05.12.16

Video streaming is in demand

video streaming on laptop IPTV

Video streaming has hit the consumer mainstream, which means widespread corporate adoption will follow. How can you ensure you get the right systems to fit your needs? Paul Milligan finds out

In the past the likes of Exterity, Cabletime and VBrick must have felt they were ploughing a rather lonely furrow in promoting video streaming and video on demand services.  It was always seen as a rather niche product, and vendors were often hidden away in the corners of trade show halls.  Now we all live in an IP connected world, things are a little different.  

We have reached a point where Netflix, a consumer video streaming service, can boast subscribers numbers of 80 million worldwide (up from 22m in 2011), all paying a recurring monthly fee.   You add this to the popularity of YouTube and now Facebook has the ability to stream live broadcasts and we are now at a peak in awareness of what is video streaming is and what it can offer.  

Everyone we spoke to was willing to acknowledge the likes of Netflix is having a significant knock-on effect in the corporate world and is driving demand for video streaming services.    But as a consequence of this growing popularity we are seeing companies use VoD (video on demand) systems that just aren’t fit for purpose in the corporate world, or where the requirements have outgrown the capabilities.  So with more and more organisations looking to utilise the benefits of video streaming, we asked a selection of vendors what the common mistakes people make when choosing a service?

streaming IPTV

“Organisations tend to be looking at requirements in isolation, rather than the requirements of the whole business.  They might be looking at video for training, or for a CEO broadcast, or seeing if they can integrate it with their UC platform,” says Paul Reeves, director, international at VBrick.  “What they’ve often not done is budgeted appropriately for a complete solution for the entire organisation.  What we try and say to them is that we are also getting contacted by your marketing department and your IT department, and they all have very distinct needs, and they can all be wrapped into a single video solution which manages all your video assets.” His response was typical of all those we spoke supplying video streaming systems.  The difficulty was getting customers to look at the overall requirements rather than just a one-off event or one department’s needs.  

We looked at the infrastructure requirements needed for IPTV systems to work successfully in-depth in a past issue (InAVate April p18) this year, but there is still a lack of knowledge about the different types of video streaming technologies available, and what those can mean for your network, as Mark Stanborough, sales manager EMEA and APAC for Cabletime explains.  “People ask for VoD but then ask for it to be shown on 100 screens at the same time, not knowing each individual screen needs it own bandwidth to watch it.  Suddenly it can take up an awful lot of bandwidth, for everyone to watch the same piece of media. The biggest mistake people make is not understanding how it can be used and what the different ways you can do VoD as well.”

Others just don’t spend enough time thinking about the video they already have in their businesses, says Colin Farquhar, CEO Exterity.  “They don’t think about the value or the usefulness of their existing video material.  I would advise spending some time to think about how they use video as an organisation, asking questions like what video material do we have and what value can we get from it?”  

A common mistake buyers make is not spending enough time thinking about what they want the system to do, and how they want the system to do it, says James Keen, marketing manager at Tripleplay Services.  “You have to think about where you get your feeds from, and where you are sending them to, the middle bit isn’t important initially, it’s getting an understanding of how you get from point A to point B and in what format.  People don’t consider that enough, it’s very easy to buy a CMS that runs a video platform and delivers recorded content. If you can only get that content to a laptop at the other end, then it’s not very functional.”

So what questions should buyers be asking vendors or highlighting to their consultants/integrators when investing in a video streaming service? “It’s a case of working out what the requirements are first of all,” says Stanborough. “Do you want everyone to watch everything at the same time? Or do they have to be individually managed? If it’s a pre-recorded message from a CEO it could be broadcast simultaneously and you could do that with an encoded solution rather than a VoD solution.  When people ask us for VoD we make sure we ask what it is they want to distribute and how they want to distribute it.   If it’s a case of the client wanting individual content going to each screen, and they want users to have the ability to play pause and rewind and they don’t want to store it on end points, then a traditional VoD system would be ideal for that purpose.”

Ease of use, which was a standout theme heard time and time again from vendors at ISE 2016 is key here says Adam Wilson, co-founder, Intevi.  “Some of the systems out there are really complicated to use, it’s almost like a black art, not just in setting it up but in using it on a day-to-day basis.  We would always say have a demo, set up a proof of concept, get hands on with the system you are thinking about implementing.  Just having a demo with the vendor doesn’t always show you everything.  Try and think about where you will be in 6 or 12 months time, or two years down the line.  If you are thinking about doing digital signage in 12 months time, you are better off doing both now, because you’ll end up with one system rather than three.  If you combine them you’ll get a better price too, because of economies of scale.”

As mentioned above, with one department often driving the purchase of a video streaming system, it can sometimes be hard to get a buy-in from the whole organisation once its in place.  What are the best ways to try and ensure the system is embraced and used to its fullest? “You have to make sure each department is involved in the buying process from day one, and you have to understand what each of those departments needs.  You have to make sure what they are buying is compliant with the IT team, and that the corporate comms and events team are happy using it,” says Wilson.  There are a lot of parallels to be drawn with video conferencing when it first started, says Reeves.  “It’s often the CEO who wants it to speak to executives around the world, but once its installed in the whole organisation its often the middle management who are using it on a daily basis.” 

The format you deliver video to do has to be considered, when looking at driving up adoption says Keen.  “Uptake comes down to providing a service that people will use.  There is often a ‘one size fits all’ policy, and you can make assumptions people will want content on their laptops, but a lot of millennials don’t want content that way, they want it in a different way.”

No self-respecting corporate organisation is without a unified comms system these days, but how easy is it to incorporate UC with video streaming? “They are two separate worlds,” says Farquhar.  “It’s all feasible, but there is a fair amount of integration work involved in making it seamless.  I think we are at the beginning of a process here. There are several different threads of videos within an organisation and there is a move to see those become more integrated. We are seeing more equipment coming into play to support integration of different devices, and critically a lot of format transformation and streaming protocol changes are taking place to make it happen.”

It might be troublesome, but the joining of the two worlds has to happen says Reeves.  “I don’t think systems like ours can live in isolation, they have to integrate into the environment in which customers are using day to day tools, if they are using Jabber or Jive as a communication tool then we have to receive and deliver to those environments.”