Streams of Thought: Streaming Media's Fall Events: Great Expectations

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With just a few weeks between Streaming Media Europe and Streaming Media West, the team at Streaming Media magazine gets a chance to gauge the pulse of the industry on both sides of the Atlantic. The Europe show will be held in London Oct. 15–16, while West will be held in San Jose, Calif., Nov. 17–19.

The topic of online video platforms (OVPs) promises to be of particular interest. As video publishing platforms proliferate, like content delivery networks (CDNs) did a few years ago, the industry needs a way to address the challenges and opportunities that OVPs present.

An hour-long session will be held in London that discusses the wide variety of OVPs, including feature, function, and cost disparities. As a follow-up to last year’s session on OVPs, which was heavily attended, the session is geared toward content owners who want to better understand OVP options and what they should expect to pay for managing content.

In the U.S., the topic of OVPs has led to a 2-day Online Video Platform Summit to be held in conjunction with Streaming Media West in San Jose on Nov. 18–19. The summit is intended as a gathering of video publishers to share best practices and to discuss how OVPs fit across the spectrum of content, from user-generated to top-shelf. This summit follows a similar format to the CDN Summit held in conjunction with Streaming Media East 2009 in New York in May.

The OVP Summit will feature speakers from a variety of video platforms. Yet for it to be truly successful, the audience needs to include content owners and organizations of all types so that the dialogue about OVPs can be shaped effectively over a short period of time.

According to Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, editor of Streaming Media and chair of the inaugural OVP Summit, the key topics that will be covered include user experience, interactivity, and the varying needs of business and consumer customers.

"While monetization is foremost in most video publishing platform companies’ minds," Schumacher-Rasmussen says, "and is an important part of the overall ecosystem, we think areas like customization, branding, and syndication all help drive the return on investment that content owners and service providers are both looking for. So the summit will focus on all these areas."

In my opinion, it’s important to take the holistic view, beyond just monetization, when we have a chance to get targeted groups together at events such as the CDN Summit or the OVP Summit. For video publishers, there’s a benefit in listening to what others may be doing in areas that are outside of the scope of any one particular vendor, since vendors address a wide variety of market verticals and even integration within larger ecosystems.

For instance, while some vendors focus on content management, they may also be asked to integrate with set-top boxes and mobile devices, including the integration of advertising platforms that work for desktop delivery but may need tweaking when it comes to the living room or the mobile platform.

The same is true when it comes to on-demand versus live OVPs. While the market is dominated by on-demand video platforms, the market for live OVPs is growing at a much faster rate than the general industry. This is especially true in the area of user-generated content, where companies such as Livestream first found a niche but are now branching into more corporate and event live streams. What we’re seeing is a fundamental shift in the way that content—at least the small-scale meeting or promotional event—is being delivered. It’s a step down from full-blown productions but a step up from the WebEx webinar that dominated the online delivery of meetings and promotional events just a few years ago.

Another important topic for the video publishing platform community to discuss during these two events is the area of metrics and analytics. OVPs are maturing in their ability to provide some of the metrics and analytics traditionally reserved for the CDNs, but the OVP metrics are often still rudimentary. While I’m not suggesting that the average OVP content producer wants full-blown business intelligence analytics, I do think there’s a balance between what is currently provided (as of the time this column was written in late July) and what content owners want.

Even in the live video publishing space, while events may not be archived and the sites may be abandoned quickly after the event, any marketing executive is going to want to get a sense of when viewers engaged or disengaged. I’ve seen a few prototype examples of live OVP metrics that hold promise, but I sense content owners expect more.

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