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Blog What Exactly Does Real-Time Video Mean?

Dror Harel Jul 25, 2012 SVP Operations

We often talk about real-time video, but what exactly do we mean by that phrase? If a video is generated in real time, is that enough to qualify it as such? Technically speaking, yes. But that doesn’t really capture the true essence of real-time video.

Say for instance, we are creating 150,000 product showcase videos for a large ecommerce site. We can use a batch processing approach by generating all of these videos on a daily basis, storing all videos in a content delivery network (CDN), and delivering them to the end consumer as needed. We can also wait for a video to be asked for by the consumer, and generate it on the spot (versus pre-generated). Would these videos qualify as real-time video? I think not – the decision of whether the video is generated on the spot or ahead of time in this example is made by an IT function and an operational decision rather than a video content requirement, and therefore I wouldn’t count this example as one of real-time video.

In order to truly qualify as real-time, the video should include real-time content – content that is either “fresh” or that cannot be constructed or calculated ahead of time. Let’s look at a few examples to better understand the differences:

  • YES, Real-Time Video: If a video includes one narration at the opening scene on the first view, but a different narration at the same opening scene on the second view. For instance, the second viewing could open with “Welcome Back.” Here we need to get real-time information (such as from a cookie) in order to make a decision of which narration to use. This is therefore a real-time video.
  • NOT Real-Time Video: If a video describes monthly loyalty plan points, monthly bill statements, etc. Here the video includes a consumer’s specific data and is truly personalized, but it is not a real-time video. There is no content-related need to generate the videos in real time, as all the data is available before the actual view takes place. Note that in this case the videos would most likely be generated on the spot, but this is due to operational reasons – instead of generating many millions of videos for all subscribers, only the videos that are actually being asked for are generated. But again, there is no real-time content requirement, so the video does not truly qualify real time.

  • AT&T Real Time Video Bill

    YES, Real-Time Video: A video similar to the one above, for a monthly bill, but now this video includes information about your current payment due (see video bill example at right). Here it is critical that the video talks about the current payment due. For example, if the consumer pays the balance online, then immediately watches the video it should have a different narration such as “thank you for your recent payment.” This is real-time content.

    Real Time Video with Price Changes

  • YES, Real-Time Video: A product showcase video for an ecommerce site where the prices are very dynamic and change multiple times during the day (e.g. eBay, Amazon) at various hours, according to supply and demand, to competition prices, to stock levels, etc. Here you cannot realistically generate the videos ahead of time, as you’d be chasing the prices throughout the day. The price is therefore real-time content.
  • NOT Real-Time Video: An email confirmation video that describes your recent purchase and suggests relevant additional items is not real-time video because this video would be the same today and tomorrow.

    Office Depot Real Time Video Ads
  • YES, Real-Time Video: If the suggested, relevant additional items change over time according to the consumer’s browsing history, then that real-time data creates a real-time video. For instance in the Office Depot example at right, the customer has purchased printer paper and is then retargeted by a video ad recommending additional related items.

You get the picture: if I watch a video twice, two minutes apart, and I potentially get two different videos – this would be a real-time video. Otherwise it’s not.

Now that we understand what real-time video means, we should think about why we need to incorporate such real-time content in videos. The answer to that is rather simple – the more real-time, “fresh” content used in videos, the more the end consumer will feel the video “talks to him” and “understands her.” This is key in order to strengthen customer engagement.