Choosing a Video Services Provider

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When I was asked to write about choosing between the various video-delivery technologies and brands, I frankly thought there had to be someone else better suited to write this article. I mean surely there has to be tons of other people who have actually figured this out by now. Well - if they’re out there I hope they comment on this article and express their own opinions, because we all have a LOT more learning to do. As far as I can tell we’re all still figuring this out, so hopefully this can be a starting point for those who are just getting started.

Destination or Syndication

One of the bigger questions to answer before you embark on the path of choosing a technology solution is whether you plan to keep your video on your site, or a few "owned" sites, or whether you plan to "syndicate." Syndication in this world means the ability to push your content to other sites that want your content (sometimes called affiliates). A number of platforms support syndication and automate the process so you are hands off. Others offer a bit more control.

It's important to make sure that if you plan to syndicate, the solution you choose has the tools you need:

-Will it manage traffic reporting by partner sites or affiliates?
-Will it manage the kind of advertising you are pursuing?
-Will it let affiliates manage the content?

Another corollary to syndication is "viral" distribution. Basically, that refers to letting viewers pass content around easily and post it on any blog or Web site. If you plan to make some content available for viral distribution, make sure your platform supports that ability. Remember, you also want to make sure you can turn off sites that are objectionable … after all it's your brand.

Custom Player or Customized Technology?

Another decision you need to make is how customized your video player will be. There are positives and negatives to each strategy. Most of the systems out there for broadband video have standard templates that lay out how your video will be presented to the viewer. Each template will vary in the size of the video window, the way description info is presented for each video, and what advertising formats are supported. You can generally customize each template with colors and add your logo, which may be enough for most. However, if you want a very custom experience, then you may want to bite the bullet and have a custom experience created by a vendor. It will cost you more, but you may decide it’s worth it to have a completely unique experience for your audience.

Dynamic Content

How much programming do you plan to do for your network? If you plan to manage exactly which videos play in each video player, you'll have more of a hand in exactly what your viewers see when they choose a first video to watch. Some systems have more capabilities to let the system pick what videos get queued up after a first one is played. For instance, you could have a system that automatically picks the latest videos, the highest ranked videos, or videos in the same category.

Advertising Features

Unless you're an independent producer looking for a studio deal (and even if you’re not) you probably want to make some money off your content. Thinking through your advertising options is an important part of the equation. Some of the video-platform providers will put you in their ad network, allowing you to make videos while they bundle you in with everyone else and sell ads for you.

Some video platforms can sell only remnant inventory, meaning the ads that you haven't sold on your own. Many programmers already have ad sales teams, and plan to sell everything themselves. In this case, you need to make sure your solution supports all the ad formats you want, like banner sizes and video sizes. Also, you need to determine which ad server companies they support so they are integrated with the type of servers that serve your ad campaigns. Do they support newer formats like Flash and interactive units? These are critical questions to have answered to make sure the system will be able to deliver exactly what your ad sales teams expect.

Hopefully the thoughts above gave you a good primer on selecting a technology partner that will get you into the broadband video space. It can be as easy as uploading content into a standard player and letting others sell ads around it. Or can be as difficult as developing a custom player, selling your own ads, and managing hundreds of affiliate relationships. The good news is ... the choice is yours.

Raj Amin is CEO of HealthiNation, Inc., a digital health lifestyle company. HealthiNation’s video programs can be viewed at, on partner Web sites, and on TVs around the country.

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