Face off with KA Srinivasan, co-founder, Amagi Media Labs
“Amagi’s cloud-based playout platform allows TV networks to broadcast a channel without using the traditional/expensive satellite or fiber,” says KA Srinivasan, co-founder of Amagi Media Labs which has been the go-to ad platform for brands looking to beam different ads to different regions on the same TV channel at the same time. The ad network is now looking to recreate a similar revolution for TV broadcasters in the digital space through personalized ad/content targeting.
Started in 2008 by college friends and later colleagues at Texas Instruments —K A Srinivasan, Baskar Subramaniam and Srividhya Srinivasan — with the dream to revolutionise broadcasting and TV advertising, Amagi Media Labs has come a long way. Today, all major media agencies in India and the largest advertisers use Amagi to geo-target (also called adversioning) their campaigns on TV and enhance the efficacy of their media plans. Associated with a bouquet of channels such as Zee TV, Maa TV, IBN7, Zee Cinema, Zee Marathi, Zee News, CNBC Awaaz and Colors Marathi, the media technology company says that the market for geo-targeting is increasing at a rapid pace, as an increasing number of brands warm up to the benefits offered by this model. In this interview with FE BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma, Srinivasan elaborates upon the geo-targeting market in the country, its expansion plans as well as the scope digital media will play in the sector. Edited excerpts:
What are your digital plans?
One of the major focus areas for Amagi is End-to-End OTT (Over The Top) TV play-out. The service had a rather silent introduction in India, and not too many people are aware of the benefits of enjoying a user-controlled playlist as opposed to a generic one. We are helping Indian broadcasters take their content digital and monetise it digitally through our OTT platform.
We have also recently introduced disaster recovery (DR) services for our broadcasters by leveraging our expertise in cloud based play-out solutions. Our cloud based DR solutions, once implemented will effectively eliminate the need for conventional warm sites and emergency tapes, in addition to being incredibly affordable.
How do you plan to take geo-targeting to digital TV?
Multiple avenues of digitised television such as OTT (Over The Top) TV and the ‘TV-Everywhere’ experience are opening up targeted advertisement opportunities like never before. Today’s cloud-based, device-independent broadcast model allows us to take targeting to the next level—personalised ad/content targeting. Our platform provides a natural extension for broadcasters to customise and deliver their content and advertising at a personal level on digital platforms. This includes mid-roll advertising, individually customized ads, unparalleled retargeting on TV and much more.
Since the firm’s inception in 2008, how has the market changed? Has geo-targeting found its due in the country?
We have built the market for geo-targeted ads in India. We came up with a disruptive idea, which essentially is at the core of any technological renaissance. We then took it to like-minded industry veterans and the rest is history.
Geo-targeting on television has transcended from an ‘early-adopter’ phase to a norm, and Amagi has empowered over 2,500 brands by supplementing the core of this revolution. We are sure that the visible outcome of geo-targeting as seen today is just the tip of the iceberg. We believe that the geo-targeted advertisement model will someday find its place during the elementary stages of product research and development.
What are the biggest challenges today for geo-targeting?
Paradigm change in thought necessitates huge changes in infrastructure and operational behaviour—every disruptive technology goes through a cycle of cynicism, wary trials, grudging acceptance and eventual mainstream adoption.
Amagi’s disruptive model has gone through these phases as well. Today there is huge market acceptance for our offering—the challenge is to scale our execution to consistently meet customer expectations.
Why did you launch a TVC recently?
We introduced the geo-targeted ad model in India and the tangible benefits for our advertisers were very encouraging. Since our business is largely supported by awareness among regional advertisers, it made sense to apply the targeted model to our own ads. In every state where our TVC was played out, we highlighted that state on a map of India. The message was effective by way of simplicity—it spoke of our presence in every part of the country, and immensely aided in spreading the word about Amagi among advertisers who can make the most of geo-targeting.
With the World Cup and the IPL both opting for regional feeds, how has the year been so far for Amagi and regional advertisers?
The year has been phenomenal. With regional feeds being adopted by the Indian equivalent of the Super Bowl, we saw an unprecedented surge in the sheer volume of monetisation opportunities in Indian television. These events created massive interest among regional advertisers, all of whom were excited at the prospect of delivering affordable and effective public messaging on such a grand scale.
Earlier this year, Amagi raised Series C funding from PremjiInvest, the personal investment vehicle of Wipro chairman Azim Premji. Are you looking for more funding in the coming days?
Our recent funding was to help us scale our channel bouquet, expand sales and marketing, expand internationally and invest in strong R&D. We continue to scale rapidly, both in India and internationally, and will look for additional funding, if and when the need arises.
Amagi has recently opened an office in London. Which other international markets are you looking at?
We have started our operations in the US, the UK and Japan, and are now looking to expand to APAC region as well.
Amagi’s Tokyo, London and New York offices help provide local sales and servicing for our customers in these regions. We have customers including marquee names such as AMC (American Movie Classics), Bloomberg, H&C
TV, and deployments in over 20 countries around the globe.
How are international markets different from India?
One of the foremost distinctions in setting up a technology solution offering in India as compared to the international market, is the availability of supporting infrastructure. For example, cloud-based play-out and content regionalisation depend heavily on reliable internet connectivity. So, a cloud based deployment is much simpler in international markets compared to India where there are challenges in infrastructure.
Where do you see the future of adversioning in the coming years, in India and overseas?
E-commerce introduced India to a slew of brands in the consumer goods and durables categories. As this number grows, the need for personalised messaging and targeted communications is set to increase. Generic messaging is losing its relevance as an aged utility. The adversioning model, when applied with the right amount of research, can work wonders for newer brands in many ways—by boosting their domestic market penetration, promoting exports and most importantly – creating brand loyalty. I think it’s safe to say that adversioning is definitely here to stay and thrive.