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NAB 2018: Vimeo Talks Livestream Acquisition, Integration

Streaming Media Producer's Shawn Lam and Vimeo's Mark Kornfilt discuss Vimeo's acquisition of Livestream and implications for the Vimeo platform.

Shawn Lam: It's Shawn Lam here, for Streaming Media Producer at NAB 2018. I'm here with Mark Kornfilt from Livestream, now Vimeo. And I want to talk to you a little bit about the transition. So you started off with Livestream, many years ago.

Mark Kornfilt: Right.

Shawn Lam: Tell us a little about what made you guys successful, initially.

Mark Kornfilt: We started off with this vision, that within the next couple of years, every event that's happening anywhere on the world is going to be streamed live, online.

Shawn Lam: And you were right.

Mark Kornfilt: And we were early.

Shawn Lam: Yes.

Mark Kornfilt: It was 2007 when we started. But we saw very quickly, that ... First of all, we didn't invent live streaming, right. You could go on the BBC's website, or CNN, you could watch live streams. What we did is, we made it turnkey, we made it a couple of clicks, to go live. At the beginning, from your browser, then we offered more, and more tools.

But we saw quite quickly that things that are happening at a moment in time, they're organized, they have a reason to exist, they have a business model, and they have an audience, in the physical audience that can attend the event, they have an audience that can't attend the event. And our tools allow the creators of these events to broadcast the content live to an audience that wasn't physically there.

Shawn Lam: And you guys weren't Livestream at the beginning. It was Mogulus, right?

Mark Kornfilt: Yes, it was Mogulus.

Shawn Lam: It was a little bit of a different approach, maybe, back then, right? In terms of small content producers, becoming moguls, potentially, was that the vision?

Mark Kornfilt: Media moguls. I'm surprised you made the connection. Not a lot of people made the connection. Renaming the company was probably the best decision we've made in the last 11 years.

Shawn Lam: The name Livestream is synonymous with live streaming. It's just one of those things, that's just a natural fit.

Mark Kornfilt: Right, so we acquired the domain in 2009, that was a great year. That was one of the reasons we were really able to capture the live streaming market. And obviously, we always focused on providing high-quality tools for our content creators, to do live streaming.

As the industry moved, as live streaming got democratized, as you saw actors like Periscope and Facebook Live come in, we were able to really add value to our content creators, by positioning ourselves a step up from the destination, and really providing the tools across the video workflow, the live video workflow. To capture content, in some instances like Mevo, to encode it, to stream it, to manage it online, to collaborate around the content, and then distribute it out wherever.

And so today, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, they're all partners of ours. And that it is true of Vimeo, more broadly as a company, they're partners of ours. We enable the distribution to those destinations, and then we enable the distribution to your own website, if that's where you want to host your content, to your own apps. And with our OTT product, by the way, we also enable the distribution to branded apps, that we create for you, to destinations that we create for you, as a content owner, and monetization, and interactivity, and all of those things.

Shawn Lam: There must have been a lot of great conversations over the years, in terms of strategy, and I'm very fascinated by that. You guys had a lot of things at the beginning--you buy our branded hardware that only works on our system. People bought into that, they were tied to your system, that worked really well. Now, on Vimeo, it's a little bit more open, a little bit more free. What has the transition been like? How's the strategy changed?

Mark Kornfilt: Vimeo's broader mission is to empower creator to tell exceptional stories. As you've just heard, we were very aligned with that, already, throughout our history. It was a very natural combination. Of course, many things have changed since we started in 2007. The reason we went into all of these tools that you see here, studio software, our pro-hardware line, our Mevo camera, and then our encoder, our desktop encoder, as well, the reason we went into this, is because we created the platforms first, the distribution platform, the viewing platform, first. And then people would ask us, "How do I get started with live streaming?"

And then you'd have to get into, "Well, go and download that piece of software," or, "Go and buy this equipment." The complexity was very, very high. The complexity was high, so high that we would spend all of our time supporting third-party tools and equipment. And then, as you know, when there is an issue with the viewer, with the content for the viewer, who do people think about? They think about, "Oh, this is an issue with Livestream," or, "There's an issue with the content creator," whereas, they don't think about the tools upstream, right?

Shawn Lam: Yes.

Mark Kornfilt: So, we identified this need, and we identified this opportunity, to help creators capture the content and stream it. Now, as we've done that, of course, the industry has evolved tremendously--the number of tools, the number of options. Our intent was never to create a closed ecosystem. Our intent was to empower creators, was to enable the creation of professional-quality content. As the industry evolved, as the number of tools grew, it became obvious to us, that the industry had matured enough for us to open up again. Again, as Livestream, before the acquisition, we had already started opening up the platform, to additional tools, to additional encoders. We had already started opening up the platform, also on the distribution side, to Facebook, to YouTube, and so on.

Vimeo, now, as a company broadly, is an open ecosystem. You can get your content into the platform, however you chose, including our tools, if this is the best option for you.

Shawn Lam: And I've seen, under Vimeo, now, even some changes in the plans. You know, how they initially started off, at different allowances, eight hours a day, and now I see it's up to 12 hours. So it sounds like you guys are listening to some user feedback. Was that a pain point for some people, that eight hours wasn't enough on a single broadcast?

Mark Kornfilt: We've definitely listened to user feedback. We've adjusted many things, we've adjusted the features as well. Our goal is to create the most powerful live streaming tools, and to make that a fully integrated end-to-end solution, within Vimeo. Whatever we need to do to achieve that goal is what we'll do. And you've seen us take steps towards that.

Shawn Lam: What's next?

Mark Kornfilt: As we talk about acquisition, integration, combining forces, we're sitting here at NAB 2018, we've been coming here for many, many years, we've had many conversations with you guys, as well. And this is probably one of the most prolific NAB shows for us. We have five new products that we've announced here at NAB. Why that's exciting? Obviously, for the innovation that we've brought to the table, but also because it tells you the impact and the velocity that we've been able to have, as a combined company. It demonstrates that very concretely, with things that you can touch and see today.

As a founder and previous CEO of Livestream, I'm very proud of that progress. You’re going to see us continue to accelerate, continue to build more tools to empower creators, and you're going to see us continue to build the best end-to-end video platform.

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