Choose Wisely: Selecting An Online Video Platform

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[This article originally appeared in the 2010 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook. To make sure you get your copy, click here for your free subscription to Streaming Media magazine.]

Today, if streaming video is at all integral to your organization, and if you’re currently hosting your own videos or posting them to user-generated content (UGC) sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, it’s time to consider using an online video platform (OVP). The big question that this article tackles is how to choose the right one for your needs.

Rather than adopt a features table analysis, I decided to take a user-centric view, talking to 20 or so actual OVP users or soon-to-be users. Specifically, I asked them to identify the one or two critical features that drove their OVP selection and the procedure that they worked through to choose the right candidate. To locate these users, both editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen and I posted requests for case study candidates on the Advanced Streaming Media list; I also tweeted and blogged a similar request on my own website, I also asked all the OVPs I met with at the Online Video Platform Summit/Streaming Media West conference in November to submit case study candidates.

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a scattershot approach, and it provides no guarantee that the features that each user felt were unique are actually (or still) unique. That said, our users did provide a very diverse range of needs and requirements that should prove useful for anyone planning to choose an OVP in the next 12 months.

The Basics
Just to set the stage, all OVPs share a significant amount of similar functionality. You upload your videos to the OVP, and they are converted and added to your media library. You can create and customize a player with simple embed codes that allow you to incorporate the player into your website. As videos play, your OVP provides a range of playback data and analytics. The high-level benefit is clear. You get sophisticated streaming media functionality with minimal capital expenditure or development cost—you even get reduced distribution costs because OVPs can aggregate their streaming bandwidth to achieve lower rates from their content delivery partners. In plain English, you can get a better platform than you could probably develop yourself at a lower initial and continuing cost. uses OVP Kaltura because it supports the site’s many monetization models.A Google search ad preceded this video (I figured you’d rather see Rihanna).

Does the OVP Support Your Business Model?
Beyond these basics, the characteristics of all OVPs are very diverse. When selecting an OVP, the first question that you need to ask is whether the OVP supports your business model. For some organizations, such as Derek Frempong’s (, that means support for a range of advertising formats. "Currently, we run preroll and postroll advertisements, but we may add midroll advertisements to some shows, as well as in-stream product overlay advertisements that let viewers click to buy or for more information." Frempong chose OVP Kaltura, in part because of its flexible video advertising options.

Note that preroll and postroll advertisements aren’t just essential for media companies—they’re also helpful for selling your company’s products or events. For example, software company Atlassian uses dynamically inserted advertisements to promote its own company events. "We have about 6,500 video views each week and wanted to harvest those views to help us market our annual user conference," says Atlassian’s Jay Simons. "So we added a 15-second spot promoting the conference to about 100 videos, which took about 5 minutes in the back end of our Episodic system but would have been totally impractical if we had to do it manually."

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