Mediaco and MediaPlatform: Case Study

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[Note: Streaming Media publishes vendor-submitted case studies such as this one based solely upon our assessment of their value to our readers.]

Andrew Irving is manager of webcast operations at Mediaco, one of Canada's largest audiovisual (AV) staging companies. In his role, Irving has enabled Mediaco to provide a webcasting service that matches the company's reputation for high standards in event production. Mediaco's story is a great example of how an established AV company can make the move to webcasting. It can be a challenging process, but the lessons that Irving learned along the way can help us in our corporate webcasting programs.

Mediaco got its start in 1989, when AV industry veterans James Brett and Kevin Leinbach realized that the events market in Canada needed an alternative staging, technical, and audiovisual company. By "alternative," they meant three things: truly great service; the latest and best equipment; and, above all, a company truly committed to innovation.

They were right. Today, the company has locations in Toronto; Ottawa; Edmonton, Alberta; Calgary, Alberta; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Its clients include most of Canada's chartered banks and major
insurance companies, leading public relations and communications firms, and the largest technology companies. The company has served royal and world leader visits, Commonwealth Games, Premiers' Conferences, and major business summits. Mediaco produced its first webcast in 1996, but it worked with a subsidiary entity for webcasting until 2009. The company has now brought webcasting back in-house.

With this kind of track record and A-list clientele, producing an event webcast is no simple matter. As Irving puts it, "Webcasting an event for a client that is accustomed to a high level of production value and engagement with an AV vendor is a lot more complicated than just plugging a switcher into an encoding box." Indeed, as Irving explains, there are a host of issues that need to be resolved before event webcasting can offer the kind of client, and viewer, experience that Mediaco insists upon delivering.

Irving faced several distinct challenges in bringing webcasting in-house at Mediaco. For one thing, he needed to outfit Mediaco's five locations so that they could each provide an identical webcasting service for local events. He also had to make sure that any event that Mediaco wanted to webcast would result in a viewer experience that would match or exceed that of the live audience. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Getting to a point where the audience experience is enhanced by the webcast involves bringing together numerous elements of the production and client engagement process.

On the front end, Irving needed to be able to create a viewer interface that would align with a client's branding and communications goals for the event. Every client situation is different, but what they all have in common is that each client typically wants a specially designed player for the event. The player needs to mesh with the live, on-stage communication elements of the event.

On the back end, Mediaco's webcasting solution had to offer the kind of flexible teaming and dynamic production arrangements that are standard operating procedure for such a large AV provider. At any given event, Irving might have to coordinate a half dozen or more remote production teams and presenters, all of whom need to work in sync to produce a live event webcast. Irving needed a solution that would enable him to assign production roles to different people and coordinate multiple live presenter streams. In some situations, each remote location might have its own network and bandwidth peculiarities.

At the companywide level, Irving had to be able to integrate webcasting into an established production process that involved multiple departments at Mediaco. A Mediaco event is produced by a group of interconnected teams, from lighting and sound to stage design and videography. Webcasting would now become another department in this experienced, busy cluster of teams. The webcasting solution he chose had to facilitate, not hinder, coordinating the activities of all of these people and groups.

Irving selected MediaPlatform's webcasting tools to help Mediaco make the move to event webcasting. After evaluating his requirements, he realized he was better off with a completely software-based solution. The company was simply too spread out, and the client situations too fluid, to make a hardware solution workable. The MediaPlatform tools offer him the range of capabilities that he needed to make webcasting a success. "Each of our clients demands a different viewer experience," Irving said. "With MediaPlatform's tools, I can design a new viewer interface on the fly and get it out for approval on a rapid cycle. We can incorporate branding elements and functionality according to client need, not our template restrictions."

Finally, MediaPlatform's webcasting tools enable Irving to manage distributed production teams with dynamic role changes and multiple remote presenters through a single, back-end interface.

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