I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Dave Otten, CEO of LongTail Video whom recently acquired Bits On The Run, a SaaS-based OVP that was built on the premise of being insanely easy to use and straightforward in it’s approach. Bits On The Run was developed by Jeroen Wijering, creator of the wildly successful JW Player. Dave was kind enough to shed some light on the acquisition, the team dynamics, and their recent release of the JW player for HTML5 in the following online interview. Dave informed me that they plan to further staff the company in engineering and product management in the coming months to help further integrate and expand upon the products.
VidCompare: You’ve been working with the Bits On The Run team for a few years. How do the two businesses compliment each other (what was the reasoning behind the acquisition)?
Dave: We think that Bits on the Run is a great match for a few reasons. First, both LongTail and Bits have long shared a common approach to the market centered on providing affordable, simple-to-use video tools for web sites that are new to online video. The fact that we were on the same page from a market strategy perspective was an important factor in our decision to join forces. Second, the Bits video management platform is a perfect complement to LongTail’s current product offering, which includes the popular JW Player, its AddOns library, and the AdSolution. Over the past year, we spent a lot of time talking to our million-plus customers about what products they were looking for and what we learned was that the overwhelming majority of people were looking for a video management system that’s both easy-to-use and affordable. That’s exactly what Bits on the Run is. Third, Bits has been built by an incredibly talented group of engineers whose skills fit well with what we doing at LongTail. Anytime you can add a great group engineers to the team via an acquisition is a really big deal.
VidCompare: Will you keep the Bits On The Run name or will the businesses meld into Long Tail Video?
Dave: In the short-term, we will keep the Bits on the Run name for our video platform product. This will change over the next couple of quarters as we merge Bits with LongTail’s existing products to create a fully-integrated offering that gives publishers complete control over how they manage their online video assets. With our integrated offering, publishers will be able to use LongTail for one, two or all of our products. It will be completely up to the publisher and what its needs are.
VidCompare: What will Jeroen Wijering (the creator of the JW player) be working on as a new member of the LTV team?
Dave: Actually, Jeroen isn’t all that new to LongTail Video. We have been working together since the end of 2007 when LongTail Video acquired the JW Player and have formed a great partnership over the years. As I mentioned a bit earlier, one of the many reasons why we acquired Bits was to have a talented person like Jeroen 100% focused on building LongTail Video. In terms of his role moving forward, Jeroen will be focused on three areas. First, he will continue to collaborate with our NY-based player team to drive the vision and direction of the JW Player family of products. Second, he will lead all product development efforts for Bits. Third, and most importantly, Jeroen will take a proactive role in leading and interacting with our large developer community. We think that our community is critical to our success: they provide us with direct feedback on our product direction and they contribute content and code back to us through our forums or our AddOns library. I can think of no better person to lead our community development efforts than Jeroen.
VidCompare: I recently completed a questionnaire from Jeroen asking what new features users would like to see. What new features do you have planned for the new combined product and when will you begin rolling out new developments?
Dave: We have a ton of exciting new product features on our roadmap. I won’t go into all of our plans now, but here are a few things for you to keep your eye on:
- For the AdSolution, we will be integrating the key components of the Open Video Ads project, which is now owned by LongTail, into our core ad serving solution. We will be talking a lot more about our plans here in the coming weeks.
- For Bits, we are focused on simplifying the UI and adding more robust analytics to help customers understand how users are viewing video.
You can expect to see these new products roll-out over the coming months, beginning w/ the beta version of the JW Player for HTML5 this week. In terms of product integration, we have already taken the initial steps to combine Bits with LongTail’s products. Today, publishers can use LongTail’s JW Player and the AdSolution within the Bits video management system. In addition, Bits customers can easily incorporate any of the hundreds of plugins and skins within LongTail’s AddOns library to customize their JW Player’s look and functionality. I think we are off to a pretty good start.
VidCompare: What plans do you have for HTML5 and when will we see the new player?
Dave: While we believe that HTML5 has a ways to go before it replaces Flash for video playback, we still are very excited about its potential especially among mobile and tablet devices. Given this, we have been hard at work on JW Player for HTML5 and will be releasing a beta version this week which we think is a big step forward compared to other efforts already in the market. Here are a few features that will be included in our initial release:
- Seamless fallback to the JW Player for Flash. What this means is that the JW Player for HTML5 will revert, or fallback, to the Flash version of the player in cases where an end-user is viewing a video from a non-HTML5 compliant browser. We think this solves a big obstacle for web sites that are a bit hesitant to use HTML5 for video delivery because a large % of users still use non-HTML5 compliant browsers.
- Full PNG skinning support. One of the many things users like about the JW Player is the ability to customize the look of their player by using one of the skins in LongTail’s AddOns library. The JW Player for HTML5 supports the same PNG skinning capabilities as the Flash player so users will not lose any customization elements.