Encompass Digital Media eyes APAC growth

Having spent US$8 million upgrading its IT infrastructure, digital media services provider aims to entice broadcasters based out of regional markets to migrate to its platform, reveals exec.

Encompass Digital Media is betting on its technology refresh in the past year, as well as plans to pump in another US$15 million to US$20 million into its Singapore facility over the next five years, to win over regional broadcasters that are looking to include digital content in their portfolio.

The digital media services provider had accelerated its investments over the past two years to refresh its technology, shifting from tape-based processes to digital, high-definition (HD) processes for storing and broadcasting content, said its Asia managing director, Deepakjit Singh Chatrath. In 2010 alone, the company spent US$8 million on its local outfit to upgrade technologies and tools improve employees' productivity, Chatrath told ZDNet Asia in an interview.

As part of last year's IT refresh, he said Encompass Digital's Singapore facility now holds over 180,000 physical tapes for its customers and has 8 petabytes of storage space, or approximately 20,000 hours of content.

The local site was recently included into the company's assets portfolio, following its US$120 million acquisition of Ascent Media's content distribution arm which was completed on Feb. 28, 2011, according to its Web site.

With Encompass Digital's focus on investing in technology as well as access to new resources following the Ascent acquisition, Chatrath said the company's Asian business is now taking off. For instance, he said its Singapore facility added 27 channels to its portfolio in the past two years, compared with just 25 in 1999.

The company is now looking to inject another US$15 to US$20 million to "keep its technology ahead of the industry's curve", he revealed. "With our investment roadmap, we plan to grow at the same rate for the next 3 to 5 years," he added.

Focusing on customers
Since refreshing its technology, Encompass Digital Singapore also addressed two main growth barriers, namely, customer confidence and critical customer base.

Elaborating, Chatrath said customers were previously cautious about moving their broadcasting functions to the company's infrastructure as they were unsure if their service level agreements (SLAs) could be met.

"In our industry, we are talking about downtimes in the region of seconds, not hours. This is why our SLAs are always upward of four '9s'," he said, pointing to achieving 99.99 percent network availability. He cited the example of a competitor which lost two minutes during the broadcast of a football match six years ago and "has not recovered since" from the damage to its brand.

Today, broadcasters such as Discovery Asia, SingTel--with its Mio Stadium football programs--MTV and BBC Worldwide Channel utilize Encompass Digital's services, he revealed.

The company's target market in Asia includes companies deploying their "playout" from other countries outside Singapore, such as Hong Kong, the executive revealed. Playout is an industry term for the transmission of radio or TV channels from the broadcaster, into partner networks that deliver the digital version of the content to their audience.

When quizzed on whether the local government's plans to develop Singapore as a media hub influenced the company's growth roadmap, Chatrath said such efforts to develop the industry are good for overall growth but "did not really help the company specifically" as it is currently "running ahead of the Media Development Authority of Singapore's (MDA) blueprint".

For instance, he said Encompass Digital held talks with local MDA officials to move the local office to Mediapolis @ one north--a designated digital media hub expected to be completed by 2020--but the cost and operational downtime the company would sustain, made such a move implausible.