Streaming Video Approaches

In the world of broadcast television, there are two basic formats for viewers to watch video content:

  • Linear Television: A continuous stream of content, which the viewer has little or no control over the playlist. Examples include cable TV (AMC, MTV), Network TV (ABC, CBS) and Premium Channels (Starz, HBO, Showtime).
  • Non-Linear Television: A non-continuous, user selected, method of content viewing. The user has full control of the playlist as well as the ability (usually) to skip, pause, fast-forward and rewind. Examples include On Demand television, YouTube, Netflix and HBO GO. Good (but somewhat dated) reference for this stuff here:

On the technology side (e.g. how a video player is created) of things the approach is important because it defines what type of video player is needed:

  • Passive Streaming: In which a movie is sent by a server and watched by one or several clients. Content is served in a linear format meaning the user has no control over what is playing in the Passive Streaming player beyond selecting the file to play. Files are sent and opened by the users (as opposed to URLs called). Examples include playing a DVD on your laptop or PC, downloading and playing a torrent, hooking your tablet up to a DVD player, watching .mpg or other video files on your device. Windows Media Player and QuickTime are two popular examples of Passive Streaming video players.
  • Video on Demand (VOD): In which each client asks for its own stream. Video files are played and navigated via a network connection to the file (as opposed to downloading from a server and playing it directly off of your hard drive). Examples are YouTube on your laptop, Netflix on your phone and Amazon prime on your tablet.

With that established we can examine the two types of internet broadcast television which are defined as follows:

  • Live Streaming: Essentially, a camera connected to a network. If the stream is recorded at all, it is not done at the camera level but rather at the server level. Examples include watching a conference on your device or computer, or, for that matter, participating in a video conference call or watching news or sporting events over the internet.
  • Video on Demand: Pretty much everything else that you watch directly instead of downloading as a file. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO and other internet video all share categorization here.

At the end of the day, the type of internet video player to be implemented is most often determined by the source video file type and location. In short, there are basically two options when building a video player into a web page:

  • Self-Hosted: The video files are hosted (stored) on the host’s server. This allows for full control of the content in terms of copyright and editing. Most professional organizations use this form of internet video distribution (,,, etc.)
  • Embedded/Distributed: These are videos hosted on a server not controlled by the poster. The most clear example would be a video on a blog (such as in this post). Videos are hosted on a video sharing or distribution platform and “called to” by a player embedded within the post or page.

A Bit on the History of Streaming, Sharing and Internet Video Evolution

It is worth noting here, perhaps, that internet video essentially evolved from a Passive Streaming model (in which video files were swapped between early adapters and then opened/run on their hard drive and viewed with a Passive Streaming video player) to the current state of VOD (where video files are mostly viewed by navigating to a page, shared via a public URL and watched via an embedded VOD player). I make the distinction for two reasons: 1) Now we can understand that concepts such as “viral videos” have always been around. Back in the day they were just the hottest files to own, trade or host. Going back even further, “sharing” was accomplished via swapping or curating VHS tapes (think Grateful Dead enthusiasts swapping concert footage or even TV shows such as America’s Funniest Home Videos that curated and collected VHS files before the popularization of the internet). 2) The evolution from file swapping to URL calling allowed for commercialization since now statistics such as file plays, views, user ratings, comments, etc. could be centralized and counted, thereby enabling valuation and monetization. A feature that wasn’t reliably possible during the file swapping era.


The above represents notes I’ve complied as I experiment with internet video publication. In addition to these notes, I am also running some tests. The tests are currently hosted on my web site and can be found here.



This blog is undergoing a reboot.

Going forward, this blog will be have a more technical focus with less emphasis on entertainment and management theory. The overall focus will be to act as a public-facing repository of my notes as relates to the industry of “pushing content”.

Currently, I’m working on a project concerning internet video distribution and publication so you can expect the next few posts to focus on this aspect of Pushing Content.

There will be no fixed posting schedule. New blog posts will appear as I have notes that I either wish to share or desire to have in some form of public repository (that I control directly).

3 (Digital) Things to Watch this Week- Halloween Edition

Highlights of some of the best stuff you won’t see on TV. Running time listed because we know you’re busy.

1. So Pretty- A must-watch for every Twilight fan (8:39 Minutes). 

2. The Green Ruby Pumpkin- Fantastic digital Halloween short (2:53 Minutes). 

3. The Zombie Drive-thru Prank- “Gimme my chicken nuggets” (2:32 minutes). 

Caring Trickles Down

You know that moment when you approach the counter and the employee is indifferent or, even worse, rude to you? Who do you blame for that? Is the employee at fault? Perhaps they’re having a bad day and taking it out on the customer? How about the manager? He is supposed to be ‘managing’, no? What about the supervisor? Didn’t they hire and screen the manager with the expectation that they would provide excellent customer service? What about the executive in charge? Aren’t they responsible for quality and level of service for the entire staff? And on it goes…

The problem is one of caring. In general, if the boss doesn’t care the employees certainly don’t. Caring trickles down. Every level of employee cares slightly less than the level above. There are anomalies, sure, where every now and then a single employee really wants to make a difference but if that behavior is not rewarded quickly and loudly, it will disappear.

Not caring is expressed in a lot of ways. I once worked for a guy that gave Friday morning pump-up speeches about how much he appreciated everyone’s efforts and he understood the staff’s sacrifices in staying late… just before grabbing his briefcase and heading for the door hours before the office closed so he could beat weekend traffic. Memos, speeches, emails and praise mean nothing compared to actions. And it is the actions the staff is watching; they’ve already learned the words are empty.

So, why doesn’t the girl at the counter treat the customer with respect and regard? Because the manager is hiding in the office. He says he cares -heck, he teaches the customer service course- but his actions say he doesn’t. And why doesn’t the manager care? Because the regional manager only stops by once a quarter and when he does it is for a pre-arranged appointment, when everything is cleaned up nice for his arrival. He never pops in on his free time, never takes the manager to lunch on his own dime, never knows the employees names without asking his assistant. Quick aside: I worked for one executive who literally had name cards printed out by his assistant in advance of meeting with his staff that he would look at before answer a question, “Yes, um… Joe, that’s a good idea that should be fully implemented in your department which is… um… IT.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have been offended if I had a similar card with his vitals printed on it so I could remember his name and role. The inference was that he was important enough to remember but, we the staff, on the other hand, were not. Did he also do that when meeting with clients or other executives? Probably not. It was clear who he cared about and was certainly was not his staff.

Caring is caring. Doing is doing. If the goal is to build a successful business, start by taking care of your staff and expecting them to perform at the same level as you. Set the standard and do so with your actions, not your memos. And do it soon before your customers start wondering why they care more than you do.

The Next Smash Hit

With the advent of digital media, on demand services and social integration, is a break-through smash hit, the one show, act, book, movie or song that “everyone” talks about, still possible in any form of media? Can any one piece of content still captivate a majority audience share across multiple niches? If so, who will create the next “must see” experience? In what format of media will it be delivered? How will it be distributed?

As we have expanded the means through which we consume media, and as the spectrum of available media continually widens, it becomes much more difficult for any one piece of content to rise above the niches into which consumers have segmented. There are many examples of this change in consumer behavior happening now. In the days of only four channels, it was easy to proclaim one network and one show the clear winner in the fight for audience share.  But what about when there are hundreds of television options? A recent report from Nielsen points out that, while radio remains the dominant form of music discovery, teenagers are increasingly listening to YouTube as their primary music source. Is it still a hit if it generates millions of YouTube views and sets a new world record of ‘likes’ but does so long before it hits the traditional Billboard singles charts?

Niches Become Markets Unto Themselves

The markets for consumption of media have fragmented to such an extent, with consumers focused so intently on specific niches, that the complete domination of society by a single entertainer or piece of content is now a thing of the past. The issue is compounded by the vast reach of media, and our access to media, in the digital era where information has grown to such an extent that consumers are no longer starved for information, but rather, they have to make tough decisions as to what information to deliberately ignore.

Is there a popular television show that you want to watch but haven’t yet? Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire or Homeland perhaps? Why haven’t you watched it yet? Because these things take time and (some amount of) effort to consume. You have to selectively decide what is important enough to invest your time in. This is vastly different than the era of Dallas or the M.A.S.H. series finale when everyone tuned in and everyone talked about it for days. In the digital era, does society still care who shot J.R.? The opportunity cost of entertainment choice has never been more expensive than today where we have so many options. With this wide of an entertainment spectrum, some things simply have to be ignored. And if something is being ignored by some portion of the audience that would have traditionally tuned in, does any one piece of content still have the potential to be talked about by “everyone”?

Everything is Fragmented

50 Shades of Grey, arguably the most popular book of the past few years, started as fan fiction. If you were looking at the New York Times best seller list to find the next smash hit book, you wouldn’t have seen it there. More than likely, you weren’t looking at The Times anyway- too many other choices. Similarly, Justin Bieber was born of YouTube fame long before he graced the stages to the adoration of thousands of screaming teens. Here again, the Billboard charts and radio playlists would have been useless in identifying this pop star early in his career.

This is hardly an anomaly. Rather, it is a trend. If we look at the worldwide highest grossing movies of all time we see that a few recent releases top the list. However, if we look at the same list adjusted for inflation, it becomes clear that the must-see blockbuster is a thing of the past. You have to look all the way down to number fourteen on that list to even see a single movie from the past decade. There are simply too many movies, theaters and, perhaps more importantly, entertainment alternatives to the movie theater, for any one cinematic release to dominate the social stratosphere. The history of popular television tells a similar tale. Some of the most popular television shows of today are Game of Thrones, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Mad Men and Homeland. But when we examine the most watched television broadcasts of all time we see that in the U.S. there is not a single broadcast from the past twenty years in the top ten. Eliminate sports and current events from the list and it becomes clear that “must see” TV ended as soon as we had more than three channels to choose from. There are too many shows, too many channels, too many options for any single broadcast to rise above the noise.

Is a Smash Hit Still Possible?

Ultimately, there will be another smash hit. Much like 50 Shades of Grey or Psy’s Gangnam Style, something will come along and captivate culture across multiple consumer niches but we might not notice it happening if we are looking in the wrong direction. If the industry experts are all staring at Neilson reports and Billboard charts, how will they identify it? The simple answer is that they won’t. In the age of social media, market fragmentation and hundreds of thousands of entertainment options, it is the people who will decide the next big thing. Times have changed and if you find yourself in this industry still relying on the same old tricks, chances are you will be left behind by the next big thing. It will be old news by the time it is in the news.

The Thing About Disruption…

…is that it requires a team to do.

The more ostentatious the disruption, the bigger and more coordinated team you’ll need. This is to say that if all you want to do is to go into your local sandwich shop and demand a new type of mustard, you could probably accomplish that on your own. If you wanted to stage a coup at work, and get your boss fired for some reason, it would most likely require the endorsement of several colleagues to even be taken seriously. Whereas if the disruption is something as auspicious as, say overthrowing a government, that would probably require thousands of well-coordinated revolutionaries.

Building disruption is not building chaos. It is building teams of people fed up with the status quo with the willingness to do something about it.