I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sean Gilliam, Senior Vice President of sales for Unicorn Media about their unique approach to Online Video technology. Unicorn Media launched their services in 2007 by the original founding CEO of LimeLight Networks, Bill Rinehart with several other early members of the LimeLight team. Their goal was to build a media company for content owners who needed a flexible platform architecture allowing them to customize the service to meet their specific needs through a series of APIs which can be integrated independently to augment existing systems and workflows regardless of environment or location.
Sean and I agreed on the importance of specialization within the OVP space, and that platform providers will quickly need to carve out their niche in order to survive over the next few years and to avoid commodotization and attrition within the space. The following Q&A dives into what spurred the launch of the business in what was already shaping up to be a crowded sector, and how they are specifically addressing user needs with a unique approach to online video hosting services.
VidCompare: What was the original premise behind starting Unicorn Media?
Sean: Unicorn Media was founded by the same team that started Limelight Networks, a leading content delivery network. Managing CDN services for the largest media companies in the world gave us insight into another pain point for the same companies – the management and distribution of video content to any destination or device was an expensive, complicated and laborious endeavor. Unicorn built an affordable, simple, yet powerful solution to solve that problem. We developed a solution set that we call “Media-as-a-Service” to represent our ability to offload the complexities associated with media management.
VidCompare: How do you differentiate yourselves from the crowded OVP space today?
Sean: Frankly, we don’t think of ourselves as a traditional OVP, as those companies are typically focused on supporting properties where video is not core to their business. While we do have an end-to-end suite of services, our software was primarily built for massive scale, with the largest media companies in the world as our focus. Our componentized services work for all size media companies, but we often solve a problem most commonly experienced by larger companies, which is augmenting existing in-house solutions. Each of our video workflow services can be integrated independently and include first of their kind syndication and analytics tools.
VidCompare: You have a very specific technology offering that is unique to most OVPs largely based on the use of APIs to customize the experience. Can you tell us more about how your solutions work?
Sean: Our REST API capabilities allow us to componentize our offering. Let’s say a company is happy with their player, or their existing CMS, etc. and doesn’t want to transfer their entire system to an end-to-end solution. That’s where we come in. That company can choose the specific Unicorn Media service or services that would enhance their existing system. The good news is, every part of our offering can be a benefit to an organization; our workflow optimization tools are built to reduce cost, our dynamic media synchronization reduces time and resources for ingesting content and syndicating it to any IP-enabled device, and our real-time cloud analytics provide information that has never been available – within seconds of each custom query. There is something for everyone here from transcoding to play out.
VidCompare: If I have a JW player, can I integrate with your services for video management and/or analytics?
Sean: Our Media-as-a-Service solution is built to adapt to a customers environment. We can integrate any part of our solution with any player or existing technology so customers can get the best of any service they choose, whether it be media management, transcoding, ad integration, syndication or analytics.
VidCompare: You have a comprehensive analytics system. How does it work, what’s tracked, and is it in real-time?
Sean: Our analytics system is ground-breaking. We offer information – in real-time- on each and every piece of content. We’ve built a business intelligence system that computes in the cloud, collects a tremendous amount of data and then filters out the data that is relevant. This patent-pending technology isn’t available anywhere else. A traditional ‘reporting’ system has pre-determined data sets and queries. Our system is completely customized. A user can create virtually unlimited custom queries, and in less than 60 seconds, compare content performance to end-user behavior or revenue generation to delivery cost, and have access to key data points such as viewing metrics by video reach, content consumption, domain or geography. With that information at their fingertips, they can go back into the system and within seconds, make changes to those pieces of content and populate those changes to every player in the wild. This can’t be done with any other video analytics system. Best of all for our customers is that this level of detail is very affordable.
VidCompare: What does your typical customer look like or do they vary?
Sean: Our solution works for any size company, but is ideally suited for large media organizations based of our ability to componentize, customize and scale. A company with thousands of pieces of media will benefit by saving time, money and resources with our workflow optimization tools such as transcoding to virtually any format, producing high-quality content at lower bit-rates. Using our video management system, they have the ability to manage all those pieces of content within one easy-to-use interface while maintaining specific user rights for multiple users across one account. Our dynamic media synchronization tools will allow users to ingest that content in minutes rather than months while syndicating to virtually any IP-enabled device or destination with drag and drop technology. Best yet, our analytics tools allow them to make intelligent business decisions in real-time that affect their bottom line and drive profitability.
VidCompare: Is there a typical use case of your customers?
Sean: Actually no. Some of our customers take advantage of just our analytics system. Others utilize analytics and dynamic media synchronization. And we have customers like Dick Clark Productions that take advantage of the entire Media-as-a-Service solution. Each use case is different, with each user utilizing the part of our system that makes the most sense for them. That’s why we’re a great fit for any company.