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Sorenson Introduces Sorenson 360

Sorenson Media’s Sorenson 360 is new online video platform with an outstanding workflow. Pricing is affordable, starting at $100/month, and very transparent, with no uploading fee or other charges, just a fixed monthly charge for videos streamed from the site—although if you want to upload videos longer than 5 minutes long, you'll have to contact Sorenson's sales team to find out what it's going to cost.

I just wrote an overview article on OVPs, which included companies like Brightcove, Ooyala and VMIX, in which I referred to them as Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors. OVP is both more specific and more descriptive so I’ll switch over to that acronym to refer to all the players in this space, although Sorenson calls 360 a "video delivery network," as you'll see below. Still, for the sake of consistency and comparison, we'll continue to call these services OVPs.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Encode in Sorenson Squeeze

Whatever the acronym, these are services that distribute your video for you. You upload your videos files, choose and configure a player, select some other parameters, and then embed the video in your site and/or allow it to be embedded into others. Like most other OVPs, Sorenson 360 provides content management and viewer metrics, with a WordPress plug-in a nice and unusual option.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Deliver in Sorenson 360

The most significant value-add that I saw during my brief time using the beta, was excellent integration with Sorenson Squeeze (which is, unfortunately, sold separately) for both encoding and upload. Sorenson simplifies both encoding and upload by including Sorenson 360 encoding templates in the latest version of Squeeze, and setting Sorenson 360 as a destination. Once you sign into the site from your copy of Squeeze, you choose your input files, choose your template, and press the Squeeze button and your files are encoded and uploaded. Very nice.<>
Sorenson also offers a free, browser based alternative to Squeeze – Sorenson Squish – which is a downloadable Java-based plug-in that encodes the raw files on your computer, and then automatically uploads the encoded file to the VDN. Again, this means that you’re uploading a much lower bandwidth file to the service, which is much faster and cheaper if you’re currently paying bandwidth charges for your uploaded video.

As mentioned, pricing starts at $100, which includes 10GB of on site storage and up to 2,500 views of your video. The next level is $199 for 6,000 views, then 10,000 views for $299. Beyond that, you’ll need to sign a custom agreement. It's uncommon for OVPs to be quite so transparent about their pricing, so Sorenson's approach is welcome.

Then again, if your videos are longer than 5 minutes, you'll need to contact Sorenson's sales team to find out what it's going to cost you. That caveat aside, Sorenson 360 represents a new approach to the online video platform. Here's an email interview with Sorenson president Peter Csathy about what the service offers.

What are you announcing today?
Csathy: Sorenson Media is announcing the immediate availability of Sorenson 360, the first video delivery network that will enable video professionals and small- to mid-size businesses (SMBs) to easily and affordably publish the highest quality video online. Sorenson 360 was developed based on the feedback of Squeeze users (video professionals and SMBs) who asked us to build an all-in-one solution that solves the shortcomings of other services in the marketplace. That is why we call it a video delivery network—Sorenson 360 re-imagines what video publishing should be for this market segment.

The OVP market is crowded field. How do you intend to distinguish your product?
First, unlike others in the marketplace, we had the luxury of developing our Sorenson 360 OVP based on the feedback of our Squeeze users—they told us what they want and need; and they told us why existing services did not work for them. That is a critical distinction.

And Sorenson has the luxury of bringing our new Sorenson 360 VDN to our existing customer base of video professionals and SMBs, so we have an established market of loyal users who trust our brand and expertise. All other services had to start from zero and build their customers from there. We did not.

Second, key differentiators for our service itself are:

Quality, quality, quality. Enough can't be said about this. If nothing else, your video must look good, and only Sorenson 360 offers the power, control and established Sorenson quality of client-side encoding (all other services use server side encoding and make the choices for you) -- client-side encoding also is critical in terms of time - publishing a compressed file is significantly more efficient than uploading a non-compressed file (which takes forever if it is a professional high quality file);

Ease-of-use. Other options are simply too complex—we don't just say that, our users told us this. They wanted an all-in-one solution so that they wouldn't have to use Sorenson Squeeze for encoding than other bits and pieces as part of their workflow);

Pricing. Our pricing is more affordable, it is drop dead easy-to-understand (we charge by the number of streams, not by unintelligible Gigabytes—think of how Apple tells users about their iPods; they tell them that 20 GBs means 8000 songs), fully transparent (our full pricing is right there on our website; we do not force you to call our sales team; additionally, and importantly, we do not charge for uploading videos—virtually all others do because they must, as a result of the substantial bandwidth needed to upload non-compressed files; we also have no set-up charges of any kind); and

Trust.This is not just some hollow sales pitch; only Sorenson has an established record of longevity and innovation in the video space—we have been around for 14 years and have been profitable for years and have a healthy balance sheet, and we are a long-trusted name and brand that is known to, and trusted by, video professionals. This is critical to the video professional who must entrust their "babies" (their valuable video assets) with a service and feel confident that that service will be there. Remember, virtually all other services in this space have been around only for a few years maximum, and virtually none have them have proven business models (in fact, I can't think of one). And, it isn't a good time to be a VC-backed company in this day and age.

If a potential customer is evaluating multiple potential vendors, what factors should they consider about each service to tell them apart, and how does Sorenson excel?
Csathy: Much of my answers to #2 above apply directly here. It is critical to understand, once again, that we are not trying to be everything to everybody. We are laser focused on our Squeeze base and the Squeeze-type customer—i.e., the video professional and SMB.

That market is massive in its own right. According to stats from Accustream Media Research, the video professional market alone grew 25% year over year from last year to 41.6 billion views! And, in our view, remember, we are in inning 2 of a 9 inning game in terms of the overall video market opportunity.

Further, in a nutshell and to sum up, when this type of customer (the videoprofessional/SMB) is considering video publishing platform, organizations should consider the value they are receiving for their investment. Am I getting the best quality? Does it fit my budget? Is it easy to use? How much time does it take? Can I trust this company? Can I customize it for my needs?

With each of these questions, Sorenson Media and Sorenson 360 excels among the competition. Sorenson 360 provides the highest quality video available on the Internet. Starting at $99, pricing plans are affordable and transparent. It is easy to use, but still offers the power and control that comes with Sorenson Squeeze. Because it utilizes client-side encoding (encoding is done on the user's computer rather than on a the service provider's server) prior to uploading, it is significantly faster. Sorenson Media has already established itself as a leader in the industry; unlike other start-ups and new ventures, we are here to stay for the long-term.

What's your pitch to the company that's currently using a free service, like Vimeo or even Blip.TV?
Free is not free. Your quality suffers—that is demonstrable in a big way. You have no control over your videos—they encode it. You don't know if your videos will be here two years from now, let alone next week—these other services struggle to find business models that work—they are vulnerable. Put simply, those types of services are not for video professionals and SMBs where quality matters, and all the other points above.

This is the market we seek to address with Sorenson 360, and we believe that that market will be massive in itself. Remember that Musicmatch proved that pay services have demand; and that free is not free. Free services were in abundance—including Microsoft that gave away Windows Media Player free as part of the OS—but Musicmatch was supremely successful because of quality. (Csathy is former president of Musicmatch, who created a very successful music jukebox that competed well against Windows Media Player and RealPlayer.)

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