Up until the past 2 years and with the advent of cloud-based solutions, enterprise video was often overlooked by an industry focused on changing the way entertainment video is consumed by a global audience. In some ways, this oversight was understandable, as most corporate video is used for internal communications, regulatory compliance, or training purposes, and most of it never goes beyond the confines of the corporate firewall.
And yet, enterprise video usage in these areas is growing, and with that comes the need to upgrade prior internal video solutions that have either been homegrown and can't handle newer formats or delivery to particular devices or are commercial solutions that have been end-of-lifed by media platform vendors in favor of selling video platform services that use cloud storage and cloud computing.
The overall enterprise video market, which contains streaming and videoconferencing, was estimated at $14 billion in 2018, but has an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 6.8% for the next 6 years, with an anticipated overall enterprise video market valuation of just more than $24 billion by 2026, according to research by Reports and Data.
In addition, for external-facing enterprise video (what we'd call video marketing), the numbers also continue to rise. HubSpot, a tool used by many enterprise marketing firms and their advertising or public relations agencies, shared some interesting statistics from a late 2019 survey conducted by Wyzowl. While overall growth is down slightly, HubSpot reports that "92% of marketers who use video say that it's an important part of their marketing strategy-the highest percentage of any year since 2015. … And 88% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI."
And it's not just those who currently use video as part of their marketing strategy. According to the survey, while 95% of existing video marketers will continue to maintain or increase their spending on video marketing, almost 60% of those surveyed who don't currently use video in their enterprise marketing strategy plan to begin doing so this year.
The vast majority of external-facing marketing is driven by YouTube and Facebook, but for internal enterprise video communications in the categories noted at the beginning of the article, the opposite is true. But that's not to say that all internal enterprise video communications run on internal servers, as the robustness of cloud-based services is finally attracting significant attention.
To gain different perspectives on enterprise video in general and cloud-based enterprise video platforms (EVPs) in more detail, I asked Chris Hogan, chief revenue officer for System73, and Greg Ellis, COO for DaCast, to share insights into several areas of streaming for the enterprise.
Hogan mentioned several points worth considering, but started by noting that his advice came from a particular perspective, with an emphasis on peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies and the use of CDNs: "We offer both PolyNet, our patented tree-based P2P network for live video distribution, as well as a turnkey multi-CDN for live and VOD [video-on-demand] content distribution over the public internet."
CEO or Business Drivers?
While there's across-the-board interest in enterprise video as a step beyond using external solutions like YouTube for internal communications, there's also somewhat of a moving target in determining the proper approach to enterprise video. More often than not, it's simply based around the CEO's vision.
"We currently see CEOs putting high pressure on their organizations to expand their video-based, organization-wide communication programs," said Hogan, adding that enterprise departments or individuals tasked with expanding video-based communications "don't get unlimited chances to get it right.
"They have to make live streaming work well with tolerable risk levels in the context of their enterprise networks and specific security policies," said Hogan. "So the enterprise implementer's desire is that 'it has to work well the way we work.'"
Barriers to Cloud-Based Platforms?
When asked about the barriers to using cloud-based EVPs (both for live and on-demand repositories), both Hogan and Ellis noted that varying levels of hurdles exist. "In the last year, we have seen a greater receptivity to cloud-based solutions across the enterprise segment," said Hogan. "In some cases, it's driven by lower costs, in others it's because the services are specifically built for cloud delivery and offer the highest value and reliability when deployed that way." He added that "the overall cloud movement has helped enterprises become more comfortable with assessing and integrating cloud-based solutions."
"We see few barriers at this point," said Ellis, "and the APIs that most of us make available to customers mean that it is simpler to integrate cloud video into operations than try to use a custom hosted system.
"For on-demand content, barriers are almost nonexistent these days," said Ellis. "Low average viewership/month/video content, as often used by enterprises for internal communications or product training, does face very high data transfer fees from the three major cloud hosts (Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google Cloud Platform) that almost all of us use for storage. Properly encoding videos for ABR [adaptive bitrate] delivery after ingest is probably the main operational issue that self-hosted solutions can avoid."
And yet, Ellis also noted that some of the more mundane aspects of video-based operations, such as network traversal and player compatibility, are challenges faced regardless of whether the enterprise uses a cloud-based EVP or an internal solution. "Another set of issues when an enterprise has their own streaming server and network connection," he said, "is primarily operational: properly setting the encoding parameters for the CDN being used; embedding players without running into security setting conflicts or problems with the responsive player locations; [and] making sure users can send or receive the live streams through their firewalls."
Both Ellis and Hogan noted that security is an issue, but that companies often balance security against overall costs. "[Security] is becoming a bigger concern," said Ellis, "but most cloud providers have some level of security that – combined with the lower costs and CapEx – mean it isn't too critical. Requirements like HIPAA and a few others have restricted cloud usage when a public CDN is involved, as most are not compliant for both business reasons and technical reasons arising from the public infrastructure used."
Hogan put it quite succinctly: "In the past, security has been a major concern, but the lure of lower CapEx sometimes offsets that fear for many enterprise customers."
Which brings us around to discussions of pricing. I asked for feedback on the "race to the bottom" that we've seen play out in the CDN space and a potential corollary in the EVP space. "Like with any technology, as solutions improve and providers compete, the costs to clients are driven down," said Hogan. "That's a healthy dynamic that enables programs to go to the next level – such as going from a single CEO address per quarter to a culture of video-based communication."
Ellis was a bit more direct. "Given that many of the EVPs are not making money at this stage, we think that a consolidation is coming," he said. "What we know is that overall, the surviving OVPs [online video platforms] are trying to raise the low-end pricing currently so that minimum ARPU [average revenue per user] ends up in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.
"The market will end up with much the same splits that you have seen in the CDN space," said Ellis. "Almost all EVPs are tightening their focus onto their key markets, and we think there will be just a few left that stay with an 'all things for all users' model."
Hogan added that the greatest price competition he sees is in what he calls the "DIY streaming technology space." He said, "Our client Corporate Events Online sees a significant amount of value at the cross-section of video streaming and event production. Jim Fiore and his team have become experts in full-lifecycle support from event conception to technology planning to streaming and event success debriefing. They have supported countless enterprises, many in the Fortune 500, who started with small streaming initiatives and have successfully grown their programs."
Ellis said that flexibility and the lack of granular customization can often be a perceived barrier: "Enterprise users have been used to customized solutions at a high cost and still want that customization, just at a much lower cost. Unfortunately, the biggest cost savings are typically at the expense of much of that flexibility, which the operational folks understand but top management frequently doesn't."
If Multicast, Whence P2P?
Finally, when asked about scalability, Hogan was able to provide a unique perspective on the question of whether companies will implement multicast or use newer P2P technologies. I was specifically interested in how the choice of multicast for some enterprises affects the business model of a P2P company, since scalability in the P2P environment assumes that most customers are using unicast.
"Enterprises using multicast wouldn't use our P2P solution," said Hogan. "We've tried to build our cloud technology with enterprise sensitivities in mind. As an example, our P2P network doesn't send video content outside of the enterprise network when utilizing a cloud deployment. It simply uses the cloud for the management of the network topology, so the only thing leaving the network are the small encrypted messages for facilitating the service. Most of our enterprise clients have become comfortable with this approach."
That comfort level is key to addressing the unique benefits that an enterprise can leverage by moving away from unicast environments to either multicast or peer-assisted delivery across the internal enterprise network. Let's hope that more organizations consider this strategy as a way to lower overall internal OpEx data transport costs while they're also considering cloud-based EVPs as a way to lower initial CapEx outlays.
Tim Siglin is a streaming industry veteran and longtime contributing editor to Streaming Media magazine.