This article is intended for those who want to host and sell video content online to customers who pay to see your content. Online video selling is potentially lucrative if you have content that is highly desirable, but it's also potentially risky because it is very easy for somebody to duplicate your content and compete with you.
The more exclusive your content is, the more you'll need to protect it, but the truth is you can't really protect video any more. The movie industry has practically stopped trying to use physical copy protection mechanisms because they simply don't work, and they introduce additional problems for legitimate consumers. Instead they try to make an appeal to people's better nature that they won't copy and distribute the works. A quick Google search for any major movie title will quickly reveal how utterly this approach has also failed. The bottom line, then, is that you can't stop people duplicating and distributing your content if they want to. It's against the law of course, but that doesn't seem to matter any more.
If that sounds utterly discouraging, then you've probably missed the point of how to make a successful video hosting business. It's really quite simple, because you just need to do three things:
- Host exclusive content
- Host quality content
- Host a lot of content
Naturally you then consolidate these three things into a single thing to get the one true key to online video hosting success:
- Host a lot of exclusive high quality content
Of course it's not entirely as simple as that. Video is not cheap to produce (if you do it properly) and it's not cheap to host either. Therefore you have to make good decisions right from the outset. With the advice that follows, we'll try to help you make the best decisions so you have the best chance of succeeding.
1. Decide which sales model you're going to use
The choices are fairly simple here:
- Pay-per-view streaming
- Downloadable content
- Combination of the above
Using PPV streaming means only those users who really seriously want to rip your content will do it, because it's actually quite a pain to rip streaming video. It can still be done though, so don't believe for a moment that it's inherently more secure than downloadable video. Of course with downloadable video anyone can copy and distribute the resulting files, so that's definitely not secure at all. But like we said at the beginning, forget about security, it's not something you can manage.
For the users, streamed content is not as good as downloadable content. They still consume the same amount of bandwidth, but they're forced to watch the content in a particular session and not at leisure. Technical glitches, disconnection, and other problems can really affect performance, and of course the majority of internet users have download limits imposed on them by their service providers and if shaping hits in the middle of a video stream, it will have a greater impact than if the user was downloading the file. There are literally hundreds of applications available that allow users to download streamed content, but not all users know about this or are able to use it properly.
A combination approach gives users a choice of downloading the file or watching a video stream. The right choice depends quite a bit on the type of content and the length of it. In general, the longer a clip is, the more suitable it is for downloading than streaming. Breaking long videos into “chapters” can overcome this problem.
2. Decide who is going to host the video
If you're going to host the video yourself, you'll need your own network of high speed dedicated servers. A more economical way to do it is to use a PPV video hosting service. There are plenty of these available and they can be found with a simple Google search.
Try to get a service that charges a percentage of your revenue rather than charging you a flat monthly fee, because:
- If you pay a flat fee, the host has no vested interest in securing your content
- If you pay a flat fee, you pay even if nobody watches your video
- If you pay a flat fee, it puts more pressure on you
- More pressure on you means you'll probably spend more to attract viewers
- If you spend more to attract viewers and you fail, you lose twice over
When you pay to attract viewers and there is no flat fee, the service provider taking a percentage of the PPV fee instead, all the money you spend to attract viewers is working for you, not merely a means of catching up on your existing costs.
For downloadable video where there is no streaming, any host will do, but you need a high bandwidth plan to cope with all the downloads, or you need the actual downloadable file to be hosted on a file sharing service and just have the link available through your payment gateway. This is potentially more troublesome for you as there's nothing to stop somebody from sharing the download link with others once you've published it. If you host the file on your own server, however, you can use automation to change the download link every time it is accessed.
3. Decide how customers will pay for the service
Are you charging a one-off fee for a single viewing or download? Or are you going to create memberships where customers can view and download videos whenever they want if they've paid their membership fee? There are plenty of businesses who have made a success of both approaches. Once you've decided which revenue model to apply, you'll then need to create some way for the user to pay for it.
This is where it gets very important. You need to make sure you design a flawless payment gateway that is very easy to use and preferably offers the maximum number of ways to pay (Neteller, PayPal, Credit Card, bags of gold strapped to the back of a burro, etc). If you're hosting on a PPV service, this is probably already taken care of for you, but here you'll want to choose a service that offers the most ways for customers to pay, as if the only option is credit card, you'll lose a lot of potential customers.
4. Optionally provide previews
Previews should be hosted externally, either on a Google Drive, on YouTube, Vimeo, or another video hosting service. Previews and trailers can significantly increase the chance that people will pay to see your content, provided that it's good content and you design the preview or trailer well. If you host previews on YouTube, you'll get maximum exposure, but you'll also have users distracted at the end of your movie with ads for other movies that they “might be interested in”. Hosting on Google Drive has all the advantages of hosting on YouTube except you can't use annotations and all that other stuff that is on YouTube. Vimeo is popular but the player isn't as user-friendly as Google's version, and it's mainly intended for hi-res video.
header image courtesy of splitshire.com