, a Viacom
company, signed on to use Market7
, a provider of web-based software-as-service for collaboration. With Market7, content is uploaded and the service's Annotative Player module offers secure browser-based access to that content on computers, tablets and smartphones; users are able to add comments that reference specific video frames on the timeline.
"We upload dailies to Market7 for some shows, and for other shows, we use it to review cuts," says BET Networks engineer Will Horton, who notes that it is currently being used on six or seven scripted programs and original movies including The Game, Gun Hill
and Being Mary Jane
. "It's not Flash-based, so this works on iPads and iPhones, which makes it very flexible. We can't always control what device people have when they're out and about, and Market7 makes it that much more convenient."
Market7 also enables a more collaborative workflow, says Horton. "We haven't used the ability to comment on the video yet, but that's another reason why I chose it," he says. "You can draw attention to a specific file, add comments and organize it any way you want."
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) -- meaning that the customer pays a monthly fee to access the software rather than purchase it outright -- is a fairly new concept in the media and entertainment space, but Horton likes that and the fact that it's cloud-based.
"Certainly it was easy to add on," he says. "Interfacing with the IT department can take awhile and getting them to implement something can also take awhile. This was a need to be met, and this way, I was able to get that need met quickly.
"And the fact that it's browser-based and available anywhere you have an Internet connection was a huge thing," he adds. "I think that some things are just easier to manage in the cloud."
Resource management -- some things are just easier to manage in the cloud.
Horton also likes the fact that Market7 is responsive to his and his customers' needs. "[CEO] Seth [Kenvin] picks up the phone, and even on the weekend, he's helped me with issues," he says. "Once an end user was having problems and didn't reach out to me but used the feedback link on the Market7 website, and Seth jumped in and took care of it. He got to it before I did...and that was fantastic."
Even so, cloud-based services are still met with skepticism by many media and entertainment outlets and BET Networks is no exception. "People aren't thrilled about hosting content in the cloud," admits Horton. "They want to own the equipment and be able to turn it off. I think we've made an exception because we realized that it would be faster for us to do this and would be a much more involved process to do it some other way. This way, we can also charge this back to the individual shows, rather than me using capital to solve the problem."
Security is always a concern in content creation companies. Although Market7 doesn't permit users to download video, Horton says the company has done its own due diligence by watermarking everything. He says he'd "love to see an adaptive watermarking based on peoples' log-in."
That's exactly what Market7 is working on. "We haven't turned it on commercially," says Kenvin. "But we've been doing a lot of work, including some field usage by users, to create watermarks that become part of the video, set by an account basis or by a project or file basis."
The Annotative Player module allows for communication within the video.
"In addition to watermarks based on the upload of the file, we've started a technique we showed at NAB 2012 that showed watermarking based on the play session," he adds. "It shows your log-in identity and the time and date on top of the video itself, so it's accountability based on your play."
This kind of quick adaptability is one of the hallmarks of a SaaS solution, he points out. "It liberates the customer from responsibility for housing and managing the software code," Kenvin says. "You don't have to deal with your own efforts or an IT department to load and maintain the assets on a server. Because you're accessing them on our server, we can work with you on what you want."
Seth Kenvin, CEO of Market7
Market7 also releases new code once or twice a month, to improve the service and be responsive to customer demands. "You don't have to do anything," Kenvin says. "The software and the ubiquitous access become organic. We can assure your access to the full set of functionality and current version of content no matter where you are, as long as you're online."
Flexibility is another hallmark of Market7's SaaS paradigm. "You don't have to outlay tens of thousands of dollars plus invest up front in a big configuration effort that you're not sure will work," he says. "You can be productive immediately and figure out how it works for you. And you can scale up or down."
Market7 was launched in 2007 and went commercial by the end of 2008. The company initially made a splash among users who were new to video production. "My personal idea was that video production would be broadly on the rise," says Kenvin, who had been working in the video technology space at the time. "As it became more accessible, it was likely that more organizations would be making video. And I saw there was a lot less clarity. There were a lot of aspects of the production practice that were exotic, and we tried to make it more efficient."
Although Market7 grew quickly in corporations' creative divisions, prosumers and boutique/indie production companies, the company quickly found, however, that their toolset for collaborative production also resonated with the more established media production community. In addition to being in use at about a dozen Fortune 500 companies, Market7 is also a tool at Google, Vuguru
and independent production companies like Bars & Tone
and Storyfarm New Media
"It's a well worn notion in the corporate space that Hollywood is challenging, fickle and a difficult master to service," Kenvin concludes. "But my theory, born out by what I've observed, is that every so often people realize they're stuck in technology from a decade or two ago, and there's a sudden catch-up."
Market7 wants to be part of that catch-up, and Kenvin is spot on that browser-based and cloud-based services are the wave of the future. How far this particular company will go in capturing the Hollywood industry is anyone's guess, but the adoption by BET Networks shows that the interest is gaining momentum.