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Sure, you may know how to stage a production, get the best camera shots at an event, and pull it all together in a great-looking video package. But none of that can prepare you for the trials and tribulations that can come with trying to distribute that video online. And your challenge is particularly acute if somebody needs to make it all available on a live basis.
Rather than sweating all the technical details associated with webcasting, many corporate video producers look to outside service companies to handle the details of making this content available to online viewers. For organizations with ample budget and only occasional need for webcasting, enlisting the help of an established service provider can simplify the process.
Undoubtedly, webcast services have been around for a long time. Companies like ON24, Thomson Reuters, InterCall, TalkPoint, InExpo, iStreamPlanet, and OnStream Media have been helping organizations produce and distribute online events for years. Most have built their business following the same template: Assemble technology in-house, then provide technical staff to provision online events using these webcast platforms.
But marketplace evolution—both in terms of technology and business models—is changing the scope of services that vendors can offer prospective customers.
This translates into more options than ever before for all types of organizations.Here are some key issues to keep in mind as you consider whether webcast services can play a role in your company’s online video strategy:
• Turnkey Services Still Relevant: Almost any service provider in the business today will be happy to quote you a price on handling your webcast on an end-to-end basis. Indeed, for many service providers, this approach still makes up the majority of revenues generated. Many corporations, however, are becoming more selective in how they engage such white-glove service and support. The premium of paying for turnkey services now makes sense only for corporate events that are too important to fail, such as a major product launch or a single live event, where key presenters need to reach thousands of people at once.
• Emerging Hosted Solutions Offer Middle Ground: A growing array of service providers are developing self-service cloud-based platforms that support the webcast distribution process, but are managed by the companies subscribing to these hosted solutions. This mid-range option is suitable for companies that have some webcast expertise in-house but still want to use a pre-packaged solution bundled by an established technology provider. The business models surrounding most self-service event options are still in flux in this nascent portion of the webcasting industry. For companies increasing the frequency of webcast production and pushing the use of the technology into lower-profile corporate applications—such as employee training—the self-service option represents a viable approach.
• Broadening the Online Event Experience: At the other end of the spectrum, some service providers are expanding the potential uses of streaming by integrating webcasts into larger “virtual events” that are not only venues for viewing online content, but also provides mechanisms for event attendees to collaborate. Some try to cast these venues as “online trade shows” complete with dedicated digital booths designed to showcase event sponsors. The events are so complex, they virtually mandate the use of technical support to help with event production. This drives renewed demand for the hands-on service typically provided by webcast event companies. In a market where traditional webcasting is developing into a commodity, the virtual event represents a new frontier for service companies to target and provide valuable, white glove service offerings to corporate customers.
Keep in mind that webcast services overall are becoming more commonplace. A range of technology platform vendors are re-selling their capabilities on a white label basis, making it possible for web collaboration technology vendors, videoconferencing resellers, and a host of other providers to supply webcast services.
In short, don’t fret over dabbing your toe in the webcasting waters. Chances are a service provider will be waiting there to help you, offering the scope of support best-suited for achieving the objectives of your online event.
Steve Vonder Haar is a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research. Reach him at email@example.com.