On January 20, TDF Media Services (Cognacq-Jay Image, PSN, Qbrick, and SmartJog) has made official the gathering of its subsidiaries under a single brand name: Arkena. With 500 employees in nine countries, this makes Arkena one of the largest European companies offering audiovisual services. What does this new entity have to offer in a connected, multi-screen and multi-service environment? We have met Julien Seligmann, president of Arkena.
Mediakwest: why did you gather the various companies under the Arkena brand name?
Julien Seligmann: TFD Media Services is a group of tech companies from various backgrounds and regions. While each of them is an expert in its own field, our clients were not necessarily aware of all the services that we offer. Now, with Arkena, we can offer an end-to-end solution, whether for linear or non-linear services. Our goal is to offer the most relevant solutions, focus more resources on innovation, improve platform sharing and promote our international development. We are leaders on the French market, which accounts for 60% of our revenue, and we must now grow in Europe, our priority being the Scandinavian countries, the UK, Germany and Eastern countries.
MK: This new offering puts you in competition with industry heavyweights, how do you stand out?
JS: We have always had specialized competitors, but with Arkena’s new global activity we are now facing international groups such as Akamaï or Ericsson. However, unlike those companies, we have remained flexible, in contact with the field, and knowledgeable about the activity of our clients in broadcasting. Our unity gives us strength, and the diversity of our expertise enables us to put forward a varied offering, with a high level of innovation and service quality. While we do have competitors on certain specific market segments, we are, as far as I know, the only ones to offer solutions both for linear and non-linear contents, as well as for digital distribution (CDN). This is a global market, and if we were to compare ourselves – without bragging – to other companies, our foreign counterparts would be Arqiva or SES Astra, market leaders in the UK and in Germany respectively. We put client relations at the forefront of our activity. Speed, efficiency and technological perfection are essential, and Arkena has all these qualities.
MK: What are your plans in terms of international development?
JS: Two thirds of our 1,500 clients are foreign companies, mainly in the UK and Scandinavian countries. By developing non-linear SaaS applications, we are able to free ourselves from geographical restrictions, and can deploy our services across multiple regions with greater ease.
The various companies that make up Arkena are all leaders in their own field. SmartJog runs the largest global dematerialized software exchange network. BeBanjo is the leading provider of solutions for the VOD market. Cognacq-Jay Images is among the largest providers of digital services in Europe, with 30 000 hours’ worth of programs encoded every month. Qbrick is the Scandinavian leader of multi-screen video platforms.
In the UK, for instance, Arkena has recently signed an agreement with Cirkus, a new SVOD service, giving subscribers to foreign pay-TV platforms access to the best of British TV content, whether fiction or documentaries. This service is initially launched in Nordic countries. Arkena is in charge of the managing, preparing and distributing the contents on the networks’ platforms. This service demonstrates Arkena’s ability to offer an end-to-end solution to content publishers who want to offer their catalog either on network platforms or OTT.
International development is easier with solutions based on cloud technologies. Our Cloud4Media service is strategic in this respect, as it paves the way to a new, fully dematerialized, content management offering. Arkena’s Cloud4Media provides a single solution to transfer, store, transcode and publish video content in the safest and fastest way, with optimal quality.
In Scandinavian countries, Arkena is the second largest player on the CDN market. The main public and private radio and television stations call upon our services, but also press editors, political assemblies and municipalities. Our objective is to take advantage of our strong implantation in order to develop our broadcast services in that region.
In Germany, we are present through Media-Mobile, which provides road traffic information through the DAB network (Digital Audio Broadcasting), but we also work with large providers such as Deutsche Telekom.
Eastern Europe is an important development avenue for us: we have offices in Warsaw (Poland) and have set up a playout facility. This allows partner US audiovisual groups to broadcast their European channels from Paris and Warsaw.
MK: You’ve touched upon this earlier, but could you explain what you think of the arrival of new players such as Netflix on the French market?
JS: The arrival of these new OTT players means traditional networks must be more reactive in developing new contents, especially non-linear offerings, and streamline their non-linear platforms. Distribution on tablets and smartphones is no longer just “nice-to-have”, but is becoming “business-critical”, with high expectations from viewers in terms of responsiveness and quality of service. Traditional players will also have to innovate in terms of content creation. These strong trends will encourage networks to outsource their technical activities to specialists such as Arkena, which will strengthen our relationship with clients who will delegate a number of tasks to us. As the market is evolving, audiences are also becoming increasingly fragmented. We offer multi-screen distribution services that are simple, effective and quickly deployed. OTT distribution also complements DTTV by offering interactivity on connected TV sets; this is another area where Arkena’s parent company TDF innovates, with the HbbTV standard that allows to offer additional services on DTTV.
MK: Any other developments?
JS: In the US, our activity is quickly growing on the market of audiovisual content distribution for airline companies. In-flight entertainment is a valuable distribution window for films between theater and VOD releases. US studios are very strict in terms of security, and trust Arkena to deliver films to integrators such as Thalès, Panasonic or Rockwell. We now extend our services to airline companies, offering them a secure platform they can use to retrieve contents at airport hubs, which accelerates the process.