Former CTO at OSN
Peter Riz has over 20 years of experience in the TV and media industry. But his route there was certainly an unconventional one.
Originally from Budapest, he started working with HBO in Europe – even before he finished University – in the creative side of the industry, as a video editor putting together trailers. Over time (and with no small amount of hard work), he built up his knowledge and expanded his role in the company, reaching the title of SVP of Technology at HBO Europe.
A few years and a move to Dubai later, and Riz became the CTO of MENA's leading entertainment business, with the rights to broadcast in 22 countries across the region.
For Riz, his career and the advice that he gives to his team centre on the value of curiosity, asking questions and continuously learning.
Translating traditional satellite to modern streaming services – the challenges of digital transformation
Riz describes how the modern streaming platform is totally different from how you would build and operate a traditional broadcast environment. As a result, Riz has to balance this fast-paced industry shift with consistency of service, maintaining equilibrium with customer expectations of the new, while also ensuring their high levels of satisfaction.
“In a single sentence, the biggest challenge of this role was understanding how to help OSN with its digital transformation. How to help OSN use all the core values that they built in the past, serving all their subscribers over the satellite, premium pay TV business, how to adapt all these to the challenges of the digital world, and how to manage the same success and the same high quality user experience in the streaming world.”
“From a team point of view, I think one of the biggest challenges is that we had to learn many, many new things. We all need to keep being open-minded and learn new things and, to an extent, forget some of the old practices, because they just are not followed anymore in the digital world.
“The entire broadcast operation and related technologies are all about best practices.”
Questioning, learning and curiosity
When their industry is experiencing such rapid, ongoing changes, natural curiosity and intrigue will be highly beneficial character traits for a CTO.
“You should learn, learn, learn – every day, something new. And you should accept the fact that you will make failures and mistakes. I always told the team that, ‘Guys, if we do things the same way today as we did yesterday, this is just a clear indication that we didn't learn anything during the last 24 hours.”
And this continuous learning is a collaborative effort; for Riz, it’s an approach that needs to be encouraged amongst the entire team.
“The second rule in my organisation is that you should be able to ask for help, and you should be able to provide help for everyone who needs it, in order to maintain the product and the user experience.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to stop speculating, ask more questions and listen to the answers.”
In this vein, Riz admits that sometimes he tells people in his team something that he knows is not correct, because he wants to see who can speak up, or questions to clarify the situation.
“I think it's really important for people in this industry to have this skill, because everything is changing so quickly around us.”
For Riz, curiosity is one of the primary motivators in his career. He is driven by his general curiosity, and his enjoyment of learning new things.
“It could be a formal education – I still challenge myself with some formal programmes here and there (right now, my new favourite is blockchain). Curiosity gives you the opportunity to be open-minded. If I learn something, I really want to try it out. I really want to see how it works. I really want to validate it.”
“And yeah, sometimes I end up with some disappointment and some failure, but in general, I think if you turn your curiosity to learning, it could really change your life, and you really can deliver some value to your organisation, your team, and for yourself.”
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“Our strategic approach was reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic response - there was stronger national direction, digital and data were the main enablers, and all the emphasis was on prevention and on delivering services outside hospital, into communities and homes.”