Title: Distinguished Member, Technical Staff, Motorola Global Technology Architecture and Solutions Team
Broadband Background: Scheffler came to Motorola via its acquisition of Broadbus Technologies, where he had served as chief architect and CTO. He has also served in technology leadership roles for Duplitronics, Nanosoft, Magic Music, Fastener Oasis and Pricom Design. Much of Scheffler’s career has centered around solid-state servers. He has been awarded 17 U.S. and international patents with many more pending.
The relationship between content and consumer is complicated today. But one of the points in your article in the current issue of "Communications Technology" is that there remains a constant. Could you elaborate?
The point of the article is that content is king. What I mean by that is that the reason someone watches a program is for the content of that program, not because of how it’s delivered or whether it was professionally created or shot with a camcorder. People want more content, content providers want more viewers, and everybody wants what they want, when they want it. Just as the consumer wants the content, the provider wants to get paid. There are different models, but the most prominent one today is where advertisers "pay" for the content we watch, in trade for us watching their ads. You can’t just rip out broadcast TV and use the Internet to watch TV on your PC without figuring out a model for the content provider to continue to get paid.
What’s the difference between rules and content metadata?
First, let’s start with content metadata, which is the actors, directors, ratings, etc. This metadata is needed to display inside a program guide, but is always coupled with or related to the content itself. The same piece of content always has the same related metadata. Rules metadata is needed to grant or deny specific actions or modifications to the content. Examples would be availability windows, ad insertion rules, what other content can be associated with this specific piece of content. The rules could be different between different MSOs, as well as different within each division, or even each system. Separating these two forms of metadata means you don’t have to re-pitch the entire asset each time you want to change a rule.
What was your role in developing the Broadbus server? And did it or you have roots in the audio world?
I was the technical founder of Broadbus, so I created the architecture that is now built as the B-1 Video Server. That architecture was inspired by three generations of solid-state servers we sold into the audio duplication industry in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Once we received our venture capital funding, we hired an awesome team in Boston to make the architecture and vision become a reality. The team was experienced in building carrier-grade switching equipment and did an excellent job of executing on the original vision and improving it.
How has the acquisition (by Motorola) gone, and what is your role now?
The Motorola acquisition has been terrific for us. As our technology became more widely adopted, deploying that technology while still innovating and creating the next technology was becoming challenging for a small company. The ability to leverage the supply chain and also the innovations inside the Motorola labs has helped us past the growing pains. Now within Motorola, my job has shifted to a corporate architecture role. The focus of my team is to look at technology all across Motorola and help drive new applications that can leverage the great resources available here.
Do cable technology people spend enough time with the content/programming side of the business?
I think everything has to be a balance. We all want to develop and implement new advanced services. If we sit or rest for too long, there will always be someone right behind us that will. I think as more content is made available on-demand to customers, the content and programming side of the business becomes increasingly important. Let us never forget who "owns" the content.
What do you see as the most sustainable trends on the content side? HD? Anywhere to anything? User-generated content? Etc.
Clearly, there is a shift to HD display devices. The trick is to feed them with the HD content and make money at it. It is really tough to charge five times the price for an HD VOD view when it costs you five times the price to transport it.
Popular content will always be popular content; I just think it may not always come from the top networks. In aggregate it will, but with the proper content ecosystem in place, conceivably someone could have access to every piece of content available. And remember that content does have a shelf-life for usefulness or interest. Because the content library is growing and ever-changing, it gets more difficult to manage.
I do think that user-generated content will continue to grow and that we will see an emergence of aggregators of that content. How about the "paint your garage floor network"? I see it following a model like the World Wide Web – a collection of sites that all point to other sites. Before you know it, you have a complex ecosystem where anyone on the ‘Net can get all those pages anywhere else on the ‘Net. I think this is where content is headed in the long term.
How best can cable operators cope with these trends?
Stay agile, never rest, be vigilant, and watch for the sneak attack. We all know that there is competition always ready to offer something we don’t. In time, consumers choose their preferred methods – video on a TV with a set-top, a PC, a wireless device. Will the video delivery be over QAM, over DOCSIS, or just Internet video – who knows? But always remember, the video still has to come from somewhere. Being in the best position to supply that video, whatever the underlying transport infrastructure looks like, will ensure the success of all the operators.