What we do
To prepare for an expansion of Driving Sports TV’s Video on Demand system, I spent the past few weeks evaluating every OVP (online video platform) on the market. That included Brightcove, Ooyala, Limelight, Vzaar, JWPlatform, 23 Video, Wistia, Vid.ly and a bunch I’ve now forgotten.
In addition to running my own tests I also ran a viewer survey with Vzaar, JWP and 23 Video side-by-side (the three that best represented features and pricing that was most aligned with our goals.) In that survey I was surprised that quality mattered more than how fast the player responded when playing or scrubbing. Vzaar was super-fast, but the relatively low-quality, low bitrate 720p playback left them wanting more. In that survey, the JWPlatform was the best performer. 23 Video had decent quality, but the player was incredibly slow and often non-responsive. Customers will take quality over speed, but 23 Video was too slow to handle.
Though they offered, in some cases, easy-to-use backends, at the end of the day I don’t yet see the OVP model making financial sense for mid-sized sites. Across the board bandwidth fees were simply too expensive: 200-1000% markup on raw bits and bytes was the norm. And that was after paying for encoding, a pretty interface and a player.
So, where did we take Driving Sports TV? We built our own system. Because we could. Like the OVPs the new Driving Sports TV is built on a global, video-optimized CDN with variable-bitrate streams delivered via RTMP and HLS technologies. Our player serves up both Flash and HTML5 variants, based on the device accessing the content. Sure, we don’t have a pretty back-end (we’ll add one eventually), but most of the video setup is automated and the quality is as good as we want to push it. With the money we saved we could buy a small team of programmers to work on that interface.
The system has been launched with a max quality of 720p at 2.5mbps on the top end. We hope to offer 1080p at 5mbps in the near future as well.
The web site is now running on the new system. There are likely to be a few hiccups, as this is still a very new system, but we’ll continue to tweak and improve going forward. Our Driving Sports TV Roku Channel will be upgraded by March 2014.