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Tips for Choosing an Online Video Platform (OVP)

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Many companies looking for an OVP (online video platform) are looking for the wrong things. At the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City, Theresa Regli, a principal analyst and managing director for technology research firm Real Story Group, sat down for a red carpet interview to explain how to shop for an OVP.

The main thing Regli wants companies to think about is how they plan to use the online videos they're producing.

"I think that the first thing you have to ask yourself is 'What really do I need to do with this video? What are the destination channels for the video? What internally do I need to do with this video? What's really the end-to-end -- I often say use case -- for this particular video, from the time that it's created until the time that it's getting out to all the different channels that you might want to get it on?'" Regli explained.

When they need to work with an OVP, companies often come up with a list of devices they want to support and a list of video formats they want to stream. But, in the commoditized world of OVPs, that isn't the best approach.

"Too often, people create very long lists of technical requirements which, to a point are useful, but the reality is OVPs, they generally all do more or less the same thing and the difference is more how they do it and what technology they use to make it happen, and also what channels they tend to be more inclined to distribute to and integrate with more easily," Regli continued.

What's helpful is thinking about the other technologies already in use, including the in-house workflow and content management system. Buyers should look for an OVP that easily connects to the systems currently in place.

"Just writing a standard list of requirements isn't going to get you very far," Regli said. "You have to tell the story. You have to think about what other technologies are sitting around this peripheral, and think of it that way. It's a bigger picture that just a list of what you want it to do."

For more tips on choosing an OVP, and to learn why some OVPs don't want to be known as OVPs, watch the full interview below.


Troy: Hi, this is Troy Dreier, the senior associate editor for StreamingMedia.com coming to you from Streaming Media East 2013 in New York City. We’re doing interviews with thought leaders on the red carpet. Joining me today is Theresa Regli with Real Story Group, a market research firm. And Theresa is leading a panel today, or a one-person panel, one-person presentation, on online video providers and how to choose one. So, I thought it might be great to get you in here and get some tips that we could use. I get this from people a lot over our sites, we talk about OVPs and people always come to me and say, “Well, which one do I choose?” And what are the best online resources that I can point people to?

Theresa: Sure, well, your own website, StreamingMedia, is a great resource in terms of just, not only the general just best practices that you write about and just how you’re covering the market I think is excellent, there’s also a number of blogs and some people that are actually here that are being interviewed as well that also write for StreamingMedia.

Troy: Drop some URLs on us.

Theresa: Well, I usually go to Larry Price, I think his blog is really excellent. I think his blog is really excellent and he’s the one that I go to. We also have a blog, of course, so I can mention our own. Ours is focused very particularly on media asset management, so OVPs is but one aspect of what we cover. So, we are much more general, but in terms of specifically talking about OVPs, I think StreamingMedia definitely--

Troy: Is anyone doing reviews of individual OVPs, or real concrete, specific data?

Theresa: The VidCompare is one that does a lot of just sort of quick shots and good overview charts of things.

Troy: Yeah, they’re definitely a friend of ours. They do excellent work, VidCompare.

Theresa: Our research specifically focuses on how the online video platform integrates in a larger ecosystem, so it’s less focused just on the OVP as it is if you’re a broadcaster and you happen to be using Dalet for media asset management, how is that going to integrate with a lot of other technologies around the peripherals. So, I think in terms of the specific OVP, there’s a lot of information out there, so…

Troy: So, if I’m a company and I’m not in the video space, but I want to get videos for my products and services, what are the questions I should be asking as I begin my journey to pick an OVP?

Theresa: Well, I think that the first thing you have to ask yourself is what really do I need to do with this video? What are the destination channels for the video? What internally do I need to do with this video? And what’s really the end-to-end, I often say, use case for this particular video from the time that it’s created until the time it’s getting out to all the different channels that you might want to get it on. And too often people create very long lists of technical requirements, which to a point are useful, but the reality is OVPs, they generally all do more or less the same thing and the difference is more how they do it and what technology they use to make it happen. And also what channels they tend to be more inclined to distribute to and integrate with more easily. So, just writing a standard list of requirements isn’t going to get you very far, you have to tell the story, you have to think about what other technologies are sitting around in this peripheral and think of it that way. It’s a bigger picture than just a list of what you want it to do.

Troy: So, think about the whole ecosystem and interfacing with technology you’re already using?

Theresa: Exactly.

Troy: Because I’m sure people approach it thinking I have to have this video format, I have to have that video format. And they really all offer, right?

Theresa: They do. They do. They do, and it’s, honestly, quite commoditized and that’s something that perhaps a technology vendor doesn’t want to think it’s commoditized necessarily, but there’s a lot offerings. They’re all generally the same price. A lot of them are SaaS-based systems more or less, but they all have slightly different approaches in how they do it. One might favor one CDN over another, one might integrate with particular types of archiving technologies, another one might integrate with particular image management systems, or digital asset management systems, for example, or web content management systems. So, thinking about what other technology to have and picture that’ll help narrow down your list a little bit.

Troy: I feel like OVPs today are kind of shy about calling themselves OVPs. They don’t like the term. Why did it become a bad term?

Theresa: Because it’s limiting and they think of it as, well, I’m more than that. And I hear that from a lot of vendors where they say, “Well, I’m not just an OVP, I’m really middleware,” or “I’m video management,” and that they do a lot more than just offering sort of a skinnable video player that sometimes some people have a very limited conception of what that is, and I think there’s some truth to that it. Increasingly, especially in the last year to 18 months, these technology vendors are stretching their capabilities to either side of just video management. Maybe they’re doing a little bit more in terms of video workflow, they’re almost allowing for some simple video production, and it’s basically just more advanced tools than just hosting and offering the platform for streaming it out, so…

Troy: A couple of months ago I wrote a story about OVPs and I contacted one to get some information for the story and it was about OVPs. And once the story was up they contacted me and they said, “Can you take our name out of the story? We don’t want to be called an OVP.”

Theresa: We see that across all kinds of technologies, not just OVPs. And again, it’s because they don’t, vendors, and in particular their marketing departments, they don’t want to be pigeonholed into a particular market. They want to be a broader video provider. They want to be a broader marketing provider, whatever else they might want to do functionally. So, we see the same thing with-- we categorize into digital asset management, or media asset management, or web content management, and sometimes we’ll get a call from a web content management vendor that will say, “Well, really we’re e-marketing, or experience management.” They don’t want web content management as their name. So, I’m not surprised to hear that happened to you. It happens to us all the times too.

Troy: I feel like they’re doing companies a disservice. If a company knows I need an online video provider, they’re looking for that, but then you don’t use it on your website. How are they going to find you?

Theresa: They are sometimes, they are sometimes. When people think that way, that, okay, I don’t necessarily need an online video platform they might have a solution in search of a problem at the same time, so I think there’s pros and cons to both sides. We see that a lot with our customers where they think, well, I need an OVP or I need a MAM system, or I need a WCM. And in reality they have a problem that spans three or four different technologies, and maybe one of them they think they need, they don’t. So, there’s a flipside to that as well, but I agree. In some cases, if you are covering that capability it is somewhat of a disservice if the vendor doesn’t put it that way.

Troy: Do you supposed you could maybe give a few different use cases and single out a few OVPs that you think are really strong in that for certain types of sites, like an e-commerce site, or whatever else?

Theresa: Sure. Well, we’re making the distinction in the presentation today with enterprise video platforms versus the more- that’s doing more internal use cases versus the external more consumer facing use cases. So, we make that distinction. I think Kaltura is an interesting example right now because it’s open source, I get asked a lot about them. And they do both sides of the equation, whereas some of them will focus more on internal use cases, whereas the ones that are sort of a household names that don’t focus more externally. I think Qumu is an interesting one to talk about right now, and they’re one that doesn’t like to be called an OVP sometimes because it limits them to that particular moniker, but they’re doing more of the broader external and internal use cases as well where they’re doing a lot that sort of competes with Polycom, but then on the other side they’re much more consumer facing stuff that makes them a step way beyond the YouTube options that many people kind of look at.

Troy: When are those super cheap options the best?

Theresa: Well, they’re always good to start-- to try to get your feet wet with video. And that’s usually what I tell people to do. And my background is not broadcasting, it’s on the corporate marketing side. And a lot of corporate marketers are just dabbling into video and so they say, “Well, can’t I just use video?” Or, “Can’t I just use YouTube?” And I will say, “Well, you can get your feet wet, but you’re going to hit certain limits in terms of if you start to think about secure channels, and you start to think about authentication, and you start to think about more advanced ways that you need to use video based on your customer-- on whatever. So, when you start to have more complex requirements when you need to get into just more advanced forms of video device detection, etc., whatever other ways of streaming that you’re thinking about that’s not sort of a simple straightforward web protocol, then you can got to move on.

Troy: Okay, so get your feet wet with the free or low-cost option and they’ll still stream to mobile devices and all the platforms that you need.

Theresa: Yep.

Troy: And then when you have more advanced requirements, then start to look around.

Theresa: Yes.

Troy: Very good. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Theresa. And this is Troy Dreier coming to you from the red carpet at Streaming Media East.

Theresa: Thanks.

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