The Streaming Toolbox: Eventuall, GumGum, and Monterosa
Two of the three products we'll focus on in this installment of the Streaming Toolbox focus on creating better user engagement and longer dwell time. Those are crucial KPIs for any online video service, so it's absolutely worth your while to try out these products. Eventuall has 4K streaming, breakout rooms, and live on-camera Q&A, plus detailed controls available for producers. Monterosa will provide interactive features like polls, branching interaction control, live quizzes, and a number of other gamification features. GumGum recently launched a new ad product that can replace ad pods with non-obtrusive lower third-type content.
The Eventuall virtual event streaming platform was created to provide events the opportunity to have a more dynamic exchange, by offering a customizable environment with multiple playback environments, Q & A interactive discussions and group break out rooms.
Animation/film/fantasy event WonderCon had 120 vendors set to sell merchandise in person when COVID lockdowns provided the impetus for creation of the Eventuall platform. The May 2020 event had 15,000 attendees for a 3-day online event, with 70 different presenters and an auction-based merchandise platform. Other events have included press screeners for the Emmys, a Netflix screening premiere and party, and corporate hackathons, as well as a technical conference.
The real interactivity comes from the sophisticated Q&A control where the audience gets a chance to join a live conversation. There is a queue manager where potential questions and technical set up are approved by a producer, says Eventuall founder and CEO Scott Clay. While Eventuall can stream in 4K, the interactive WebRTC stream used for the Q&A and breakout rooms is limited to 1080p. For interaction, users need to be on a computer, but mobile and CTV casting are also available with limited features.
All feeds can individually be sent out to a post-production tool and restreamed to any of the playback areas. The main theater can use up to a 4K feed delivered as HLS via RTMP, but SRT is also supported. "We typically do a recording of that feed because it's the main broadcast," says Clay.
"Our platform works on any browser, but the Wonder breakout room only works on Chrome," he says. A recent event used the breakout rooms for a hackathon where they had 200 people using 30 rooms. The results from each group were broadcast to all viewers. Engagement levels are high. "We've had over a hundred people watch the VOD and over a thousand plays of the live show," he says about the corporate event. "Even for the press or production teams we generally have maybe a 20% drop-off."
The breakout rooms almost have a Second Life feel. During the demo I did the equivalent of walking away while someone was speaking to me—not on purpose, but I guess it’s a whole lot easier to be rude online than in real life. This is the one piece of technology which is licensed and not originally from Eventuall.
How many people does it take to operate events? Well it depends. For the corporate conference/hackathon, three people ran AV side. There were two people running the photobooth and the breakout rooms, plus another three people helping with the Q&A, which requires some manual processes. The company also can provide (optional) help.
The platform is customizable, with add-ons including a photo booth, VOD content corner with supplied videos, customer stories, product videos, recordings of breakout sessions, and any collateral that attendees are able to view. They are working on integrating payment into their platform. No public pricing is available, but costs are based on features used and attendee amount.
GumGum is known for its contextual technology, and in April 2021 launched a new ad product called In-Video which is meant to capture user's attention without the content break for an ad pod. The easiest way to describe this new format is think of a targeted animated lower-third bug added via SSAI so viewers, especially on CTV, can be reached with targeted, non-intrusive brand messages.
"It works on a video stream and it does a server-side ad insertion of overlay ads into the video stream, so it can be user addressable," says Ken Weiner, CTO of GumGum. "It can be targeted per the current environment at that moment and it can also be purchased programmatically through demand side platforms."
Think of it as the (insert your favorite brand name logo here) ad fades up, animates across the bottom of the screen then after a few seconds, it will disappear. A 10-second run rate equals about 3 seconds of actual object visibility. "In the past, this was only possible if there was some type of sponsorship of the program, in which case they would burn in something and it would stream out to all users."
Their technology can be used on VOD or live using SSAI, either by SCTE markers or time and frequency, like every X minutes. On live streams there's no current way to do the same type of contextual targeting because there's not enough time as the video is streaming.
The creative is a video file, built in HTML5 and exported as a video file. The ad format is unique, and right now the GumGum sales team is going to be the only team selling this format to agencies. "Publishers can also use their own ad server and sell this unit if they want to," says Weiner. "But it's brand new, so we haven't seen that takeoff yet on the publisher side."
"It's pretty similar to a pre-roll ad in terms of measurement," says Weiner. "The ad gets delivered as a VAST tag into our SSAI platform, so you can put in pixels for viewability, quartile measurement, completion rates."
The way it's working now is they analyze VOD to contextually target based on IAB taxonomy of content categories and used time-based placement of ads. "We're using contextual information more for deciding what ad is eligible or not eligible to show at that time point," Weiner says. "The time-based approach with contextual data is a little bit more scalable because it allows a more predictable amount of inventory in a publisher's video."
"In our future roadmap, we're enhancing our solution to be able to return data about specific time points within the video," he says. This would enable identification 5 to 10 seconds before a contextually relevant scenes and then target more granularly, but that's not how it works at the moment.
"What we're doing is we're focusing right now on building up supply until we have a large group of publishers that we can then go to advertisers and start to sell it," he says. They are in discussion with some of the larger SSAI providers to see if we can get integrated into those workflows, otherwise there is some integration needed.
I saw a demo, but did not see this yet in action. Spots can be bought direct now and they could support programmatic in the future. No public pricing yet, but likely a bit higher than standard Pre-roll.
Monterosa is an audience engagement platform providing interactive real-time experiences for media and sports companies at scale. It offers voting, predictions, trivia questions, and also a slew of gamification mechanics that that can be used for live or even on-demand events. Elements can be adjacent to the video or as overlays on top of the video.
With live quizzes, it's important that the video player has an extremely low consistent latency, so the integration between the video player and is based on timestamps and all users see the quiz at the same time.
"The engagement and interactivity is moving from being separated experience, maybe on a second screen, to being an integrated experience," says Peter Cassidy, Director of broadcast & OTT at Monterosa. They are handling hundreds of thousands or millions of people, all doing the same thing. "OTT has spent the last 5 to 10 years getting the video right," he says. "Now, we need to get people more reasons to stick around and keep coming back."
"The stuff we do for Liverpool FC match center during every game is interactive and has exclusive content, competitions, and so on, gets steady traffic through the whole day of maybe four or five hours before, during and after the game," he says.
"I can give you an ancillary feed to the live football match, which has interaction, guest commentary and curated social feed and statistics to make it a better experience. This way the content distributor owns that engagement rather than just giving it away to all the social networks," Cassidy says.
There is a dashboard UI to develop and customise interactive content based on various templates. This includes things like an event center, live video quizzes, shopping opportunities which works by a video overlay, competitions or contests and category voting. They can also feed data out to broadcast packages like Vizrt, Ross Expression, or Singular. They currently support web apps, and native apps are on the roadmap.
UK Motor sport event Goodwood Motorsport couldn't be held in person due to COVID. Instead, it provided a virtual garage where viewers could choose cars they like. "That was interesting because it gave them data that they were able to turn right and use vis-a-vis their sponsors and partners around which cars were the most popular," he says. "Then there also was the opportunity to book a test drive."
"First of all, you've got them engaged, so it means that they're probably going to stick around for longer. Secondly, they're more likely to click on a sponsorship activity or affiliate e-commerce related thing," Cassidy says. Interactivity is a natural way of gathering first-party data.
Monterosa recently built a data lake where it can segment customer data and then connect in real time or scheduled sync to a customer’s databases. The engagement is a compelling way to obtain focused user data. It all sounds great in theory, but I was not able to demo their product, so I don’t have more insight. Monterosa does not publish pricing.
The set of tools I'll explore in this article will help you orchestrate workflows, create FAST broadcasts, and do multi-CDN worldwide live streaming management. Using all of these tools, you could get your own channel up and running and deliver it everywhere—even in China. These set of tools were demo'd for me. In order for me to test an application, vendors need to provide dummy data, and not everyone can make it available within our editorial timeframe.
Vistex's GTMS manages content licensing, Agora provides transport protocols and SDKs for interactive media app developers, and Transmit offers a new spin on advertising
The latest installment of the Streaming Toolbox looks at a remote production tool for creating interactive content, a scheduling tool for delivering live and live linear programming, and a collaborative quality-control (QC) tool for source file analysis.
A trio of products and services tailor-made for today's work-from-home streaming producers and engineers, combining pro-quality live streams with cloud-based content management and multi-CDN edge delivery.
In this installment, we look at products for interactive live streams, ad inventory pricing, and CDN balancing