4 things to consider when designing your video platform

To Middleware or not to Middleware?

A question that is commonly asked of us is “are you a middleware?”. That question is best answered by you, not ourselves. A middleware is a technology solution that allows you to build apps and integrations in a consistent way, often removing or moving the limitations inherent in your various technology solutions.

With that in mind, because Skylark is a fully read/write API, it is possible to surround it with integrations, and then build applications using solely the Skylark API. Our API allows you to use field filtering to create efficient client-friendly calls, and many customers have had success in working with this way. In other words, Skylark is the middleware for these customers.

However, you might be opinionated about how your frontend applications communicate with other services, and how you combine data from a number of solutions before it reaches the frontend.

From our point of view, we want to be a platform that supports this level of and we support customers who build middleware to sit between frontends, Skylark, and other integrations to form a business-logic layer of your own creation. Maybe you even have a clever caching layer you want to run.

Taking this approach, your software is the middleware, and Skylark is just another integration.

Skylark API is capable of returning data in bulk, paginated queries, and can be used as a data store to be interrogated and fetched in a way that your Middleware prefers.

It is possible to progressively introduce more middleware over time if your business needs evolve, or conversely reduce your reliance on middleware by introducing Skylark to carry out more functions over time.

The important thing to understand is that you are in control of what you use as your middleware, and what its role is.

Building Integrations

Every video platform has integrations, even when they seem simple and self-contained. Video encoding, video streaming, CDNs, licence servers, payment, merchandising - all these things are common requirements for video platforms.

Our approach is to support integrations with any system that has an API, but to create shortcuts where possible with common partners. 

Your first consideration should be to look at how much control you want over integrations, and how much you are happy with following a ‘standard’ others have set. The more control you want, the more custom your integrations will be, which may pay-off in the long run for you, but have higher costs in development.

Skylark has pre-built integrations with a number of partners and can fast-track you in areas such as video-streaming without you needing to get involved in additional overheads and complexities. We acknowledge in some areas such as payment, and merchandising, that integrations are more often than not better delivered as part of a frontend solution, as they are highly specific to the UX being achieved.

If you’re particularly opinionated about what integrations you want to use, Skylark API is fully read-write, and you have the capability to choose how and where you integrate to make your platform meet your specific needs.

Using a MAM or not?

If you are using a MAM, you may want to keep it to support other systems, or because it’s simply the right solution for you to manage content. 

A common issue in video is that MAMs and other more traditional broadcast orientated systems often assume that content will be displayed in a certain way, but have been conceived long before the web/app/OTT product. This can lead to content descriptions being sub-optimal and leading to poor customer experiences.

Because of this, app and web editors find themselves needing to update metadata that originated in a MAM so that it displays correctly in new products, or even to maximise engagement through better and clearer titling and describing of content. 

For some use cases, Skylark can act as a MAM itself, but where there is a MAM to work with, Skylark can work as a complementary system. This approach allows editors to enhance metadata and imagery to make it more suitable for your frontend applications. When these changes are made, they do not ‘overwrite’ MAM data and it is easy for editors to revert content to what was originally ingested.

Whilst Skylark’s Classic CMS has the capabilities to create and manage content, you are completely free to continue to use your own MAM as your source of truth, and use Skylark as a system to manage your catalogue of content for OTT distribution purposes.

We can ingest your metadata either through your own integration, or by helping you build an integration with your chosen MAM. Skylark was built from the outset to be adaptable, easy to integrate different ingest workflows with, and doesn’t mind what format your metadata is in. It is an open JSON API, so you can use any language to build your ingestor.

You can adapt it to our predefined entertainment data format if you like - or you can run a fully customised Skylark API with models to suit your exact needs.

Where will you go in the future?

It is easy to become focused on the launch of your video platform to the point where you forget about the wider needs your user-facing video product will have over time. As your business matures, you’ll find new opportunities and challenges. 

Suddenly it may make sense for you to expand to new regions, yet not all your content will be licensed for these regions. You’ll need to restrict who can see this content, but you won’t want to introduce more editorial overheads to do so, if you can help it. 

You might realise you can go live on a new platform such as Roku and grab a whole new audience, but again, you may not have the bandwidth to editorialise this separately, or some content might not be suitable and need filtering.

Any platform you build will eventually face these challenges. Managing these restrictions and opportunities to engage new audiences is something that can be solved in many ways with the right business logic and content modelling, but for us it’s a core part of a video solution.

Multi-dimensional availability is one of the most popular features of Skylark, but to make the most of it you need to think about the future, not just your first launch.

Will you be looking to control experiences in different applications over time? Make sure your apps tell Skylark what device type they are so that they can be targeted in the future.

Will you be expanding to other countries over time? Include geolocation data in your API calls to Skylark, so that when the time comes, you can target users in specific locations with certain content.

The more information your apps can send Skylark, the more Skylark can enable for editors in terms of localisation, personalisation, and automation around licensing.

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