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Streaming Video Sizzles: A Look at the Current Marketplace
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Posted On September 15, 2015
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How many info pros have attended a webinar from a vendor—on either new products or on trends that impact practices or product bases? Today, few have not. One of the leaders in this sector, Lynda.com, launched in 1995 and was recently purchased by LinkedIn for more than $1 billion. The site offers pivotal leadership in providing thousands of video courses by subscription in software, creative, and business skills—along with documentaries on creative leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs—to subscribers around the world. Given the importance of training and customer support, the private sector has invested significant sums in this new (and often cheaper) form of training and instantaneous communication across locations. MicroMarket Monitor reports that growth in the enterprise sector will increase due to “globalization, the need to enhance productivity, growth of virtual workers, travel cost saving, web 2.0, and social media. The rising need for real-time collaboration in the workplace is attracting more users to enterprise video market.”

Educational Marketplaces

CSPAN, global news websites, YouTube #Education, TED-Ed, Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, and Udacity—as well as YouTube itself—provide key educational freeware for video clips and discussion points in classrooms. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) also fill a need. However, today, the streaming marketplace for libraries and educational institutions is limited, in much the same way as ebooks are, by vendor and producer concerns about copyright, public performance definitions, lack of true disabilities-compliance, and pricing. Many textbooks now come with video elements to be used specifically in K–12 settings.

In the February/March 2014 issue of ALA TechSource’s Library Technical Reports, author Julie A. DeCesare notes, “In less than ten years, the availability of digitally converted or born-digital media, especially video, has grown exponentially. Libraries and librarians are constantly navigating, and helping their patrons navigate, this digital shift. Online and streaming video has saturated the consumer market for popular television shows and movies, and the market is fragmented.” This fragmentation is especially evident in the education and library arenas, because vendors and producers are still working to develop reasonably priced options with reasonable periods of access that allow for the practical needs of libraries and schools and for the variety of educational offerings they require.

Seven Key Library Vendors

In 2013, Alexander Street Press first unveiled its streaming video hosting service for libraries, which was based largely on primary source collections such as North American Women’s Letters and Diaries, a collection of 150,000 pages of compositions by women from colonial times through the 1950s. The company’s approach was to allow libraries to host their music and video assets on a single platform that could provide one-stop streaming for their patrons. Today, the catalog includes more than 10,000 educational and award-winning streaming titles. Libraries—and vendors—are quickly realizing that the tide of streaming video is too strong and too compelling to ignore.

Docuseek2 offers access to 750-plus titles, individually or in collections, from an impressive group of production companies, including Bullfrog Films, Collective Eye Films, Icarus Films, and the National Film Board of Canada. It claims that “colleges, universities, and other educational institutions can discover, access, license, stream and share amongst their students, faculty and staff.” Titles are licensed for annual renewals.

Films Media Group, a subsidiary of Infobase Publishing, has a streaming video subscription service that provides “instant access to thousands of our educational titles, conveniently segmented into predefined clips. These multi-subject subscriptions are available in collections specifically designed for academic institutions (Films On Demand), high schools (Classroom Video On Demand), and public libraries (Access Video On Demand), and provide one-stop shopping for librarians, faculty, and educators. Smaller academic subject collections are also offered. Videos are added regularly—free of charge.” The company focuses on social, political, and cultural issues impacting people around the world. Its pricing model bundles public performance rights with the 12,000-plus titles, defining these rights as “the ability for our customers to present a non-theatrical performance of our programs, without charge, to a gathering of people in schools, universities and other public forums.” Clearly, fair use is something that libraries would question in terms of the additional cost.

Ideas Roadshow is an up-and-coming “educational product centred on in-depth conversations with a wide variety of scientist[s], researchers and authors across the arts and sciences … [offering] a seamless mix of enhanced, high-level content while providing an intimate window into a fascinating world of ideas.” Developed to give students “a unique and valuable experience,” the company includes not only K–12, public, and academic libraries, but is “available on British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Alaska Airlines for the curious traveller.”

Kanopy offers more than 26,000 films and has a goal of changing “the way students learn through the power of film while forging a new sustainable economy for both filmmakers and libraries.” The company uses a “unique PDA (patron driven acquisition) model [that] ensures institutions only pay for the films their students and faculty actually watch. Kanopy works directly with filmmakers and film distribution companies to offer award-winning collections including titles from PBS, BBC, Criterion Collection, Media Education Foundation and more.” In August 2015, Kanopy announced that an additional 377 U.S.-based universities and colleges had signed up with service.

The nonprofit Media Education Foundation, established in 1992, “produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media.” It offers both DVD and streaming options for titles, as well as distribution services for other documentarians based on “a composite of factors including the topic of the film, comments from staff, how the film fits into our current catalog, and relevance to our mission: to encourage critical thinking and debate about the relationship between media ownership, commercial media content, and the democratic demand for free flows of information, diverse representations of ideas and people, and informed citizen participation.”

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.’s Digital Campus “allows students the flexibility to legally view course-assigned films outside the classroom. Providing digital access to course-related films allows educators to enhance the learning experience without taking up valuable class time. Digital Campus provides a flexible and custom solution to fit your campus’ needs by distributing films through your Learning Management System.” Swank focuses on many mainstream commercial films not included by other vendors, claiming it has “exclusive distribution of thousands of films, making us the largest repository of digital film content to complement the curriculum of any course.”

In a March 2015 LYRASIS webinar, University of North Carolina–Greensboro’s Christine Fischer noted:

[W]e’ve been responding to an increase for streaming resources to serve research needs and student use of media. Our university, like so many others, has expanded online instruction so we’ve shifted some face-to-face instruction to online classes. Even when classes are offered in person, some faculty have implemented a flipped classroom model with students viewing films outside of class for later discussion as a group. Faculty need to know the range of options available to them, and in a continuing economic climate of reduced collections budgets, getting the maximum use from resources is crucial. That’s why we’re putting effort into promoting our streaming video resources.

A Hot Market Now Sizzles

The attraction of giving consumers more control over their media consumption and information sources is key to McKinsey & Co.’s “Global Media Report 2014”: “Depth of content and flexibility is driving engagement and loyalty as users often choose to spend more time exploring content from fewer providers. Yet, many media companies have not taken the opportunity to offer customized products and solutions to their audiences in this digital world. Thinking beyond the traditional content bundle or subscription and offering à la carte options may be a necessity to create sustainable business models of the future.”

The report notes major trends in the behavior of media consumers: “Consumers are spending less to buy and own content, while spending more to gain access to content. In home video, physical sales are falling, while digital streaming is rising. In recorded music, consumers are not only buying less music in physical formats, but they are also cutting back on digital downloads, shifting their spending to streaming subscriptions and increasing their usage of ad-supported streaming services.” Video viewing on smartphones and other small-screen devices is increasing and is expected to become the dominate method for many types of video in the coming years.

A 2014 CARLI “Streaming Video in Academic Libraries” white paper reported that “libraries have been relatively slow to embrace streaming video content. This situation stems from the variety of challenges this technology poses for institutions that have a mandate to collect and make available a variety of content to their users. Some of these issues are not unlike those that confront individual users of streaming media—slow delivery speed or inadequate selection. Others are unique to the nature of libraries themselves as collectors and preservers of material. And ultimately some are the special purview of academic libraries in their role as branches of educational institutions.” This is changing, and, clearly, libraries are interested—but issues of pricing, contract terms, and locally mounted titles versus the particular features of vendor interfaces still need to be worked out. However, success in the consumer arena is a very good sign that as producers get more comfortable with the realities of library markets—similar to what has happened with ebooks—vendors will create more win-win situations to move the market forward.


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Nancy K. Herther is American studies, anthropology, Asian American studies, and sociology librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus.

Email Nancy K. Herther

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