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A Buyers' Guide to Online Video Platforms
There are so many OVPs in the market that it can be difficult to choose. This guide looks at ten top OVPs in-depth, showing how they differ in their features and focus.
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Note: This story is an in-depth look at 10 top OVPs. For a list of every OVP, look to this feature from OnlineVideo.net.

Whether you’re a small retailer, a regional college, or a major media company, chances are good that at some point you’ll be working with an online video platform (OVP). But choose carefully because many specialize in different areas. A good OVP can do more than just host and serve videos: It will help you create an easy workflow and grow your business.

The list that follows isn’t meant to be comprehensive; even with recent market consolidation, there are still more than 100 OVPs in the marketplace. Rather, it’s meant to give you a sense of some of the leading OVPs and what differentiates them from their competitors. Ultimately, you’ll want to do your homework, pick a few that seem right for you, then take each one for a test-drive before you make your final decision. 

Brightcove

It might be surprising for an OVP as big as Brightcove, but it’s focused on ease of use and helping even small players get online. It has refined the user experience by offering more customization options, video branding, and simple streaming to mobile devices. It offers plenty of APIs and other tools for connecting to existing workflows, and coding is done with the lightweight markup language BEML.

The company launched in 2005. Since it’s a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution, there’s no software to be installed, and cross-platform support isn’t a problem.

Brightcove has found an audience with large media companies, broadcasters, news organizations, and lifestyle publications. Brand marketers, whether selling to consumers or businesses, also make up a large portion of the customer base, as well as governmental, nonprofit, and political groups.

Major offerings from Brightcove include the three versions of its OVP solutions. Express, which is meant for entry-level customers, starts at $99 per month and doesn’t require an annual commitment. Brightcove Pro, priced in the low- to high-five figures, was rolled out when the company was born. Finally, Brightcove Enterprise, which offers multiple account capabilities, began in 2008.

The OVP formerly known as Delve (until Limelight bought it) stands out for its user experience and workflow. The user interface was designed to be friendly and to make it easy to accomplish tasks. When a user uploads a video, he or she can update its metadata and set the channel even before the video is fully uploaded. That’s a timesaver few can match. It also offers strong analytics and APIs.

The platform’s Video Clipper tool makes it easy to shorten videos and works well in combination with Limelight’s real-time analytics. If users see that viewers are routinely quitting a video at a certain point, they have the option of ending the video there.

The OVP was acquired by Limelight in August 2010. Rather than focusing on just the mobile experience or just analytics, the Limelight Video Platform focuses on offering the best end-to-end user experience. Since it’s now under the same roof as a top CDN, it’s able to offer tie-ins that others can’t. Users gain from functionality such as player edge scaling, which the video platform is able to offer through low-level access to the CDN. Users also get to use developer APIs that aren’t open to the public.

Limelight’s target customers are mid-level or enterprise marketers or media companies using the OVP to put videos on their public sites or their internal training sites. The company enjoys wide support from the healthcare, financial services, and media verticals.

In the fall of 2010, the company began offering live streaming, including to mobile devices. It recently announced a partnership with Adobe to create that company’s TV Everywhere service, which targets high-end traditional media companies.

Kaltura

Kaltura is best known for its open source online video platform, a downloadable solution that delivers all the building blocks that publishers of any size need to create channels, deliver video, monetize their content, and analyze the results. It offers a paid solution as well, but many gravitate to the free model, even if setting it up requires a bit of work. More than 100,000 companies actively use the open source solution, according to Kaltura.

Even if it doesn’t directly profit from its free offering, Kaltura still benefits from it. There’s an active community of developers working to improve the experience, which Kaltura can use in its commercial offering. By getting that many people involved, it spurs innovation beyond what the company could do in-house.

The company launched in September 2006 with the goal of becoming the leading open source OVP. It targets four verticals: media and entertainment, education, service providers, and enterprise. The company works with customers both large and small.

The platform itself launched 2 years ago and includes developer tools for customizing the experience. Its MediaSpace product is sold as YouTube-in-a-box and lets people rapidly create a video portal. MediaSpace launched a year ago. Finally, its CMS/LMS integration kits launched 2 years ago. These kits allow developers to connect Kaltura to products such as SharePoint or Blackboard—systems that don’t handle video well. Kaltura offers 25 integration kits in all.

Ooyala

Mention Ooyala and most people think analytics. The company has earned a firm foothold by offering granular data on viewer behavior. While Ooyala has been focused on analytics since it launched in April 2007, it majorly improved its abilities when it rebuilt its analytics offering based on the Cassandra data store. Customers can now zoom in on individual videos or even individual viewers in real time for either live or on-demand content.

Not surprisingly, major media companies are Ooyala’s target customers. It’s making inroads with large broadcasters and print publishers, many of which are looking for ways to monetize their content directly.

One feature that sets Ooyala apart is its modular offerings. Buyers don’t need to adopt the entire end-to-end system when using Ooyala, but they can buy only the modules they need. That might mean using only the transcoding engine, analytics, or ad server.

Ooyala released its core Backlot system soon after the company’s launch at the end of 2007. In April 2011, it debuted Ooyala Everywhere, which
lets publishers stream to (and generate revenue from) mobile and connected devices. Other releases include a paywall system introduced late in 2010 that offers subscription and pay-per-view models and custom integrations with ad networks.

Kyte

Kyte is one of two OVPs in our guide that used to be independent but are now owned by KIT Digital (the other is KickApps). Kyte was acquired in January of this year, and while it still exists as a separate brand, it won’t for long. It’s in the process of delivering its technology to KIT and will transition to a part of the KIT Digital brand. There’s no firm date when this will happen; the focus is on integrating the technology correctly.

As it transitions, Kyte will become known as KIT Platform, the OVP for KIT Digital’s line of solutions. KIT Platform offers three versions: Operator, Media, and Enterprise. They all share an underlying architecture and a modular way of working. What customers get depends on their needs. The people behind the platform study those needs and create a custom solution for each client that integrates with its existing workflow.

KIT Platform is aimed at the higher end of the market and already powers some of the world’s largest and most complex video efforts. Customers include HP and Delta Airlines. At the moment, the KIT Platform team is working on a secret multicity deployment in China.

Kyte launched in 2008 and never classified itself as an OVP; it provided managed cloud-based over-the-top services. Though it did present some consumer-level offerings (including one of the first stream-from-mobile-phone platforms), its focus has been on powering complex video solutions: big deployments that require a lot of expertise. Customers include large media and entertainment companies. Its focus now is to create a highly interoperable set of components that can be used on-site, in the cloud, or in a private cloud. 

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