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Behind the music

By Christopher Korchin | July 7, 2014
Behind the music

If you’ve ventured into the upper channels of your cable TV subscription, you’ve likely tuned in to Galaxie, the popular music service programmed and supplied by Montreal-based Stingray Digital Group.

The challenge

 The company’s own numbers show that when we aren’t watching television, we enjoy listening to music on it. But in an era when the music industry itself is being reshaped, and the cable industry is contending with free streaming sites like YouTube and subscription services such as Netflix, Stingray not only has to deal with the competition, but also with questions of whether its licensed content remains secure. That challenge has led it to develop a risk-resilience plan that’s equal parts advanced technology and old-school proprietorship.

The strategy

“Music everywhere,” says Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Communications Mathieu Péloquin of Stingray’s growth strategy. That ambitious approach has put musical programming curated and licensed by Stingray, into 113 countries and 105 million cable TV-equipped households worldwide. Besides Galaxie, the company’s offerings include the Karaoke Channel, Concert TV, Music Choice in Europe and, thanks to a recent acquisition, Mood Media in Latin America.

To manage most of the digital products it sends out across the globe, however, Stingray employs a much narrower focus. The key to protecting its musical programming is the company’s proprietary server technology, UbiquiCAST. That name might suggest a product that’s available to one and all, but it’s actually a method of maintaining tight control through a closed connection between Stingray’s IT department in Montreal and its own servers, which are installed on-site at various broadcasters’ headquarters around the world. Content is uploaded to each UbiquiCAST server over a secure virtual private network. 

“We have 24-7 contact with those servers,” Péloquin says. “We upload all of the playlists in a very secure, closed environment – we’re not streaming through the cloud or using a satellite signal.” 

The results

In an age when new means of delivering information are surfacing at a bewildering rate, Stingray’s server-to-server model seems almost quaint, but it has the virtue of extreme security. “In terms of fraud or hacking situations, that’s just never happened,” Péloquin says.

Another advantage is that Stingray is primarily a business-to-business enterprise, dealing on one end with established music labels and on the other with large cable, satellite or Internet Protocol Television IPTV providers like Bell Canada and AT&T. That model in itself ensures a level of security. Of course, virtually anything today can be pirated once it’s broadcast, and the very notion of copyright is under assault, but Stingray has so far seen little unauthorized use of its content, except, perhaps, on YouTube, Péloquin notes.

The future

Stingray believes that reports of the death of TV are greatly exaggerated, but it is addressing the growing fragmentation in consumer habits by making its products available on platforms like Android and iOS. Still, the secure pay TV model is a seductive one. 

“Eighty-five per cent of the Canadian population has access to pay TV,” Péloquin says. “If you look at markets like Latin America, 35 per cent of the population has access to pay TV, and it’s growing in double digits. Three or four years ago, it was the thing to have a mobile or smartphone, but today, especially with the soccer World Cup, it’s to have cable and a wide-screen TV in your living room. So we’re forgetting that countries like Canada or the U.S. are coming to maturity in terms of TV – there are a lot of markets around the world where it’s still growing.” 

Stingray plans to meet that demand with secure content.

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