Profile: Bill Styslinger

Jul 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Title: President and CEO of SeaChange International. SeaChange develops digital video systems used by cable operators for video on demand and ad insertion and by broadcasters for storage, editing and program delivery.
Background: Mr. Styslinger spent 17 years at Digital Equipment Corp. focusing on data networking technology and storage before he left in 1993 to co-found SeaChange.
The vision: While most of the television industry thinks of video on demand as purely movies, Mr. Styslinger prefers to define it as “all video.” In the future he believes all television will be delivered as video on demand. “Consumers will find that a more convenient way to watch TV. It will be oriented toward you rather than the broadcast schedule. That’s what our servers enable, and that’s why we founded the company,” he said.
Improving economics: Moore’s Law, which posits that computing power doubles every 18 months and the corresponding cost for such power, in turn, lowers, is clearly evident in the video server business, Mr. Styslinger said. In the early ’90s, the cost per stream on a video server was $10,000, he said. Today the cost per stream for the cable operator is about $250 because a SeaChange server costs about $50,000 and delivers 200 streams. Two years from now, he predicts the costs will be even lower, down to $100 per stream. Typically, a video-on-demand stream operates at 3 to 4 Mbps, he said. The general rule of thumb in the cable business, according to Mr. Styslinger, is that for every 1,000 set-top boxes, 100 will be using a stream from the video server at any given moment.
Future business models: When TV metamorphoses into a medium that is delivered on demand, the business model must change from the current ad-supported one. He said fee- and subscription-based services will grow, and targeted advertising will become much more prevalent.
“Today that’s a hard concept to even buy,” Mr. Styslinger said. But he expects the transition to targeted advertising will happen swiftly, in much the same way that the Internet exploded from 1993 to 1995. “The Holy Grail in advertising is narrowing it down, and personal TV and video on demand allows [advertisers] to do that,” he said.