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On or off the shelf?

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Can the cookie cutter model work for VOD products?

Ostmodern have worked on high profile Video on Demand products since there has been such a thing. As a result, we’ve witnessed a wide variety of approaches to solving the challenge of creating mid-budget, cross-platform VoD platforms.

From fully bespoke builds, to reskinned white labels and all the variations in between, we have however yet to see a model that works satisfactorily in resolving all 3 of the following critical areas:

  1. The product needs to offer the client a solution they can live with and afford to manage over time
  2. The product needs to provide end-users with a first class experience at launch and beyond
  3. The white-label owner or design/build partner needs to have a successful and sustained ongoing partnership with the product client (commercial and strategic)

From observation, we’ve found it highly unusual for as many as two of these requirements to be satisfied on the same project. Over the last eight years, we’ve never seen all three successfully resolved.

In our experience, this is because the areas which are of most value to the client are not the areas that the provider’s commercial model is focused upon. This results in a client who requires one thing and a platform provider who is trying to make them pay for something else.

By way of example, we regularly come up against the following scenarios:

  • A company needs a VoD product with a bespoke customer experience, comprising of unique features and design, in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, the white-label platform provider they have chosen needs all of their clients to deviate very little from a standardised design and feature set
  • A start-up wants to licence a cheap VoD platform from a white-label provider and then use a specialist design agency to customise the product in order to make it more suitable for their needs. However, the motivation behind a white-label provider offering the product cheaply in the first place, is to tie the start-up into using the provider’s own bespoke services team in the long-term.
  • A client needs a roadmap that is specific to them, allowing them to shape the product to their business objectives and remain adaptable to future strategy changes. However, a white-label provider wants a single shared product backlog across all their client implementations; only building things that will be useful to all their clients.

As a company that has made our name by providing world class bespoke design, our interests are often aligned much more with the clients of white-label providers than with the providers themselves. Subsequently, we often share in their frustrations at the shortcomings of existing models of engagement.

From our perspective, we regard this standard white-label model as unsustainable in the long term. The notion of paying a company who is more interested in the success of their white-label than their client’s end product is a fundamental conflict of interest. This is particularly the case in an increasingly competitive marketplace such as VoD, where uniqueness of experience is the very thing through which companies look to gain a competitive advantage.

Borne out of these frustrations, we’ve recently started to explore how new approaches to client engagement and product development can begin to make things a win-win for all parties. As part of this, we’ve been seeking to resolve the following objectives:

  1. Allow the design of products that are strategically tailored to our clients needs, through implementing reusable building blocks which make it economically achievable to implement.
  2. Create products that give clients the level of control they desire, allowing them to manage their end-products effectively and affordably day-to-day, without being dependent on us.
  3. Promote an ongoing strategic partnership with clients and their products where we are paid to provide the services which have maximum impact on the success of their product.
  4. Offer a product architecture that allows for a high degree of flexibility in incorporating components, therefore making the most of existing technologies, rather than building from scratch.

With this in mind, we’re working with some of our clients at the moment to explore how these objectives can be resolved in a way which makes the business and operational engagement around projects better for everyone. At this stage, we don’t yet have a final blueprint for a new way of working, but we definitely think we’re on to something and we’ll be sharing our thoughts and learnings as we go. Watch this space!

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Contact hello@ostmodern.co.uk or
call us on +44 (0)203 215 0041