Buy vs Build: The Advantage of a Commercial Video Player
by Craig Ferguson on July 20, 2021
When planning (or re-evaluating) your approach to the video player component of your video delivery workflow, you will more than likely at some point reach a crossroads when considering the decision to follow the open-source or commercial video player path. Whilst both options are entirely feasible in today’s video delivery landscape, there may be a number of considerations that don’t instantly come to mind when forming the basis for your decision.
In my 5 years amongst the incredibly talented team at THEO Technologies, I have seen the industry’s requirement and following demand for a performant video player increase dramatically as software environments become more complex and viewer expectations rise.
If you think about it simplistically, the video player is really one of the only ‘visible’ components of your video delivery workflow that the average content consumer can consistently view and interface with. The word ‘player’ even ends up in the title of many leading streaming services (think BBC iPlayer and so on), so this naturally results in your video players’ performance being fundamental to your services’ overall success, and a direct representation of the quality of your content offering that you and your team have worked tirelessly to build.
This article will specifically focus on the advantages of selecting, implementing, and maintaining a commercial video player. For an extended view on the wider ‘Buy vs. Build’ discussion, please feel free to head on over to our whitepaper on this exact subject.
Benefit #1: Quicker Go-To-Market Speed
One of the biggest and most obvious benefits of a commercial player is in the off-the-shelf and adaptive nature of the technology.
When opting to leverage open source technology for your video player, you will of course be tasked with starting from scratch and working your way up to basic playback capabilities. Having to then connect this basic player up with your streaming infrastructure will also be no easy task. Upon ‘completion’, you will then need to assign the necessary (and permanent) resources to ensure any and all updates outside and inside of the player do not introduce any issues within the cross-technology environment. Small tweaks across streaming, content protection, analytics, advertising and more can have an adverse effect on the video player even when you don’t expect it to. The quality assurance (QA) resources required to manage this should certainly not be underestimated.
Overall, there are 4 primary considerations that could be considered when exploring your video player direction options. They are:
- Initial Development
- Product Evolution
- Maintenance and Support
- Strategic Focus
Each of these considerations will naturally involve heavy resource and time allocation if you are to meet the necessary standard for today’s average viewer expectation.
With a commercial video player, you can be sure that these will all be handled for you, and in the case of THEO Technologies, we will ensure they align with your specific requirements.
Over the years at THEO Technologies, we have been refining THEOplayer and expanding on its capabilities to fit seamlessly within a complex end-to-end environment. Behind the scenes, there are countless hours spent on ensuring perfectly consistent playback with every press of the play button. You can therefore feel safe in knowing that THEOplayer is ready to adapt to pretty much any environment and scenario with just one implementation. Beyond that, our team of on-hand experts are always available to assist with the ongoing management of your offering.
Benefit #2: Higher Video Playback Performance
At THEO Technologies, we like to consider THEOplayer as the video player equivalent of a World Championship winning Formula 1 car. Sleek, elegant, and ultimately designed to push the envelope of performance to the absolute limit (and beyond). When analyzing the strengths of these machines, no single component or innovation is enough to achieve the status level of a powerhouse in their respective industry. Instead, it is the collective of an expertly designed, built, and maintained product that delivers the required performance day in, day out.
The same can of course be said about THEOplayer. Over the years, our Leuven and New York-based in-house teams of experts have been designing and refining each and every module that forms the core of the player. That means that when it counts (i.e. the user loading the page), you can be certain that your player will be fast off the line.
The following points aim to highlight specific elements of performance that may initially come to mind.
In-house designed Adaptive Bitrate Algorithm
With the rollout of 5G ongoing today, buffering times are expected to become drastically reduced across the coming months (despite there already being an incredible low market tolerance for this). THEOplayer’s in-house adapted bitrate algorithm (ABR) has been uniquely designed from the ground up to take 3 major factors into account when tackling this subject. Being able to configure a tailored strategy to consider 1.) performance; 2.) quality and 3.) bandwidth mean that you can ensure lightning-fast start-up time and minimal rebuffering in the case of any network uncertainty. Compare this with the standard 2-factor open-source approach (quality and bandwidth) and you will immediately notice the additional flexibility that can be gained by leveraging a core performance component of a commercial video player.
ABR STRATEGY PRIORITY
Interested in learning more about THEOplayer’s ABR capabilities? You can do so by downloading our Mini Guide to ABR Logic.
Modular (API-based) Development Approach
If you follow our theoplayer.com insights regularly (and I would personally recommend that you do! There’s a load of great info to be found.), you may have seen us mention that THEOplayer is designed around a ‘modular’ approach. What this essentially means is that outside of and around the video player core, we have opted to detach functionalities that are typically bundled in with other video players (such as specific features and integration connectors with analytics, advertising, and DRM services).
The modular approach directly assists in the overall performance of the player and ongoing maintenance of your environment and applications. In limiting your video player bundle size, you can cut down on application bloating in environments such as Android and iOS and ensure that your time to first frame (TTFF) is as lightning fast as possible.
Platform Specific Performance Optimisation
With so many different platforms and devices on the market, it can be difficult to ensure an industry-leading wide coverage. Devices such as webOS and Tizen Smart TVs can be tricky to cover given their lack of performance standards in older year models and general lack of support for features often required by default in today’s streaming ecosystem (i.e., server-side ad Insertion / wide subtitle support / etc.). Where native and open source technologies struggle here, THEOplayer picks up the slack with our Smart TV tailored and adaptive HTML5 SDK.
When leveraging the open-source path, there will be times when you will be restricted by platform limitations and bugs that will require a community resolution which you will typically have little control over. Another clear benefit in leveraging a commercial video player such as THEOplayer is that you can feel safe knowing that we will have the tools and expertise to assist you in overcoming your roadblocks (or at the very least providing a workaround solution where possible).
We are powering some of the world’s largest AVOD and SVOD streaming services on Smart TVs and take pride in our ability to handle specific use-cases not currently straightforward via an open-source approach. Even if you are already leveraging native or open source technologies here and are currently facing issues, we would always welcome the opportunity to dive deeper into how we could assist.
Benefit #3: Future-proof
At THEOplayer, we power some of the most cutting-edge and high-quality video services on the market with our universal video player technology. With leading content providers such as CNN, Swisscom, British Telecom, RAI, and many more opting to rely heavily on THEOplayer and our team’s capability to stay ahead of the curve for future player-related topics, we see ourselves in a privileged position to be able to highlight what a leading provider looks for in the current delivery landscape and the future.
Extensive Feature Set
Whether you are in the digital team for a news publishing service or the video team of a tier-one OTT platform, the video player feature-set that you offer your viewers can mean the difference between maintaining a viewer or losing them to another competitor’s offering. For example, visually impaired users with a dependency on the customization of subtitles (color, sizes, etc.) will expect your service to adhere to their unique needs.
If you are looking to start from scratch with an open-source player, you will need to spend the time planning, building, and implementing your desired feature set which you can be sure won’t be a fast process. With a commercial video player, you will gain immediate access to an extensive and continuously growing feature library that will stun your viewers and leave them wanting more.
THEOplayer has a feature for almost every use case. Are you a news publisher and want to increase ad revenue with more views? Feel free to check out our ‘Up Next’ and ‘Related Content’ features to ensure you keep the viewer’s eyes on the prize! Or maybe you are a music service looking to expand your offering capabilities. You couldn’t go wrong exploring our Web Audio API and seeing how you can enrich your viewer’s listening experiences.
Leading Support for Industry Standards
Our industry moves at a blistering pace. It’s extremely difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest innovations and releases. You will likely fall behind if you don’t have a fully dedicated team of experts spending the necessary time future-proofing your video player to handle industry standards such as Apple’s newly launched LL-HLS low latency protocol and more.
We know the OTT world is a competitive space. That’s why we are enabling our customers to be at the front of the pack by being the first to support these standards. Our dedicated team of experts is committed to ensuring that THEOplayer is ready to support the next big thing well before a full market adaptation.
Innovation and The Next Big Thing
You don’t spend close to 10 years working on video player technologies without coming up with a few unique thoughts on what our team’s collective expertise and skills could bring to the table. Our ranks have grown over the past years and thanks to this, we have been able to create a specific team purely focused on innovation and pushing the boundaries on video player technology and beyond. It was this team that sparked the initial idea for many up-and-coming player functionalities and the ground-breaking High-Efficiency Streaming Protocol (HESP). The handling of the video player has always been crucial in the playback of low latency content and our developed expertise put us in the unique position to shape the future of low latency video delivery at scale.
We are currently working behind the scenes on what we strongly believe will be the ‘next big thing’ in the video delivery landscape. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store.
It is crystal clear that there are a number of benefits of selecting and implementing a commercial video player. It is however ultimately your team’s duty to make the decision on your eventual approach.
With today’s viewer consumer expecting a lightning-fast and modern playback experience, it’s good to know that you have a team of experts entirely focused on this technology whilst your team can spend valuable time on other areas within your platform.
Be sure to reach out to our team to get additional insights into what the industry’s most performant video player – THEOplayer – can do for you.