the reason we have shed our traditional teleport role to become a manager and aggregator of content. IP is really the technology that ties all of this together.
We now treat content as files, and those files can be stored at a Globecast server and played out in a linear or on-demand basis. From there we purpose and repurpose the content across one or more headends to reach cable, DTH (direct-to-home), IPTV, broadband, mobile and digital signage platforms. That’s a lot for content providers to handle on their own, so we see a lot of growth in managed services.
Via Satellite: What impact will IPTV and mobile TV have on Globecast America?
Frost: IP is the single greatest technological development shaping our industry today and our company’s future. In just the last six years, we’ve witnessed the transition from analog to digital to IP. The fast push into IP has put tremendous pressure on recurring capital investment cycles and forced us to quickly stake our role in IPTV and mobile delivery. Fortunately for Globecast, we are part of France Telecom, who two years ago awarded Globecast a contract to begin MPEG-4 aggregation services for its Maligne TV platform in France, recently rebranded Orange TV. Also through Orange, we have become the world’s largest aggregator of 3G channels over mobile by delivering more than 100 linear-streaming channels to Orange mobile platforms in France, the U.K. and Switzerland.
We are bringing that experience to America. We announced in October that we inked a deal with Verizon to supply licensing and signal transport of up to 77 international WorldTV channels for distribution over [Verizon’s] Fios TV and broadband platforms for linear and [video-on-demand] access. This deal really taps all of our core competencies such as global signal backhaul, channel aggregation and connectivity but also content licensing, which is really a new and logical step for us. Most recently, we have concluded and agreement with MobiTV to provide aggregation and signal contribution in the U.S. for as many as 30 domestic channels for delivery to MobiTV’s headend. We seem to have established our role quickly.
Via Satellite: How is Globecast going to increase the growth of WorldTV?
Frost: We got into that business in 1998 because cable and DBS operators didn’t want to open their capacity to international or ethnic services. Since then we have been adding channels at about 25 percent to 30 percent per year, and we are now America’s leading aggregator and distributor of international channels in North America with more than 206 TV and radio services from 43 countries.
We continue to operate our DTH platform and grow subscribers, but our greatest expansion will come through platform diversity. In our new role as a program distributor, we are now licensing these global brands to telcos but also to cable, mobile TV, greenfields and broadband platforms. These operators want the content to differentiate their offerings beyond English and Spanish. But these channels have to get to our shores, and the operators want one point of contact who can provide the worldwide contribution and licensing.
Via Satellite: Which regions hold the most promise for content distribution?
Frost: There’s hardly a region that isn’t exploding, because the world is open nearly everywhere to more content with the proliferation of IPTV, mobile and broadband. Everyone wants to point to the new world hot spot, but let’s not forget what’s happening here in North America. Again pointing to our success with our recent WorldTV licensing agreements with Verizon, it seems that the 23 million Americans that speak a language other than English or Spanish at home is but one untapped market that’s beginning to awaken.
Canada is another market that may have just opened in a surprising manner. I am talking broadband, which for now could allow many more broadcasters into that market without having to go through the rigorous channel licensing of the Canadian authorities.