Category Archives: Market & technology analysis

Learn more about using video for education, marketing and publishing. We discuss our secure video hosting solutions for content makers across these fields, and offer tips on leveraging video to create great content.

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.

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.
Video in Content Strategy for Washington Post

Washington Post – Video in Content Marketing

The Washington Post was acquired in 2013 by Amazon’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, at a time when the news industry had been seeing considerable decline in their revenues from print subscription. This trend is largely due to an increasing number of people getting their news from the internet. The key challenge for WaPo in the Jeff Bezos era ahead is to execute a content strategy that maximizes their digital presence. Part of their strategy is using video in content marketing efforts.

The Washington Post since 2013 has started to aims towards expanding readership and subscription to their digital content. This is expected to offset loss of revenues from declining print subscriptions and advertising revenues. At the moment they are experimenting with various content strategies. The target is to attract newer viewers from across the globe, while retaining the quality of their journalism that have seen their staff win 47 Pulitzer Prizes. A key aspect of surviving in the digital landscape is to maintain focus on video as a central tool for journalistic coverage. In this blog I explore how video is emerging as a key component of the Washington Post’s content strategy.

Video in Content Marketing Strategy

Currently, Washington Post’s mix of video content stands at 40% original content and 60% aggregated content. The company’s near term target is to flip this statistic to 65% of their own original content to 35% sourced from other agencies.

Video in Content Marketing - shift towards creating original content

Video in Content Marketing – shift towards creating original content

The company currently has 40 people on their video staff, of which 32 are regularly involved in shooting and producing content. To expand their video offering, the company posted 30 new jobs to their video department. The objective of their video strategy is two-fold:

  • To chalk out videos that are complementary to their content strategy
  • To create videos that gain prominence on social media channels.

To get a glimpse of how Washington Post is rolling out its video strategy, I checked out the page of their video section. The main video on the page was a video report of the Oroville dam spillway, which at the time was in the risk of a massive collapse. A visual report in such a scenario adds considerable more value to the message, unlike the case of press briefings for which value addition by video over text is much less important.

This current video strategy of Washington Post is to:

  1. Complement News Story – Roll out video content that complements the news story, increasing site engagement of visitors
  2. To gain new viewers – Video has the potential to engage newer viewers much more easily. Increasing the number of casual visitors directly leads to an increase in their potential subscription figures.
  3. Emerge as a Video destination – WaPo’s investment in video means that they no longer wish to be considered just a newspaper with a video section, but rather a video destination in their own right. Making video a central part of their content strategy requires that they leverage various forms of video delivery solutions – this includes social media and Over the Top video.

Leveraging different media – Facebook, YouTube and OTT

WaPo recognize that it is much easier to monetize videos that are on their own website. However, in order to attract new viewers they need to position themselves on social media, mainly Facebook, and video aggregator YouTube.

Facebook is emerging as an important player in the video segment. WaPo’s strategy for promoting video for Content Marketing for Facebook and YouTube is different, because of the different nature of the two technology platforms. Facebook users are much more passive, and are on that site for diverse and an unspecified range of content. For this reason content on Facebook has to be designed to be inherently able to appeal to new users, and to be inherently able to become viral. Besides content on Facebook should make minimal requirements on the viewer’s attention span. On the other hand users are on YouTube exclusively to watch video, which affords the company an opportunity to show longer videos that require greater attention span, and a greater engagement with their content.

Washington Post’s Over The Top (OTT) strategy is to promote themselves as a video destination on OTT services such as Apple TV, Roku and Fire TV. For OTT content the newspaper has hired video personalities, who will be producing longer and more scripted videos with studio quality production values.

Long Term Strategy at Washington Post – Jeff Bezos era

Jeff Bezos has a brought a long-term planning outlook at Washington Post. The desired result is to make WaPo bigger and more profitable, at the same time. Before his acquisition the newspaper had remained profitable amid declining subscriptions and revenue only by decreasing the size of their newsroom. Bezos has given the company considerable leeway to experiment with different strategies in the hope of coming up finally with a winning strategy, to emerge as a key destination in the digital landscape.

Preliminary metrics look promising. The Post beat New York Times in unique visitors in October 2015 – their 66.9 million unique visitors beating the 65.8 million for The Times. They also beat the popular content aggregator Buzzfeed in February 2016 in number of page views – their 890.1 million page views beating both the Times(721.3 million) and Buzzfeed (884 million). To monetize their content the company is offering discounted subscriptions to Amazon Prime subscribers. Their digital subscription membership is also considerably cheaper as compared to The New York Times, reflecting a strategy to gain a lot of subscribers at lower per person subscription prices, with volume making up for lower per unit price. This is just one of the many experiments that the company is carrying out at the moment.

References:

Jan Ozer, The Washington Post is focused on video. Here’s Why, Digital Content Next

Brian Stelter, Washington Post launches major expansion of video team, CNNMoney

Shan Wang, In Revamping its Video Strategy, The Washington Post steers clear of imitating TV, NiemanLab

Dan Kennedy, The Bezos Effect, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

Complete Guide to Creating Your Online Video Course

You feel you have a unique understanding of a subject domain. You also feel that you can effectively communicate your expert knowledge through an online video course. But, however, you do not quite know how and where to get started.

Here at VdoCipher we assist E-learning video providers to securely host their online video course. We bring for you a step-by-step guideline on how to conceptualize and produce your E-learning course.

Pre-Production

Production

Pre-Production in Online Video Course

The steps in the pre-production process are:

  • Identifying the course goal – are the videos the sole educational material, or are they part of a Flipped Classroom
  • Gathering content – At this stage of storyboarding, you consult Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to create basic content
  • Defining objectives – This step involves creating a course outline, specifically to decide how you are going to present the content towards achieving the course goal.
  • Creating assessment criteria – How does the course align with the different targets that an e-learning course must satisfy. Learner assessment criteria include knowledge retention, attitude towards newer material in the discipline, and problem-solving skills. Understanding the importance of each of these three targets is critical to design of your online video course. For example if the course objective is to enhance workplace collaboration, the assessment criteria should be target based.
  • Using Storyboard template – At this stage organize your content into chunks using a storyboarding template
  • Picking design model – Choose which e-learning theory to prioritize. Some of the widely prevalent design models currently in use are: ADDIE, Knirk and Gustafson, SAM, Action Mapping Process, Gagne’s 9 Principles
  • Choosing design elements – Images, videos, interactions, quizzes
  • Selecting an authoring tool – Articulate Storyline, Lectora, Adobe Captivate, Moodle, Claro, Udutu

1. Online Video Course Outline

It is very important to first develop a course outline before beginning production on your online video course. The course outline is very important in bringing all stakeholders involved in the course production on the same level. This ensures that all the scripting and production efforts go smoothly subsequently. The course outline may get updated multiple times, as more feedback is received from people involved in your course. The process of storyboarding involves considerable time and effort, and sketching an outline is necessary to ensure that this process goes smoothly.

Course Outline for Online Video Course

Communicate your Course Outline to your colleagues to ensure agreement in course outline

2. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is the process of graphically organizing your video content for the purpose of pre-visualizing the e-learning video. Storyboarding is a great way to organize ideas, and to ensure that the visual and audio forms you use will be effective in communicating your course in a logical manner.

The term storyboard comes from movie production, and the process was most prominently used by Walt Disney in the 1930s. It is a great way for you to organize your ideas, and to make sure that your ideas are communicated to your audience in a logical manner. For this reason having a carefully designed is crucial to making a quality online course video.

Storyboarding for Online Video Course

Use storyboarding to sketch your online video course.

Storyboarding is distinct from a script in that it is a graphic sketch of the course progression. During the storyboarding stage you decide the visuals for your online course video, and accordingly write your final script to correspond to the visual sequence designed. Storyboarding is essential for scriptwriting in that it decides the visual sequence that the script has to be in sync with.

Using storyboarding, as a course designer you can evaluate multiple scenarios for creating your online course video. Through this means they can understand better at what points during their content creation they should be adding interactive features for a more active response from learners. Storyboarding is the first step in creating a simulation of your course, so that everybody in the development team can come together on board. You can sequence instructions, and document changes conveniently using this method.

One tip when you start your course creation with storyboarding is that you should show the most engaging part of your video course first to the learner. This is useful in hooking their attention. This may be an illustration of the course objective, or could as well be interesting applications of the course. Showing the learners highly relevant and interesting content at the outset is a great way to ensure active learning on the part of learners.

3. Authoring Tools

Online Authoring Tools enable you to integrate different media to bring together content for training and education. A good authoring tool would give you a means for creating your online video course, ensuring that you succeed in making engaging and interactive e-learning content. Authoring tools provide a comprehensive solution for the different stages of online video course creation. These stages of course creation include storyboarding, making video block diagrams, and in editing of video content. Authoring tools also offer a variety of templates to follow in the course creation, using which you can better organize your multimedia content.

Use Authoring Tools such as Articulate Storyline for your Online Video Course. Opt for VdoCipher secure video hosting.

Articulate Storyline is a popular authoring tool for online video courses

A major utility of authoring tools is that they enable custom design of the online video course. Creation of increasingly complex training solutions is facilitated by authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate and Elucidat. Rapid E-Learning is the process of high-speed deployment of training content in response to fast-evolving training requirements. Courses produced in the Rapid E-Learning paradigm are relevant for a short period of time, and speed of course creation is therefore very important. For this particular requirement of rapid course deployment a good E-learning tool is very important.

Production in Online Video Course

1. Lighting

Lighting is the most critical element of the E-learning course creation process. Three-point lighting is the most commonly used method for shooting of E-learning videos. This lighting system comprises of a bright light on one side, and another more gentle light on the other side, with less brightness. This creates a more three-dimensional effect. The third light shining on the backdrop helps make you stand out from the backdrop, and to eliminate shadow.

Use Three-point lighting effectively for uniform illumination

Key Light – This is the main light, placed to the side of the camera. This light is usually the strongest and influences the look of the stage the most. One side is more well lit whereas the second side has some shadow.

Fill Light – Secondary light, placed on the opposite side of the key light. Used to fill shadows created by the key light. This light is necessarily softer and more distant than the fill light. A reflector can be also be used in place of fill light to achieve the same softer, subtle effect.

Back Light – This light is placed behind the subject, and lights the subject from the rear. Its purpose it to provide definition and highlight the subject’s outlines. This provides depth to the video, separating the subject from the background, and providing a three-dimensional look.

In a four-point lighting system, a fourth light is used to lit up the background. This eliminates any shadows from the background, and also adds depth to the video. The three-dimensional effect more significantly separates the subject from the background.

2. White Balance

Achieve right white balance

Credit: Klara Plicanic, Peachpit.com

Every different light setting indoors or outdoors has an associated light temperature. Achieving white balance is the process of identifying the appropriate light temperature at which to do the filming in a particular location. This is useful in designing of lighting systems for shooting indoors, when you are using different indoor locations for your course video. Essentially it is the process of removing color casts, so that an object that appears white in person appears white in camera. Digital Cameras in indoor lighting can create blue, orange or green color casts, giving a white colored object these shades. White Balancing ensures that in the process of post-production they are appropriately edited out. A slate with color chart can be very useful in this.

3. Video Block Diagram

This is the process of making block diagrams of your video shooting space. Shot Designer is a a very good software used for drawing video blocks.

Video Block Diagram, using Shot Designer

Credit: Shot Designer

Blocking is a concept derived from theatre, and is used to figure out the positioning of actors and props on the stage, so that the performance is never obstructed. Block diagrams enable video producers to map potential obstructions on set, camera and actor movement, and lighting, to ensure that placement of all elements on the production stage is optimal.

4. Slate and Clapboard

Video slates are used during the production process to help in editing video shots being taken. During production, scenes are shot incoherently. The production slate is used to help make sense of all the shooting using a visual cue. The production slate includes details for:

  • Roll Number (or SD Card Number)
  • Scene Name
  • Scene Take number
  • Production Working Title
  • Director
  • Camera
  • Camera Number (for multi-camera production)
  • FPS (Frames Per Second)
  • Date of shooting
Use Production Slate for your Online Video Course

Production slate, with a clapboard on top

Because these details are immediately visible when the slate is placed before the video film, any shot can be uniquely identified, even when fast forwarding the video. Essentially when the video is ready for editing, editors can conveniently refer to the information recorded on the slate for easy sorting. In the absence of a production slate you may use other visual cues to identify a successful take, for example covering the camera with your hand at the end of a successful take.

The production slate and the clapboard are often combined. The clapboard is used primarily to sync the audio and video. This is particularly useful in the case wherein the audio mic does not feed directly to the camera, and the two streams are out of sync. During the stage of video editing, there is a large spike in audio at the point when the clapboard is shut, which can be matched to the same point in the video where the clapboard can be seen to be shut. Matching the two becomes very easy once the two time points in audio and video recording are matched. Even when the audio mic feeds directly to the camera, editing using clapboard can be used to eliminate any lag in either audio or video.

Another addition to the production slates is a set of colored stripes. This is used for color grading. Using this it can be ensured that the video is color-correct, so that white, black and all other colors come out in the same color in the video as on the slate.

5. Microphones

A lapel mic placed on the inside of the shirt can be used for recording audio. For higher quality, boom mics may be used. This mic is placed on a boom pole, which can be wired to the camera. This microphone is mostly placed over the speaker, but mostly out of frame of the shot. The microphone may be above or below the frame, but should always be placed in front of the speaker.

Boom mic for audio in online video course

Credit: George Black, https://goo.gl/gUk3Tw

Headphones should be connected to the microphone as well, so that the audio recorded can be monitored live, as the recording actually takes place. This is necessary for ensuring that no ambient noises sneak into the audio. Finding noises in the recording during the stage of editing and post-production is a very nasty surprise, as background noises considerably decrease the overall video quality.

You can also opt for audio recording in a studio for sections of video over a screencast, or in cases of long monologues that do not require a visual performance from the presenter. There is a shift in sound quality between stage audio and studio-recorded sound, but this is not a major problem, as the gains in audio quality during audio-important sections offsets the discontinuity. Better voiceover quality in certain sections will definitely improve the overall quality of your video course.

Headset vs mounted mics – Headset are better when the speaker is moving within the recording. Otherwise mounted mics offer much better quality.

6. Background Audio

It is recommended that light background music is played. This is because only using voiceover narration becomes monotonic after a while, leading to audio fatigue in learners. To modulate the background music so that it does not interfere with the narration you may opt for the following techniques:

Ducking is a technique offered by video editing software Camtasia. This is the process of lowering volume of background track when narration is happening, and raising the volume it when there is no narration.

Use Camtasia for audio editing

Notching is a technique offered by the (free) audio editor Audacity. The frequencies in the background music may overlap with the those of the narrator’s voice. It is important to remove the frequencies from background music that match the majority frequencies in the voice of the narrator. This means that when narrating those frequencies are used exclusively by the narrator, and the brain does not confuse the two. Background music is mainly used to avoid audio fatigue.

7. Using Screencasting

Screencasting is the process of recording a video of your desktop or mobile screen. The recorded video can be edited for using in your online video course. Screencasting is very useful in e-Learning courses that explain use of software tools and coding. Custom screencasting softwares such as Screenflow and Camtasia let you add voiceovers, text and animations. This makes screencasting a very powerful tool in your online video course. Screencasts are combined with subject narrating to offer variety within the video. This makes the video more engaging, and prevents it from becoming monotonous. Articulate Replay works well for integrating webcam video with the screen recording.

There are more basic screencasting tools available for free. Some recommended screencasting tools are Ezvid, Screenr and Rylstim Screen Recorder.

8. Using Whiteboard

Whiteboard presentations are a great way to communicate complex concepts. A whiteboard allows an easy overview of your course content, using which you can then unpack specific elements of the online course. Whiteboards are a great way to walk the audience through complicated steps, as during the process the narrator is providing active commentary on how the problem is solved.

 

Use Whiteboard for effective communication

This is a very easy to use tool, and features both the presenter and the whiteboard. With this additional element in your e-learning video, you also need to manage lighting for the whiteboard so that it is not obstructed by shadows and is uniformly lighted.

For this purpose, a four-point lighting system should be used. This comprises of a key and fill light in front of the presenter, either side of the camera. These 2 lights should be at a height above the presenter, and at the same distance as the camera.

The remaining two lights are to be covered by flatboards to eliminate glare, and should therefore provide uniform illumination of the whiteboard. These 2 fill lights will essentially eliminate shadows and continue the focus on the whiteboard.

9. Whiteboard animation

Whiteboard animations are videos that use the concept of the whiteboard to show the learner a series of concepts, using hand-drawn figures. Whiteboard animation essentially eliminates the physical whiteboard, to be replaced by a digital whiteboard, used by a software such VideoScribe and Adobe AfterEffects. A whiteboard animation video can be made for the duration of 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and is very useful in presenting an information-heavy message effectively.

Use Adobe After Effects for video editing, and use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

Video Hosting for Business: Player, Analytics, Security

Videos are now a key part of business websites. Whether you are looking to:

  • Monetize your original content like a course
  • Distribute your movie or television serial
  • Or looking to explain your product to customers
  • Or trying to promote and market your business,

Videos are an essential part for businesses. Video hosting for business thus requires a variety of feature set customized to particular business need.

VdoCipher business video hosting has a full package offering for all type of businesses. The following post mentions the solutions for each of the industry and relevant features in detail. 

  1. Corporate Training

  2. E-Learning

  3. Publishers

  4. Marketing & Product Videos

  5. Movies and Online Television

The first part of blog has explanations on basis of features while in the second part we discuss our video solutions for businesses in Corporate Training, E-Learning, Publishers, Marketing and Movies & Online Television.

Feature Set for Business Video Hosting

1. Video Upload and Transcoding

Video Upload – IBM Aspera & Amazon S3 acceleration Encoding

2. Video management

Dashboard Search using ID and name Search using Tagging

3. Secure Video Streaming

Akamai and Amazon Cloudfront CDN network Server-side Encryption
Multi-bitrate Streaming One-time URL Accessed through Embed Code
Backend Authentication using Key Dynamic Watermarking
URL Whitelisting

4. Smooth Video Playback

Buffer Retention Customizable Rlayer
Design Custom User Skins Thumbnail Customization

5. Usability through APIs & Plugins

Developer-friendly API WordPress Plugin

6. Device Compatibility

Desktop Android – SDK integration to App iOS – SDK integration to App

7. Advertising

Ad Insertion – Client Side & Server Side

8. Analytics- APIs & Dashboard

9. Pricing

Pay-Per-Use Model

Video Hosting for Business: Feature Set

At VdoCipher we have optimized every stage of our video hosting solution, and here I go through the feature set that makes VdoCipher the ideal secure video streaming package for your business requirements. 

1. Video Upload and Transcoding

Upload using IBM’s Aspera and Amazon’s S3 Acceleration

Video is uploaded from device using IBM’s Aspera high-speed transfer, and stored privately on Amazon S3 Bucket. Minimizing time of video upload is an absolute priority for us, and for this we use services from IBM and Amazon to ensure that your video upload takes minimal time. We have fast-tracked the process so that you can start your video customization right away, and get back at your business.

You can also use Dropbox for transferring your business videos directly to our servers. We also enable video transfer from Public URL, and also from user accounts on Vimeo Pro and Wistia.

Encoding

We have setup our custom encoding protocol as an Amazon EC2 instance, to speed up video encoding.

As encoding takes considerably more time in the process of video upload, we recommend that for videos of size greater than 1GB you use offline encoders, or any of the free online options available. You can then choose to cancel video encoding option at the time of upload.

2. Video Management for Business Video Hosting

Dashboard

Your Video Dashboard serves as the one-stop destination for you to manage your videos effectively. We have enabled a grid view for the dashboard for the ease-of-use. Video upload and video settings can be directly changed at the Dashboard – for each video you may change the thumbnail, bitrate and player size directly from the dashboard. Encoding can occur in different bitrates for desktop and for mobile.

The easy-to-use GUI means that once you start using VdoCipher you can directly start using secure video hosting without further customization.

Video Search Using Video ID and name

Every video uploaded is assigned a video ID, and is identified by its name. You may search your videos using your video ID and name.

Video Search Using Tagging

You can directly tag your videos for easy categorizing and searching for videos within the dashboard.

Video hosting for business: Management

 3. Secure Video Streaming

Security of video content from piracy is a key concern associated with video hosting for business. VdoCipher ensures that the content streamed through us is protected from any downloader, plugin, software or hack. To cater secure business video hosting requirements , VdoCipher uses a set of proprietary encryption and watermarking technology as described below.

Akamai and Amazon CloudFront CDN network

We employ CDNs provided by Amazon CloudFront and Akamai to ensure that your videos reach your viewers quickly and with minimal latency. CDNs work on the principle of caching of videos on local servers, so that when viewed in a vicinity of the Point of Presence the video can be smoothly seen.

Server-side Encryption

We have developed our own custom server-side encryption for storing and streaming videos on Amazon servers.

One-time URL accessed through embed code

We create our own one-time user playback URL, at the time of video player initialization. This URL is only accessed through the custom embed code in the player, and is therefore not public.

Backend Authentication Using OTP

The encrypted stream content is encrypted inside the player with a dynamic key. Our proprietary key transfer protocol is entirely private, unlike the public or semi-public key transfer involved in HLS, HTTPS and RTMPE.

Dynamic Watermarking

Using dynamic watermarking you can deter piracy through stream recording software. A watermark is laid on the video player, which identifies the user session like ip address, user id, email id, time stamp etc. Read on to learn more on our dynamic watermarking technology.

URL Whitelisting for Video Embed codes

Along with encryption and watermark to prevent download of content, VdoCipher provides an added layer of security from link based sharing. This is done through URL whitelisting. While other providers allow you to only restrict main domain site , allowing loop holes in security; VdoCipher allows you to whitelist exact page url e,g whitelist can be set on www.example.com/blog/paid_course and www.example.com as well. Restriction on the first url will ensure that your videos dont play outside the login access of users.

Encrypted Secure Video Streaming

VdoCipher DRM- Encrypted Video Streaming + Watermark

4. Custom Video Player

Buffer Retention

VdoCipher player is a progressive media player – the stream is buffered from the start of playback. The player buffer is conserved throughout the period of playback, so that your viewers can move ahead and back within the video playback without the need for additional buffering. This means that your viewers will need less bandwidth for your videos.

Customizable Player: Color , Controls, Call to Actions, Mail Capture

We provide customization so that the video player embedded is in sync with your website design. Our custom features include additional controls such as player seek, changing sound, toggle full screen and adding custom skin. Additional custom offerings include adding buttons over player to capture email ids or to take the viewer to your website pages. All of these customizations are possible with VdoCipher custom player.

Thumbnail Customization

You can set the image for your video thumbnail to make your video more appealing. This would be the image shown on your video player before playback starts. Designing a good thumbnail image makes it much more likely that the viewer will watch your video.

business video hosting: Player

Custom Player, Thumbnails, Tagging

5. Usability through APIs

Developer friendly API

We have a well-documented set of APIs for your developers to integrate VdoCipher media player on your website.

WordPress Plugin

You can use our WordPress plugin to embed your videos on your WP site. This feature is very easy-to-use – it can be done through WordPress shortcodes.

6. Device Compatibility

IOS Android desktop video hosting for business

Desktop

Videos can directly work in all browsers (chrome, firefox, IE, Opera) on all desktop(Windows, Linux, Mac) devices.

Android – SDK integration to App

Our streaming + custom player can be integrated with Android SDK for your mobile app for secure playback on Android Devices. We have developed ZenPlayer – our mobile app video player for customers who wish to provide their course on browsers. We also support mobile browser playback through HTML5

iOS – SDK integration to App

Browser HTML5 playback is available. We also provide iOS SDK, for seamless video playback on your iOS app.

Server-side Ad Stitching

Using VdoCipher you can enable Server Side Ad Stitching – so that any ad that you may wish to show to monetize your video is stitched directly to the video at the server side. This prevents any reliance on browser, as well as ensuring that your video ad is not blocked by ad-blockers.

Client Side Ad-insertion

You can integrate VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) compliant ad networks with VdoCipher streaming player, to strengthen your monetization strategy.

8. Analytics

Using VdoCipher you can access detailed analytics per video for viewer data, using our APIs and dashboard features.

Analytics for business video hosting

9. Pricing

Pay-per-use model

Our Pay-per-use model ensures that you are charged proportionately to the bandwidth and storage usage you require. Please visit the pricing page or send us a mail for additional info.

Video Hosting for Business: Sectors

1. Corporate Training

For businesses, training of existing and new workforce is key to their constant evolution. Adapting to the changes in the market environment swiftly is key to the well-being of any business. For this reason increasingly a performance-based paradigm is being adopted to enhance learning at the speed of work. VdoCipher appreciate this need of modern day business video hosting need, and we have designed our online video hosting solution to enable you to impart time-efficient and targeted training through videos.

The performance paradigm of 70-20-10 corporate training signifies that an employee’s learning comprises of:

  • 70% of Experiential training
  • 20% of Social Learning (Learning from peers)
  • 10% of Formal Training

This paradigm signifies learning at the rate of performance, and here the 10% time devoted to formal training is designed to provide an impetus for the 70% experiential learning and the 20% Social Learning.

Using VdoCipher you can securely host your corporate training videos. For this you can directly upload videos from your device, or from other Cloud Storage (Dropbox) or Video Hosting platform (Vimeo Pro) that you use. Our double layer of security ensures secure storage, encrypted stream delivery and OTP authentication, thereby making sure that your business videos are not made available outside your organization. Send a mail to info@vdocipher.com for consultation on your custom business requirements.

2. E-Learning

Video in E-Learning is increasingly being used in the space of K-12 education, as well as in preparation for university and professional exams. Video design is a very crucial element engaging learner attention. Schools and colleges may use flipped E-learning methods – using videos to engage students in a topic before class, for a more meaningful classroom interaction. Videos therefore have a strong ability to augment classroom teaching. VdoCipher appreciates the enormous growth potential in this space, and we work to ensure complete video security for e-Learning businesses. Check out our feature set to learn more about how we provide video hosting for E-Learning.

With increasing emergence of mobile phone devices, we also have support for your Android SDK player. And also we have our own app that your subscribers may use to view our videos. We have also optimized the transcoding process, offering 1080p resolution at bitrates of 300kbps, and 720p resolution at bitrates of 200kbps. This comes from our learnings with working closely with many E-Learning customers, assisting them in providing high-quality videos for all kind of users at different user bandwidths.

Feel free to send us a mail at info@vdocipher.com for a consultation on adapting a video hosting solution for your E-Learning business.

3. Publishers

Online video publishers are increasingly adopting a two-pronged multimedia strategy. YouTube offers publishers the opportunity to leverage a broader audience, a potential for vast number of pageviews and an opportunity for viral marketing. Using YouTube publishers can build an online audience. A custom video hosting solution is recommended for a more specific target audience – for example users who have already expressed interest, or paying subscribers, or both. VdoCipher offers publishers a secure video hosting platform for the requirements of your targetted audience.

You can also integrate call-to-action at the end of the video player, for reaching out to your audience in a more targeted manner. Strategically locating the call-to-action at the end of the video ensures that the viewer sees the option to become a paying customer at the most appropriate time. Call-to-action can be incorporated at any time while playing the video.

Our video platform enables you to optimize the user experience for your audience. Custom player skins. We have optimized transcoding, offering 1080p videos at a minimal bitrate for delivery at 300kbps, for low-motion videos, such as talking head videos, ensuring the best viewer. We also deliver video encoding at 512 kbps for audio solutions, a 16 time better quality than the max 128 kbps video that YouTube and Vimeo offer.

Besides we offer Server-side ad stitching, ensuring that ads are integrated to the video at the server level rather than the browser level, preventing blocking from ad blockers.

We also have support for your Android SDK, and also provide for multi-bitrate streaming using HLS protocol for iOS SDK. With the increasing popularity of mobile, our innovations in the mobile space enable you to reach the maximum audience.

We have leveraged Amazon’s CDN network to ensure localized caching, ensuring that your multimedia stream reaches your audience at the earliest, wherever they are on the globe. Feel free to send us a mail at info@vdocipher.com for a consultation on adapting our video hosting solution for your publishing requirements.

4. Marketing

Videos are of increasing relevance to the design of a marketing strategy. An Aberdeen research report found that average website conversion rates for sites that use videos are 4.8%, whereas conversion rates for websites that do not use video stands at 2.9%. Video ensures both information retention, and enhances the quality of the message. In charting out a marketing strategy, the following questions are of relevance:

  • What is your target audience?
  • What are your priorities when you design your videos?
  • Which are the critical stages in your sales cycle when a video will help?

B2B brands require a different marketing strategy than B2C brands. Identifying your niche is critical, and designing videos specifically for that niche is most important. This is because the quality of your audience is the most important factor – you need your ads to appeal to your defined narrow audience, rather than to a general audience. For this you need to identify what appeals most to your target audience.

For this reason we strongly suggest that you develop a video marketing funnel – a video marketing strategy from brand awareness to post-sale. This sales funnel approach should be centered on guiding your users throughout the purchase process. At VdoCipher, we offer a secure video hosting solution, for you to design your videos for your marketing strategy. Feel free to send us a mail at info@vdocipher.com for a consultation on adapting our video hosting solution for your marketing requirements.

5. Movies and Online Television

Entertainment videos, including mainstream movies, serials, or independent video content are responsible for most of the internet bandwidth consumption on the internet. Streaming movies online involves a large workflow process, starting from upload, transcoding, streaming , ad-insertion and subscription management, besides securing content from piracy. VdoCipher video hosting solution provides the complete solution for the requirements for entertainment content hosting, helping you monetize your content most effectively, without fear of losses due to illegal sharing.

Business Video Streaming Hosting VdoCipher

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For a full free version business video hosting trial, Register now at VdoCipher.

Top 10 WordPress Plugins For E-Learning

Starting out with creating your WordPress online course, but confused about which plugins for E-Learning to choose from?

Not sure which functionalities are necessary and which functionalities are optional?

In this blogpost I walk you through the most important WordPress plugins for E-Learning course developers to choose from.

First I proceed with how you should evaluate your requirements in designing the course.

Learning Management System (LMS) plugins for E-Learning

The most significant features that an LMS must have is for you to be able to:

  • Give learner flexibility to pace their course as per their wish – self-paced course
  • What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get Interface, to put minimum effort into using the interface
  • Making complete course catalog, so that all the course information is collected at one location
  • Automated User Enrolment and Status of course progress – completion status
  • Course Reports for course creator to review how a course is progressing
  • Learner feedback – Course Surveys and System Announcements – These are essential for the instructor to continually improve the learning experience
  • Learner’s access to course transcript and course progress – Learners should have knowledge about their course progress as well
  • Learner access to changing profile

Apart from these there are a number of other features that you may wish for, which would include

  • Creating multiple course levels – so that there may be content-lite and content-heavy memberships
  • Creating certificates of completion for learners that complete their course – certificates are a strong motivation for learners, as they provide tangible proof of the skills learnt
  • Automating user access control – Restricting access to content and granting access to content depending on user level
  • Generating course and user reports for course administrator
  • Creating dripped content for controlling user progress in course – To control rate at which learner accesses the course, create dripped content tool

WooCommerce Sensei

Sensei Plugin for eLearning

Sensei comes from the stable of WooCommerce, who are experts in developing eCommerce WordPress Plugins. Sensei is priced at $129 for a single-site license. This WordPress plugin for E-Learning is a simple and effective interface for making courses, as the course, module, lesson and quiz sections can all be created with a lot of ease. The interface is essentially What-You-See-is-What-You-Get. Because of its compatibility with all WooCommerce plugins, and because of an interface that gets most things done easily and quickly, Sensei is our top-rated Learning Management Solution plugin.

LearnDash

Learndash plugin for eLearning

Learndash specializes in E-Learning solutions, meaning that they have developed their LMS WordPress plugin for E-Learning keeping in mind any features that an education LMS must require.

SCORM is a collection of standards for E-Learning, which state how the LMS must package user learning content. SCORM standards ensure portability of learner information across different LMS. Tin Can API has now replaced SCORM as the new standard for educational content designed in a portable way. Learndash supports Tin Can API plugin.

Learndash have tried to make a complete marketing and product solution- they have their own membership solution, and have an integrated payment processing setup. The flip side of being an all-in-one solution is that this do not allow much scope for customization. On the other hand they have an active community support forum.

Essentially Learndash is optimal for developing detailed and academic-level E-Learning solutions, where little customization is required.

WP CourseWare

WP Courseware plugin for eLearning

WP Courseware is a lightweight WordPress plugin for E-Learning, whose strong point is that it integrates fairly easily with other WP Plugins. Likewise with this WordPress plugin you get a large varieties of customization options. An important plugin that WP CourseWare can integrate with is Membership Pro, which is the most popular membership WordPress plugin.

LearnPress

LearnPress plugin for eLearning

LearnPress is offered as a free plugin, and includes both free features and premium add-ons.

Premium add-ons apply for:

  • Gamifying the course – adding points for learner activity
  • Generating certificate
  • For Integration with WooCommerce, PayPal and Stripe
  • Integrating with Membership 2 Pro

LifterLMS

LifterLMS plugin for eLearning

LifterLMS is another lightweight E-Learning solution, that is very easy to use. Key features include:

  • Integration with WooCommerce and BuddyPress support
  • Support for certificates
  • Supports both Stripe and PayPal
  • Supports course scheduling and prerequisites

For a detailed review of Free LMS plugins for WordPress check out this blog on Free LMS Plugins

Membership WordPress Plugins

Membership 2

Membership 2 WordPress Plugin

Membership 2 is the most widely used membership WordPress plugin. This is a free software, but has a paid pro version that offers added features.

Membership 2 is designed for ease-of-use for the beginner. It has a how-to guide to get you started with creating the course. Also Content access control and protection is made very easy with this plugin – for each lesson/ course you create you can select which membership levels to grant access to. Also Dripped content management is made very easy, and can be done on the same interface as the content protection. This makes managing your course much less complicated.

The pro version of Membership 2 integrates with both PayPal and Stripe payment solutions

WP eMember

WP eMember WordPress Plugin

Where Membership Pro relies on an easy-to-use interface and a free introductory membership plugin, WP eMember offers a robust membership WordPress plugin that offers both content protection and a large number of additional features, making this a great option for anyone looking for a complete WordPress membership plugin.

Using this wordpress plugin, it is easy to create multiple membership levels, and to grant differential access for different membership levels. Also in-page partial protection is available via easy to use shortcodes. Additional options include options to limit user access to minimize password sharing – effectively minimizing content piracy. Also there is support for Drip Content, which limits access to users based on their drip learning schedule.

eCommerce WordPress Plugins

eCommerce plugins can come quite handy for you in managing your course inventory, if you are selling multiple courses. An eCommerce plugin is not necessary for the new E-Learning developer, but if you wish to manage multiple courses, an integrated eCommerce plugin can come in quite handy for managing inventory.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce WordPress Plugin

WooCommerce wordpress plugin offers hundreds of extensions and themes, that make it quite easy to  available for WooCommerce, which makes it easy to add new features to your eLearning site. If you have worked on WordPress previously and are comfortable with the technical details of using WordPress, this WordPress Plugin is the best eCommerce solution for you.

Shopify

Shopify wordpress plugin

Shopify has a very easy interface, and is great for beginners who do not wish to go into technical details of using WP. It has a monthly subscription fees, but is worthwhile to use because of its hassle-free interface which allows you to get on with developing your course content without worrying about the technicalities. This WordPress plugin works with social networks such as Facebook Store, Buyable Pins and Twitter Buy buttons

WordPress Plugins for Videos

VdoCipher

Content security and smooth streaming are two integral features that any WordPress plugin for eLearning must offer. VdoCipher offers an easy to use shortcode, and is a complete video hosting solution. In VdoCipher one-time access is only granted to a fully encrypted stream after backend authentication from the host website, meaning that video security is maximized. VdoCipher has a 10 min install ready to go live plugin for all elearning video wordpress sites.

Custom Video Player

Package Video Streaming Solution

RTMPe Streaming: How does Secure RTMP Streaming work?

rtmp Stream, rtmpe streaming

RTMP Stream: The Technology

Real Time Messaging Protocol is used to stream multimedia data – audio and video  – between Flash Media Server and Flash Player. The chief utility of RTMP stream is in the optimization of the audio and video data transfer between the server and player. Its major use comes in Dynamic live streaming, and because of the encryption service RTMPE (which, despite of its security flaws, has a wide use) . In this blog post I expand upon – 

  • Use as Streaming protocol – How RTMP evolved as a widely used real time streaming protocol
  • Differences from other streaming protocols, strengths – In what aspects it differs from newer streaming protocols such as  HLS & HDS.
  • Use Cases – We also discuss certain RTMP use cases.
  • RTMPE – Utility of Encrypted RTMP and the flaws in its security services.
  • Flaws in Security & Streaming reliability

RTMP transfer across media server, CDN and flash player

Is RTMP Stream Optimal for Low Latency Transmission ?

RTMP stream does not use either of the 80/443 ports(HTTP/HTTPS) ports, but instead uses the 1935 port. An exclusive port for video packet transmission signifies that the RTMP stream protocol is suitable for transmission of low latency content – essentially live streaming of video content, and streaming of media without buffering. However, by using this port RTMP stream becomes vulnerable to being blocked by certain corporate firewalls.

RTMP stream is theoretically optimal for low latency streaming as the RTMP pointer is always in sync with the media server at the exact point of stream. This means that if their is signal interruption for say 5 seconds, the flash player will not display the signal for 5 seconds, but would resume at the real time when the signal over the network resumes. The stream should therefore never lag inspite of poor network, although the quality of video may suffer.

RTMP Stream: VOD across media server, CDN, Flash Player

Adaptive Streaming through RTMP

RTMPE is suitable for live streaming as it does not download any video packets except at the time of streaming – there is no buffering of content as would occur with a progressive media player. The bitrate can be dynamically decided to optimize user experience over the available network. Dynamic streams consist of multiple single streams of the same content, all of different quality. RTMP stream relies on dynamically adaptive content transfer to maintain video playback at periods of uneven network quality

RTMP stream is distinct from Progressive Streaming Players

Progressive media players, a category that includes popular video players Youtube, Vimeo & VdoCipher, allow video portion of the future video part to be downloaded as well. Essentially it allows for a future buffer in player. Progressive Streaming is now a common feature across all popular video hosting services across the internet. The shifting of video metadata from the end of media file to the front allows this possibility. Thus, before the download of complete media file, the media player has all the information that it requires to start playback.

In progressive streaming, the media is stored in the temporary directory of the associated web browser. This is the concept on which most downloaders or download software/plugins work. They are able to fetch this data which is coming into the browser.

With RTMP there is no storage in a temporary directory, and instead a continued direct streaming between the two servers. It is conceptually live and does not have any future buffer even for recorded videos.

Encrypted RTMPE & Security

Encrypted RTMP (RTMPE) wraps the RTMP stream session in a lightweight encryption layer. Through Encrypted RTMPE, the streaming protocol provides low-level stream encryptions for high-traffic sites. RTMPE uses Anonymous Diffie-Hellman key exchange method. In this algorithm two parties – the media server and the flash player – establish a shared secret key over an insecure channel. However, the initial point of secret key sharing is unsecure. The media server cannot verify the identity of the media player. This leaves the player vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks at session initializations.

RTMPS is an RTMPE over a secure TLS/SSL connection. The underlying algorithm of RTMPE remains the same, but a secure SSL connection precludes a man-in-the-middle attack from unknown third parties. However there is still the case in which the client can grants access to a third party.  Through  this user can download the stream content.  In that case the video download is easy, leaving the content provider vulnerable to the potential piracy from end users for illegal distribution.

Security

RTMP Stream Encryption

As explained, RTMP stream never has a block of data, only a pointer to the current live data. Owing to this no local storage of data RTMPE occurs. RTMPE can therefore, with an additional layer of security, be a means for video transmission locally. As discussed, RTMPE was quite different from other streaming players in concept of its streaming protocol. Thus, not many downloaders or plugins are built to grab it. Thus, it has a certain level of protection sometimes pitched with it.

RTMPDump to Download RTMP Videos

RTMP dump is an RTMP toolkit to connect to Flash Media servers just like normal flash players. It stores the data from the RTMP connection, sometimes used to capture the stream from the server. This allows local saving of the video file. This opens a means by which TV shows and videos on demand being streamed via this can be downloaded to cause piracy.

RTMP Stream and Content Delivery Networks(CDN)

RTMP also requires direct constant connection with a Flash Media Server throughout the period of playback, as there is no local storage. Every flash client has to maintain state with the media server all the time.  This results in higher CDN cost. 

Currently, CDNs have started to phase out RTMP. Although CDNs Akamai and Amazon Cloudfront have committed to supporting its streaming, they accept that usage traffic has declined considerably over the previous years. Limelight supports RTMP for video ingestion from content provider to CDN server, which routs to the video user through HTTP. 

Alternative to RTMP – High Secure & Smoother Streaming

As seen above, it has primary two problems –
1. Poor streaming due to no future buffer and constant server to player connections.
2. Downloadable through RTMPdump compromises security from piracy.

VdoCipher encryption through backend OTP

VdoCipher offers completely encrypted data transfer, viewer specific watermarking and backend authentication. This ensures highest security from any downloader or plugin looking to hack content. The OTP given to the specific viewer is authenticated at backend, precluding access from anyone except the intended video user.
VdoCipher has a progressive buffer-conserving player. On seeking the video to past or future timeline, the buffer remains conserved, thereby demanding lower bandwidth. Our video player is optimised for serving at both low and high bandwidth – VdoCipher serves viewers in tier II and tier III cities in India, we also have major clients across Africa. Our streaming has been highly effective even at lower connection speeds.

For a full version 5 GB free trial , please visit VdoCipher.

Ref – 1

Video Streaming Hosting VdoCipher

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WP eMember as WordPress Membership Plugin: User Management Tutorial

In this post we will describe in detail one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins – WP eMember. Membership plugins are extremely useful in that each membership corresponds to an assigned role, that determines access to content and other features that you may offer as part of your eLearning course. Using this WordPress membership plugin would help you in deciding what content to provide to which category of learner. Control of access to content eventually determines that you are able to monetize the content that users access. Per user restriction on login time & preventing unauthorized access so that one paid member has maximum restrictions from sharing the credential is also discussed.  We have given the links to external plugins at end.

The biggest utility of membership plugins is to protect content in a Learning Management system. For suggestions on free LMS plugins to use in WordPress check this blog on Free WordPress LMS.

Specific case of protection for video membership site is also written in brief at end. Overall aim of the article is to ensure that maximum revenues from your content reaches you while you are able to continuously grow your subscriber base. 

WP eMember, WordPress membership plugin

WordPress user access management

Membership 2 WordPress Plugin

WordPress Membership plugin is one of the most popular free membership plugins. This is the wizard page in the plugin, and guides you about how to set up your eLearning site.

WP eMember

WordPress eMember is a plugin that helps you manage memberships to your content. eMember offers various customizations – including integration with WordPress so that any account created for eMember would automatically make a corresponding WordPress account. You may make multiple membership levels depending on the level of access decided for the user. For example for a basic trial access to the site you may give users free access to a certain amount of content, or for a limited period of time. For this a free membership may be created. 

WP eMember plugin - a WordPress Membership Plugin

Selective content protection and access

To protect content you can use two methods

  • Enabling custom protection and access through dashboard
  • Using shortcodes
Custom Protection
  • To enable general protection, go to the “WP eMember” button on the WordPress sidebar, and in the drop down menu go to “Membership Level” button.
  • From here go to the “Manage Content Protection” tab. Click on “Custom Posts” to see all the posts that make up your content. To protect some or all of these posts, select them and click on the “General Protection” option in the drop down menu at the top of the page. General Protection restricts access to all the posts that you select (you can select all posts or pick specific posts for protection). 
  • After access restriction, the next step is to grant access according to the membership levels. For this go to the same drop down menu as the General Protection option, and select each membership levels. The resulting files will be files that are restricted from access.
  • You can select the files for which you want to grant access , and after selecting, click the “Grant Access” button. You can make various membership levels, each differentiated by the number of pages that access is granted to.
Using shortcodes

Alternatively, partial content protection may be implemented using this wordpress membership plugin. For this you can make use of shortcodes to grant partial access to pages. Suppose you have two membership levels, Membership Regular and Membership Lite. You might wish to grant access to only the Membership Regular users, having level id 4. For this you can use the shortcode:

“[emember_protected for=4]”

“[/emember_protected]”

Suppose that level id 3 corresponds to Membership Lite. You can grant access to a section to both Membership Regular and Lite users. To do that you can enclose it in this shortcode:

“[emember_protected for=3-4]”

Note that membership levels to which access is to be granted are added using the dashes. Without specifying the membership ids, ie “[emember_protected]” – content is limited to logged in users only, including free registered users.

General eMember settings

WP eMember offers multiple options using which you can customize membership experience of users. These include the option to:

  • Decide if you wish to grant free memberships
  • Offer attractive login page – so that a popup appears rather than redirecting to a login page
Limited muliple logins To Your WordPress Membership Plugin
  • Limiting number of IPs used from a membership per day, so as to discourage password sharing
  • Disabling simultaneous login, again to discourage password sharing
Encouraging Membership Renewals

eMember also has features that encourage memberships renewals upon expiry. These include

  • Triggering auto expiry email notifications shortly before account expiry date
  • Allowing expired memberships to move to free membership status, to protect continuity
  • Generating special renewal membership links.

Besides this, eMember offers options for integration into wordpress, so that logging in to eMember would automatically log you into wordpress. The very large number of customization options that WP eMember offers makes it one of the most useful WordPress membership plugin.

Drip Content

You can structure access to your learners so that the release of course material is done periodically. This method of releasing course material, called drip content management, limits the amount of information accessible at once to the user. This prevents your learners from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the course. The auto-upgrade feature in this WordPress membership plugin allows for dripped content management, although this entails making multiple courses.

Auto-upgrade feature

According to this feature, using WP eMember you may upgrade a member taking Module 1 of your course to Module 2 automatically after a thirty day period (or a 7-day period, according to how you wish to structure your course). So, if there are say 5 modules to one course, each module to be accessed 30 days from the previous module, you may time the auto upgrade feature so that

Module 1 -> 2: 30 days from start of course
Module 2 -> 3: 60 days from start of course
Module 3 -> 4: 90 days from start of course
Module 4 -> 5: 120 days from start of course

Pros and Cons of Drip Content Management

There is a debate regarding the merits of drip content management policy – a negative of this approach is that it dictates that learners follow the particular pace with which you have structured the course. The other side of the coin is that you are ensuring that you do not overwhelm your learners with too much information.

Prevent Concurrent Login plugin with WordPress Membership Plugin

A major concern for eLearning site managers is the possibility that their content may be shared by multiple users using a single login. Password sharing is a problem that eMember does address, through the previously mentioned settings of limiting number of IPs and the option to disable concurrent login.

In case the WordPress membership plugin that you use does not have the option to prevent simultaneous logins, a plugin that that specifically prevents concurrent login is the “Prevent Concurrent Login” plugin. This is a plugin that you only need to activate, and store in the Must Use category of plugins, for it to run silently in the background. It then by default prevent access to your membership system from multiple systems at the same time. You may use this plugin with any wordpress membership plugin, including the widely used WordPress Membership 2 plugin, and Wishlist Member, both of which rival WP eMember in popularity.

Video Membership site with eMember

For many premium video businesses like elearning & media , the necessity to protect video content from piracy by so many free downloaders, plugins , hacks is a must. Most of video streaming providers like youtube, vimeo, or self hosting doesnot allow for any protection. To restrict the access of your video content to only only your subscribers on wordpress, VdoCipher has come up with a secure video streaming solution based on encryption and watermarking.

The plugin enables you to use a custom short code. You can use the plugin and the shortcode with any wordpress membership plugin. Also as explained in the eMember section protection code, you can design your course to allow free registered access to trial learners and paid membership for the video. For this you only need to place the VdoCipher shortcode inside the sectional protection shortcode.

Links:

WordPress page for the e-member plugin

Prevent concurrent Login plugin

VdoCipher secure video streaming account signup, 5 GB Free Trial