Interxion’s Bryan Hill: ‘We are in a disruptive, golden age for media’

14 Sep 2018

Bryan Hill, director of marketing and business development for digital media, Interxion. Image: Connor McKenna

The media industry is going through the most disruptive period in its entire history, says Interxion’s Bryan Hill.

Interxion is a leading provider of colocation data centre services across Europe, supporting more than 1,600 customers in more than 40 data centres. Interxion last year opened its third Dublin data centre, called DUB3, which represents a capital investment of €28m.

Bryan Hill directs Interxion’s strategy and relationships within the digital media industry, and is focused on the transitions in the media sector including in digital advertising, marketing automation, video gaming, and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

‘With the increase in mobile and broadband speeds, we are going to see more immersive experiences. So, we are not just going to replicate what we saw before, but we are going to see AR and VR having increasing adoption’

Hill has a strong background developed over 20 years in the digital media sector where he has held positions in digital content licensing, online video creation and distribution, and social online gaming.

He has always managed to find himself at the intersection of industry transitions, from analogue to digital video and photography, and through the evolution of single-player gaming to multiplayer immersive environments.

Prior to joining Interxion, he spent 10 years in senior positions at Getty Images where his titles included director of e-commerce operations, European director of sales and product, and head of online marketing. He also spent four years building up Fifty Lessons, an online video platform partially funded by the BBC.

How would you assess the impact of data on the media industry?

I think it is important to understand where the media industry has been and where it has come to at this point. The media industry used to be one of a broadcast, scheduled world where you’d watch a programme or listen to a particular radio show. We are now in a world predominantly driven by mobile, which means we are in a one-to-one relationship between the content provider and us as customers.

As an example, in western Europe alone, the amount of mobile traffic is going to grow six times between 2016 and 2021, and video is going to represent 80pc of that. So, from a mobile perspective and for content, there are certain aspects where data is critical, all the way from delivering the most critical performant user experience to personalisation, to content creation and digital advertising, so they can deliver targeted ads in real time.

This involves huge amounts of data being captured, transported, processed, analysed and then action taken to provide the content we want, whenever we want it, on whatever device we want it – and we want the best experience. So, data is at the heart of it and that’s why data is called the new oil.

There has been no industry more transformed by digital than media and yet, instead of a golden age, media is fighting for survival. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s true that digital has completely transformed the media industry. It would be fair to say that the media industry is going through its most disruptive period in its history. With that disruption comes challenges from traditional providers. If you look at broadcasters, publishers, advertising agencies, they are all facing challenges of having to adapt to survive and thrive – whether that is competing with OTT providers, how they make their mark against Facebook and other large content and publishing platforms, or dealing with adtech and the digital advertising sector, and how they find their place within it.

That all said, I do believe we are in a golden age. As consumers, we now hold in our hands a mobile personalised television, a mobile personalised gaming console. We can get whatever we want from wherever we want it and to have it work first time, most of the time, and give us the best experience.

I would actually say we are in a very disruptive but incredible golden age, particularly for consumers.

How does Interxion work with media companies to ensure global reach and optimum performance?

That’s an interesting question. I think you need to look first of all at the business drivers of companies that come to us.

Number one for the companies in the media sector we deal with is how to provide the best quality of experience to their customers. That means wherever they are located, whenever they want a piece of content issued, it always works. Every app on your phone should always respond whenever you want it. You should be able to get the TV programme or piece of content you want and it should work seamlessly. That’s the number-one challenge.

The number-two challenge is, once you have got someone actually using your service – whether it’s a video on-demand platform, whether it’s social media, whether it’s gaming – the interests of the provider are to keep your engagement, to keep you using, to have you go from finishing one piece of content to watching the next piece of content.

So, how do you personalise? How do you provide the best experience for you as an individual versus me, my wife, my father? Everyone has different preferences. So, how do you keep them engaged and watching? And then, in terms of the bottom line, how do you monetise and make money from that?

Part of that is through advertising. So, again, data is critical there. Your service should always work. Your service should never be down.

So, if you look at us as a data centre provider, we have over 50 data centres in 13 major city locations close to audiences all across Europe. Yes, we have data centres that provide that resiliency and redundancy for clients. But actually, what customers come to us for are what we call our interconnection hubs. These are the places where you can interconnect with content delivery networks (CDNs), internet service providers, with our carrier community, with our internet exchanges. These are all critical for providing that high degree of quality of experience and doing it cost-effectively from one location.

Going back to the importance of mobility, you want to switch on your device and you want to go to an app and make sure it responds. That usually comes back to a data centre that we host where all those connectivity providers are.

Another element which is becoming increasingly important is around data processing. That first element is more around network. But what we are actually seeing a lot more of here in Dublin, and also in all of our other locations, is the importance to host media processing in data centres like ours. This is because the real-time response, the capturing of data, and then the storage, processing and analysis of that data, needs to sit in a location where you can actually access the cloud. Being able to access it through our cloud access points, whether that is Microsoft ExpressRoute or AWS Direct Connect, is increasingly important. So, that compute and network mesh is really important for providing that end-to-end quality experience.

What are your thoughts on the future of media as connectivity speeds increase and services such as streaming become more ingrained in consumer culture?

With connectivity, the increases in broadband speeds but also new technologies like the roll-out of 5G, we can expect a broadcast quality experience through our mobile devices. Effectively, we are moving from a broadcast architecture world to a true end-to-end streaming world. This means that there shouldn’t be any difference from when you would sit and watch the World Cup on your television through to watching it on your mobile device.

We will also see the TV evolve from being a piece of hardware that is its own ecosystem in a way, to actually being an incredibly large, high-quality, high-sound internet device. So, effectively, it will be like a huge, high-quality iPad hanging on your wall. That’s for the existing services that we see today.

I think, actually, with the increase in mobile and broadband speeds, we are going to see more immersive experiences. So, we are not just going to replicate what we saw before, but we are going to see AR and VR having increasing adoption. Looking further out, potentially we may even see holographic experiences through our mobile devices.

The only limiting factor we have to that right now is not actually interconnection speeds, it is actually battery power. So, somebody will come along and solve that battery power issue as well.

If I was to throw in a guess, I think we are not a million miles away from seeing real-time translation like a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Babel-fish-type device.

We already have translation services on our phone where you can say things into the phone and it will translate. That requires a combination of elements, lots of AI and big-data analysis in the cloud, and compute and processing, but actually requires low latency as well, which connectivity will enable.

So, I can imagine a time in the not-too-distant future where global communication barriers start to come down as we all wear little earpieces that mean I can have a conversation with someone in French and have a free-flowing conversation with someone in a language I don’t speak.

I think the future is exciting but if I was in the prediction game, then I would be predicting the results of horse races and the lottery as well.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years