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Video: How Do You Standardize the Live Video Experience Across Different Devices and Platforms?
LiveX's Corey Behnke and Streaming Media's Tim Siglin discuss the challenges live content providers like LiveX face in managing the user experience with live video on different devices and platforms.
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Tim: Welcome back to Streaming Media East 2017. I'm Tim Siglin, contributing editor with Streaming Media Magazine and Media Strategy Principal at Reel Solver Inc. Today I've got Corey Behnke with me. Corey, you were on my panel earlier today but for people who weren't in the panel, tell me a little bit about LiveX.

Corey: LiveX is a full-service production company here in New York City. We do live broadcasts and streaming. We're known worldwide to do the New Year’s Eve Time Square ball drop. Every year. I've been on that show for 15 years. I started as a PA on that show.

Tim: Wow, nice.

Corey: I was the former head of production and services at livestream.com.

Tim: Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction on the air?

Corey: Not personally, no.

Tim: Good. Good, good, good. Of course, being behind the camera for 15 years or behind the production business, I'm sure you've seen all sorts of things. One of the things that's fascinating about what we're doing here is we're doing a Facebook live but we're also obviously doing what will be an edited interview later. I have to remind myself constantly that seeing how the sausage is made is part of the process. On the panel today you talked about a number of things with user experience. Just give a quick recap of where you find user experience is important both for the publisher as well as for the end user.

Corey: I think the biggest thing in the game right now is Facebook. I think everybody can agree with that. Facebook has released their API I think three or four times in the last 18 months. Each time they've allowed you to do some very compelling things. Some of the things we talked about that fascinated me were different devices. How do you really control for the devices? How do you control your experience inside the player? Also, the migration that's happened. We talked about where all the interaction happened outside the player. Now there's been this focus of why don't we be inside the player. That brings a lot of challenges obviously.

Tim: We talked about all the floating emojis that came across.

Corey: Yeah. Floating emojis over lower thirds, which is a terrible problem to have.

Tim: Ultimately, the ability to hide those clearly was requested.

Corey: Hiding that and then one of the challenges I think in the next let's say 6-8 months is how do I have a similar experience across all platforms.

Tim: Absolutely.

Corey: Right? What we didn't really talk about is how much publishers are forced to be on every platform. Some of the publishers we talked about, they already had experiences where they have an app. They have it for Android and iOS and not really worried about web or daily bird work. They don't need to be on a lot of platforms because they're subscription based. They really want to be for these browsers and these apps and these ecosystems. A lot of my clients, they're using Facebook Live as a promotional tool, as a marketing tool. They spent millions of dollars getting all these likes on their pages. Now what do they do with them?

Tim: Especially if they're gearing toward a big, single event. They want to be able to monetize out from that particular event. You have to be on all the platforms at the moment the event occurs.

Corey: That's the challenge. I think what's amazing with Facebook now is these brands. Back in the day we would do $200,000 live streaming broadcast events. We would do it on a platform and it would be an embedded player on their site.

Tim: People had to get to that platform as opposed to ...

Corey: Yep. 50 people show up or a thousand people would show up. Your ROI on that. Now we did a Kevin Hart stream on Facebook. This was about 12 months ago during the Boston Marathon, before it. It was for Nike. On Nike and Kevin Hart, he has 26 million followers on Facebook. A video with no marketing, no promotion, nothing, Twitter suddenly has 269,000 unique viewers watching right then not on VOD later. That's the power of the distribution side. I think when we're talking about what's fascinating about where it's going is we talked a little bit about being able to use an API to scrape comments, being able to utilize the platform's capabilities inside of your player. That, to me, is where it's happening. I think you're going to see standardization of players inside of the platform where it's like, Twitter allows you to do this. Facebook allows you to do polling. You're going to have multi-distribution players with your multi-distribution switchers going to all the different platforms and that's going to be the challenge.

Tim: Interesting. It's right back to the problem you had before in the analog world.

Corey: It really is.

Tim: Ultimately, it may become something that it's for a better user experience. You're almost directing people for better user experience go to use Facebook Live or for better user experience go use Twitter. Then it gets into an interesting conversation if one of those two is a media sponsor of an event, it may be that you're telling them to go there, but it's not necessarily the best experience; it's just because that's one of the sponsors. It'll be interesting to see how the politics play in that as well.

Corey: To your point, you've been in the industry a long time. Here's what happens: there becomes this consolidation. We need to use this thing. This is the way to go. Then all of a sudden a platform figures out a piece that, oh my goodness. I used to stream on YouTube and embed it and I'm not getting ... for instance, on New Yea’rs is a classic example where we had 2.9 million viewers two years ago all on embed. People.com took it. New York Times, you're talking about over 200 embeds. What happened last year is the segmentation. Those viewers are not going to go to the place. They're going to be inside of the platform they are. Literally half of our traffic was on Facebook. Luckily we streamed to Facebook.

We didn't lose our viewership. But what's crazy is how much the market and the maze consolidates and then it becomes this, you have to be on everything. If you're a publisher, you have to be on Twitter, you have to be on Facebook. Not if you're monetizing your content. It's a little bit different but then you have all your OTT plays. You have all of your embed. You still have to be on your own website. It becomes this complex challenge. Then all of a sudden when you talk about compelling user experiences, how do you manage 12 user experiences.

Tim: How do you even know in the planning phase from the beginning of your planning to the actual event, which platform is going to grow. Overseas, WhatsApp is huge from a messaging standpoint. Facebook messenger isn't quite as much. It could be that something else comes along or something happens that then forces people off one social media platform onto another. Are you ready for that? I guess the other question I have is you mentioned Facebook had released the API several times over the last 18 months or so. At this point if you have so many publishers reliant on that API, is it standardized? I'm not talking about does it meet industry standards. I mean even within Facebook, is it standardized so that as they release the next version of the API they're not breaking a bunch things that people were using.

Corey: Yeah. They tend to be good about that but other platforms are not as good.

Tim: Aren't necessarily.

Corey: They tend to be better about that. What's really fascinating about where it's going is the fact that you can develop products on top of these platforms. What's not cool about it is that publishers are having a hard time getting to all the people. It's harder. It's easier in some ways because it's like all the people are on Facebook. But then you lose your monetization strategy or you lose your shopping strategy, you lose your branding strategy. The New York Times I think has probably looked at Facebook, they all look at Facebook and they're like, we have to be on there but are we eroding our own brand.

Tim: It's the Facebook brand that's more dominant than the New York Times brand.

Corey: Exactly.

Tim: This whole idea of focusing everything to the screen and allowing all the interaction to happen on the screen is clearly where we're going. If you can solve that problem, then if you can replicate that across those other platforms and not be reliant on the external chat, the external interactive piece, that does lead us to looking at industry standards around this whether it's a defective standard like HLS from Apple or Facebook Live from Facebook and everybody else has to mimic that. Whether we go to W3C and deal with it. There certainly are some interesting challenges in that space.

Corey: I think for me the places where there's disruptions can happen is you're going to have someone, a JW Player type, figure out how to make a cloud-based API that can pull in comments from Facebook, comments from Twitter. For interactivity it's about having to go scrape all the places that people are and when they're talking so I can immediately interact with them.

Tim: Even from an analysis standpoint, understand what your true audience numbers are. We've talked about that in the industry for a while. Neilson's trying to do DCR where they want to look at TV and on demand with a 30 day window. But at the end of the day, if they don't have, as you said, the shift that happens where suddenly it's half the audience or about half the audience is Facebook, are they even tracking that? How do those analytics come into play as well? I think that's going to be huge for publishers.

Corey: It's really huge. We are streaming a polo even for New York Times. They have sponsor obligations. They have I frame ad obligations. Just the analytics using one white label platform is really difficult inside of that. Now, when you're pulling what is my Twitter stuff? What is my Facebook stuff? What's real? What's not real? One of our problems even on New Year’s was how do I take my 2011 data and match that to my 2017 data and what is a unique viewer on Google versus a unique viewer on Facebook.

Tim: Precisely.

Corey: To your point about standards, it's like we have to standardize analytics, we have to standardize player standards. Jan Ozer is famous for saying are we going to pick a codec? Until you pick a codec, and I said this in the panel.

Tim: Yeah, you did.

Corey: What is it going to be? People were like, we should standardize stuff. It's like, that's nice but I'm using HLS over here. I'm trying to use MPEG dash even though I can't find a browser for it to work for. These things become an issue.

Tim: Yeah, they absolutely do. Corey thank you very much for your time. Corey Behnke, LiveX.

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