The NEW Pilot interface has become the default view for ALL users. Users will have the option to click back to Pilot Classic for a limited time. Find out more here.
The NEW Pilot interface has become the default view for ALL users. Users will have the option to click back to Pilot Classic for a limited time. Find out more here.

The Interoperability of Being

As ridiculous as it sounds, multiple people get a notification every time my cat, Raja, uses his smart litter robot and any time there is a sound in my hallway. I or someone else can act on those notifications with connected devices. Does Raja’s litter need to be changed or is he just tripping the system? The robot will tell us. Is there a package at my door? The camera will let us know. App makers connect us to our pets, our cars, our fridges, our shoes. We live in the age of connection and while broadcast has been slower to the trend, we’re now seeing a growing demand for interoperability and flexibility in the enterprise broadcast and media sector.

“For years, people sat on panels and said the NRCS (Newsroom Computer System) needed to be that interconnect. Everybody listened. Nobody did anything about it,” said Blake Russell, the Executive VP for Station Operations and Content Development at the Nexstar Media Group. Mr. Russell envisioned a world where multiple systems opened up secure endpoints to connect with the newsroom computer system. “That’s our NASA, our Mission Control,” he explained. Nexstar owns, operates or provides service to 199 television stations and their related signals reach approximately 62% of all U.S. television households.

Mr. Russell and Nexstar were among the first to push for this, but they are not alone. This has become a routine request from media clients. Recently a buyer said, “We really love having our video and transcriptions and metadata in latakoo, but I like that it also shows up in Avid.” latakoo’s backbone is built on agnostic collaboration. Our cloud infrastructure and API exist in such a way that we can provide secure connections to integration partners.

There’s a natural instinct for self-preservation: a catch in the throat, a protective fear that occurs when broadcast vendors talk about interoperability. No matter what customers want, it sounds suspiciously like we are being asked to build a bridge into our service that allows some other company to sell something to our customers that maybe we could have built and sold ourselves. Why give up business to an interloper? After all, this is not the consumer web. We support a niche industrial market that some of us have carefully developed, groomed and served for decades.

And when I say “we,” there are doubtlessly some tenured technology vendors who look at latakoo today and see an “interloper.” The reality is that whether we’re talking about new technology startups in a market or newly arrived immigrants to a country, the temptation once one has arrived and survived is to immediately turn around, close and bolt the door. Let’s build a wall, because we can clearly handle things from here. I can understand the trepidations here as I am both an immigrant and a startup technology founder, but we can’t let fear create handcuffs.

While the temptation is strong to create closed branded ecosystems with locked-in customers, there are at least two problems with this bar-the-door strategy. First, it is a guaranteed superhighway to mediocrity. And second, it does not serve the best interests of our customers. Truly free markets are scary precisely because they are not protected, and that means that some innovator (not interloper) can surprise and disrupt the market with a superior service or business model. That is also why free markets are awesome for customers. Innovators create the future through their imagination and skilled execution. Everyone benefits.

After Eliud Kipchoge, a personal hero and the Kenyan marathoner, ran his epic sub two-hour marathon, he said, “No human is limited.” His “why” resonated with the world, “The reason for running 1:59 is not the performance. The reason to run 1:59 is to tell that farmer that he is not limited; that teacher that she can produce good results in school; that engineer… that he can go to another project.” Kipchoge built a team of rivals to get it done, pacemakers who were among the world’s best distance runners. That’s how records get broken. And sometimes during the race, competitors discover they are faster when they collaborate.

For years, broadcast and media customers asked vendors to provide easy access to superior solutions under one umbrella. “We need to remove the level of complexity to use broadcast technologies and find out how we can all get along within the same environment,” said Mr. Russell. “You don’t need six things, each doing one element alone. You need one thing that can talk to everything and it has to be secure.”

Like almost every major station group in the United States today, the Nexstar Media Group grew quickly as it acquired other station groups. This created a communications challenge which the Nexstar team brought to latakoo. How does a station group operating in 100+ markets realize its potential economies of scale through real time communication and content sharing? Another station group simultaneously described the same scenario. We tackled the challenge and called our solution, Manifest.

At its heart, Manifest is a searchable index of assignments that allows users to quickly discover what is being produced that day throughout the company. Teams can search through a huge organization’s assignments by category, geographic region and precise search terms. They can follow developing stories they discover for updates and request that the content be delivered directly to them the moment a journalist turns in a story by sending the finished product through latakoo from the field to that reporter’s home station.

Like every other part of latakoo, Manifest can exist on its own or it can integrate into another asset management system. For Mr. Russell’s team, there’s no time to duplicate work by re-entering data in more than one place. Instead, the systems used by reporters need to synchronize so that the same information and content is available on every platform they use. Today, Manifest already seamlessly integrates with three of the world’s most used Newsroom Computer Systems as well as a custom assignments system, called Daybook, built and used by Nexstar.

This year, latakoo is participating in the roll out of another collaboration product that provides broadcasters the benefits of two companies, each doing what they do best. The Panasonic US team reached out to us earlier this year with a proposition. Their PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras are in demand, and they’ve got low latency streaming video built right into the cameras. The challenge their customers face is easily setting up the necessary web systems to support the cameras. Could latakoo help? As a web- based software service provider, latakoo used the tools Panasonic baked into its cameras to easily discover the cameras on a LAN, to send the video to the cloud, to control the cameras from anywhere in the world and to direct the video stream to on-premise broadcast playout. Panasonic makes hardware solutions. latakoo makes software services. Marry the two and broadcasters receive the collaborative benefits of each company’s specialty skillset.

All of this is not to say that companies should ever walk away from the creation of any disruptive service or product they see fit to produce. The key is to go ahead and build the things you know are needed in the marketplace, but also negotiate an entry point for others to integrate. Vendors will do better if customers choose their service because it’s better and not because customers feel chained inside their matrix.

latakoo COVID success story

From our office in downtown Austin, Texas, there is a clear and often meditative view of the popular Lady Bird Lake and Trail, where on most days, you find hundreds of people enjoying the water or the trail. As Covid-19 began to permeate into Texas, it was like a valve suddenly shut off — the people disappeared. State and local governments issued lockdown orders. We sent our employees home. Our clients cleared out their newsrooms, production facilities and studios. Journalists began reporting from their living rooms instead of broadcast centers. Todd Bynum, KXAN-TV’s Chief Photographer told me, “We made sure laptops had the latakoo app installed, then handed them out to our crews and said, ‘you’re not coming back here for a few months, use latakoo to send us your stories, latakoo will be your friend.”

latakoo is a native cloud company celebrating our 10th anniversary this month. Our clients are some of the world’s largest broadcasters. Their staffers were already comfortable using latakoo to transfer files quickly and securely from around the world. As the pandemic set in, they began to count on us more than ever.

What we saw in the wake of the shutdowns was unprecedented usage by current clients – with uploads from users growing 172% year-over-year in just one month. In the case of one major broadcast client, users from one of its divisions, uploaded an explosive 1800% more minutes of video than in May 2019. latakoo’s cloud offers a platform for collaboration, downloading and viewing. One client streamed nearly 150,000 minutes of video in a single month, up an incredible 8,000% over the same month last year.

“We had been using latakoo as a one-way street prior to the coronavirus pandemic, taking files from the field, to the cloud, to the asset manager,” said Rick Erbach, News Director of WGNO, in New Orleans, Louisiana during a webinar in April. “Now we’ve turned it into a two-way street. MMJs will say,  ‘I need this video or that video.’ And so what we are doing now is putting that video up to the latakoo cloud so they can bring it down to their desktop at their home.” Erbach says latakoo has been a “newscast saver” during the pandemic.

As we were scaling our service and adapting to the demands of increased traffic, clients started asking to use latakoo to enable novel remote workflows. We have always nurtured a very collaborative relationship with our clients. I was not surprised when they called us with questions like, “What if we used latakoo to record live feeds coming in from press conferences?” 

We responded with rapid innovation. We set up workflows to create files from live streams, enabled cloud editing in beta and launched a unique disaster recovery workflow. And, our team pushed out a new service called Manifest to help teams discover, follow and request stories – ensuring delivery to multiple locations. Manifest integrates with AP’s ENPS and literally helps news teams manage stories from birth to broadcast.

The question that always comes up, “Did you already have a plan in place?” We did have an emergency response plan, but if we’re all being honest, we have to admit that we had never faced a pandemic. It’s like a breaking news story where the facts as you know it will change in an hour, in a day, in a month. You are forced to operate with only the here and now. Our marketing efforts, which included two major conferences, had to be shuffled as NAB and IBC cancelled shows. We’re sponsoring and producing more webinars and using public relations teams in Europe and the U.S. to supplement marketing. 

My heart sinks and I feel pangs of guilt when I hear about companies that have shuttered. We are growing and adding staff. I remember the days when buyers were skeptical about “cloud” solutions. Now people are pandemic-proofing by using cloud companies. We don’t know for sure how it will all shake out, but we believe the way to continued growth is to listen carefully to our clients, intelligently and efficiently build what they will use, pivot as needed and continuously be ready for change. 

Our view is back, hundreds of people once again in the lake and trail here, but as the pandemic rages on, it’s clear that nothing will ever be the same. 

Taking the pain out of home work

The news anchor you’ve been watching report from their living room or kitchen, may be there for a while, as the coronavirus infection continues to set new records. Most television news broadcasters have dramatically limited the number of people in newsrooms and studios in order to protect their employees and prevent the infection from spreading. 

According to The At-Home Studio And The Future Of News Workflow webinar hosted by TV News Check on July 23, a majority of the attendees plan to keep more than 50% of their staff off-site permanently.

Broadcasters are increasingly turning to companies that facilitate their teams’ ability to work from anywhere. latakoo is one of those solutions, enabling the fast transfer of files from anywhere to anywhere, whether it’s to the broadcast studio or to a colleague for collaboration. latakoo users can transfer a file one time and have it arrive at multiple destinations with multiple workflows. 

Hats off to the journalists out there who are doing this important work,” said Jade Kurian, president and co-founder of latakoo. “These news crews are out there, protecting the rest of us and we are so happy to be able to support them.”

Austin-based latakoo has seen explosive growth in the usage of its file transfer and cloud-based system. In just one instance, a single news division is sending more than 32,000 files a month, or 1800% more files than in May of last year.

For many clients, latakoo was a known software tool that became the preferred way to move files when the pandemic began. “As far as sending video, latakoo was already a well-established workflow for us. We just expanded upon that once we started working from home and it has been super successful,” said Keith Barbaria, VP of Technology for NBC Boston, NBC Sports Boston, Telemundo Boston and New England Cable News.

Not only are customers sending more video, they’re using the cloud-based platform for collaboration as well. One latakoo news client streamed 147,570 minutes on the latakoo platform in May 2020, an 8,000% increase over the same month the previous year.

Cloud collaboration is the way dispersed teams are continuing to be productive, since the appetite for news coverage has only grown since the pandemic began.

“(We’re) leveraging latakoo a whole lot in terms of getting material to and from home base,” said Brendan Falco, Senior Director of Operations for Spectrum Networks, on the collection of software tools or hardware ‘kits’ his team is using. “I think we’re in a groove on how those kits are set up and we’ve been happy with the result.”

latakoo’s Kurian thinks that the pandemic has not only brought lasting change to the way news crews work, but to the technology they use. “What I keep hearing from our customers and potential customers is the need for a solution that’s sophisticated enough to integrate with  other platforms and technologies they’re using, along with the simplicity in user interface, so you don’t need to be an engineer to use it effectively.”