Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Enterprise Video Trends: A Real World Perspective - Nick Balletta, CEO, Talkpoint

Nick Balletta has been in the live webcasting business for a long time, and as CEO of Talkpoint, his company has helped shape the online video industry by providing clients, the technology and services to build scalable video communications. Talkpoint's predecessor – NextVenue – pioneered the live interactive webcasts since 1998, and its roots that go back to CNBC/Dow Jones desktop video. Talkpoint operates as a SaaS based model with overlay production services for large, live, interactive and secure video and audio webcasts. It facilitates more than 20,000 live webcasting events per year for the top Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies.

I caught up with Balletta earlier this year via Skype to talk about the latest enterprise video trends. He shared the latest real world data his company had collected over the last two years, that showed a significant growth in both the adoption and expansion of video within enterprise communications. I first spoke with Balletta last year at Streaming Media East, where he told me that webcasting for enterprise communications may finally be reaching a tipping point.

Publishers are incorporating video
One trend Talkpoint sees is that publishers are incorporating video into their business communications. Historically, webinars are done in the publishing sector for lead generation and sponsorship revenues, with presenters spread out over a wide geographic area. Typically, the webinars have been audio only events, however over the past year Talkpoint has seen publishers intergrate video ad insertion, video roll ins and full video webinars. Balletta noted that the growth in this are has been significant and they see this trend growing year over year as people start to leverage video chat technologies.

Year over Year Comparisons (YE2010)
• Video Ad Insertion
    • 9% increasing to 22%
• Video Roll Ins
    • 12% increasing to 27%
• Full Video Webinars
    • 5% increasing to 11%

Video is being integrated with other technologies

Another trend is companies that are not in the video business are moving into the video business. In the financial markets, video is being integrated with other technologies. Broadridge, a leading provider of investor communications helps thousands of public companies and mutual funds worldwide communicate and conduct business with shareholders, created Virtual Shareholder Meetings. Balletta says it's not the traditional shareholder webcast they call "spray and pray" where you broadcast everywhere and hope people show up, but it's actually a full blown system that authenticates individual shareholders, allows them entry into the webcast and lets them submit their votes in real-time. This system supports their physical meeting and is a $400-500 million market for Broadridge.

Virtual Shareholder Meetings
• Share holder authentication with video webcasting
• LiveOnlineProxyVoting
• Intel, Dell, BestBuy
• Moving towards online video meetings only

Video Webcast Viewer trends
Talkpoint supports some 15,000 annual webcasts and it's data shows that the number viewers is growing along with the number of individual webcasts. Talkpoint's system can scale up to 15,000-20,000 simultaneous users, and while most companies don't need to reach that scale they consider anything over 1,000 simultaneous users as meaningful in size.

Year over Year Comparisons (YE2010)
• Video Webcasts with over 1000 Viewers
    • 23% Increase
• Video Webcasts with over 5000 Viewers
    • 17% Increase
• Video Webcasts with less than 250 Viewers
    • 27% Increase

So, what's driving the growth? Balletta pointed to several key factors, in particular – media players are now built into operating systems, broadband is pervasive, computers are faster and people are comfortable watching video on their computers, and overall, watching video online has gotten much easier to do than in the early days.

Video Signal Acquisition
Until recently, webcasts were generally hosted from a studio where encoding was done on site or the video was sent to the webcast encoding company through a satellite uplink. Now, Balletta says, people are using every video resource as a broadcast production point for a live webcast and Talkpoint leverages them all. The biggest shift is that the need for satellite trucks is going away as IP video adoption and QoS (Quality of Service) increases within the enterprise.

Year over year comparison (YE 2010)
•    Broadcast Studios (corporate and professional)
    •    5% Increase
•    Satellite Truck
    •    8 % Decrease
•    VCU / TelePresence
    •    28% Increase
    •    78% IP vs ISDN
•    Onsite Encode
    •    34% Increase

Corporate Enterprise environment
Balletta notes that Talkpoint operates in the corporate enterprise where they have to support multiple browsers. While Microsoft is on IE 9, IE 6 still pervasive in the enterprise. Bandwidth is always a concern in the real world, says Balletta, and while HD video quality is great it's not going to make it through a corporate firewalls and proxy servers. So what they see from a video encoding perspective is video bit rate speeds of 150Kbps–500Kbps. Balletta says the important thing is that people have to be able to consume the video and most corporate environments don't support 2Mbps streams.
"At the end of the day, we're in a mission critical, actionable, information environment where the messaging is more important than necessarily the pixelation on the video. People are watching video on their computers, so although HD video and HD cameras are great, in the enterprise, it doesn't really bode well."
• Year over year comparison (YE 2010)
    • 300 Kbs increase of 23%
    • 400Kbs increase of 27%
    • 500Kbs in crease of 12%

Anecdotes from TalkPoint
• Self Service Video webcasting increasing (all you need is a browser)
    •    Automation (Saas)
    •    Flexible Signal Acquisition
    •    Ease of use
• Flash viewership is on the rise
    •    Live streaming
    •    Not just progressive downloads
    •    IT staffs adding support (Proxy servers, firewalls)
• The battle for video standards creates opportunity
    •    Adobe, Apple, Microsoft
    •    Enterprise users don’t care about HTML5....yet
    •    Even with video webcasting on the rise audio webcasting is here to stay

Balletta says that Talkpoint's focus continues to be on automation and scalability, as it's moved to a SaaS model and the company is seeing a 30% year over year growth in its business.

Q&A with Nick Balletta

How do you see social media integrating with enterprise webcasting? What are companies doing?
"We have an actual social media strategy from Talkpoint proper, in terms of we got our blog, Facebook, Twitter account and our whole marketing team that manages our presence on the Internet. But from a webcasting perspective, I'm of two minds. Webcasting exists as a business because it's not social, it's really serious, and we work in an environment where people are paying to distribute content, and it's typically actionable, mission critical information. They're communicating to their constituencies, their shareholders, their business partners, their clients, so they're trying to maintain a single message to all of the different media that are available out there.
Webcasting being one of them, and when you put a social media aspect into a webcast – where you have viewers potentially rearranging the desktop to move branding around, or chatting with each other or maybe commenting on the event and  tweeting – that is counter intuitive to the singular message, and we think that social media webcasting is not going to be something that's going to be a growth business. Now, we're smart enough to keep an eye on it and make sure we've got technology and tools to support it. But most of our customers are very concerned about the DNA of their company, which is their brand, and they're very concerned about maintaining that singular message.

And it's so funny, I always hear people in large enterprises talking about recruiting young technology talent folks who know how to use those social media technologies, Twitter and Facebook, and the minute they get on board, they prohibit them from using it. So, I always say all the digital agencies are having a bonanza because they're making money consulting people to use social media at the enterprise level, when most executives in the enterprise are thinking, I have to do it because everybody else is doing it. They don't really know how to define success, what the metrics are for tracking success to be in social media. So right now all the agencies are making money. In a couple of years it's going be the lawyers.

And I've said this on a couple of panels and people have scratched their heads, but what happens when an employee crosses that imaginary line and says something they shouldn't say on the company Twitter feed or the company Facebook page? Or their personal Facebook page? When does the edginess become a liability? I call myself Nicktrodomus, and say, in the future we're going to have a problem with this. The much younger people at Talkpoint think I'm wrong, but I think I'm right.

One time I wrote an article for Streaming Media magazine and said, 'social media is for your teenage daughter not for serious grown ups who want to webcast', and they made me edit it out, so I'm sneaking it back in."

About Nick Balletta
Nick is CEO of TalkPoint, an industry leader in global communications technology. With more than 25 years of experience in media and technology, he is a pioneer in the field of unified communications and interactive webcasting. Nick launched his first company – Voyager Data Networks – in 1996 and sold it two years later, at which time he had the foresight to invest in the burgeoning field of streaming media. In 1998, he founded TalkPoint's predecessor -- NextVenue -- as an offshoot of CNBC/Dow Jones Desktop Video, a joint venture among Microsoft, NBC and Dow Jones. Here he led its global expansion and merger into streaming media company iBeam Broadcasting. At iBeam, he served as president of enterprise services and was a member of the board before buying back the company, now known as TalkPoint, in 2003. Nick holds an MBA from Rutgers Graduate School of Management and regularly competes in triathlons across the country.

About Talkpoint
TalkPoint is an industry leader in global communications technology, specializing in browser-based audio and video webcasting. Since 1998, TalkPoint's easy-to-use, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud platform has facilitated more than 20,000 live webcasting events per year for the top Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies. From investor relations and corporate communications to product launches and continuing education, TalkPoint offers scalable and flexible technology to meet today's business communication needs. For more information, visit

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