Marc Mulgrum, Senior Vice President Sales of Setplex in a conversation with the Senior Editor of TechAfrica News, Chris Green, outlined their OTT/IPTV solutions and their success in Africa

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Chris: Hello! I’m Chris Green, Chief Editor at TechAfrica news. I’m pleased today to be joined by Marc Mulgrum, SVP of sales at Setplex. Marc, welcome, and thanks for joining us today. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about Setplex. 

Marc: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me. Setplex is a pretty interesting story. It was founded in 2006 when Setplex launched direct-to-consumer businesses. We’re unique and profitable, with no debt and no venture capital. We are headquartered in New York, where we actually own the building. Fundamentally we’re just a great company, and we have an end-to-end solution for OTT/IPTV deployed globally. We’re actually deployed in Angola, Cameroon, and Ghana. We’re investing heavily in Africa to support all of the new OTT/IPTV initiatives.

1. What are the components of an end-to-end solution?

Chris: Yeah, that’s great. That sounds really good. If we can start by asking you what are the components of an end-to-end solution?

Marc: Our end-to-end solution really starts with the content whether you have live content or VOD content, that content needs to be in a streamable format. We have a transcoding solution that can take downlink satellite channels or an IP stream and convert that to a streaming format that allows people to watch it on any device. 

The next piece is really the anchor — the Middleware that allows you to manage the subscribers, the content, security, the devices, and payments. There’s a whole host of features and capabilities that allow you to set up the different business models, whether it’s ad-supported or pay-per-view, subscription-based, or transaction-based. Middleware is an important piece. 

Next is really the CDN. We have third-party CDN partners that allow you to go over the top, to deliver content anywhere in the world on any device. Or you might have your own private network to stream the content — which we consider IPTV. 

Then the big part is the applications supporting nine different platforms to enable users to watch content on the major platforms with a good streaming experience whether you’re on a mobile device or a Smart TV. 

Finally, analytics — to allow the publisher to understand what’s the consumption, how long does it take to start the player, are there any channels down, what’s the most-watched device, what’s the most-watched content. Understanding content consumption is really important as part of this ecosystem. 

2. How does Setplex determine the upfront and the operational cost?

Chris: You know, obviously, there’s a number of different components of part of the solution. How do you determine the upfront and the operational cost then, Marc?

Marc: Sure, you could either be very CAPEX-focused. If you’re doing an IPTV deployment, that might mean on-premise servers, streaming servers, transcoders, and the like. If you’re doing cloud, a lot less CAPEX-focused and more operational focus, there might be recurring fees and CDN fees. It really depends on how you’re deploying. That will impact whether you have a larger capital investment in terms of physical servers versus having a cloud-based deployment in which you pay on demand based on the consumption. 

3. What would Marc see as the most difficult part of creating an OTT/IPTV system in Africa? 

Chris: Okay, that part’s clear. Africa, as we know, is a growing market. What would you see as the most difficult part of creating an OTT/IPTV system in Africa? 

Marc: Content is still king. In Africa, it is all about acquiring the rights for the content — so that would be job one. Secondly is connectivity. There’s a ton of infrastructure going on in South Africa. And in Southern Africa to improve connectivity which would allow people to watch either on mobile devices or at home. I’d say number two is really connectivity. 

Number three is just adjusting to economics — having a business model that allows you to generate positive revenue. We work with the different regions to adjust the pricing to fit the economics with the hope for long-term growth, and, of course, as more and more content becomes available, they’re going to be hungrier for content. I think content’s always king, and it’s always going to drive what you can get in terms of a subscription. 

4. Why do you believe that Setplex is the right company and has the right solution to be used in Africa? 

Chris: Yeah, content has always been key to moving things forward. You said in your introduction at the beginning that there were some operators already in Africa that have chosen Setplex. Why do you believe that Setplex is the right company and has the right solution to be used in Africa? 

Marc: Sure. The case in point is that there are literally hundreds of OTT providers. Some will be here in six months. Some won’t be here tomorrow. If you’re going to invest in an OTT platform, it’s really crucial that someone’s there to pick up the phone — not just when the sale happens but post-sale. Post-sale support, troubleshooting. 

Your subscribers are your lifeblood. If services are down, guess what? They’re going to cancel their subscriptions. Churn is a really big part of the OTT ecosystem. The lower the churn, the more you spend on marketing to acquire new users as opposed to “We have to replace the 10,000 users that we lost this month because the service was out for a week.” 

Having a fundamentally strong business is always safe because you’re investing in something that’s a long-term project. You don’t want to be switching vendors six months, a year out. I think that’s really key to a business. Another thing is that Setplex doesn’t have tens of thousands of customers. Having more personal touch and quick response times are really key to success for the customer. 

Chris: Yeah, that’s very true with what you’ve been saying, and we know that too often a customer will jump in with the first provider they choose, and it happens to be the wrong provider. Clearly, with Setplex having been around now since 2006, you’re here for the longer term.

Marc: Because we have our own owned and operated sites, we continue to invest for ourselves to improve user experience, features, and capabilities. Part of this vendor selection process is: is it future-proof? Are they keeping up in terms of innovation? — they’re very important. 

Chris: Yeah, totally agree. Marc, I’d like to thank you for your time today, and the information you’ve provided about Setplex, and your view on what’s needed for OTT and IPTV in Africa. Many thanks for that.

Marc: Chris, thank you very much. I appreciate the time.

Chris: You’re welcome. I’m Chris Green for TechAfrica news. Thanks for watching today’s interview with Setplex. 

Resource: TechAfrica News

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