Video on Demand Platform with VdoCipher

Video on Demand platforms have opened up a plethora of choices for viewers. Viewers no longer find themselves dependent upon what their cable network is broadcasting at a particular time. Channel surfing is replaced by informed decision making on VOD platform. Strong recommendation systems help show relevant content to users, thereby optimizing user experience.

Because of this ability to offer a personalized user experience, Video on Demand Platforms retain a phenomenal ability to engage viewers and keep viewers on their platform. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have both been aggressively building a vast content catalogue. It is imperative for these Over-the-top (OTT) platforms to present just the right kind of content for different kinds of viewer preferences.

Index:

  1. A Case Study of a Video on Demand Platform – Netflix
  2. Identify your niche and create your Video on Demand Platform
  3. Why VdoCipher is best for your Video on Demand Platform
  4. Select a Tech platform to build your Video on Demand Platform
    1. WordPress/ Joomla/ Drupal/ Moodle Content Management Systems
    2. Develop your own website using Node.JS, PHP, ASP.Net, Python, Ruby
  5. Design your website
  6. Monetization model, Pricing and Payment Processing

A Case Study of a Video on Demand Platform – Netflix

Going back 10 years, Netflix was primarily identified as a DVD-by-mail business. The company had introduced its Video on Demand platform in January 2007 as a bonus for DVD subscribers. What began as a tentative step to build a slight advantage over competitors has now become the world’s biggest Video on Demand platform. In this period the company has consistenly worked to improve its technology stack and content catalogue. The company now has close to a 100 million subscribers, with the number only expected to grow.

Identify your niche and Create your Video on Demand Platforms

As internet connectivity across the world improves, demand for video streaming services will continue to grow. In North America Netflix  contributes to over 35% of peak internet traffic. In India broadband connections have become the norm in urban areas, whereas mobile networks led by Reliance Jio are making an aggressive push to enable internet connectivity across the country.

Compared to the costs of creating and distributing videos, revenues are not hard to attain. Setting up a video on demand platform is certainly one of the most attractive proposition for content creators and distributors.

Video on demand means so much more than movies and TV shows. YouTube, which is the world’s biggest VOD platform, enables creators to share videos on niche subjects. Users create videos covering anything from video games, film and music discussion and vlogging to educational videos. To get started you only need to reach out to a small subsection of your potential audience base.

Video content is 40 times more likely to be shared than other forms of content. This means that quality videos can generate an audience with minimal effort in marketing. You need to identify your niche, and offer top-quality content to ensure that your video on demand platform is a success.

Videos are also heavily being used for marketing and for product videos. Four times as many users prefer to to watch a video about a product than read about it.

Video is also revolutionizing E-Learning considerably. Instructors are using video to reach millions of people eager to learn. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as EdX, Coursera and MIT OCW have made quality higher learning accessible to anybody with a good internet connection. 

Coursera e-learning video on demand platform

You can setup your own video on demand platform, which would give you complete control over your video streaming application.You can directly communicate with your audience, and can interact with them help improve user experience, helping achieve a greater audience.

Setting up your own VOD platform, you can setup your monetization options, opting for either a subscription model or an advertising video on demand business model, as you see fit. You can make further customizations such as custom encoding to optimize bandwidth usage, and custom player skins to offer a customized viewer experience

It would also mean being no longer dependent on video aggregators like Vimeo and YouTube. YouTube for all its advantages offers limited monetization options. It does not leave the users much control over their content and their audience. Throughout playback viewers are completely free to switch to another video, meaning that meaningful engagement is hard to achieve.

Why VdoCipher is ideal for your VOD Platform

Streaming videos involves a large workflow process, which involves:

Import videos directly from Amazon S3 bucket to VdoCipher for secure video hosting

  • Video Upload and Transcoding
    • Upload to secure S3 bucket
    • Transcoding to different file formats, enabling multi-bitrate streaming
  • Video management through dashboard
  • Secure Video Streaming
    • Amazon Cloudfront and Akamai CDN network for fast delivery
    • Server-side encryption
    • Player authentication, through backend private key
    • Dynamic watermarking
    • URL whitelisting
  • Smooth video playback
    • Design custom skins and customize video player
    • Thumbnail customization
  • Plugins for WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Moodle, and developer-friendly APIs
  • Multi-device compatibility
  • VAST ad insertion for Advertising Video on Demand platform
  • Access video playback analytics through API and dashboard
  • Pay per use model – pay for bandwidth and storage

The entire process of conceptualizing, storyboarding, and video production is extremely time and resource-intensive. To regain the investment that goes into making videos you need to ensure effective monetization from content.

Yet piracy presents a major challenge to monetization. Our statistical study shows that about 25% of the world population uses common video download tools to pirate content. 

VdoCipher’s large user base relies on our secure video streaming solution to ensure that their monetization opportunities are not affected due to piracy losses. VdoCipher video hosting solution provides the complete solution for video on demand platforms. Our full-stack Video DRM enables video content providers to secure their videos effectively, and set up their videos behind a paywall solution. In this blog we discuss why self-hosting is rarely a good idea.

Using VdoCipher means that you can continue to focus on improving your website experience and your content catalogue, while resting assured that your viewers are getting a smooth video experience. Buffering is the reason a lot of users leave videos – a study revealed that even for videos of length greater than 30 minutes, a delay of 30 seconds can lead to more than 60% of users leaving the video. Viewers have little patience and high expectations when it comes to streaming videos. VdoCipher has developed expertise in delivering high quality videos in locations with spotty internet connectivity. Video playback through the VdoCipher player is smooth and seamless, and time taken for buffering is minimal.

In this blog we discuss how to use VdoCipher to maximum effect to setup your video on demand platform. To learn more about how the VdoCipher feature set works out for different cases check out this blog on VdoCipher for business.

CMS and Programming Languages to Build your Video on Demand Platform

Create Video on Demand Platform with WordPress

WordPress currently powers over 25% of the websites on the internet. Some of the most prominent websites using WordPress because of its easy functionalities are New Yorker magazine and Techcrunch.com

Use WordPress for video on demand platform

Embed using Shortcodes

  • Create an account on VdoCipher. You will be mailed your client secret key.
  • Install the VdoCipher wordpress plugin, and enter your client secret key. You are all set to embed VdoCipher videos to your website.
  • Right-click on the video in the dashboard that you wish to embed to your website. Copy the video id to the shortcode format, replacing the 123456 in the shortcode below, and using a single parenthesis.  

[vdo id="123456"]

  • Add the shortcode to the page in which you wish to embed the video. Its a simple two-step process to embedding your video.

Dynamic Watermarking

To add a dynamic watermark go to the settings panel of the VdoCipher plugin, and add the text that you wish to add to your WordPress website. More details are given in this blog.

Themes for WordPress developers

WordPress supports a fantastic community of developers who create plugins and themes. This makes WordPress extremely useful for beginners looking to buy off-the-shelf solutions for their website. To create your own Video on Demand Platform there is a wide variety of themes and plugins that you can use to embed your videos to your websites.  Some of the best themes that we have found to offer great functionalities and easy monetization options are:

  • Vlog

Multi-purpose – can be used for vlogging or for news websites.
Supports Series plugin, which enables you to create playlists of videos
Integration with WooCommerce for monetization options
Enables Advertising Video on Demand by supporting banner ads on pages
$69 one-time purchase

  • VideoTube:

$49 cost
Easy integration with membership plugins enabling you to monetize your website as Subscriber Video on Demand

  • VideoPlus

$39 cost – includes 1 year of theme updates and 1 year of personal support

  • PremiumPress Video Theme

$79 cost
Whereas most video themes are designed to enable monetization from advertising video on demand model. PremiumPress’ Video Theme is designed to enable you to secure videos behind a membership plugin.

  • NewsMag Lite

This is free plugin that you can use to create your own newspaper-like or magazine-like website. You can use a combination of texts, images and videos for your site.

Membership Plugins for WordPress

You can manage user access rules using membership plugins. This includes partial protection of content on web pages to restrict content to only paid subscribers. Partial protection is implemented through shortcodes, and means that free subscribers/ non-subscribers can only see part of the page, while the remaining would be protected by a paywall. You can also protect entire sections and pages behind your paywall membership plugins.

WP eMember and Membership Pro 2 are two of the most popular membership plugins. An important feature that WP eMember offers is to prevent simultaneous logins. This stops users from sharing passwords with other people. Another plugin.

Create Video on Demand Platform with Joomla!

Joomla! is one of the most popular PHP-based content management systems. A vibrant community of developers has made Joomla one of the best platforms on which to build your video on demand platform.

Joomla! for video on demand platform

VdoCipher’s Joomla video plugin makes all the backend API calls, meaning that all you need to do to embed your videos is add the embed code. The installation procedure to integrate VdoCipher’s video plugin to your Joomla-based video on demand platform is:

  1. Dowload the VdoCipher Joomla Extension
  2. Upload the VdoCipher Joomla Extension to the Manage Extensions page
  3. Click on VdoCipher to open Parameters page
  4. Enter your client secret key, which you would have received in the mail on registration, in the given field
  5. On saving the settings you are good to go
  6. Get your video id directly from the VdoCipher dashboard
  7. Enter your video id to the shortcode, in the format (where you replace 123456 with your video id)

[vdo id= 123456]

Note that PHP5-curl needs to be installed on the server for this extension to work. Attributes for the shortcode include the display settings of height and width – for example if you require height = 350 and width = 700, you can add the following attributes to the shortcode

[vdo id=123456 height=350 width=700]

The shortcode is space-sensitive, so any additional space at the end of the shortcode before the brackets can cause an error.

Create Video on Demand Platform with Drupal

Drupal for video on demand platform

VdoCipher module for Drupal uses a shortcode to display videos inside any node, which may include articles and posts, besides custom content types. The shortcode is added to the WYSIWYG text editor, and the module handles the API calls. The client secret key is used for API calls between your Drupal website and the VdoCipher video dashboard. The plugin abstracts away the API calls, meaning that all you need to do get started is:

  1. Upload your video to the VdoCipher dashboard
  2. Download the VdoCipher module
  3. Upload the module file from the “Install New Module” page on your Drupal installation
  4. Click on the Configure link on the module page to complete your setup
  5. Copy the API Key from VdoCipher Dashboard -> Config -> General
  6. Enter your client secret API key.
  7. Get your video id directly from the VdoCipher dashboard
  8. Enter your video id to the shortcode, in the format

Required argument id for embedded video not found.

  1. Embed the video id to any content_type text field in your website

We are currently working on integrating the VdoCipher plugin with the Drupal media module. You can add dynamic watermarks to your video as well using these annotation code guidelines.

Video on Demand Platform with Server-Side scripting languages and Frameworks

We have also developed our API for use-cases with Python, Ruby, Node.js, ASP.NET and PHP. Together these backend-languages power much of the internet. Using our embed code and the API reference for the respective language, you can host your videos to deliver a truly unique experience for your clients.

Web Frameworks that are most popular currently include:

  • Django, Flask and Pyramid frameworks for Python
  • Rails framework for Ruby
  • CakePHP framework for PHP
  • Node.js framework for Javascipt

The utility of frameworks is in enabling developers to use boilerplate code, thereby avoiding having to repeat the same thing multiple times. Frameworks help you manage and enforce your web architecture. Using a framework also enables you to use vast a variety of libraries that are available.

For Web Hosting the most popular website hosting servers are DigitalOcean, Rackspace and AWS.

Create Video on Demand Platform with PHP

PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages used to build websites. The biggest utility for PHP is its ease-of-use, which has enabled blogging platforms such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal to emerge. The world’s largest encyclopedia – Wikipedia is also setup using PHP. Popular e-learning platform Moodle is yet another implementation of PHP. Facebook also uses PHP in its core codebase.

PHP is arguably the easiest language for beginners to make a basic functional website, and for that reason retains its popularity.

In our developer library you can find the embed code for integrating your VdoCipher videos to your website. Using this embed code you would need to add the video id to the embed code, and your client secret key to the API reference, and you would be ready to embed your videos directly to your website.

The developer library also includes sample code for enabling video uploads to your VdoCipher dashboard directly from your website. This would enable your users to directly upload videos without needing to open the dashboard. After the API call is made by your PHP application server, a video upload policy document is returned. You can use standard Javascript libraries to make the process of upload smoother – Angular, JQuery or Dropzone. The video upload should be made within 1 hour of the video upload policy document.

Create Video on Demand Platform with Node.JS

Node.js is currently the most exciting framework for server-side scripting. Its primary utility is its single-thread non-blocking I/O design, which means it is eminently suited for web applications requiring vast scalability. Some of the most popular transaction and event-based web applications currently using Node.js are PayPal, Uber and Netflix

The VdoCipher Node.js module enables you to handle your videos securely on your video hosting platform. VdoCipher’s secure video hosting

Using Node.js for server-side scripting means that both your frontend and backend use Javascript. Most Javascript frameworks are for frontend; Node.js is a singularity in that context. . The Node.js core itself is quite lightweight. There are numerous modules that are made available by an active developer community, adding powerful functionalities to Node.js programming. An active developer community means that for most purposes you could easily find a developer library to achieve a nydesired functionality.  

VdoCipher Node.js API

Class VdoCipher. Create a class instance vdocipher (client_secret_key). Instance method of the VdoCipher API include vdocipher.getOTP, which passes the video ID, and receives OTP. Instance method vdocipher.getSignature returns a signature authenticating the video playback.

For more information about the API reference please look up the API reference. Check out the embed code.

You can find sample code to generate OTP for a video on demand platform on WordPress, to authenticate video playback

The github reference can be found here.

Create Video on Demand Platform with Ruby on Rails

Hulu is a major video on demand platform built using Ruby on Rails. Other web applications built using Ruby on Rails framework are SlideShare, Github and Groupon.

Ruby is one of the most popular server-side scripting language. Popular for its developer-friendly structure, Ruby can be used with the Rails framework (Ruby-on-Rails).

VdoCipher gem for Ruby-on-Rails handles the API reference. Steps for integrating VdoCipher video player to your video on demand platform:

  • Add this line to your Gemfile in your rails application
gem 'vdocipher'
    • And in your controller file add these lines
require 'vdocipher'
...

vdo_api = VdoCipher.new(clientSecretKey: "CLIENT_SECRET_KEY");
@embedcode vdo_api.play_code("VIDEO_ID", "style=\"height:400px;width:640px;max-width:100%%;\"");
      • Now in your view file embed code where you would like to play videos

Create Video on Demand Platform with Python Frameworks (Django, Flask, Pyramid)

Most popular websites using the Django framework with Python are Instagram, Pinterest, Google. The biggest video on demand platform YouTube, although originally built using PHP, now also runs on Python.

You can see a sample file for integrating VdoCipher to your Python website here. You should break this file, which includes the embed code, player OTP call and API reference, according to your MVC architecture.

Design your Website’s User Interface

A great and intuitive user interface goes a long way towards building and retaining your audience. Here we bring tips from observing popular video on demand platforms, that you should implement to make your VOD platform a success.

      • Clean and Easy Membership system – a popup box can be used to login. You may also enable social login via users Google or Facebook accounts
      • These are the home pages of Twitter and Netflix – the similarity? Both of them give a glimpse of interesting content that you find on the platform. This would improve conversion of site visitors to subscribers.

       

      Netflix Video on Demand home page   Twitter home page
      • Personalized Recommendations based on ratings that you give movies and your watch history.  Netflix implements a Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down rating system – it aggregates user behaviour across different patterns of ratings. Using your viewership data Netflix recommends content that you are likely to watch.
      • Easy grouping of content helps viewers decide what to watch. This includes content based on your recent watch history, and content grouped according to genres such as Action & Adventure and Romantic Films.
      • Get your movie descriptions right – help users understand exactly what they are signing up to watch. Your users will appreciate it.
      • Multi-Device synchronization – For viewers constrained by time, it may be possible only to consume long-form content in small chunks. By providing synchronization across devices you enable your viewers to start from the last-watched locations, and stop in the knowledge they can resume when they want to on whichever device they wish to. This is one of the most important features to get right. Your video player should be able to synchronize your last played location on the video. VdoCipher gets this right by automatically saving the pointer to the last viewed location on the video, meaning that you can easily play back videos.
      • Get the balance between high quality and streaming on low bandwidth networks – It is important to provide a great experience for viewers with high-speed connections as well as for viewers with low-internet bandwidth. This is critical for VOD platforms in developing countries, where internet connectivity in rural areas is poor. Encoding optimizations can help viewers stream reasonably good videos even on 2G-speed internet connections.

Monetization Models, Pricing, and Payment Gateway

SVOD – Subscriber Video on Demand

Subscription Video on Demand is definitely the most popular monetization model used by most video on demand platforms. A recurring subscription gives users access to unlimited content on the VOD platform.

To target different kinds of users you can implement a tiered pricing model, wherein subscribers to the basic plan get the core content offering. Subscribers to higher payment plans can get access to additional content that supplements the core video offering. For example Netflix gives unlimited access to its complete library for its basic plan. However if you wish to watch Netflix simultaneously on multiple screens (share a subscription), you are encouraged to buy a multi-screen subscription at a higher price point.

Explanation of business models for video on demand platform

AVOD – Advertiser Video on Demand

As a monetization model this is the strategy that YouTube offers. Through this YouTube can share revenue with its content creators. In this case, content creators do not have a direct relationship with the video on demand platform, and therefore advertiser Video on Demand in YouTube’s case enables revenue sharing. AVOD is the optimal strategy when you are expecting a lot of users to tune in to your website.

The only caveat to basing your business model exclusively on advertising is that it is viable only when you have a large audience. Revenue from a single ad is often very low – you need to have a large enough audience to be able to generate meaningful revenue. For videos on subjects of broad interest the inherent virality of content is extremely critical. In such a case YouTube is often the ideal platform for building and connecting with their audience. If you are looking to build your website with the target of earning revenue from advertising, you should at least target million plus page views per month. 

TVOD – Transactional Video on Demand – Pay per view or buy the content

You can make specific content accessible for users on payment of a fees. This is for one-time content created which you want to monetize. Most online tutorials fall into this category. You can package your videos individually, or as part of a bigger package. The difference between subscription and pay-per-view content is that users pay for access to specific content only. TVOD is ideal when you have differentiated content offerings which have value by themselves.

Payments Gateway and Processing

You need to setup a payment gateway solution so that you can receive payments from across the globe.

Instamojo, PayU and CCAvenue are some of the most popular payment gateways in India. Internationally PayPal and Stripe are both widely trusted payment processors.

Comparison of International Payment Gateways – PayPal and Stripe comparison

PayPal Stripe
Ease of use Easy embed code which can be downloaded from PayPal website Requires a separate coding framework to integrate Stripe
Fixed Monthly Costs PayPal Standard account is free,
Advanced Account costs $5
Pro account costs $30 per month – Advanced and Pro offer native integration with website
Stripe does not charge any monthly fee
Transaction fees 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
Customer Support Better customer support – Quick Answers & Community forum, besides KnowledgeBase and Email support KnowledgeBase and Email support

Comparison of Indian Payment Gateways

Instamojo Setup Fee – 0 Commission Per Transaction – 2% + Rs.3
PayU Setup Fee – Rs. 4,900 – 29,900 Commission Per Transaction – 0.75% – 2.90%
CCAvenue Setup Fees – Rs. 7,500 – 40,000 Commission Per Transaction – 3% – 7%

All Indian payment gateways – Instamojo, PayU and CCAvenue offer integrations with WooCommerce Platform for WordPress. By using any of the free plugins offered by these payment gateways you can get your Video on Demand platform to accept payments within minutes of setting up.

The onboarding process of tying up with the Payment Gateway can take some time though. Most of the payment gateways require scanned copies of documents.

Setting up Payment Gateway for Video on Demand Platform

  • Install WooCommerce and the free plugin for the Payment Gateway –
  • WooCommerce Settings Page -> Checkout -> Payment Gateways
  • Click on the Payment Gateway of your choice after downloading and installing the plugin
  • Rename the payment gateway Credit Card/ Debit Card/ Internet Banking
  • Configure your payment gateway by adding your merchant ID and Merchant Key
  • You can finally select a redirect URL – the page on your website where customers will be taken after the transaction

Individual process for these payment gateways vary. If you opt for any of the payment gateways for your WordPress website it would be a good idea to first integrate it with your WordPress installation to make sure that the plugin is compatible with your WP themes.

If you have more queries on VOD platform, please give us a shout at info@vdocipher.com. A free trial to secure stream videos for your video on demand platform is available at vdocipher.com

The Netflix revolution – Part 1: History of Netflix

Here at VdoCipher we are in awe of how over its history Netflix has consistently innovated in streaming video. Over the history of Netflix, the company has maintained a content catalogue which would be delivered at first via mail. When the technology infrastructure became available Netflix pioneered video technology, which revolutionised home-based video entertainment. The technical decisions that Netflix takes often serve as guides for VdoCipher’s course of action, while the long-term vision that the company has executed in its two decades has helped it standout from competition. Netflix offers a fantastic glimpse into how long-term strategy and decision-making ensured the company crested the wave of vastly increased internet connectivity in recent years.

Index:

  1. Introduction
  2. Netflix’s Subscription-based Business Model
  3. Competition with Blockbuster
  4. Netflix launches Streaming Video on Demand
  5. Partnership with Hardware Platforms
  6. Shift to the cloud
  7. First Major Content Licensing Deal
  8. Netflix and the Culture of Binge Watching
  9. Original Programming
  10. Separating DVD and Streaming Video
  11. Domestic Growth in US and International Expansion
  12. Conclusion: From Dot Com Bubble to Baring its FANGs

In this first edition of our multi-part blog series on the streaming video giant, we take you back to how Netflix has evolved over the two decades of its existence. Netflix started as a personalized web-based movie recommendation and rental system, transforming over the years into a streaming video giant. The management’s commitment to digital content has enabled Netflix to emerge as the biggest name in the streaming video industry, and more importantly, to stay at the top of its game as it expands globally and seeks to capture increasing audiences internationally.

Founded in 1998 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, the story of Netflix’s founding must be situated amidst the dot com bubble. This was a time when online businesses would sell consumer goods directly via their dot com domains. Amidst the excitement around internet-enabled delivery of services and goods, companies like Pets.com, WebVan and Kozmo.com offering to sell goods directly to consumers raised funding from venture capital firms. However owing to flawed business models which meant losses at each sale, these companies burned cash from the outset.The dot com bubble crashed in due time.

Netflix's DVD-on-mail plus Streaming Video subscribers in the period 2000-2011

In September 1999 Reed Hastings implemented a subscription-based business model. Netflix, although unprofitable until the mid-2000s, survived the dot com bubble. The company offered DVDs via US Postal Service, and had put up their catalogue online. Relying on US Postal Service’s delivery meant that Netflix could focus on their core offerings of a curated and personalized catalogue.

Netflix’s unique offering was its web-based catalogue of films. Instead of having storefronts, the primary means by which customers could access the catalogue was online. This meant that every user in every part of the country could have access to the full library that Netflix possessed, rather than being limited to the titles the nearest stores carried. This also meant that users could shop around for the films they wanted to watch in the leisure of their homes.

Netflix streaming video helped boost their subscription growth

Netflix’s Subscription-based Business Model

The company at the time struggled with two fundamental problems in their business model. One was that because the DVD was sent via mail, it would take anything between one day to 4 days for the shipment to reach the subscriber. Even though people were likely to try Netflix, conversion to repeat rentals was low. Secondly, people would far more inclined to rent out the latest releases. For the company to break even on the cost of purchasing a DVD to rent-out, they would have to generate 15-20 rentals for each DVD.

Two of the most important elements of Netflix’s business model emerged out of their responses to the problems. The company shifted to a recurring-revenue model – the subscription model – which improved second-time movie rental rates considerable. Customers were locked in to the platform, and were therefore much more likely to try rentals again. The company also created a queue, one in which users would select the movies they would like to watch next. This speeded up the process for subscribers to receive another DVD once they returned their first one. This also eliminated the point of late fees charges – the motivation for returning DVDs was to get another DVD to watch by mail. Netflix business model of subscriptions was a response to the problem of retaining customers. Secondly, to enable maximum utilization of their DVD content catalogue, the company created their movie recommendation system. Through Cinematch Netflix would recommend shows for their subscribers to watch. The point for this was to alleviate pressure for DVD rentals away from new releases, to a more uniform renting out of their content library. This solution has over the years become considerably sophisticated, and drives how customers experience Netflix and how the company makes decisions when acquiring new content.

Netflix’s response to these problems was reflective of how the management was focused on building a sustainable business model, as opposed to growing up too fast. Instead of focusing on building a huge content library the company instead optimized their DVD-on-mail solution for their existing library. This business decision was what helped the company survive the crash that followed the dot com bubble.

Barry McCarthy, CFO of Netflix from inception till 2010, spoke to the Unofficial Stanford Blog on Reed Hasting’s idea of the subscriber-based model in an industry where video rentals were centered around retail stores:

“It was Reed’s insight that the subscription model would resonate with consumers in a compelling way. He re-engineered the Web site and software to support a subscription model…we began to grow exponentially overnight. In 1998, I think the business did $1 million in revenue. In 1999, we did $5 million, then $35 million and then $75 million and $150 million and then almost $300 million…We were I think five years to $500 million and another three years to a $1 billion, all because of the subscription model.”

Netlfix’s business model of subscriptions was strengthened in February 2000 when Netflix started their Unlimited Movie Rental programme. This ‘All-You-Can-Watch’ subscription model, at a fee of $19.95 per month, offered customers unlimited movie rentals in a month, receiving upto 4 DVDs at a time. With a view towards maintain subscriber goodwill and loyalty, the company eliminated all per-movie, shipping and late-fee charges. Netflix, under the direction of technical head Neil Hunt, had by then also implemented their content recommendation system – Cinematch.

Netflix’s content curation was headed by Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer. Sarandos joined in 2000, and had prior experience in movie and television distribution. He has managed Netflix’s content offerings over the years, initially curating and providing inputs for the movie recommendation system, and is now a major cog in the wheel of the to the company’s original content – Netflix Originals – initiative.

Competition with Blockbuster

Netflix’s business model and vision in the movie-rental industry was considerably different from that of their chief competitior – Blockbuster. The chief of retail video rental chain Blockbuster, John Antioco, on the other hand believed that video rental was a much more spontaneous process, and that receiving copies in-store and watching immediately was prefered by customers over waiting for days for the DVD on mail.

Amidst this new rental programme, Netflix was losing money. Reed Hastings met with Blockbuster CEO John Antioco in Dallas, proposing to sell a 49% stake in Netflix to Blockbuster for $50 million and in exchange for running Blockbuster’s brand online – Blockbuster.com, while complementing Blockbuster’s offline DVD rental business. However Blockbuster passed on the deal, believing that Netflix, which was not profitable at the time, did not add value to their own business. It was this inability to see the long-term view, which Netflix was committed to, that led to the contrasting fortunes the two companies faced.

Netflix presented a considerable disruption to the business model of retail video rental chains. DVDs would be sent through the US Postal Service. Unlike Blockbuster for which late-fee was often a significant portion of its revenues, Netflix completely eliminated the late fee, with the incentive for returning for the customer being access to another DVD. Netflix’s products key differences were their lack of stores, instead mailing DVDs ordered online, and secondly not charging late fees. It was Blockbuster’s inability to compete with Netflix on these two counts that ensured that the upstart beat the established company in the home-entertainment ecosystem.

Netflix offered their initial public offering (IPO) on March 24, 2002, bringing in $82.5 million. At the time the company was not profitable, making a loss of $4 million on $30.5 million of revenues. This was, however, an improvement over the previous years figures of loss of $38.6 million on revenues of $75.9 million.

Its battle with Blockbuster was the first big win in the history of Netflix

In 2004 Blockbuster finally entered into the online DVD rental space. They also removed their late fees charges. However these two changes increased costs and reduced revenues, leading to activist shareholders led by Carl Icahn pressuring the CEO against the strategy. Blockbuster’s online initiative lost momentum and the late-fees was reinstated.

Blockbuster’s growth came and market dominance came about in a period when 80% of the company’s shares were held by Viacom. In 2004 Blockbuster decided to make an outlay of $200 million on Blockbuster online, and waived their late-fees charges which would have led to revenue decline of about $200 more. However Viacom exited the company when this strategy was adopted, believing the new path as not being aligned to its own vision. The challenge that the market dominating company was facing was being unable to reinvent its business model in the face of technological shifts. The agile startup Netflix on the other hand continued its growth, achieving growths in both revenues and subscribers, until finally in the 2010s the company expanded exponentially as streaming video technologies matured. John Antioco and executives at Blockbuster on the other hand faced resistance from the new shareholders after Viacom’s exit, who pressured the board to reinstate the late fees and drive down investment in the online business. It was the late entry to the online business, as well as the inability to get the backing of shareholders to implement a top-gear strategy for online video, that ultimately led to Blockbuster’s failure in the face of technological shifts.

Netflix launches Video on Demand

Netflix put further pressure on competition when they announced the launch of their streaming service in January 2007, as Watch Now. At the time the streaming service was expected to be of use only for power users with broadband internet connections, which were not all that common at the time. Users were required to have a 1 mbps internet connection to be able to stream movies, with a 3mbps connection required for streaming DVD-quality films. Subscribers under the $17.99 plan had access to 18 hours of streaming content. Video delivery was through a special browser applet that subscribers would have to install. By 2008 however Netflix had given access to unlimited video streaming for subscribers to its biggest plan .

“We named our company Netflix in 1998 because we believed Internet-based movie rental represented the future, first as a means of improving service and selection, and then as a means of movie delivery,” CEO Reed Hastings said at the time, “While mainstream consumer adoption of online movie watching will take a number of years due to content and technology hurdles, the time is right for Netflix to take the first step.”

About 1,000 titles were available for streaming online, as opposed to 70,000 that Netflix offered in its DVD mail-to-order business. Although digital delivery was part of Reed Hastings’ strategy from inception, at the time of its launch the streaming service was provided as an add-on to the DVD subscriptions business. The primary motivation at the time was to slow down user churn. Q4 2006 results showed a net margin of 4.9%, with a net income of $12.7 million on $255 million of revenues. Although it needed to improve its margins, the company had also been seeing subscriber churn of more than 4% each quarter.

Helped by the launch of streaming video, 2007 was the first time that Netflix generated upwards of $1 Billion in revenue. Over that year the company’s subscriber base grew 18%, revenues were up by 21% and net income was up by 36%, compared to the 2006 figures. The rise in revenue offset the increased costs from the online video initiative and strong competition helping the company generate higher profits.

Netflix’s approach to starting its streaming video service was a gradual process. Launched in January 2007, the company did not roll out its services for all its users at once, instead gradually scaling up the service offerings, completing it for all customers in June 2007. In hindsight, seeing Netflix’s experimentation with its video delivery infrastructure in terms of optimizing for the cloud, this slow and steady approach definitely makes a lot more sense than offering a full fledged streaming service and then dealing with downtime and error rates. Prioritizing building a robust technical infrastructure has helped Netflix keep their first-mover advantage. Oftentimes the first-mover advantage is squandered by technology companies who have to make way for businesses that solve the problem more efficiently. Netflix, however, by relying on a solid content and technical team, has managed to keep its competitive advantage since the launch of its streaming video service.

Partnership with Hardware Platforms

As the company started work towards building a streaming video solution, they also started to develop solutions for streaming video through hardware platforms. In 2004/05 the company was considering working with contract manufacturers on DVD disc drives with a video processor, which could download video content over the internet, and then stream it on TV. This model was similar to TiVo, which enabled TV owners to record TV shows on a disc. This was however shelved as competition with Blockbuster intensified and Netflix had to put resources into engaging in a pricing war with the market leader.

In 2008 Netflix began work on a device for streaming videos. Netflix started work on developing a video player to connect to television, through which streaming video can be played over the internet. However Reed Hastings was concerned that potential partnerships with consumer electronic platforms would be negatively impacted by having their own platform. Roku was subsequently spun out as a separate company.  For much of its history Netflix has had to face questions from cable TV providers whose content it would license, movie studios for movie licensing, as it presented a competition to their respective business models. Being perceived as a threat by the device manufacturers with which it was seeking to partner in the early stages of its streaming video business would hardly have severely limited its growth options. For this reason Netflix decided to spin out the Netflix Player team as a separate company.  

Netflix subsequently partnered with Microsoft for developing a streaming video app for their gaming console. They also later worked with Sony Playstation, developing

Shortly after the launch of Roku, Netflix announced partnership with Microsoft. As part of the partnership Netflix developed a native app for the game console Microsoft XBox 360. This gave access to XBox Live Gold Members access to Netflix on their television via their game console. For Netflix it meant that the market of 12 million XBox Live members was opened up, whereas for Microsoft could market their XBox for the million Netflix subscribers. The deal required Netflix to maintain the streaming video technology exclusively to XBox for an year. Subsequent to that Netflix would develop a Blu-ray disk based streaming video solution for Sony’s Playstation. The company would later go on to generalize the software platform they developed for DVD players to enable Netflix integration via Software Development Kits (SDKs). This also meant that as Smart TVs emerged and prevalence of streaming video over the internet developed over the years, Netflix was essentially prepared and could offer easy integrations.

Shift to the Cloud

In August 2008 Netflix experienced a major database corruption, and could not ship out their DVDs for three days. This was the stimulus which led to Netflix opting to host their business logic on the cloud. This cloud migration would take place for the main part in the period of 2010-2011, and would only be completed in 2015, when the company finally setup its billing infrastructure, the most sensitive part of its business operation, on the cloud. The complete shift to the cloud was a pathbreaker in the tech industry. Netflix has over the years built a highly robust cloud infrastructure, which has enabled the company to scale up seamlessly as it has seen exponential growth and as it has expanded to 190+ countries.

First Major Content Licensing Deal

In 2008 Netflix agreed a deal with Cable TV channel Starz to broadcast their content library for $30 million annually. Starz’s library of 2500 movies and TV shows, including movies Disney and Sony Pictures, became available for streaming on Netflix. The deal was a hugely important step in the history of Netflix, as its streaming video service could now offer a wide range of quality content to their video streaming subscribers. Starz on the other hand, probably expecting the streaming video industry to remain a niche segment, did not expect the deal to cannibalize their own PayTV offerings.

In 2011 Starz stopped its content licensing deal with Netflix, even after Netflix offers $300 million for licensing Starz’s library. Starz CEO went on record saying that he considered the deal a terrible mistake for Starz.

Netflix and the Culture of Binge Watching

Netflix soon started entering into content licensing deals with television studios. For television studios the income from Netflix’s streaming videos supplemented other geographical licensing deals. Television studios only make episodes of previous seasons available, in the belief that showing the episodes from the last aired/ currently airing season would through online video streaming services would lead to them losing users from the cable platforms, who were the primary monetization channel for television studios. Netflix would later turn this monetization scheme on its head when they started licensing original content, becoming a major revenue channel for television studios in their own right.

As more people began tuning into Netflix, content providers found that Netflix helped build audiences for their shows. Cable networks making past seasons and episodes of their television series available on Netflix enabled content discovery. Customers discovering quality cable content on Netflix helped would later tune into the currently airing episodes of the series. This helped boost ratings for television shows such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men, both produced by AMC. Ratings for Season 5 of Breaking Bad were more than double those of Season 1, and many times the ratings of Season 1, largely helped by the audience that Netflix generated for AMC. Netflix helped users catch up to currently broadcasting series, and enabled networks to focus on creating quality content with the knowledge that even a small initial following would convert soon enough to larger audiences.

Shortly before the final season of Breaking Bad aired, the shows’s creator Vince Gilligan reiterated his belief that Netflix helped generate an audience for the show: “Under the old paradigm – using the old technology of simply having first runs and then reruns on networks – I don’t know that we would’ve reached the critical mass that we reached.”

A major point in the history of Netflix was when it inaugurated the culture of binge-watching, and boosted ratings for shows such as Breaking Bad

For television studios, apart from the first run of the series on television, revenues are generated from syndicating TV series to other networks after the end of the season or the series. In this environment Netflix comes in as an added source of revenue for TV studios, besides, as seen in the case of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, Netflix has also enabled broader audiences for quality content through what is labelled as “catch-up TV”.

Original Programming

In 2011, initiating their strategy to differentiate themselves from other services, Netflix started outlaying budget for original programming, with their first original series House of Cards premiering in 2013. Netflix Originals became a critical component of the Netflix Business Model. The original content initiative would enable the company to become less dependent on movie and television studios, giving it leverage over its supply chain of content providers, while helping build a loyal audience. Netflix’s original initiatives would be copied by other OTT providers as well, with companies like Amazon Prime Instant Video and India based Hotstar all investing on originals to broaden their appeal.

Netflix’s decision as to which television shows to license is designed by their content recommendation systems. Their analytics team takes in various factors, including the popularity of the genre, how popular an actor/ director is, and even computing responses to similar content. Because Netflix’s business model does not rely on immediate ticket sales the criteria for a successful series is determined by whether the subscribers on Netflix platform watch the series, and whether the series can inspire a loyal following. The company’s first original license was for House of Cards. The story goes that Netflix ran data on the number of people who rented out the DVD for the UK Television series House of Cards and who watched political dramas such as The West Wing. They likewise computed the numbers who’d shown preference for the films of David Fincher, and who liked Kevin Spacey films. After finding that a significant percentage of their subscribers are likely to watch such a show, Netflix commissioned two seasons of the series, at a total cost of $100 million. This gamble was spearheaded by content head Ted Sarandos, whose reasoning was that the network effects of Netflix would generate sufficient publicity and viewing figures if the show generated even a small loyal following. The idea of creating content for different interest groups, where interest is defined in a much broader and cross-category way, is what drives Netflix’s content strategy. The company entered into a six-film deal with Adam Sandler in 2015. The first film under the deal, The Ridiculuous 8 received generally scathing reviews, and yet Sarandos contends that the film is valuable for Netflix’s subscribers as a large number of people are watching it on their platform. The streaming video provider has definitely seen some failures in recent years – Marco Polo and Get Down being two prominent series that could not achieve a critical mass of followers, and therefore being cancelled. The original content strategy is also important for the company as it expands globally, and as it seeks to penetrate international markets it needs to market content suitable for local tastes.

Spinning out DVD and Online Streaming

In 2011, in a move aimed at generating revenues for further investment into their video catalog, Netflix made major changes to their business model. The company separated memberships for DVD rental and online streaming businesses, getting users to buy different subscriptions. Buying both subscriptions would increase the cost for customer by $6 per month, from $10 for the single membership which included both DVD-on-mail and Streaming video, to $8 each for the two services. Netflix also proposed spinning off the DVD business as a separate entity named Qwikster. As a result of this abrupt price hike, 800,000 left the service, forcing Netflix to partially reverse the decision. Although the price hike remained, Netflix did not spin off the DVD company as a separate entity. Reed Hastings reiterated his belief that the future of home entertainment was in streaming video online, but regretted the communication gap with their customers. Although the move was something of a PR disaster, it was eventually only a blip as the company kicked off its exponential growth. The price rise also helped boost the company’s revenues, putting it in a strong financial position.

Domestic Growth in US and International Expansion

Netflix’s tech innovations have ensured that even though the company contributes to over 30% of peak traffic in North America, its impact on the broader internet infrastructure is minimal. Innovations in video encoding and content delivery have ensured that the company has managed to minimize its footprint, meaning that customers continue to get the best possible experience while not impacting other internet services.

In January 2016 Netflix accounted for 37.1% of traffic in North America’s fixed networks. This share declined to 35.2% in June 2016, which can be attributed to encoding efficiencies that Netflix implemented. Per-title encoding optimization replaced a more general encoding criteria. This ensured that lower bitrates were used for better quality video encoding. For some titles, these optimizations would yield a 20% reduction in bitrates, while achieving a better viewer experience.

The company has innovated in video delivery through the internet by tying up with ISPs to ensure minimal data transfer over the backbone of the internet, so that much of the traffic is routed internally through the ISPs only. Towards this the company’s Open Connect CDN connects through settlement-free peering with most ISPs. The company has also offered to locally cache content at ISPs, through their Open Connect Appliances, which would ensure that streaming traffic would only be local to the ISP. The business logic of customer data and content catalogue would meanwhile be on the company’s cloud services which are installed on Amazon Web Services. Netflix’s cloud operations run out of three different AWS regions – Oregon (US-west-2), North Virginia (US-east-1) and North California (US-west-1), which ensures that the company’s services remain uninterrupted even when entire AWS regions go down. The company has achieved its targetted 99.99% uptime since its move to the AWS cloud.

In January 2016 Netflix launched across the globe. The company’s streaming video service is now accessible in 190 countries, with the only major exception being China, with their cloud solutions scaling up and responding to the demands of global internet requirements.

From Dot Com Bubble to baring FANGs

There has been much internet-enabled transformation in the world that has enabled Netflix’s emergence. The company is a part of the tech industry’s FANGs, an acronym coined by US finance expert Jim Cramer in 2013,  FANGs – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Although a relative minnow when compared to FB, Amazon and Google (now Alphabet), the acronym reaffirms how Netflix has over the two decades of its history captured a significant mindshare amongst the internet populaiton.

These tech companies have gained the most as the internet has taken an increasingly more significant role in our lives. Mobile phones have made internet access ubiquitous, meaning that for the youngest generations internet now informs global culture much more than other media. Technological behemoths such as Google and Amazon have enabled technical infrastructure in the form of Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that anybody can use. By abstracting away the technological complexities and leaving more capabilities in the hands of software developers, these companies have enabled the development of technological infrastructure to develop consumer-facing products. This history of Netflix would have been considerably different were it not for the maturing technical infrastructure and internet popularity.

Amidst a decline in market sentiments around tech companies in 2016, Netflix was one of the very few companies to have a steady stock. This signifies the confidence that investors have over the revenue-model of Netflix. Throughout the history of Netflix the company has been a step ahead of market trends – their decisions towards online catalogue of films, then offering an unlimited movie subscription model, then inaugurating streaming video, and finally creating their niche by investing in original content have contributed to the dominant position the company finds themselves in. In the early 2010s, at a point when its technology no longer served as an effective enough competitive advantage, Netflix took on the incumbent cable television industry by investing in high-quality content. As it reaches saturation in the US market, Netflix needs to expand internationally. Finding the right content formula for international audiences is the challenge facing Netflix.

Premier League is Battling Online Video Piracy

Online Video Piracy is Posing an Existential Threat to Premier League

Online video piracy is increasingly becoming an existential threat for the English Premier League. The Premier League is widely branded as the best league in the world ( often to the dismay of purists who prefer the more technical Bundesliga or the superstar La Liga). The popularity and scale of the Premier League is rising with the wave of record high broadcasting revenues.

The reliance on broadcasting revenues however means that the league needs to ensure that viewers remain on the authorized broadcasting networks, and not opt for illegal video streams. Online video piracy takes away substantial revenue from the broadcasters. This causes reduction in profit margins, making the broadcast deals much less valuable.

The English Premier League was created in 1992, when the clubs in the top tier of English Football broke away from the Football League. The motivation for the creation of the PL was the lucrative opportunity of negotiating an exclusive broadcast deal.

The value of the broadcast deals has skyrocketed over the past few years. From the initial £304 mn for five years of exclusive rights (1992-97) that BSkyB paid, Premier League’s current television deal is worth £5.136bn for three years (2016-19).

Premier League's ever lucrative broadcast deals are being threatened by online video piracy

The money from the ever increasing deals has created a huge inflationary bubble in the Premier League. The result has largely been huge increase in player salaries and transfer prices. This has seen top world-class football talent being attracted by the Premier League’s largesse.

With the broadcasting deal for the period 2019-22 to be negotiated soon after the start of the 2017-18 season, the Premier League is under increasing pressure to combat online video piracy. Ensuring that the broadcaster’s revenue model, which is based on exclusivity, remains profitable is a high priority for the Premier League.

In this blog I seek to explain the business model of the media empire that is the Premier League. The profitability of this model is coming under increasing threat by the online video piracy tools – namely Kodi boxes and online video streaming sites.

History of Premier League Broadcasting deals

In 1992 Premier League shifted to paid satellite television network Sky Sports, after years of the First Division being shown on free to air games. The kickoff time for games was still 3PM, and live broadcast was not allowed. However delayed broadcasts signified that viewers could still watch their team from home without paying for the subscription.

After a bidding process between ITV Sports and BSkyB, with the alleged help of insider information, BSkyB came out victors. Sky bid £304million for a five year contract (although it eventually paid only £191million). This exclusive broadcast deal meant that football viewers would have to buy a Sky Sports subscription with their satellite tv network. This was unprecedented, as previously the live telecasts were available on free-to-air terrestrial networks. In bidding for the broadcast rights to the Premier League BSkyB bet the existence and growth of their TV network on the Premier League. The reasoning was that First Division football had a captive audience of devoted followers, who would pay up the steep subscription costs to be able to watch live football. This gamble paid off, as the company went from losses of £47 million in 1992 to profits before tax of £62 million the following year.

This subscription based revenue model definitely helped News Corporation expand their media and broadcasting empire. Sky TV earned profits before tax of £1.26bn in the period 2012-13.

These profit margins are however under pressure as the costs of acquiring the Premier League TV rights increase with each broadcast deal, and users begin to drop off the expensive services by relying on online video piracy. This pressure on both the costs and on the revenues means that the broadcasters face an existential threat from online video piracy.

Currently Sky Sports and BT Sports have the rights to show Premier League in the United Kingdom, while BBC has the rights to show only the highlights programme, Match of the Day , hosted by the charismatic Gary Lineker.

For the 2016-17 deal, of the £5.136bn payable to PL, Sky paid £4.176bn for 126 matches per season, whereas BT sports paid £960 mn for 42 matches per season. Sky also has first option on match picks for the weekend games, a majority of the second picks, and a large number of third picks as well.

Profitability of Sky Sports has declined due to online video piracy

Sky Sports and BT Sports try to recover these costs through their subscription packages, and from advertising. The revenue model for football depends much more on subscription than on advertising, because of the way the game is played and broadcast. Unlike in cricket where broadcasters have the opportunity to show ads after every 6-ball over, in live football streaming the broadcasters only have the half-time interval in which to show ads. Broadcasters do have opportunities to include ads on the screen during the game, as a footer or side ad, but the loss of value of user experience means that this source of advertising is used only in a limited manner.

Their two main sources of income are from viewers at home, and from their more lucrative Clubs and Pubs Packages, which are used to license pubs showing their games on matchdays. There is however substantial loss of revenue because of online video piracy in both these revenue chains. It is to combat revenue losses through unauthorized channels that the Premier League is aggressively pushing for measures against illegal video streaming and online video piracy channels. PL has taken different approaches for home viewers and for Pubs respectively.

Costs of subscription and the PL revenue model

To understand why users are resorting to online video piracy, it is important to understand the costs that viewers at home and pub owners incur for broadcasting Premier League games.

Currently the cheapest option for home viewers of the Sky Sports package is £36.50/month. The cheapest HD option would cost £58/month. It is in response to the high charges for this is the viewers at home are instead switching to online video piracy websites that offer football content at low prices or for free.

Sky uses the rateable value of pubs to determine pricing for Sky subscription for pubs. The rateable value in the UK is the value associated with a commercial building, based primarily on its size and location, besides other factors such as outdoor space and food and drink availability. These rates are, for a barkeeper interviewed by Hull Daily Mail, in the range of $1,000 per month for Sky and $400 per month for a BT Sports subscription.

The Sky Package for pubs covers 126 Premier League games and England home cricket matches. Additional rates are charged for F1 racing packs. These high costs for the Pub package add a major budgetary constraint for pub owners. With their backs to the wall amid rising costs and competition from other pubs, many pub owners opt to stream Premier League content routed through set-top boxes loaded with software (Kodi boxes) that stream games from illegal video streaming servers. This online video piracy problem is exacerbated by the high costs and by the ready availability of pre-loaded Kodi boxes that stream content through set-top boxes and through the internet.

Structural Changes to Viewership Patterns

The Sky Sports deal in 1992 marked a major structural change in sports viewership. Users had to lock-in to the Sky Sports ecosystem to be able to follow the national English sport of football. Over the previous 25 years however, there has been another major technological disruptor to how users watch sports – the internet.

Video streaming over the internet has become more prevalent, what with an extensive network of Content Delivery Networks and the ability to setup streaming servers in offshore locations where anti-piracy measures are made futile.

During the 2014 World Cup there were a total of 30million viewing hours of football streamed on ESPN in USA. In the same world cup there were a total of 20million page views of illegal streaming sites globally. While not exactly comparable – the American market forms a small subsection of the global football market, this reveals that illegal viewers of live sports events are numerically significant and represent loss of revenue equivalent to a major sports-following nation.

There were over 20 million views of World Cup 2014 through illegal video streaming sites. Online video piracy of this scale is roughly comparable to viewership figures of United States.

People have started to view online content through other avenues as well now. FIgures of 18-49 year olds has declined since the age of the internet

The Guardian reported in October 2016 that viewership figures have been down for the Champions League, and posed the question: Are these changes a blip or a trend? In other words is the reason for the lower viewership figures incidental factors relevant to a limited period of time, or instead actual effects of a structural change in viewership patterns. There is no conclusive answer yet, but it is undeniable that internet sources of following the match are changing the way football followers experience the sport.

It is not just the online pirated streams that are competitors to TV viewership – social networks provide an active community discussing match events real time. Major newspapers the guardian and telegraph provide a live blog covering the sports games. While not a direct substitute for the live video, live blogs definitely make the absence of live video much less acute for non-subscribers, diminishing incentives for subscribing.

Vines and GIF highlights are also used in these social networks to share highlights of the game. The ubiquity of the camera, internet and video-clip creating software means that very often vines are online within seconds of a highlight of the match – say a goal or a red card. This is a very disaggregated way of sharing content, and creates another headache for Premier League broadcasters, who have clearly been unwilling to go after end viewers.

Use of Kodi Boxes and Software for Online Video Piracy

In response to the high costs for subscription to Sky and to BT, many homeowners opt to setup Kodi Set-top boxes.

Since the major source of revenue for Sky comes from pubs that subscribe to the the Club and Pubs membership package, a number of these pubs now stream directly from non-British EU broadcasters, through set-top boxes. Set-top boxes preloaded with channels with much lower subscriptions are used to stream live games.  

Pre-loaded Kodi Boxes are used for online video piracy through computers and set-top boxes

Kodi itself is a free software application. It is an open-source media player that can integrate with different OS (Windows, Linux and Mac) and different platforms (Smart TVs, Set-top boxes and mobile phones). Because it can be installed on any device – computers, smartphones and on Set-Top boxes, unlicensed add-ons can be bundled with Kodi boxes that could give users free access to paid content. It is this act of bundling illegal add-ons that is illegal, and which the Premier League is trying to actively combat. With the latest ruling, ISPs can block access to entire online servers found to be illegally streaming premier league games. This creates a significant disincentive to pirates looking to stream the matches for profit.

Premier League can now get the servers that are used to broadcast video streams over Kodi Boxes blocked. Previously Premier League could only target and block individual stream sources, which users can shift to other sources. Now by being given the ability to target the computer servers means a major boost in the fight to block online piracy.

in February 2017, authorities conducted raids across North-west England, arresting individuals selling illegal Kodi boxes to bars and pubs.

Amazon recently banned sale of pre-loaded Kodi boxes on their platform in a major step forward towards combating online video piracy.

Litigation Against Pubs televising Premier League Games using EU subscription

The Premier League has conducted an aggressive litigation campaign against pubs streaming games through Kodi Boxes. These litigations have yielded both success and setbacks for the Premier League.

Karen Murphy of Portsmouth succeeded in her lawsuit against the Premier League,where the court ruled that the Premier League’s enforcement of only British subscriptions was anti-trust, and violated EU’s requirements of non-exclusivity. The Karen Murphy case was ruled upon in October 2011. The landlord of the Red and White pub in Portsmouth showed live Premier League games using a subscription (costing £800 per year) for Nova, which held the PL rights for Greece, as against Sky which cost £700 per month. The European Court of Justice ruled that Premier League cannot enforce exclusive access to broadcasters as such a system was contrary to EU law.

Karen Murphy of Portsmouth used Nova Sports, streamed from Greece, instead of Sky Sports. This is a form of online video piracy that is now made illegal on the basis of copyright infringement.

Since then the Premier League has developed another mechanism of enforcing the exclusive broadcast networks through a legal technicality – enforcement of copyright law. This is because Premier League’s logo (ordinarily shown throughout the match) and Premier League’s anthem (shown at the start of the match) are copyright material, and that showing this material without the Premier League’s consent is infringement of copyright. These logos, which are visible as a watermark outlay on the screen, and on player jerseys throughout the game (acting as a real dynamic watermark) mean that it is impossible for clubs to show the game in real time without obscuring the logo (and protecting themselves from litigation).

Cannot target users for fear of public backlash and because of EU ruling

Although the Premier League and the broadcasters have aggressively targeted pubs that show illegal streams through non-British (and cheaper) subscriptions, and through Kodi boxes, they have not yet started aggressively acting against end users. The reasons for this are two-fold

  1. EU Judgement – A landmark EU judgement in 2014 from the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that viewing copyrighted material without explicitly downloading content is not piracy, and does not cause any breaking of piracy laws. This is because the cached files are temporary, and only transient and incidental to technology use. The relevant section of the judgement rules:
  2. Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.

  3. Customer Backlash – Going against end viewers using online video piracy would be disastrous from a public relations perspective. With users already having options of alternate media streams, any action against end users (as opposed to intermediaries such as pub owners or Kodi box sellers) is likely to cause outrage and lead to litigation against the monopoly of television rights. Already pub owners streaming from other EU based broadcasters can legally stream from those broadcasters, undercutting Premier league broadcasters in England only. For a key customer facing organization, invoking the customer’s displeasure is definitely strategic hara-kiri and would do nothing to combat the actual challenge of online video piracy.

Conclusion

Ultimately revenues from subscription are critical for the maintenance of the premier league bubble. With clubs tied down to 4-5 year wage costs, the Premier League needs to maintain the same price evaluation for the next broadcast deal, which will be announced in the 2017-18 financial period, for the period starting 2019. That streaming premier League be profitable for broadcasters is the bottomline that the Premier League needs to ensure, whether by enforcing strict litigation against pirates, or by offering a bigger content package to end-users and making their services more affordable.

Import videos from Box.com

We have just added support for Box.com imports. If you can upload your videos to Box.com, you can import videos directly from Box.com.

Steps to Import Videos from Box.Com

  1. In your dashboard, go to Import from and choose “Add from Box”. This will open a new pop-up window on Box.com.
  2. You should be able to choose your video file by selecting the check box. You can select multiple files at the same time.
  3. On clicking choose, we shall take up the list of videos and add it to your dashboard. The video will come with Queued status at the beginning.
  4. You can have a cup of coffee now.
  5. Return in some time and your videos will be ready. You can now embed these videos in your website or mobile app. Click here to read more on embedding options and how our secure embed code makes it impossible somebody to grab the embed URL. If your videos are on Amazon S3 you can import directly to VdoCipher dashboard using these instructions.

VdoCipher import videos from Box.com pop window screenshot

VdoCipher import from box.com select from box file picker screenshot

Free LMS plugins for online course

The Definitive Guide to Free LMS Plugins for WordPress

Are you overwhelmed by the vast range of paid and free LMS plugins available on WordPress? You’ve just started with creating your online course, and do not quite know which LMS plugin – paid or free – to get started with.

Free LMS Plugins are Ideal to Create Your First Online Course

When you are a first time online course creator you are much more likely to want to test your content with a free LMS plugin. Whether it is to cut costs or to simply test the viability of your content in the form of a course, free LMS plugins offer a great opportunity to get started with selling your online course. Whatever the hype around the Senseis and LearnDashs of the world, oftentimes a simple free LMS plugin could do a good enough job of hosting your online course.

The LMS have either a paid pro version, or if not then paid integration to other wordpress plugins.  Because this post is about setting up your website through free tools, I will only be discussing the features that the free LMS and the free integrations offer.

LifterLMS (Paid Pro Version)

LifterLMS has a wizard to guide new users on using the LMS. If you are new to the WordPress ecosystem, a user wizard can be extremely helpful in helping you navigate the tools you’re going to be using. A user wizard signifies that the developers are careful enough about user experience.

Free LMS Plugin - LifterLMS

Beyond the welcome page the LMS wizard tells you about the custom pages that the LMS adds. These include a course catalog, a single archive page for all your courses, a membership catalog wherein all your memberships are listed, a checkout page for integration with a payment gateway, and a student dashboard for students to manage their profiles.

Once you get past the wizard, the LMS welcomes you with a ready-made course on building a Learning Management system with this free LMS plugin. I mean what is a better way to guide your users than through a course built on your LMS plugin. Obvious, right, but LifterLMS are the only ones who have had the ingenuity to come up with the obvious.
The free LMS plugin LifterLMS has a wizard to guide you through the course creation process.

Each Course is broken down into multiple sections, each of which in its place hosts lessons. Within the main page you can manage the entire course structure, manage students and enrollments, and define content access according to membership roles.

Lifter LMS offers everything you can reasonably expect from a free plugin. If you are short on time, LifterLMS is definitely the plugin to help you ease through the learning curve that operating an LMS requires.

Namaste! LMS

Where LifterLMS tops in usability and ease-of-use, Namaste! LMS comes out top in the features department. The interface of this free LMS plugin is pretty straightforward, and does not require much effort. The plugin button on the admin menu directs you to the course, lesson and assignments pages. There is a ‘To Do’ button for administrators to manage pending student enrollments, lesson completion and homework assignment solution approval.

Free LMS Plugin Namaste! LMS

Course Certificates can be created from the same drop down menu. The vast majority of customizations are enabled through the options page. This LMS creates multiple user roles, and lets you decide which student roles are allowed access to content. So for example you may wish to restrict access to content to only enrolled students, in which case this is the plugin for you. Likewise there are WordPress roles for who is allowed to administrate the LMS.

Namaste! LMS creates its own custom post type – the Namaste_Courses. It is however great to find that users can edit this. So if you’ve previously tried other LMS, you can carry on with this plugin quite conveniently by changing the course type to the course type used by the previous LMS used.

I was a little disappointed not to find the option to make quizzes. Namaste! LMS does however support the free Watu plugin, using which you can create quizzes. Both Namaste! LMS and Watu come with Pro versions – the Watu Pro plugin allows creating of question banks and randomizing quizzes. However, for most requirements the integration of the free Namaste! LMS and Watu plugins works out fine for course requirements.

All in all the Namaste! LMS plugin packs a great number of features. There is also a vast number of shortcodes to customize your course pages, all of which makes this one of the most feature-packed free LMS.

CoursePress by WPMUDev 

CoursePress by WPMU DEV offers a free LMS with free integration to eCommerce tool MarketPress. Using MarketPress you can package your course as a product and sell it on the MarketPress platform.

Free LMS Plugin CoursePress

CoursePress is a no-frills LMS plugin. With this free LMS plugin you have  options to create the course, add units and to manage users in one tab. Their seven step course creation process also allows you to manage course details, instructors, classes and enrollments, besides generating certificates on course completion. All these settings are accessible from one page, which does make the process of customizing the course seem convenient.

WordPress Admin Panel for free LMS plugin CoursePress

The User Interface that comes with CoursePress is comfortable, and gets the job done for most requirements. The MarketPress integration however feels a bit bloated – the pages for you to configure the sale prices, discounts seem feature rich, but seem glitchy when you try to implement it.

All in all, CoursePress comes out as a basic plugin to create your course. It provides a basic interface for creating your course. Although most functionality is bare-boned, it can be integrated with any WordPress themes to give a good look to your online course.

LearnPress by ThimPress

All LMS plugins create a new post type. For example CoursePress creates the “Course” post type. If most LMS use the “Course” post type for their courses, the same course can be edited using any of the supporting LMS. While this increases interoperability, this does have the possibility of muddying up content when the LMS plugins are not completely compatible. LearnPress does things right here, as the course category created here is “LP_Course”.

Free LMS plugin LearnPress

The LearnPress interface takes a little getting used to. Using this free LMS plugin you have the option to create courses, lessons and pages directly. It is better to create the course, lesson and quizzes separately, and to then assign quizzes to lessons and lessons to courses. You’ll have a much easier time that way. This is because although course creation, lesson creation and quiz creation happens on different pages, all of them are brought together in the main course page.

LearnPress does not support question banks – you can only use a question once in a quiz, and the quiz only once in a course.

Outside of the Course-Lesson-Quiz structure, LearnPress does not quite offer administrators and instructors much options to communicate with learners. Free integrations to BuddyPress and bbPress are available to enable the creation of a social network and forum around your course. For online course creators looking to sell the course for a one-time-payment, to try a Udemy style-model, LearnPress works out pretty much ok.

 

StudyPress

This is a barebones plugin, and it does not have a pro-version. It enables course, lesson and quiz creation. Quiz only allows for multi-choice or single-choice answers. StudyPress is a free LMS plugin that barely offers any features beyond the mandatory course pages necessary. The few customizations that this LMS offers are adding a ratings page at the end of the course and integration with buddypress.

Free LMS plugin StudyPress

Payment Gateway Options to Sell Online Course

Setting up a payment gateway is essential to sell online courses successfully. You need to setup a solution so that you can receive payments from across the globe. The bottomline to the success of your online video course is your ability to monetize your content. From our conversations with E-Learning video course creators, it is this process of setting up a payment gateway that counts as one of the most stressful aspects of selling online courses.

In this blog we lay out how a payment gateway works, what options to consider when opting for a payment gateway to your site, and what how to actually apply for it.

The Parties to a Financial Transaction

There are essentially four parties to an online financial transaction:

  • The merchant
  • The customer
  • The acquiring bank whose services the merchant uses
  • The issuing bank whose credit card the customer uses

Parties to payment gateway and payment processing to sell online course

Payment Process

The workflow in the payment process works like this:

  1. Payment Gateway receives the card details securely from the customer
  2. Payment Gateway forwards the transaction information to the card agency
  3. Card agency then forwards the request to the Issuing bank
  4. Issuing bank verifies validity of transaction for credit/ debit card (checking card details, balance, expiry dates), and responds with approve/ deny response
  5. The approve/deny response is forwarded by the payment gateway to the merchant website
  6. The merchant then fulfills the order. The issuing bank clears the order only when the transaction is fulfilled
  7. Acquiring bank communicates with the credit card issuer to settle accounts
  8. Credit card issuer makes payment to acquiring bank
  9. Acquiring bank deposits funds to merchant’s approved account

Flow of information in payment processing - payment gateway for e-learning video sellers

Integrating a Payment Gateway to your Page: Options

  1. Hosting payment process on your site: To make the customer experience smoother the merchant hosts the credit card details on their own servers, and transfers it to the payment gateway/ processor which communicates with the relevant financial institutions. You would need to implement security mechanisms to ensure that card details are secure.
  2. iFrame of Payment Gateway on Website – In this method of integration a frame of the payment gateway is included on your website, through which you can then integrate a payment gateway directly to the website. The customer remains on your website, but the data is added to the payment gateway directly, minimizing your data liabilities.
  3. Payment form on another site – This is the simplest process, in which the user is directed to the payment gateway site to enter the card details. The customer is redirected to the merchant’s website after the transaction is completed.
  4. Hosted Tokenization – The customer adds card data on the merchant’s website, but this data is sent directly to the servers of the payment gateways. The merchant website only records a unique token of the transaction, so that merchant website is not liable to possessing the confidential data.

Difference between Payment Gateway, Payment Processor and Merchant Account

Payment Gateway

A payment gateway acts as intermediary between your website and the payment processor, helping to securely transfer information. Payment gateways have to be compliant to PCI-DSS standards (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), to ensure that details of your financial transactions are secure.

The payment gateway’s main role is to securely transfer transaction details to the payment processor. Whereas payment gateway’s responsibility is to provide a user interface and communication channel between customer and merchant, it is the payment processor which deals with the various financial institutions to validate the transactions.

Payment Processors and Merchant Accounts

The boundary lines between payment gateway and payment processor are often blurred, and most vendors function as both. Payment Gateways in India combine with banks to provide the payment processor and merchant account services. It is the payment processor which handles transaction data, and communicates with the banks. The bank handles the merchant account activities.

The stage of merchant account creation requires a lot of paperwork efforts. Banks are averse to accept merchants with high-risk business models. For this reason they will ask you for explanations of your business model. The requirements for a merchant account are:

  • Functional website
  • Company identity proof
  • Promoter’s identity proof
  • Company address proof
  • Business model presentation

For an example of merchant requirements, online payment processor ZaakPay provides the details for availing their ZaakPay merchant services.

International Payment Processors

PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.Net and Payline are the most popular international payment processors. WooCommerce offers integration with all of these payment processors. Their unique offerings are

  • PayPal is one of the most widely trusted payment processors. PayPal charges a monthly fees for Pro and Advanced Users. Its ease-of-use and customer support and service sets it apart from competition.

Use PayPal as payment gateway to sell online course

  • Stripe offers an international payment gateway plus processor service similar to PayPal. Through its APIs developers can integrate the payment gateway to their website for free. Its rates are also overall cheaper than PayPal.

Use Stripe as Payment Gateway to sell online course

Merchant Maverick here gives a very detailed explanation on how to choose a payment processor.

Indian Payment Gateways

The most popular indian payment gateways are:

  • PayUBiz – Offers variety of customizations for medium-to-large businesses. One of the mosted trusted brands, their merchant on-boarding process is fast, and the user experience is their highest priority
  • EBS – The first Indian Payment gateway to be PCI-DSS compliant
  • CCAvenue – CCAvenue is one of the longest-serving payment gateways, and is widely trusted and considered reliable. Customer trust is a very important quality in the payment processor industry.
  • InstaMojo – Instamojo offers the cheapest option amongst payment gateway. There are no installation costs, and it is recommended mostly for small-to-medium businesses offering physical goods. Their transaction discount rate is 1.9% for physical goods sale and 5% for digital goods. Their integrations leave much to be desired however, as the service does not offer support for retail payment processors.
  • RazorPay – This option offers netbanking, all cards, and wallets. This is one of the fastest growing payment gateway services.

E-Learning Video Production – Selecting a Camera

One of the first step to executing an E-Learning video production is to select a suitable camera. With the multitude of cameras available in the market and the diverse range of features they offer, it is very easy to get confused. In this blog I explore various features and functionalities that different kinds of cameras offer. In this analysis I discuss DSLRs, Camcorders, WebCams and Digital Cameras. Each of these cameras come at different prices, and whether they are right for you depends on what features and functionalities you are looking for. I’ll begin with a discussion of the technical concepts necessary to understand the specs that cameras offer. An understanding of these concepts will help you navigate much of the jargon that goes around regarding cameras for E-Learning Video Production.

Price of the camera often becomes the driving filter when selecting a camera for E-Learning video production. Along with the camera type I have added the price range to expect for the camera.

Camera Features

  1. Lens Quality
  2. Light Sensitivity of Image Sensor
  3. Aperture Size
  4. Camera Shutter Speed
  5. Size of Image Sensor
  6. Resolution
  7. Depth of Field
  8. Autofocus
  9. Monitor Screen
  10. Frames Per Second

Different Cameras

  1. DSLRS
  2. Camcorders
  3. WebCams
  4. Digital Cameras

10 features in a camera for E-Learning Video Production

Quality of image is determined by:

1. Lens Quality

There are three qualities of lenses to consider: Range of focal Length, Material (Glass/Plastic), and angle of capture and Optical Zoom.

Optical Zoom is defined, for cameras with variable focal lengths as the ratio of maximum focal length to the minimum focal length. Basically a high focal length corresponds to higher magnification and narrower angle of view, whereas low focal length is used by wide angle lenses at lower magnifications. Wide Angle Lens have a range between 35 to 24mm focal length, covering angular range of between 64 Degree to 84 Degree.

What kind of focal length to use for your E-Learning Video Production depends on the camera positioning. If your camera is placed at the opposite end of a big classroom you would need a large focal length lens – high optical zoom cameras would come in handy here. On the other hand if the camera is placed close to the teacher, then a wide-angle lens with low focal length is appropriate, to take in the entirety of the blackboard. High optical zoom gives you much more options about where to place the camera to get the desired look.

Wide angle lenses tend to magnify the distance between the foreground and the background. This is not very desirable for E-Learning Videos. For this reason it is recommended that you record your E-Learning videos at high optical zoom.

It is important to note that digital zoom is different from optical zoom, and in fact only causes blurring of the video in exchange for a narrower final image.

2. Light Sensitivity of Image Sensor

The light entering through the lens and the aperture is captured and processed by the image sensor. ISO is a measure of how sensitive the image sensor is to the incoming light. A high ISO number means high sensitivity, meaning that a low exposure time is required for shooting the picture. A high ISO is not always desirable, as it adds noise to the image.

ISO numbers range from 64 to 12800 (with multiples of 2 beginning from 100, as in 100, 200, 400…) A light sensor with ISO 400 has twice the light sensitivity of ISO 200. Along with the aperture size and camera shutter speed, light sensitivity determines that a photo is properly exposed.

3. Aperture Size

Light enters the sensor through the aperture. The greater the aperture size the more light is allowed. High ISO sensors can work with small aperture sizes as well. The f-number is a ratio of the focal length to the aperture size – the lower the f-number the higher the aperture size.

4. Camera Shutter Speed

The camera shutter speed determines the time of exposure of the image sensor. A greater shutter speed means less exposure of sensor to light. High ISO sensors can work with faster shutter speeds.

5. Size of Image Sensor

The size of the image sensor determines how much light is used to form an image. Full Frame Image Sensor size is 35mm, and is used in high-end DSLRs. A higher image sensor requires a high focal length lens, making the camera + lens setup bulky. Most DSLRs and high-end digital cameras use the APS sensor size, in which the size of the image sensor is around 24 X 18mm. APS is less than half the size of the 35mm image sensor, for which reason it is cheaper to manufacture, and considerably less bulky. Most smartphone cameras on the other hand have much smaller image sensors. Along with the Megapixel resolution, the image sensor size determines the quality of images.

Comparison of sensor size for cameras

6. Resolution

This Number of pixels that the image sensor captures. For point and shoot smartphone cameras the number of megapixels is marketed as the most important aspect of the camera required to produce a quality image. However, if the image sensor is small, then higher resolutions means that the image is very noisy.

7. Depth of field

This is the depth of the object that the camera can capture clearly. A shallow Depth of Field means that the subject is in high focus, and stands out from the background. High Depth of Field on the other hand means that a large area of the image is in focus, and for this reason it is great for landscape shooting. is directly proportional to the distance of camera from object. DOF is inversely proportional to size of aperture. DOF is inversely proportional to focal length. For E-Learning videos a shallow depth of field is desirable.

8. Autofocus 

This is the number of points on the viewfinder of the camera that the camera can focus on. The more the number of autofocus points the better is the ability of the camera to focus on a desired object to get an image.

Read more on Autofocus here: https://photographylife.com/dslr-autofocus-modes-explained

9. Monitor Screen

Although a secondary feature, a large monitor screen helps you get a better sense of the video being taken, allowing you to edit settings in real time to get the desired image.

10. Frames Per Second

FPS is the number of frames included in one second of video. Basically, the maths works as follows:

  • The greater the framerate the more continuous does the video feel, and therefore a better resolution is achieved
  • Greater framerate means greater video file size, causing demands on bandwidth
  • Framerate works ideally when the screen refresh rate is proportional to frame rate. US and Canada receive 60Hz power supply. For this reason 30FPS is naturally better for video streaming in these countries. In Europe, India and much of the rest of the world power frequency is 50Hz, for which reason 25fps is ideal in these countries.

Different FPS

  • 15fps – This was the frame rate used by early films
  • 24fps – This is the framerate used by the movie industry. This number was a compromise to strike a balance between minimizing cost of using film while retaining the continuity necessary for the video.
  • 25fps – European and Indian video – It is possible to convert 30fps video to 25fps video
  • 30fps – still some jerky motion, but mostly optimal
  • 60fps – very little jerkiness, but higher frames per second means greater video file size, requiring greater bandwidth

A frame rate in the range of 25-30 fps is optimal for E-Learning video productions, ensuring the quality of video and also not causing the file size to be too big.

Further reading – Video Frame Rates, Steve’s Digicam

Cameras for E-Learning Video Production

DSLRs – Price Range $400-500

DSLR for E-Learning Video Production

Digital Single-Reflex Cameras use a combination of mirrors and lenses to shoot high quality photos and videos. Along with the highest range of quality features, DSLR offers a great ability to control the image. To get the best results for your E-Learning video production from a DSLR, you really need know your camera so that you can control individual settings manually.

An important thing to note is that videos are shot on DSLRs in the RAW format. This makes them very big in size – for example you will need a 32GB card to just shoot 15 minutes of video.

Image sensor in a DSLR is bigger than in point and shoot cameras or camcorders – meaning that even if a camcorder and a DSLR have the same number of megapixels, there would still be a great deal of noise in the camcorder. This is because in smaller sensor the adjacent pixels can communicate, causing noise.

With DSLR you have much greater options to change the depth of field as per your wishes

For E-Learning videos a shallow depth of field is desirable, as the main focus is on the speaker and the blackboard/ whiteboard.

Among lenses, the 70-200mm lens is one of the most popular DSLR lenses. Wide angle lens (24-35mm) are on the other hand used for landscape photography. To cover entire width of the whiteboard from a short distance it may be more desirable.

Most Popular DSLRs

Nikon D5200 24.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Black) – $510

  • This camera boasts an ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400
  • 18-55mm and 18-140mm lens are available with this DSLR
  • 24.1 MP optical sensor resolution

Canon EOS 700D 18MP Digital SLR Camera (Black) – $390

  • Optical Sensor Resolution – 18MP
  • CMOS Optical Sensor Technology
  • 9-point AutoFocus system

Camcorders – Price Range – $150-200

Camcorder is ideal for E-Learning video production

Camcorders are designed specifically for video shooting. Most camcorders support containers such as MPEG-4 and the codec H.264, meaning that you do not need to spend time and computing power encoding the video to a usable format. Sony uses the XAVC format, which supports the H.264 codec. Video editing is a very processor-intensive process, and shooting on a camcorder makes the video editing much more convenient. Some of the key qualities of a good camcorder are:

  • Zoom Lenses – for example optical zooms of 30X can be expected from good camcorders. Glass lens have much better quality than plastic lens.
  • Image stabilization – Because they are designed for video shooting, the processor and lens system can be designed to enhance image stabilization. Additionally face detection features can be incorporated in the software for the camera, enabling ability to better focus the camera. Optical Image Stabilization is better as lenses adjust to movements to steady the image, whereas Electronic Image Stabilization uses algorithms that may degrade picture quality.
  • CMOS Sensors – Most camcorders currently use the CMOS sensor. For example Canon uses EXMOR R sensor, which is about half the size of the APS-C used in DSLRs. The image sensors used by camcorders are much bigger than sensors in the camera phones.

A useful guide to all camcorder features can be found on Lifewire

Some of the most popular camcorders are:

Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam Camcorder

  • 30X Optical Zoom
  • 26.88mm wide angle lens
  • Uses Sony’s XAVC video format supporting H.264 codec
  • Maximum Bitrate: 50Mbps, Frame Rate: 60p
  • Image stabilization
  • Exmor CMOS sensor

Panasonic HC-VX981K Ultra HD Camcorder with Wi-Fi Twin Camera and 4K Photo Features (Black)

  • 20X Optical Zoom
  • Leica Decoma Lens
  • 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization
  • 4K Shooting

WebCams – $60-100

Webcam for E-Learning video production

Webcams are a cheap option, and besides being of use for your E-Learning video production, can also be used for conference calls. Some selling points of webcams include a high megapixel resolution, Auto Focus, glass lens, ability to control brightness exposure, and face tracking. 

Lifewire has a good guide on webcam features to look out for. 

Microsoft Q2F-00013 USB 2.0 LifeCam Webcam

  • 1080p HD sensor
  • Glass element lens
  • Auto focus
  • Wide angle lens

Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam (Black)

  • 1080p HD sensor
  • Glass element lens
  • H.264 video compression
  • Face tracking and motion detection using logitech software for windows

Digital Cameras – $80-100

Digital Camera for E-Learning Video Production

Digital cameras are, along with webcams, the cheapest option for your E-Learning video production. Good high-end digital cameras such as Nikon Coolpix have image sensors much bigger than those of lower end cameras, and are almost comparable to camcorders. In comparison to camcorders, digital cameras may have a smaller range of optical zoom, meaning that your options regarding camera placement for your E-Learning video production are quite limited. On the other hand the image quality, given an optimal camera placement, is comparable to camcorders. When working on a budget, a quality digital camera is a good idea given that you have an understanding of its limitations.

Recommended Cameras:

Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera (Black)

Nikon Coolpix S2800 20.1 MP Digital Camera

 

Secure Hosting for Flipped Classroom Videos

Secure Video Hosting for Flipped Classroom

The model of flipped learning has the potential to revolutionize classroom teaching. In this methodology learners are assigned videos to watch before a class. By delivering basic instructions through a flipped classroom video, students are much more informed about the subject before class begins. This makes for a much more engaging classroom discussion, ensuring that the passive learning in the traditional classroom is now replaced by a much more active model of learning.

In this blog post, I seek to explain factors you should consider when hosting Flipped Classroom videos. Designing flipped classroom videos is not straightforward. Prior to flipping you need to map out how you are going to be using your video resources, and how the videos would inform your classroom. You would also need to develop a system to ensure that teachers and parents are able to monitor how students follow the video lessons. Tracking how learners interact with the videos is important in making sure that learning from your flipped classroom videos is effective. A custom secure video hosting solution would enable you to tailor your videos and the technical platform for maximum learner engagement.

Free Resources to Use

There are a large number of free videos that teachers can recommend to students for viewing in Flipped Learning. Some of the most popular resources are KhanAcademy.org and MIT OpenCourseWare. There are a large number of channels on YouTube offering quality videos for education.

Creating Your Own Flipped Classroom Videos – Security

You may wish to create your content for students to watch as part of flipped classroom videos. These videos may be of previous classes, or they may be specially made for the flipped classroom. There are many reasons to consider video security seriously when hosting your flipped classroom video content

    • Information security – When making flipped classroom videos, you need to protect details of learners participating in courses, or special details that you may mention in the course. For videos classes made for a specific audience the information security concern is very much relevant
    • Protection of Intellectual Property
    • Controlling access – You may wish to control access to only the students enrolled in a particular class.
    • Protecting Privacy – You can get students to make videos as part of Project-Based Learning. This encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, as such a project would require them to work collectively and collaboratively through the different stages of video creation. It is necessary to protect the privacy of students making the video.

Stages of security in Secure video hosting

Different parts of secure video hosting for flipped classroom video

Different parts of secure video hosting unpacked

  • Video Storage in Cloud – If the file is not encrypted, anybody with a publicly shareable URL to the file on the cloud can download without requiring authorized access.
  • Encrypted Transmission – Ensuring that while streaming the videos cannot be downloaded and viewed by unauthorized entities, such as during man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Authentication & Whitelisting – The authentication process involves a key being exchanged between the streaming server and the video player (on the viewer’s computer). This key is used by the video player to decrypt the encrypted stream. Private key transfer is necessary to ensure that only learners logged into your system can access the content. Backend Authentication is one implementation of private key transfer
  • Watermarking – The final stage of video delivery is video playback on the video player. Any analog screen recorder can record this stream, and there is no effective way for a DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology to stop this. Viewer Specific Watermarking is a strong deterrent to screen recording videos, as viewers would be deterred from sharing content that has their IP address or contact details on it.

There are numerous paid solutions in the market currently offering security for education providers. When evaluating DRMs for hosting your videos you should consider the above factors, and how the features offered by Online Video Platforms (OVPs) succeed in providing a complete solution. For example RTMP streaming is used by many companies for securing content, RTMP does not involve local storage of video data, and can be encrypted. However the process of backend authentication iUse Learner Analytics in Flipped Classroom Videos not completely secure, as toolkits such as RTMPDump can be used to give access to third-party applications. Here is a guide to implement variety of secure video hosting technologies for your site/app.

Learner Analytics

Research done by T.Lucke et al is inconclusive about how effective flipped classroom method is in contributing to better performance. Flipped classroom videos need to be assisted by developing learner analytics, to better understand the effectiveness of the technique and what further steps may be taken for more effective and engaging learning.

Interactive Video – In-video quiz and surveys

You can add video quizzes to learn how students engage with video. Results from student performance in the quizzes will be a good indication of how effective the videos are in communicating concepts to learners. Participating in quizzes in the flipped classroom video also contributes to knowledge retention. Students who have an understanding of a concept before class would engage more in the classroom, making for active classroom learning. Besides, teachers can incorporate surveys in the video, for feedback from students and also feedback from school administrators. Interactivity features can be implemented by adding an HTML5 pages within the video – most OVP (Online Video Platform) s can offer this functionality.

Use In-video Quiz for effective learning using Flipped Classroom Video

Use In-video Quiz for effective learning using Flipped Classroom Video

Tracking Offline Learning Using Tin Can API

In Project-Based Learning students engage in activities outside the classroom. It is important to be able to track student learning outside of classroom. The emerging paradigm of Tin Can API links up a learning record store (LRS), in which students are able to record their activity. The syntax in which an activity is represented is:

Person A Did Activity

Noun – Person A (Name of student)

Verb – Did (or any verb, such as watched in case of video, or read for lecture)

Activity – Details of video, or text

Analytics on students watching videos can be measured by integrating video player with Tin Can API.

Support for Secure Hosting for Your Flipped Classroom Videos

For custom video hosting solutions, support services are very important in ensuring smooth transition to using video hosting and in integrating with current IT systems. It is important to evaluate the support services that your OVP offers.

Louis Deslauriers et al published findings from 850 Physics Undergrads at University of British Columbia, in which learners in the traditional classroom technology had an average score of 41%, whereas learners in the flipped classroom program had an average score of 74%. Videos are becoming increasingly important in aiding classroom teaching, and it is very important that you get your flipped classroom videos right!

Set IP Geo restriction on videos via API/Dashboard: VdoCipher DRM

VdoCipher provides a complete DRM with encryption, backend licensing and viewer specific watermarking to safeguard video content. Sometimes owing to the rights and permissions to distribute a video, businesses look to white-list or blacklist content for certain geographies & IPs. Here is an API guide to do IP & Geo restriction for your VdoCipher account. This should allow you to configure any complicated setting of IP and country restrictions.

Rules are defined by a JSON string called rule-set. This JSON contains an array of rule objects:

  1. Every rule is an object containing action, ipSet and countrySet
  2. Each matching rule overrides the previous matching rule.
  3. Action can be either ‘true’ or ‘false’, whether to allow or deny
  4. ipSet and countrySet are string arrays.
  5. Subnet CIDR block can also be set in ipSet string array.
  6. Both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses and subnet are allowed
  7. countrySet has two-digit country codes (ISO 3166-1 alpha-2.).
  8. Empty set matches everything of that type.
[
  {
    "action": "false",
    "ipSet": ["122.0.0.0/16", "49.323.23.56"],
    "countrySet": []
  },
  {
    "action": "true",
    "ipSet": [],
    "countrySet": ["IN", "GB"]
  }
]

The first part of above code will block your videos from playing in the mentioned IP addresses. The second part of the code will allow the video to play only in countries – UK & India. As mentioned in point 2 , the second rules is the dominant one for common users. Thus as an example, if some user has IP – 49.323.23.56 and resides in UK, his videos will not play. So various combination of codes can be used to create custom restrictions. If there is any confusion, drop us a mail and we can provide sample codes.

Benefit of subnet restriction is that you don’t have to write specifically multiple IP addresses. You can configure it to restrict a group of IPs under subnet.

API for setting IP-Geo restriction is the same as the video update API as provided in docs.

Here is a sample HTTP Request:

POST https://dev.vdocipher.com/api/videos/______________
Content-Type: application/json'
Accept: application/json
Authorization: Apisecret ____________

{
  "ipGeoRules": "string_containing_json_encoded_ruleset"
}

Dashboard interface for IP & GEO restriction

*This feature is also present in dashboard. Please click on the top right circular button on any video to open video settings. In it, there will be an IP/geo restriction section. Using above documentation, you can add any restriction.

Let us know at info@vdocipher.com for queries & doubts.

IP & Geo Restrict Video DRM

How to Build an E-Learning Website – 5-Point evaluation


Create your e-learning website, and use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

In this blogpost I discuss how you can build an E-learning website. I make the recommendations on the basis of the following five parameters:

  1. Technical Skills required to create the website
  2. Features and Customization available
  3. Cost of solution for building website
  4. Time to build solution
  5. Expected Number of students and scaling with increasing numbers

The four methods that you can use to create your E-learning website are:

  1. Coding using PHP/ ASP/Jave/ Node.JS
  2. Content Management Systems – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Moodle
  3. Website Builders – Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace
  4. E-Learning Website builders – Teachable, WebAnywhere

Create e-website website, and secure videos using VdoCipher

Here is a video explaining in full detail all the options. A text version of video is also included below.

Coding Using PHP/ ASP/ Node.JS

Technical Skills required

A website may be built from scratch using PHP, ASP and Node.Js. Naturally building these websites would either require an in-house website developer or should be outsourced to web designer. Which of the coding platforms – PHP, ASP or Node.JS you opt for would depend largely on the preferences and comfort levels of the developer in your team/ the web designer that you hire. PHP is one of the most popular scripting languages, while Node.JS is the newest website runtime environment which has seen massive adoption for websites. Alongside choosing the language, you would need to setup the server and database as well. For building a large website you can use a custom solution with a dedicated server on Amazon Web Services. For single-website usages (the more likely scenario) for E-learning websites, you can opt for shared web server hosting, using for example GoDaddy.

Features and Customization

Since your website is being built from the ground up, you have the widest possible options for customization for features that you wish to incorporate. For instance, as a security mechanism against sharing of login credentials, you may set an upper limit on overall time a student may be logged in to the system. Such a solution can be implemented while building the website code.

One thing that you should make clear is to ensure that the code is well documented. Good documentation ensures continuity between different developer teams.

Cost of Solution

Such a solution would require a dedicated development team to build. Support and maintenance are also additional issues that you would need to work on.

Time to Build Solution

Keep a time period of 2-3 months for such a website to build. To minimize site development time you should have developed a good understanding of the design and structure of your website, and communicated that to the developer. This would ensure minimal confusion in the website development process

Scale of website and Expected Number

1,000+ expected annual users – You would be able to incorporate features specifically on the basis of user requirements. It is important to make sure that appropriate security features are installed in the website framework.

Content Management Systems – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Moodle

Technical Skills required

Such an option mainly requires familiarity with the CMS interface. These skills can be learnt quite easily by beginners. A number of our clients – independent artists and individual teachers – have easily setup their WordPress and Moodle websites for hosting their E-learning courses. There would be a one-time effort in setting up the server though.

Features and Customization

Moodle is an LMS, and is therefore designed as an E-learning platform. WordPress on the other hand is a Content Management System, to which you can add LMS functionality through WordPress plugins.

Cost of Solution

Costs of building websites on Content Management Systems include cost of plugins for adding functionalities. WordPress and Joomla offer plugins such as Sensei, Guru and eMember, which simplify the process of course-creation considerably. Many of the useful plugins available are paid, while a lot of them are free as well (generally free plugins offer specific solutions, while paid plugins bundle a whole lot of useful features together). Cost-wise this is the cheapest solution, as the CMS itself is free – the only costs are the plugins and the server hosting.

Sensei plugin for eLearning - use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

Time to Build Solution

Expect a time to launch between 15 to 30 days for a fully functional CMS hosted site.

Scale of website and Expected Number

Such a solution would work pretty good upto a number of 10,000 students. There is no lower limit to the number of students, as costs are low.

Website Builders – Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace

Technical Skills required

In this solution the website hosting company uses a basic website template that they use.

Features and Customization

Such a website would follow a basic template, and there are not many options to customize additional features.

Cost of Solution

The cost of building such a website include purchasing the website template and server hosting.

Time to Build Solution

Fast – You need very little time to deploy such a video hosting solution. Server setup and configuration of the website would take time between 7-10 days.

Scale of website and Expected Number

Implementing such a website is best for the case of fast-deployment of your e-learning platform. Because time of launch and costs are priority in this, such a solution would be appropriate for upto 100 users paying for the course. Beyond this number this solution fails to add the customizations you need to cater to the growing list of users.

E-Learning Website builders – Teachable, WebAnywhere

Technical Skills required

There is no coding required. Most features can be implemented using drag-and-drop

Features and Customisation

Teachable and WebAnywhere offer ready-to-use E-Learning themes, Student management options, Media and text addition, Membership Access, Server hosting and Database management.

The features that these sites offer are sufficient for most e-learning website creators. These sites however are not very customizable in terms of additional security features or tweaks in User Interface. UI additions such as adding comment sections to pages, and security restrictions such as restricting login time on page, are not available when you opt for this solution.

Cost of Solution

Costs are dependent on the features you integrate, and the number of students enrolled. Because the websites are designed specifically for e-learning such a solution is somewhat more expensive than the case of ready-to-make websites.

Time to Build Solution

7-10 days

Scale of website and Expected Number

Such a website solution would be appropriate for upto 1000 annual users. This is the approximate number of students you can manage without the need to alter your User Interface and backend. Beyond this number you should explore CMS hosting or creating your own website.

Suggestions

When you set about creating an e-learning website I recommend that you check other websites in similar areas. You can use the tool BuiltWith to analyze the tech stack on which any website is made. If you find that 8 out of 10 of your competitors use a particular tech stack, then implementing that stack would be the most reliable way to build an e-learning site.

Streaming E-Learning Videos And Protection From Piracy

The reasons I am specifically writing a different section on video streaming for e-Learning is because:

  1. Video courses are typically the lifeline of any e-Learning portal and second
  2. Video streaming and safeguarding the video content from piracy is a major technical challenge, which the 4 options discussed do not solve inherently themselves. Most of E-Learning sites use some premium video streaming provider to cater to their streaming needs.

Streaming bufferless for HD worldwide and ensuring smooth delivery to regions in Africa and India with slow connections is a major problem. YouTube is quite good in this aspect, but lacks business friendly customization. Vimeo has a B2B offering that is quite popular and is okay in terms of streaming experience. YouTube and Vimeo use standard streaming protocols to deliver video content, and thus a lot of free plugins and downloaders are able to grab and download the videos. For this reason, a more custom video player, providing higher security and flexibility to manage video related features, is needed for premium videos. Here is the link to implement and compare secure technologies used in video hosting for education. Many of the top e-Learning companies either go for a combination of the above solutions or build proprietary systems of their own (for example Udemy and BYJU’s).

Aspect of Comparison Code from Raw: PHP, ASP, NodeJS, JAVA Moodle, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal + LMS themes + Plugins Ready to launch E-learning site – Teachable, Thinkfic etc Ready to Launch Generic Website – Weebly, Wix
Coding Skills Required Every functionality is full coded, require full stack development team One Time server setup required Nil Nil
Features & Customization All customizations are possible, but takes time and cost Most of Elearning functionalities available, Decent customizable. Have to give up on 10-20% of your custom needs Common Elearning functionalities available, except some themes, major customizations not possible. Elearning feature set integration not so varied – suitable for start simple cases
Cost One time considerable cost, recommended for long term control and stability Quite affordable, themes plugins have one time costs Charges monthly basis, not much burden in form of upfront costs Quite affordable , one time costs
Time 2-3 months to go live, each new feature takes time 1 month typically to go live, additional features doable through plugins , not much time taken Go live in a day, not much feature addition can be done, so no time addition Go live in a day, not much feature addition can be done, so no time addition
Scale Effects Good for large user base companies Good if number of students not going more then 10,000 Good till scale of 1000 Good for starting and testing up , upto 500 paid users
Conclusion Choice of technology depends on comfort of your dev team, ideal for large custom required sites Optimizes cost , features and control of all the options- Most popular option I have seen Good for individual teachers. Have to give up on customizations. Affordable Good for experimentation, Better to choose amongst other 3 for full elearning portal

I will be happy to have feedback and questions in the comments section below or on my LinkedIn profile. You can also share your experience with above technologies and any interesting insights.

A version of this blog was first published on E-learningIndustry.com