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The Questions Clients Need to Answer Before Asking for a Quote
Looking for a vendor to create a video solution for a website? Do the vendor and yourself a favor by answering these questions upfront. They're guaranteed to save a few steps.

I receive several emails a month from readers asking me about how best to approach a video problem, and usually they want an idea as to how much the solution will cost. At its best, an email will detail the current implementation, what the tech stack consists of, what attempt(s) have been made to correct problems (and any subsequent failures), what deliverables are being sought, and what the timeline is. At its worst, an email will ask for the moon with no information related to the prior mentioned points and require me to reply with a sincere “this is how you tell me what your problem is in a better way” set of steps to follow.

A recent example was a person inquiring about a pay-per-view (PPV) chat for their website:

I was interested in having PPV chat on my website. I have a site now that is hosted with [generic web hosting service provider] but they don’t allow video. I would like to know if you can install my site or just a page on [popular streaming server] for me that allows my “performers” to be available for pay per view chat 24/7. Please send me a summary of what and how you can do it for me with a quote. Thank you.

If you read this magazine regularly, you know how many variables can be involved with any streaming video deployment. It certainly can be difficult for many product owners to describe problems with a current deployment or to enumerate features they are looking to add to their current offering. Many product owners routinely misconceive media servers as full application servers, capable of serving web pages, video players, and handling payment transactions.

Most of my reply to the cited email was a set of questions related to the business case(s) of PPV that I needed answered before I could give any worthy quote. Here’s my list of discovery questions that you should consider as you seek out advice and/or assistance on a PPV solution. Keep in mind that most PPV systems integrate with an CMS (content management system) and paywall.

The first two questions seek to establish the answer to the classic “build or buy” dilemma:

  • Have you explored a turnkey service that provides the features you are looking for? If yes, which services have you reviewed?
  • Do you have in-house technical resources to manage support for a PPV system, or do you seek an external vendor to fulfill support and ongoing maintenance?

If you decide you want to build your own solution, we need to answer these questions next:

  • Do you need to tie in an existing user (or subscriber) database with the PPV system? What is your existing setup for user administration? For example, do you currently have a secure member login page and member account management pages?
  • Do you have an existing setup for accepting credit cards or other forms of payment? For example, do you have an integrated PayPal pipeline already implemented for other member services?
  • What are the security requirements for your PPV video? Are there specific business rules you want to fulfill with PPV? For example, do you need to implement time-limited access to live streams? Will streams require encryption?
  • For what type of streams do you need PPV? Live and/or VOD (video on demand)/ prerecorded video clips? Do you need to record live PPV sessions for later VOD use?
  • Where do you want the PPV player (and publisher, if applicable) to operate? Are there expectations to run all video playback exclusively within browsers on mobile or desktop, or are native iOS and Android applications already in your roadmap or deployment pipeline?

These questions can be applied to many contexts for online video development, not just PPV chat. And, this initial set of questions is just the starter for a deeper discovery effort to determine the low-level details of everything else that will need to be put in place for a production-ready offering.

If even a few readers use these questions as homework before reaching out to vendors, I will be gratified. If I get an email from a prospective client that answers even half of these questions, I will cheer out loud.

[This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Magic Genie, Can I Have a PPV System?"]