Women in Streaming: Interview with Olga Kornienko

Intro: In the “Women in Streaming” series of articles, we talk to incredible women who have contributed a lot to the growth of the video streaming industry and share their stories. In this installment of the series, we talk to Olga Kornienko, the COO and Co-Founder of EZDRM (a DRM-as-a-Service company).

Thank you, Olga, for agreeing to sit down with us for this interview. It is a pleasure to talk to you and hear about your experiences. I am sure our readers with enjoy this piece. Let’s start off by first learning more about Olga as a person and a businesswoman. Please tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your career.

olga kornienko

Olga Kornienko is the COO and co-founder of EZDRM, a hosted, managed DRM-as-a-Service company. EZDRM’s innovative services offer the critical DRM technologies—PlayReady, Widevine, WisePlay, and FairPlay—through a robust, simple-to-use, cloud-based, API-driven service. For the 20 years of EZDRM’s existence, Olga has driven the growth of its international marketplace appeal, and cemented its position as a leader in both business and technology.

Q) What inspired you to co-found EZDRM?

We started out like so many other businesses: with two people and an idea. Our original plan in 2001 was to offer a streaming service.  But as you might imagine, we were two kids with no industry contacts then, and we failed miserably! The idea, however, revolved around DRM technology. When we were ready to give up, we decided to change our direction, based on the thing we knew best. 

Since we had the technology (Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM), why not create a company focused solely on the technology? We didn’t need to have content. We didn’t need to do customer management, or anything else.

We’ll just do one thing – DRM – and do it really well.

With that concept, we pivoted the business. At that time, Microsoft was alone in having Windows Media DRM technology as a licensable package, and we went from there.

We launched in January of 2003 as Software as a Service or, as we later coined the term, DRM as a Service (DRMaaS). We’ve been running in roughly the same format since then, and we’ve built our reputation on the idea of simplifying and demystifying the application of security technology to the business of video delivery.

We genuinely believe in being customer-centric, with simple pricing, and friendly, efficient support.

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Olga Kornienko, COO and Co-Founder of EZDRM (Picture Credit: LinkedIn)

Q) EZDRM has been around for 20 years now, and that’s a huge feat! Congratulations! What can you tell our readers about (a) leadership and (b) riding the highs and lows of businesses – Any interesting stories that you can share with us?

When we started out in 2001, my business partner David (David Eisenbacher, EZDRM CEO and co-founder) and I always said that internet is the future of video. 

Back then the video on the screen was going to start out being tiny, but with the advances in technology and internet speed, it will get just a little bit bigger every day. And then it is going to get a bit bigger. And eventually, you will go full screen HD, as we expect all the time today. 

As a company, we genuinely believe in treating customers the way we want to be treated.  And that mindset applies to both our business approach, as well as leading the company.

We have been a “work from anywhere” company since day one.  As long as the work gets done and the customer is happy, that is all that matters.  

From a security standpoint, the landscape was a lot more fragmented when we started, and standards were hard to find. So, we have seen and participated in, a significant arc of technological change and an incredible growth of the online video business.

And a lot of the growth is due to the standardization that has been happening with in the industry.  That allows customers to choose the best provider for them, utilizing the best-of-breed, multi-vendor approach. 

It would not be possible without all of the work done by the various standards bodies out there, including the DASH IF, where I now chair the Promotions Working Group.  

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Olga Kornienko and Glenn Goldstein presenting a plaque to Jeff Tapper from the DASH IF (Credit)

Q) Moving onto DRM and Video Streaming, do you see any effect on the DRM industry post-pandemic? Has anything changed?

During COVID and while working long hours from home every day, I was seeing the business grow, but not being exposed to much information about specific new developments. In the later half of this year, I’ve been travelling extensively and speaking at conferences, which has been very energizing.

Related:  EasyVMAF: Running VMAF In The Wild

New ideas and new business approaches are proliferation, but all models require a fundamental underpinning of secured revenue streams. So it is all new, but it also everything remains familiar!

I do find it interesting how momentum across every single aspect of the media and entertainment industry, on the streaming side as well as the content-creation side has emphasized a transition into the cloud.

Anything within our little security bubble of DRM, watermarking, and other security technologies—everything has already been standardized in the cloud. Which is proving to us that the decision we made all that time ago in 2003 to be a cloud-based service (though no one called it that back then) was the right one.

Q) As a DRM expert, can you give us your insights and thoughts around CENC (Common Encryption) and CMAF and the possible path to a single file format for use across all DRMs (FairPlay Streaming, Widevine, and PlayReady)?

Don’t forget WisePlay – an important technology outside the US market! The subject of alignment around topics like CENC and CMAF took a long time to become 100% accepted across the whole industry, but the benefits of such standardization eventually become too obvious to ignore.

And, as classically deployed as a microservice component of many large-scale streaming delivery systems, other standards like CPIX and SPEKE have made EZDRM integration simpler and more globally significant.

Olga Kornienko
Olga Kornienko with the EZDRM team (Picture Credit: LinkedIn)

Q) What are your suggestions and tips for anyone trying to start up in the OTT world? Any hot topics or pain points that could be interesting for a start-up to target?

Although it is now conventional wisdom to consider the market for information and entertainment streaming to be saturated, I do think that there will always be room for new services that emphasize specialized niche content. Not to mention that the major revenue streams of live sports events are still very much in transition, trying to figure out what is going to happen when the majority of video consumption is done through online delivery.

And almost all of these services will be commercial in nature – there is no limit to the channel bandwidth available for service offerings as there was with constrained satellite and cable distribution!  

In parallel with this educational content is going online. Schools and colleges are trying to figure out what to do with respect to maintaining their IP. Teaching medical procedures—and anything that you can possibly think of that could be done in-house or in-person—is being done online now. And this is just one example of a growing role for secure enterprise video.

If you have a CEO do a town hall speech remotely, you really can’t let it get out online in a public form. All communications like that need to be under control and protected. 

Q) Finally, we come to our rapid-fire section- a list of fun questions about you.

  • Favorite way to unwind:  Settled in in front of the wheel in the pottery studio working on the next project.  Since we all live in such a digital world where so many things are , it is a very nice feeling of getting your hands dirty and creating something tangible. 

  • Favorite cuisine: Sushi, hands down!

  • Favorite travel destination: Someplace I have not been yet.   Life is all about new experiences, meeting new people, learning about new cultures and tasting new cuisines.   

  • Favorite movie or web series: The 2013 version of “The secret life of Walter Mitty”

  • Favorite sport to watch: Hockey.

  • Favorite sport to participate: I discovered running a few years ago and love it.

If you would like to know more, the easiest way to get a hold of us is to go to our website (https://www.ezdrm.com/) and use the contact form. Or, if you prefer sending an email, [email protected] is the best way to go.

Thank you, Olga for this wonderful interview and we wish you all the best in 2023.

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