The State of Enterprise Video 2023
From road warriors to remote-only companies, enterprise video is shifting. It is, to put it mildly, in a state of flux. At the same time, though, so is the state of business. Given those two facts, the question I’ll attempt to answer in this year’s State of Enterprise Video is whether these coexistent movements will occur in lockstep or as polar opposites.
On the “business is in flux” side of the equation, companies are not only cutting staff but also cutting office space and long-term leases. As an example, GitHub, a company dedicated to assisting developers and programmers in sharing code with work colleagues or ad hoc teams, announced that it’s reducing both staff (up to 10% of the company) and office space. As Fortune reports, “The company’s CEO, Thomas Dohmke, noted that budgetary constraints meant workforce reduction of ‘up to 10% through the end of FY23’ and a preemptive move to lower overall leased office space. ‘We are not vacating offices immediately, but will move to close all of our offices as their leases end or as we are operationally able to do so,’ ” said Dohmke, with the ultimate goal of making the company fully remote.
This move toward remote-only or remote-centric work for services-based companies is in keeping with several trends spotted in StreamingMedia.com’s “Enterprise Video Trends 2022” survey report, crafted and released in conjunction with the Help Me Stream Research Foundation (go2sm.com/enterprise2022). I’ll cover several of those trends in the last half of this article.
Why Is Hybrid Work Only Becoming Popular Now?
While some would argue that this remote-first approach should have been the standard operating procedure (SOP) for technology-based companies since at least the 1990s, the industry itself was highly resistant to anything short of a wholly butts-in-the-seats workforce for decades longer than necessary. While a few select star hires might have been able to negotiate contractual work-from-home options prior to the pandemic, the SOP was ingrained into almost all tech cultures—even at the early-stage investment level, with unicorn startups requiring their primary workforce to move to a certain city and use a certain office at the behest of venture investment firms, as if the coding of such things as email, social platforms, and streaming media delivery was, in fact, directly correlative to the manufacturing shop floors of the Industrial Revolution.
As a result of this corporate enclave mentality, enterprise video didn’t really need to innovate and, therefore, often languished behind other forms of streaming media delivery—such as for entertainment, houses of worship, and online lectures—under the premise that the SOP meant that more than 90% of enterprise employees could view content on their own intranets, perhaps even watching an all-hands meeting via a corporate multicasting solution or enterprise content delivery network (eCDN). Multicast and eCDNs were especially effective for those workers stationed at a regional or smaller office, especially if the smaller office had limited intranet connectivity and even spottier internet connectivity beyond the firewall.
Corporate networks weren’t often designed to handle the majority of employees connecting via a virtual private network (VPN) or even viewing more than a dozen or so unicast streams at any given location. In addition, the VPN designs themselves were geared more toward “road warrior” salespeople or C-suite personnel accessing basic data like spreadsheets, emails, or server outage alerts rather than high-bandwidth video streams. As such, unicast streaming solutions that used a VPN outside the enterprise campus were more irksome than integrative in the minds of most corporate IT departments.
In the 2017–2019 time period, though, a few companies had begun to explore more flexible options, because, in part, some of the stalwart streaming solutions (such as Adobe’s Flash Player and Microsoft’s Windows Media Services) were being discontinued. This deprecation forced enterprise IT and training departments to think outside the firewall in a much bigger way than they had for almost a decade.
All of this changed, of course, in the middle of March 2020. Suddenly, no one could work from the office, and yet everyone wanted access to live streams of the CEO, the middle-level manager, and the shift or team supervisor. Almost no VPN solutions were up to the task, so companies began to search outside their firewall for solutions that could rapidly scale to address latency requirements and data rates that just weren’t part of the corporate IT mindset in late 2019.
To their credit, many IT departments pivoted into triage mode by moving video-based communications needs to the cloud. And whether it was Cisco, Google, or Microsoft—or then-almost-unknown startups like Zoom—the cloud provided a stopgap solution for what seemed to be only a temporary work-from-where-you-shelter-in-place period.
So, at this point, you may be asking why I’m spending all of this time on context around enterprise video. There are two key reasons. First, it almost sounds like a truism, but the pandemic reshaped enterprise video—from acquisition to creation to delivery to consumption—in a way that had never been done before. To keep business moving along, IT departments reached for video tools that were more like they were for consumer video chat, social media, and school group project collaboration than they were for corporate intranet collaboration and video distribution.
One could argue that the IT departments had to go find these tools—in much the same way that they found sound cards, laptops, and dual-monitor setups in the consumer space and then integrated them into corporate environments. But the difference in those examples is that corporate environments already had lower-quality equivalents in place for each of them. As an example, square CRT monitors had a much longer life span in the corporate world—more than 7 years in many cases—compared to flat-panel monitors being integrated into home gaming systems.
Second—and this gets to the heart of the current state of enterprise video in early 2023—the choices made 3 years ago, often over the space of only a week, have had outsized influence on the functions and features we still rely on for today’s enterprise video and work-from-home scenarios. After those initial choices, the rest of the time has been spent making sure they work at scale—not an easy task, albeit an admirable one—for corporations that are now struggling with whether to retain the “new normal” of limited face-to-face interactions.
The Current State of Enterprise Video
With those two reasons in mind, how is the overall enterprise video space faring? The short answer is, “It’s complicated.” This is true of the longer answer as well.
Streaming as a whole—including for entertainment, houses of worship, education, and enterprise—rode the pandemic to heights previously anticipated to come in another 8–10 years. The industry went over the top (no pun) in terms of expectations and delivery. Yet, here in early 2023, if we look across the industry, we see accelerated decline in revenues, subscribers, and premium content.
With Netflix losing subscribers through the first two quarters of 2022, Disney+ posting its first quarter of subscriber loss in Q1 2023, the merger of several streaming services (see Adrian Pennington’s Streamticker article on page 76), and a pullback in exclusive content production budgets, there’s uncertainty and concern about both growth and outsized infrastructures. Research from State of Streaming surveys (go2sm
.com/autumn2022) that I presented at recent Streaming Media events in Boston and Southern California indicates that once our industry went over the top in terms of scale, it assumed the opposite of the corporate IT departments, with ad- and subscription-based entertainment services acting as if the bump in viewership would continue unabated.
Even in the enterprise space, there’s sobering news. Zoom, the workhorse of the pandemic, which achieved unicorn status almost overnight, is facing a slowdown in usage. In some ways, it’s not unexpected, since the video-based collaboration that was integral to keeping up with colleagues during the pandemic has now been replaced by one part fatigue and one part skepticism that every call needs to involve video (or for that matter, a computer), as many Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom calls could just as easily be handled as a phone call rather than a video call in audio-only mode.
Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, who was a manager at Webex before starting Zoom and taking it through the IPO phase in 2019, chronicled the company’s rise and fall in a recent blog post to his employees, nicknamed Zoomies (go2sm.com/yuan). “We built Zoom to remove the friction that businesses felt when collaborating,” he said. “Our trajectory was forever changed during the pandemic when the world faced one of its toughest challenges, and I am proud of the way we mobilized as a company to keep people connected.”
Yuan went on to note that the company tripled in size over a 24-month period to handle both the increase in demand and the required innovation to scale out to meet it. (For more on that topic, see StreamingMedia.com’s interview with Zoom’s CTO Brendan Ittelson; go2sm.com/ittelson.) “As the world transitions to life post-pandemic,” said Yuan, “we are seeing that people and businesses continue to rely on Zoom. But the uncertainty of the global economy, and its effect on our customers, means we need to take a hard—yet important—look inward to reset ourselves. …”
The uncertainty that Yuan alluded to is, perhaps in part, due to the number of large tech companies that are shedding employees—including several of the competitors noted previously in this article—as ad sales decline and interest rates rise to a level that makes corporate expansion less likely in the near term. Yuan’s vision of downsizing, that Zoom “can weather the economic environment, deliver for our customers and achieve Zoom’s long-term vision,” includes a reduction of 15% of the company’s global workforce as well as a decrease in pay for himself and his executive team. “I am reducing my salary for the coming fiscal year by 98% and foregoing my FY23 corporate bonus,” said Yuan. “Members of my executive leadership team will reduce their base salaries by 20% for the coming fiscal year while also forfeiting their FY23 corporate bonuses.”
Another aspect to this may be the fact that smaller firms, some more nimble and others more focused on enterprise-only solutions, are beginning to take market share from the dominant players in the space. I’ll explore that concept a bit more in the remainder of this article.
The Hybrid Decade
We are now 3 years into the remote-work scenarios shaped in the first quarter of 2020, with a significant question mark around how long remote or hybrid work models will continue. To better gauge the state of enterprise video, as well as the remote-versus-hybrid-versus-in-person balance of today’s corporate work environment, StreamingMedia.com and the Help Me Stream Research Foundation conducted two surveys—“State of Enterprise Video Trends 2021” in mid-2021 (go2sm.com/enterprise2021) and “Enterprise Video Trends 2022” in late 2022 (go2sm.com/enterprise2022). To best gauge certain trends, both surveys asked a set of the same questions, allowing the Help Me Stream Research Foundation to analyze changes in responses over time.
The initial survey was conducted after in-person education had resumed across the majority of the U.S., freeing parents who had spent almost a year struggling with a work-life balance in the same physical environment where their children attended online classes. When the survey report was released, there was a general sense that enterprises and their employees had regained the flexibility to move rapidly back toward the SOP mentioned at the outset of this article.
During the initial survey, when we asked respondents to speak about their anticipated in-person meetings—such as office gatherings and industry trade shows—it was quite telling that there was resistance on a personal level to the shift back to the SOP, even as respondents acknowledged their company’s intent to funnel the workforce back into long-term-lease office environments that had sat idle for almost a year.
“Hybrid meetings were not just popular during the pandemic, but are expected to thrive for at least the next 18 months,” the report notes, with respondents clearly and unambiguously stating their intended plan to attend fewer in-person meetings over that time period (June 2021–December 2022).
Fast-forward to the next survey, at the end of the 18-month period, and respondents indicated three key—and seemingly at-odds—datapoints. First, about half of respondents anticipated attending more in-person events in 2023 and early 2024 than they had in the previous 18 months. That was up from the one-third of respondents in the initial survey who indicated they would attend about the same number of in-person meetings as they had prior to the pandemic. Second, 34% of respondents in our 2021 survey said they anticipated attending more virtual events in the next 18 months; in our late 2022 survey, that number has risen above 40% overall. Third and most interesting: Respondents indicated a growing interest in having a choice between attending in-person or attending virtually (what we call hybrid events). Yet, companies were pushing their workforce to return to the office full time and therefore downplayed the option of hybrid meetings. The same was true for professional development or industry trade shows, with few events offering an equal balance of remote versus in-person choices. When asked whether their organization plans to have more or fewer in-person meetings, responses as a whole indicated a trend toward more or many more in-person meetings in 2023.
Taken together, employee and employer desires continue to be at odds with one another, highlighting the competing claims between in-person and virtual event growth and raising concerns around the need for effective hybrid approaches, as many respondents indicated their desire for hybrid options.
Along those same lines, another trend that was obvious in the initial survey was the growing usage of time-shifted video consumption for both internal and external events. “Respondents are just as likely to choose to view an on-demand version of virtual events as they are to attend these events,” “State of Enterprise Video Trends 2021” notes, “via a live interactive platform such as Zoom.”
Having said that, my sense by mid-2022 was that the tide was shifting back toward live events, perhaps due to the fact that I was finding myself speaking at many more events than I had in 2021. In a September 2022 guest blog post for Wowza titled “Enterprise Video Predictions in a Post-Pandemic World” (go2sm.com/wowzapredictions), I express cautious optimism about enterprise-level virtual events: “Our analysis … suggests that live enterprise video events have staying power, at least as long as companies continue to allow a large swathe of their workforce to continue remote-work employment.”
My prediction was off base in two respects. First, as I noted previously, while some companies are moving toward remote-only work scenarios, many other companies are forcing employees to choose between in-person work environments and ongoing employment. In 2022, that phenomenon was part of what was dubbed the Great Resignation, as employees opted to leave rather than accept the corporate workplace ultimatum. Additionally, data from “Enterprise Video Trends 2022” clearly shows that interest in on-demand consumption of enterprise content—including internal events, external professional development, and trade shows—has continued to grow.
This growth in on-demand consumption of enterprise video may explain why companies like Zoom—with infrastructures that are robustly engineered to handle simultaneous communications between decent-sized groups of people—are shrinking, or “right sizing” in enterprise lingo. After all, Zoom now offers the ability to record an event and transcribe its content live, which in turn lets attendees review parts of the meeting or event they might need a refresher on and also allows those who chose to not to attend the live event to watch the content at their leisure. They can even skip over sections of lesser interest or go directly to points in the video with relevant transcribed keywords.
As this continuum of personal enterprise video consumption shifts in favor of on-demand over live-event viewing, the positive impact on overall infrastructure requirements may place some service providers—especially those that have built out robust infrastructures, expecting the number of live events and corresponding number of live-event participants to grow—at a financial disadvantage if they cannot untangle themselves from long-term infrastructure build-out decisions.
Having said that, when the surveys asked respondents about their organization’s use of video for meetings, the trend toward more video usage in the enterprise was unmistakable. In fact, when asked about the frequency of internal events using some form of interactivity—whether bidirectional video, online polling, chats, virtual Q&A, or feedback—responses for the 2022 survey outpaced those from 2021 for almost every category up to 250 events per month. And when it comes to enterprise video platforms that have both live and on-demand options, there was a trend toward a usage increase for smaller platforms—such as MediaPlatform or Mediasite—equal to or slightly higher than that of the well-established platforms I’ve mentioned previously in this article.
Finally, respondents indicated a restlessness in accepting a business-as-usual approach to online event platforms. The survey reports go into much more detail on this, but there are two quick datapoints to consider here. First, while more respondents in 2022 indicated that their most important virtual event in the past year was “almost as good as the real thing,” an equal number of 2021 and 2022 respondents indicated that their most important virtual event was “a waste of time” or “a frustrating experience.”
Second, a number of respondents in both the 2021 and 2022 surveys indicate that their frustration with online platform features and event formats drives them to further consider on-demand consumption instead of attending a live event. For some, it’s as simple as being able to ask questions during an event; without that option, they’ll choose to consume the event’s content at a later date. For others, it’s the inability to have side conversations or, from a speaker standpoint, be able to move back into a “green room” setting after a panel for a post-event discussion with other panelists rather than being unceremoniously dumped for the event at the same time as attendees.
What’s the Bottom Line?
With all of those factors taken into consideration, then, here are my expectations for enterprise video in 2023.
As C-level decisions are made around the continued use of remote work—amid an economic downturn that already has public companies curbing employee counts by double digits—we’ll see a growing need to provide enterprise video solutions that accommodate ad hoc meetings, side conversations, and both factual and sentiment polling. But even those are just the basic “table stakes” of live-event solutions, and the trend toward more on-demand consumption means that enterprise IT departments will have to reconsider the “temporary” solutions that have brought them through the pandemic but are not necessarily ideal for long-term hybrid work environments.
Alongside all of this, the added pressure of price increases from scaled-out cloud-based services offers an opportunity for enterprise video companies to present another type of hybrid scenario, one that leverages the cloud for just-in-time demand expansion, but relies on on-prem solutions for both scale and ease of access to on-demand content.
I’ll revisit enterprise video trends in mid- to late 2023—most likely in the form of a third annual survey—and keep readers apprised of any additional shifts in the enterprise video landscape.
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