I recently interviewed Eric Quanstrom, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Sorenson Media, about their video delivery network program, Sorenson 360. Eric explains what their company believes are the essentials for any business to have in selecting a video publishing and delivery solutions provider, and why he believes "Video Delivery Network" is a more appropriate term for his industry than "Online Delivery Platform" (OVP). Ah, more acronyms…
How would Sorenson define its target business audience for its 360 OVP solution?
Our target audience for Sorenson 360 is our core Sorenson Squeeze customer base -- video professionals and small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).
Some of your competitors choose to refer to themselves as Online Video Providers, or "OVPs." Your company, Sorenson Media, instead refers to itself as a Video Delivery Network, or a "VDN." Can you explain this distinction?
I'm not a big fan of the acronym, but if it had to be defined, it would be "the software platform that provides for video delivery across the Internet.”
We came up with the term "Video Delivery Network" as a means of making it real easy for someone to really understand what we do. Well, we deliver videos. And, we're delivering them with the highest quality to wherever they need to go, worldwide. A video delivery network actually makes a lot of sense. And there's natural corollaries between what we do, and what content networks do with bits and bytes, but don't specialize in the video portion themselves (like we do).
There are so many parts involved with most any video delivery network that operate behind-the-scenes, away from the client's understanding or involvement.
Yes, and the network piece of that kind of encapsulated that for us, which is why we went to market with that. It was mainly the idea that we've wanted to make life easy for people who are trying to wrap their hands around, "What exactly is it that I need?" Because more often than not, what we've run into is… rather than other competitors, we've run into people that have tried their own home-grown solutions without a whole lot of success.
What do you believe then are the necessary components, or steps, that a video delivery platform should include for the SMB crowd?
A platform should include all necessary steps, post-production, through a video's lifecycle: Encoding, Uploading, Video/Content Management, Hosting, Streaming/Download, Video Player and Viewer Analytics.
Sorenson Media is already trusted name in the video space — the Sorenson SV1 and Spark codecs continue to be fundamental parts of Apple Quicktime and Adobe Flash. Sorenson Squeeze is also the industry-leading desktop video encoding application. [Our video delivery network] Sorenson 360 works seamlessly with [our encoding tool] Squeeze to provide the ultimate power, control and ease-of-use for any video workflow.
You mention that your VDN, Sorenson 360, is based largely on customer feedback. What can you share with us from this customer feedback?
Our customer feedback indicates SMBs do not want complicated charts, feature check-boxes and acronyms thrown at them. They want high quality, easy-to-use video services that make their lives easier, and their brands and services more valuable to their customers. Video is absolutely a great differentiator and, done well, increases the professionalism and emotional appeal of their business offerings.
We based our 360 feature set – not by guessing what video professionals and SMBs want and need – but on the features that they told us they need. We're fortunate to have a massive existing Squeeze customer base, and we built 360 based on the feedback and wants from them directly).
We know our users and others like them intimately because we have worked with them for years (14 to be exact), and our users know us and trust us – we have always had a continuing dialog with them. They know we listen to them -- we listen to what they like, but we also listen to what they don't like. We listen to what they and others like them want. We've built Sorenson 360 and continue to improve the service based on those expressed wants. We didn't simply slap features on a wall to see what sticks.
How does your network/platform differ mostly from your competitors?
Only Sorenson 360 utilizes the differentiated power of client-side encoding (rather than server side encoding) which results in the highest quality video. Sorenson 360 provides the full power of the Squeeze client-side encoding engine both (1) via Squeeze (seamlessly integrated into 360); or (2) directly via your browser – i.e., no separate Squeeze application needed.
In simple language, what would you say SMBs really want and need in an online video delivery network/platform?
SMBs want and need the following: high quality video that's easy to use, simple to integrate into an uncomplicated workflow, provides a customizable player and branding, provides tracking and analysis of their videos – all through a trusted brand known for secure service and stability.
The first benefit that I'd highlight would be video quality — at any data rate—with reliable delivery and playback. This is crucial to the SMB who wants to present a professional image to the world. At Sorenson, this is our main area of focus — If your video doesn't look good, nothing else matters. Where we find most video degrades is in the encode process... Especially from one-size-fits-all, bulk server-side encoding operations.
Next is ease-of-use. Most SMBs have scarce technical and video resources—a big driver for implementing an OVP in the first place. They need to be able to use the system with a minimum of training and hassle. If the User Experience is difficult, 50 other features won't matter because the business will have moved on.
Customization is a key feature that we hear often—as the video + the video player are a reflection of the SMBs brand.
I would also add: quick uploading for the client, and quick streaming for the audience…
What have your clients said their business needs are with utilizing a video delivery network/platform?
Most small to mid-size, non-media companies are seeking to use video to acquire or retain customers, train employees, and perhaps communicate with investors / key constituents. Due to their non-media background, most companies are considering inexpensive alternatives for distributing video and have come to expect Software-as-a-Service (Saas) solutions to provide additional value-added features as though defined above. And, for virtually all SMBs and video professionals (rather than online media companies), the relevant question is NOT how to monetize online videos themselves – but rather how best to monetize their business using online video.
What do you see for the future of your company and your competitors in the video delivery network/platform industry?
There are obviously many entrants into this crowded field—many claiming to have one or another cool feature that's their differentiator. My educated guess is that the number of OVPs, going forward 1-3 years, will likely be halved (if not more). Most of the VC-backed companies that are fighting amongst themselves and creating cacophony in the marketplace will likely die off. When that happens — much like with Maven or when Brightcove dropped their low-end play—customers are left holding the bag... either scrambling to find another service or losing all of their video assets entirely. Further, many of these VC-backed companies are very, very new to the video space.
So I think there is a great deal to be said for the concept of trust. SMBs that do not factor the earned reputation of the company they buy from may wind up in a bad situation. From where Sorenson sits as a profitable, stable company, this is a unique part of the value we bring to the table.
Coming Soon… Part 2 of my interview with Eric, featuring questions on the actual feature sets and pricing points of Sorenson 360.