Streaming Media East: Day 1 Keynotes Highlight Entertainment and Enterprise Challenges

Streaming Media East 2009 kicked off today at the New York Hilton, led off by two keynotes, focusing on entertainment and the enterprise as each pertain to online video.

The two keynotes were presented back to back, with the first being delivered by Akamai CEO Paul Sagan, who discussed the "tipping point" or critical mass of high-definition content on the web, defining HD content as 720p delivered at 1 - 2 megabits per second.

"We've seen a tipping point in content delivery," said Sagan, "both in terms of audience sizes and in terms of quality of delivery."

Sagan covered a variety of topics in proving this point, which we will cover in a future article, but his key points dealt with how we reached this tipping point and what the ongoing challenges are.

Sagan walked through a timeline from the Victoria's Secret 1999 fashion show event that exposed the limits of streaming video at the time, where "one user too many spoiled it for every viewer" to the recent Presidential Inauguration video where the number of online viewers—almost 10 million, according to Sagan's estimates—reach that of a typical cable show.

"HD has reached a tipping point," said Sagan, "and we see more than 20% of users in the U.S. have at least 5Mbps of consistent bandwidth. Opportunites are even greater outside the U.S., but the bottom line is that many viewers—once exposed to HD online video—don't want to go back to standard-definition content. The advertising revenues will follow the HD-centric trend, as research shows that viewership lengths also increase as the quality increases."

On the other end of the spectrum, Gregg Moss, senior vice president, enterprise streaming media at Bank of America (BoA), talked about content that is delivered to a large internal audience but may never see the light of day outside the organization.

"Raise your hand if you have a content distribution system at your work," Moss asked, as many hands were raised. "Now raise your hand if it works for you."

Few hands were raised, so Moss asked the audience to tell him what issues they faced: metrics, content, IT support, quality of delivery were several of the issues named.

"We have similar issues at BoA," said Moss. "I was hired to help distribute content to our associates, as some of our business partners didn't understand it and didn't necessarily want it. The challenge, as I saw it when I came on board at BoA, is how to deliver targeted content to 300,000 associates in over 50 countries."

Moss said his manager's manager gave him advice on how to rapidly implement the system, which took more than 2 years to design and deploy.

"It's all about the relationships," said Moss. "Partners, associates and key champions / stakeholders were all part of the process that helped our Global Marketing and Corporate Affairs group implement the system.

Moss said his group provides intranet, email and video internally, producing over 600 videos per year.

"What we needed was a better way to deliver these videos beyond just the VHS tape and DVD," said Moss, "so that we could rapidly, efficiently and securely deliver content."

Discussing quality of delivery, Moss suggested success is definitely defined by quality, but also needs to be assessed by user benefit.

"I asked my wife what she thought about streaming media, and she responded that 'it does that buffering thing and then when you make it big, it really stinks'," said Moss. "She drove home the point that it's not about the technology but about the user experience. But we also knew that, if we could increase quality, we could increase our viewership rates and lengths, which then could raise associate satisfaction, and drive customer satisfaction and retention."

Moss had an opportunity to test this model of delivering targeted DVD quality video to an individual or a group of individual, and tracking of viewership as well as surveys of associates, during the recent announcement of BoA's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

"We created and launched seven videos on vision and stability in just a few days," said Moss, "and we used our survey systems to gather feedback to craft future messages. Our associates responded by telling us the videos helped understand senior management's decisions and vision, and that they really appreciated the speed at which we delivered this information to them, coupled with the ability to provide feedback."

Finally, Moss said security is paramount, including authentication and encryption.

"If I send a video to Mitch," said Moss of a typical security scenario, "but Kevin later logs on to Mitch's computer; I don't want Kevin to be able to watch the video I sent to Mitch. I also don't want Kevin to be able to upload it to an external site or to send it along in the external network or video site."

"In the end, our goal is to deliver the whole experience, not just video quality," said Moss. "WIth higher quality content, and associates' freedom to consume this content at their own pace in their own location, we feel we've been able to deliver not just an efficiency ROI but also a return on satisfaction from our associates."

Streaming Media East 2009 continues through Wednesday, May 13, at the New York Hilton.

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