7 Essential Tools for Every Creator's Streaming Toolbox
If only there were tools that consolidate disparate data so you could make better business choices, or allow for collaborative live editing or output to multiple platforms, or offer live switching with very low latency, or even provide you with access to quickly get a shooter on the ground to live stream an event.
Oh wait—there are, and we’ve profiled them here. Each year brings more and more compelling solutions to make streaming easier, more cost effective, more efficient, or even to provide a look into the business, which heretofore had not been possible. One or more of these could be a great addition to your toolbox and help you stay ahead of the innovation curve. Many of the companies here provided demo accounts, so we were able to kick the tires and get a look under the hood. Others didn’t, but we feel they’re worth your consideration.
This is only a smattering of the new products on the market. This is also just the first installment in a recurring series, so feel free to contact the author about your latest products.
Video Player Data Consolidator
Everyone knows that data collection and analysis are crucial to success, but many tools on the market offer only limited views into the data you need. Because delivery happens on multiple platforms, trying to track and compare data based on absolute measurements is impossible without a tool to normalize the data. Datazoom lets customers take player data from multiple sources and map it into a standardized dataset for better perspectives into their operations or to feed information into machine learning (ML) and AI tools.
“We need a more fundamental layer of data that we can use across multiple types of functions,” says Diane Strutner, Datazoom’s CEO. Building queries in Google Analytics without Datazoom requires familiarity with all the nomenclature for every single datapoint necessary for a specific metric. For example, each of the 20 players might call the play event something different. “You’d have to say show me how many ‘plays,’ ‘play requested,’ ‘content requested,’ and ‘play starts,’ because that’s the level of variance between all the platforms at a raw data level that we’re dealing with today,” says Strutner. “We provide an interface for customers so that they can select the data they want to include in their dataset.”
So how does Datazoom standardize data? Customers set up lectors to work with and then select a connector to output to. They support a wide range of video players and have created a dictionary for more than 1,700 player datapoints that users can reference when setting up queries. There are three general categories: Event (full API monitoring), Metadata (player, browser, response header), and FluxData (collected at predetermined intervals). These enable customers to consistently measure things like failed video starts, average bitrate, or rebuffering rate across all platforms.
Datazoom lets customers replace some vendor SDKs with their own to capture information via WebSocket instead of HTTP(S), making more compute power available for video delivery. “We have a unique architecture that includes a data retry mechanism that continues to retry data to the destination until our platform has 100% confirmation that data transferred was received. We built this because we noticed in our development that third-party services were missing percentages of data, particularly during scale testing,” Strutner says.
“A lot of companies are trying to come up with their data strategy. We provide a very agile way to collect and experiment with data without requiring engineering resources,” says Strutner. “That’s not been possible before. So, what we do through Datazoom is illuminate the types of data you can have, create a pathway to capture and standardize the data, and then send this into other tools like you’ve never had before.”
Pros: Consolidated data reporting, straightforward user interface, solid documentation
Cons: Player data only at this time. (CDN log support is in beta.)
Pricing: Pricing per GB of data transacted on platform
Datazoom lets customers take player data from multiple sources and map it into a standardized dataset for better perspectives into their operations or to feed information into machine learning (ML) and AI tools.
Subscription Video Data Analysis
Wicket Labs provides tools focused on reducing churn and improving the lifetime value of video customers. The company describes itself as a subscription video insights platform where customers can connect analytics from digital properties, online video platforms, QoS tools, subscriber management, and other marketing and internal databases or data lakes (pools of raw, undefined data).
“We talked to our friends in the industry, and it turns out they were still struggling with aggregating data from all these different sources,“ says Marty Roberts, CEO and co-founder of Wicket Labs. “The top three data sources we pull from are subscriber and payment management systems, app and site analytics, and the online video platform. Marketing automation systems are a close fourth.”
From these sources, the company compiles data about average revenue per user (ARPU), per-user acquisition costs, identification of which outreach (advertising, social media, etc.) or promotion is working, what content keeps viewers engaged, popularity by viewing platform, and many more datapoints. Wicket Labs has the ability to process up to 3 years’ worth of data.
So, what trends has the company seen? “Eighty percent of insights and problems are pretty similar across all of our customers,” says Roberts. “We can say about 64.7% of all free trials convert. Scaling to 25,000 subs is a key milestone to show a valid business model. Identifying what kind of marketing campaigns are adding new subscribers and reducing churn are a common focus. For customers with 100,000+ subscribers, the effectiveness of content licensing (or content creation) becomes a focus.”
Product teams find that, on average, Apple TV or Roku viewers tend to churn at half the rate as those who primarily watch on iOS and Android. Content-licensing teams can identify hidden gems (like less well-known shows that people will watch to completion), which would benefit from more promotion.
They also run ML to identify ideal customer traits and then design look-alike campaigns on Facebook. “As you would expect, your happiest customers become a really good reference set,” Roberts says. “In one customer’s case [using this approach meant their acquisition costs were] 24% lower than they’d ever seen before.”
Customers can then inject this data back into existing systems so it can be used to further develop subscriber intelligence, says Roberts. “Customers start to understand, ‘Am I good or bad relative to the other SVOD [subscription video-on-demand] services?’ and they can strategically plan based on this data.”
Pros: Provides valuable insight for subscription-based business models; enables customers to see where they should continue to devote resources
Cons: Not for ad-supported content. Wicket Labs did not provide a demo account, so we have no further insight into the product.
Pricing: Based on the number of active audience subscriptions, including trialists and paying subscribers
Wicket Labs lets subscription video services analyze which content is working, then design promotional campaigns that leverage this information to generate more subscribers.
Original and Stock Photography Platform
Stringr’s core product is a technologically enabled video marketplace. Customers in broadcast, publishing, brands, and ad agencies can source content they need from professionals, amateurs, or leading content partners—Getty, Shutterstock, and Storyful.
“We have about 300,000 videos in our archive that can be searched, and we also have a good amount of partner content,” says Lindsay Stewart, CEO and founder. “If you don’t see what you like there, you can assign work.”
Customers make location-based requests. They can be for raw, prerecorded footage; produced prerecorded footage; or live coverage. Once the request is submitted, it goes out to a network of videographers who can decide, on spec, to shoot the requested footage. Fees vary according to distribution.
They have two tiers of shooters among the 100,000 videographers on their platform: Stringr Professional and Stringr Crowd. Stringr Pros are routinely rated as excellent by customers, and they have high-end equipment and experience to match. Their expertise is suitable for high-profile shoots. Currently, these shooters are in the U.S. and the U.K., but Stringr expects to expand to the rest of Europe by late fall.
Stringr Pro shooters will live stream content. “Sometimes you don’t want tape [prerecorded]; you actually want to cover something live, whether it’s breaking news or a corporate event,” says Stewart. “We can enable that as well.”
Stringr also produces edited content with a team of producers and editors to create a finished product that you can publish, air, or put wherever you want, says Stewart. The company has a 24/7 curation team to answer questions and create metadata so customers can search based on time, date, location, or keyword description. This detailed search capability is unique, according to Stewart.
Stringr Crowd videographers can take on lower-budget projects as well as enable newer shooters to develop experience. (Stringr has even created a whole set of tutorials and a YouTube channel for instruction.)
Another service Stringr has built is a white label editor on the platform, as well as a player so content owners can take whatever they’ve edited and quickly publish it anywhere. This was done in response to clients having a hard time easily placing content into existing properties. “This a tool we largely built for publishers,” says Stewart. “Basically, it gives you an I-frame code. You could take that code and put it in your publishing tool, and you have a very high-caliber player which you can make monetization decisions around.”
Pros: Ability to get the exact content needed by assigning work as long as there’s a shooter in the area, 24/7 support staff, consolidated search of Stringr and three other stock agencies’ content
Cons: Navigation takes a little time to get used to. We only looked at the platform and didn’t hire a videographer, so we have no feedback on that process.
Pricing: Customers buy credits for immediate or future use, at different rates for Crowd and Pro videos.
Stringr lets you quickly source both prerecorded footage and live coverage from professional and amateur videographers in the U.S. and U.K.
Collaborative Cloud Video Editor
Vimond created Vimond IO, a fully collaborative application for editing live or video-on-demand (VOD) content for instant output to multiple destinations. This cloud-based product can introduce both cost and time savings for customers. “What we are seeing now is that more and more companies are open to the idea of replacing some of their traditional broadcast equipment,” says Kenneth Cuomo, product manager at Vimond. This extends to both hardware and software.
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