While working with CNN-IBN (now CNN-News18) and IBN7 (now News18 India), a few years back, N Dilip Venkatraman, heard of the floods in his hometown Chennai. His cousin had called him and informed him of the floods in the city, and how the houses were now underwater.
To find out more, Dilip tuned in to the news channels, but found that all the main news channels were only covering the arrest of a former TV network CEO.
“This is just one example of when I could not find the stories I was looking for in the news bulletins. It used to frustrate me, especially when I knew that all the stories of my interest were probably available in the newsroom. My editorial colleagues in the newsroom always used to grapple with the restrictive nature of the linear delivery pipe for video content, where they had to constantly keep prioritising content,” says Dilip.
Also, a less-than-adequate rating system compounds content prioritisation. So, any news consumer is forced to live with a one-size-fits-all news bulletin. It led Dilip and his spouse Savvy Dilip to start VideoTap in Noida in December 2016.
What does the platform do?
VideoTap is a video experience management platform. It is a B2B video technology platform that helps video content producers across categories like marketing, e-learning, news, sports, entertainment, ecommerce, and advertising, deliver ‘effective’ viewing experiences, increase consumer engagement, and achieve better ROI.
Savvy adds that they have built a single platform scalable across multiple categories. This includes integrated sub-platforms for processing, delivery, analytics, and dynamic elements built ground-up to deliver multi-functional streaming.
“Our platform supports recorded videos (VOD) and live video streams. We have built a self-service authoring platform called Design Suite, where a content producer can upload linear videos, author and convert them, and publish them as multi-functional videos. The Design Suite is easy to use, cloud-based, and can be accessed using a desktop browser, quite comprehensive and comes with more than 1,500 features.”
Once the multi-functional videos are published, consumers can:
- Engage with content which adapts to consumer inputs.
- Personalise the video for relevant content and keep modifying the video at will.
- Navigate within the video to the portion of the content they want to see, instantaneously.
- Know relevant information on a simple tap, whenever they want to.
- Participate in polls, quizzes, express themselves by rating, comments, and also receive gratification.
- Trigger call to actions like Click to Call, download a brochure, add to cart, instantaneously
VideoTap helps in solving one of the biggest challenges for video content producers, which is ‘Engagement’. The startup says that the amount of data and in-video consumer behaviour analytics they generate gives good insights to customers.
The startup has been awarded seven US patents. Dilip adds that VideoTap is also the first non-UC affiliated startup to be accepted into the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Accelerator located in Santa Clara, California, and they are in the process of setting up a senior team there.
“When we started building the product, we had a broad idea of what we wanted to build. One of the big challenges was that we didn’t have any reference points, and we also had no guarantee that we could achieve on the technological front. While this was exciting, it was also quite challenging as we did hit many dead ends, but somehow, due to the perseverance and contribution of various team members and the patience of our investors, we were able to achieve various technological thresholds,” says Savvy.
The use of technology
Savvy says the way VideoTap streams videos is fundamentally different. They create, deliver, and keep modifying a separate dynamic multi-functional video file in real-time, instead of playing out a static video file.
Each viewer also has a personalised real-time video experience, which continues to get personalised as the viewer keeps watching. “This will be something like ‘personalisation of Google maps’ meets ‘online videos,” she quips.
Prior to starting up, Dilip was the former CEO of CNN-IBN (now CNN-News18) and IBN7 (now News18 India) and has 20 years of experience in strategy, P&L, marketing, business development, innovation, and market development in television and online media.
Savvy, on the other, has been the former Group CMO for ITV Network (NewsX, India News, regional channels of India News, and Sunday Guardian) and the former VP-Marketing of CNN-IBN (now CNN-News18) and IBN7 (now News18 India). She has more than 15 years of experience in product development and marketing in television and online media.
Currently, the core technology is ready and the team has validated the technology through media agencies for video ads. “Regular linear video ads were processed using our video authoring platform – Design Suite, and converted into multi-functional video ads, and served on third-party publishers. We have served more than 50 million video ads and streamed more than 500,000 hours of multifunctional videos,” says Dilip.
Working across categories
The team adds that they have been receiving active interest from various customers across categories like news, sports, e-learning, and martech. The team charges a monthly platform fee based on various parameters and requirements. Dilip explains they have worked with almost all leading media agencies to validate their technology for video ads, with the pricing based on ad campaign volumes.
“There are overlaps in certain areas with two sets of companies, some who are focused only on interactivity and others who are focused on personalisation. What we are building is fundamentally different and will keep evolving. We use interactivity as the enabling mechanism, and personalisation as part of a broader solution, which is the multi-functional viewing experience,” says Savvy.
The market and future
A Cisco study states that by 2019, over 80 percent of the world’s internet traffic will be driven by video. With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the growth of video platforms has skyrocketed. Zoom.us, in April 2020, had 300 million daily active users (DAUs) on its video conferencing and remote collaboration platform.
There also are platforms like Sydney-based Oovvuu that uses AI to recommend video content to newsreaders; counts IBM and Amazon as investors. There also is the platform Voiro.
VideoTap says it has delivered 14 times more engagement than the industry average of 0.05 percent on these multi-functional ads. “Interestingly, 18 percent of the audience engaged longer than the duration of the video ad creative. We have made more than $250,000 in sales while validating our technology,” adds Dilip.
VideoTap plans to launch many more features within the products and also launch new products across categories and markets. “We first are eager to get our enterprise product into the market in the next few weeks,” says Dilip.