June 10, 2009 – thePlatform has taken another major step toward streamlining content publishing operations for the multi-screen video syndication marketplace by introducing an ingest service that makes it easier for companies to move video and metadata in position for online distribution.
As explained by Marty Roberts, vice president of marketing at thePlatform, the new service is especially important for content suppliers with large or dynamically changing libraries. "We've been really focused on reducing TCO (total cost of ownership) for our customers," Roberts said. "This is the next step in that campaign."
Earlier this year thePlatform introduced what it billed as a CDN (content delivery network) and storage service for smaller content owners using its media publishing system (mps). The company's new mpsManager CDN service leverages a partnership with CDN supplier EdgeCast Networks to offer flexible terms, distributed architecture and technology optimized for video delivery, which definitely is of interest primarily to smaller content owners.
But the company's mpsManage Storage service is important to all classes of content suppliers and is intrinsic to the benefits now added with the Ingest Service, Roberts said. With cloud-based storage available, content owners can position files to take advantage of the transcoding capabilities within thePlatform's domain that allow a single source file to be syndicated to multiple destinations in formats suited to those destinations.
"It's more efficient for our customers to keep the source copy in our storage," Roberts says, noting the range of formatting requirements has broadened to include anything from a high-resolution Flash rendering to displays that might be just a few pixels wide. "We're averaging 250,000 transcodings per month through our transcoding farm," he adds.
Mark Roth, director of media services at Chicago Sun-Times News Group, attests to the importance of these new services to the broadening requirements of online media distribution. "It's important to take advantage of efficient business models as we explore producing and delivering more online video content," Roth says. "With thePlatform's new CDN and storage packages, we will lower our total costs, enabling us to focus on growth without being restricted by fears of what could be prohibitive costs."
With the storage capabilities in place the next big cost bottleneck thePlatform saw involved the hassles associated with getting that content into storage. "Two trends are driving the bottleneck," Roberts says. "One is the fact we're receiving much higher quality files as source files, which take longer to get online. And we're seeing very large files moving online en masse. It takes 2,600 hours to upload 1,000 hours of HD content. So ingest becomes a big bottleneck."
Compounding the problem is the fact that many publishers, such as news outlets, are constantly adding new content to their source libraries. Automating the ingest process eliminates costs of manual operations in all these categories.
"Given the nature of broadband video publishing, content providers with large video libraries, or constantly changing ones, are all facing new challenges," says Greg Ireland, research manager, Consumer Markets: Video, at IDC. "The new Ingest Service is an important addition to thePlatform's media publishing system and should bring efficiencies to the broadband video business."
Roberts says the new ingest service gives customers a versatile means to move video and metadata online and into thePlatform's media publishing system by addressing three key criteria: the ability to replace manual processes with an automated approach to uploading video libraries; constant monitoring of video files via "Watch Folders," which enable video to be ingested from files placed in an FTP folder, and/or a Feed Reader, which enables Media RSS to automatically ingest content; and the use of ingest adaptors that convert various proprietary metadata formats into the industry standard, Media RSS.
Where FTP uploading is used "our agent watches the files and as soon as the customer puts one up we'll publish and push it to thePlatform," he explains. Where bulk uploads of entire libraries are involved, the ingest service takes care of processing all the individual files and metadata automatically.
"And anytime the file is available via an RSS feed, we'll automatically pull it into thePlatform from the RSS feed," Roberts says, noting thePlatform is the first online publishing provider to set up RSS Feed Readers. "Traditionally publishers produce feeds but don't ingest a lot, so this is unique to us at this point."
Equally important, thePlatform is taking the manual processes out of conforming metadata to fit its environment. Since there are no standards for online metadata different content suppliers use different formats. "We grab the metadata in whatever format is native to the supplier and convert it into standard Media RSS, regardless of whether the file comes in via FTP or RSS," he says. "It takes a lot of the burden off customers."
Prior to the launch of the new ingest service clients' only alternative to doing everything manually was to hire a professional service organization to integrate their processes with those of thePlatform. "The costs of customizing an ingest system that way range between $40,000 and $60,000," Roberts says.
The cloud storage and ingest add-ons to thePlatform's services are appropriate for content owners whether or not they use thePlatform's CDN service, Roberts notes. "We take files from whatever sources they provide and move them to our location and then do a file transfer to whatever CDN they want to use in the syndication process," he says. "All of this is automated whether they use their CDNs or ours."