SVG Sit-Down: Wazee Digital SVP of Global Sales Dave Polyard
A discussion of content licensing and distribution, increased demand for sports content, and more
It has been quite a busy couple of years for Denver-based Wazee Digital. About a year after CEO Harris Morris came aboard, T3Media rebranded itself as Wazee Digital this past August as part of a change in strategy centered on the launch of its distribution platform, Wazee Digital Core, as a standalone product. In addition, Wazee refocused the licensing sector of its business to grow new revenue through sub-distribution partnerships. Throughout all this, Morris (who was elevated to chairman last month) rebuilt much of Wazee’s senior-management team, inserting Mark Pougnet as COO/CFO, Greg Loose as SVP of product and engineering, and Dave Polyard as SVP of global sales.
Wazee was named after Downtown Denver’s Wazee Street in a nod to the city’s bustling tech community. In November, the company was included on the list of Top 100 Digital Companies in Colorado.
SVG sat down with Polyard recently to discuss how the rebrand has gone thus far; recent multi-year deals for content-management, metadata, and distribution service agreements with the USTA and the National Rugby League in Australia; and how the demand for sports content has never been higher.
How has the industry reacted to the Wazee Digital rebrand so far?
It’s been gratifying and very positive. It positions us to go beyond what many people view as our core strength, which was just licensing. Now, licensing is still very, very important to us, and we have some premiere brands that we’re able to license, like Pac-12 Networks. It really was an effort to tell the industry that not only can we license your content but we can securely store, manage, and distribute the content through our platform, which is known as Core.
The whole idea of the rebrand was to say we’re more than just a licensing company. The platform that we created as a licensing company is now a product that we’re making available to anybody that needs a secure and stable cloud-based storage facility. We built that to facilitate licensing, and now we’re productizing it. There’s a concerted effort right now to grow the sales team and get the word out organically through the field teams.
Do you see the sports market as a growth opportunity for Wazee, and how are you looking to boost your presence in this sector?
Sports is definitely one of the areas that is hugely important to us. We are adding key leadership specifically for the sports market, and we will be announcing more very soon on that. There are a lot of areas of expertise for us, but we think that the sports vertical is going to be one where we’re going to have a lot of growth. We already have a relationship with PGA, the USTA, National Rugby League in Australia, and several others.
We see ourselves as a tripod or three-legged stool when it comes to sports: Event Services, the Core, and Licensing. With Event Services, we go onsite, we capture content during the course of the event, we clip it, we distribute it for the international rightsholders, do packages for PR, and provide content for use in commercial content. So we have Event Services capturing the content, storing it in Core, and then making it available for licensing.
How have you seen the Event Services side of your business evolve?
There is such a demand for content, with so many channels, the growth of OTT, fan Websites, and in-stadium shows. A company like ours that can clip it, annotate it with metadata, and serve it up becomes key. As an example, at one golf tournament, there was a Korean golfer that was doing really well, and a Korean network who has the rights called up and asked for some highlights. We were able to deliver some really targeted content that made that event much more valuable. Shoulder programming is another example. We put together content so that, if there’s a rain delay, they can come to us and have that kind of content ready to go. There’s an exploding need for content a variety of scenarios, and we can serve than need.
Are there any new technological developments that you’re especially excited about right now?
There is a company called Thuuz, which essentially crowdsources metadata, so that we can bake that into [our workflow] and make content much more accessible. Thuuz is one of the technologies that we’re working with that enables content owners to get more value out of their content. We are doing a lot of those kinds of things to add value and to create more usability for content. The idea is that, when it lives in the cloud, at any point in time, the content owner or the rightsholder can go in and annotate the metadata up in the cloud, and, when it’s in our Core system, it’s available to anyone anywhere via proxy on any workstation. There’s no software to install; they can give people read-only or view-only access or access where they can just annotate the metadata. [The] constant flow and evolution of expanding that metadata footprint [makes] the content ultimately more valuable, because, if you can’t find it, you can’t reuse it [and], if you can’t reuse it, you can’t monetize it.
Things like Thuuz, facial recognition, and scene recognition are going to drive the value of the content much more over time. Being that we’re in the cloud and have this very flexible metadata schema that anybody can manipulate to their needs makes what we do even more valuable for sports rightsholders. Instead of filling a rack room full of equipment, I think, [their] focus should be elsewhere. [Their] focus should be on the field, [letting] the tech guys like us figure out the technology.
As sports networks look to trim budgets in today’s challenging landscape, how can Wazee serve their ever changing needs?
You can get on board with us very easily, very quickly, very affordable. We grow as the customer grows, and there’s no capital cost to it. There’s no vendor lock either. Unlike other storage companies that put a proprietary wrapper around content, we manage content natively. So you work with us until you don’t want to work with us and move on without having to worry about that vendor lock. So there’s a lot of flexibility; there’s a lot of comfort [for] the content owner.