Q&A: Cabletime on Video Streaming

Paul Milligan spoke to Mark Stanborough, Cabletime's sales manager, EMEA and APAC, about all things video streaming.

What are the common mistakes people make in choosing a video on demand system?

You have to make sure they know what they want, a few years ago the terminology around VoD (video on demand) was flying around but I don’t think many people fully understood what they were looking for.  VoD in the usual sense means something like Netflix, or having a central server in your organisation where you stream an individual piece of media.  But it can also do VoD or you can download content to an individual end point, or play it on demand from the end point as well.  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.  What you can do is get them to download it to their devices or stream it around a single multicast channel.  The biggest mistake people make is not understanding how it can be used and what the different ways you can do VoD as well.

how do you find the right system for you?

It’s a case of working out what the requirements are first of all.  If it’s a corporate user who wants to distribute training videos around multiple screens, it’s a case of working out if it needs to be centrally stored, or can it be stored locally.  Because that has an impact of the network and infrastructure, as to whether is going to be streamed constantly or not.  Do you want everyone to watch everything at the same time? Or do they have to be individually managed? If you have an individual stream you can play, pause or rewind. It’s a case of looking at how they need it to be distributed.  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.

There are a lot of DIY companies out there, it might be a software house who is pulling in hardware from other sources.  Us, exterity and VBrick have longevity.

The customers we deal with want to handle this in-house.  There are lots of companies that will host it all for you on the cloud, but a lot of the time, the big corporates and financials want to be able to manage it locally.  

What questions should you be asking your supplier?

If I was in their shoes I would want to know about the robustness of the system, the longevity of the company.  Also, I’d ask what support companies can offer.  If IPTV and streaming is new to them they will need a lot of help with the network side of things.  Moving forward, its trying to get something that can be upgraded in the future, you don’t wan to get locked in which is suited to one particular applications, people are always expanding systems.    

How do you get the buy-in from the whole organisation and not just individual departments (events team/IT/training/comms etc) when deploying a system?

When we look at these projects it often the AV or IT dept that is running the project, we talk to them about the benefits for the wider organisation.  A lot of time the money comes from marketing or internal comms dept, as they they tend to have bigger budgets than AV or IT, so when you can start explaining to them that they can push messages out to screens or push video advertising or information that can be used by all of your employees. In video on demand you can program when you send them out or you can let people download them at their own free will.   You also have the HR dept who will want to get across a message, yes you can use email, but you are not guaranteed they’ll see it, but if you have screens above coffee machines or in the canteen then most of the tie people will look up at those screens.   They can show a news channel most of the time but on the hour, every hour they can show a movie file with information from the HR dept.  We have seen law firms, who have used a short video to push information on new legislation.  You can also use a trigger, so a video plays when someone new walks in the office, so they will see it.  When you get the buy-in from corporate comms, marketing and HR, most of the other departments tend to follow.

A lot of the time the AV and IT team have already gone through the processes.  When I get involved I’m usually presenting to AV, IT and marketing, HR and senior management.  They want to see why the system is so good and what it can do for them.

Is it becoming a company-wide practice now or is it primarily a senior exec tool?

We are seeing it move more company-wide.  If you look at training or educational videos, it needs to go out to everyone, not just senior execs.  

Are the likes of Netflix and iPlayer in the home helping to promote VoD to the AV market?

It is.  Years and years ago you would go into work because it had a great internet connection that you had at home. Nowadays you have a a faster connection at home than you do at work, so people tend to have a lot more technology at home.  Now people have HD streamed content at home, and expect it.  The fact you can get it on all devices, phones, tablets, laptops, means we have to provide that now on a company network.  Everybody has it at home, so they now expect it at work. Its not something new, its just something people are used to.

We are seeing more clients asking for BYOD, we have the ability that if they want to watch video on their PCs or tablets in their lunch hours from their own server they can.  

Streaming video with unified comms – how do you merge the two? Can it be done? What do you need to know? What are the best methods to use?

We get a lot of people in the corporate world who want to take output from a VC system and stream it around an entire organisation, that is quite commonplace.  That gives the CEO the ability to sit on his/her desk and broadcast a message to the whole organization.  We have had customers ask to record conversations, and play it back at another time.  There is definitely a process to merge the two systems.  Streaming video is what we do, but its also a lot of what the UC vendors do too.   

Do integrators/consultants really understand the full capabilities of video streaming services?

Most consultants we deal with have a good knowledge of how streaming works and what you can do with VoD, 5-6 years ago it was a very different story.  Now we have moved form analog to IP a lot of consultants are pretty clued up.  More people are asking about 4K these days, it’s a continually process of education.  

There needs to be a focus on the management side of VoD.  You don’t want to be pushing VoD out to every user.  How do you mange VoD services? How do you ensure the right people are watching the right videos at relevant times. Any system should have some security in place, and have controls about who watches what and when.

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