Video Player Functionality: Are Companies Putting Functionality Over Content?

Break_logo_2
About a week ago, Break.com launched a new video player with some interesting capabilities that I have not seen on many other sites. These user controlled capabilities include TV-style picture controls that let you change brightness and colors of the video, a click and drag option to make the video window any size you want, electronic picture guide within the player and some other additional functionality. You can see a demo of the new player here.

While additional player functionality and customizable options are always cool to have, my real question for Break.com was how this would translate into additional revenue for the company. As anyone who knows me has heard me say over and over again, "technology means nothing unless it moves your business forward". The answers I got back from Break.com on how this would help their business makes sense, but I think in some part, many sites are focusing too much time on their player and its controls instead of the content being shown in the player itself.

For Break.com they said the new player functionality is important as they are using it to hopefully help drive more consumption. When someone e-mails a link to a video, Break.com is hoping that the enhanced player will keep the user at the site and turn that visit into multiple video views, which for them equals more advertising dollars. Allowing the user to browser other videos while continuing to watch the
current channel, hence the electronic picture guide option, also is a very important tactic for them and is what drove the creation of their guide.

Break.com also feels that to retain users, they need to have a differeniation in the market for their player. They say as the technology of web video delivery becomes increasingly
commoditized, the barriers to entry have gotten lower. In light of
that, creating a differentiated, hard-to-duplicate suite of features
that users want becomes important to them. In their research, the one thing users
value most is control over the playback experience… every facet of
it, hence the TV-style controls with resizing, slow-motion, brightness,
etc… Break.com also said that being focused on the 18-35 male demo has distinguished them to date, and they feel that in order to defend and grow within that demo requires a
differentiated and superior playback experience. Some of Break.com’s members would agree and some wouldn’t. Based on the feedback to the new Break.com player, it looks pretty even with half of the comments saying they like the new player and the other half saying the older player was just fine. A few commented that the volume and assortment of video content should be the focus, not the player.

Break.com is like most sites when it comes to the functionality of their player, constantly trying to improve on the user experience and give that user as much control as possible. However, I think users are more focused on the type and quality of the content rather than the player. We have seen before that consumers are looking for specific video content and are searching for content based on interest, not based on which site has the best player. I think the content has to drive the technology, not the other way around. Having a lot of control over the video playback is nice, but I’d rather go to a site that has the content I want and has fewer player controls.

For me, I just want a player that has volume and pause options. Even full-screen is a waste as far as I am concerned unless the video is encoded at 500Kbps or more, otherwise it’s just too pixelated. Yes, TV style controls may be nice, but I don’t think I’ve ever changed the contrast on my TV at home, let alone via videos on the web.

  • Lisa L

    This player is a bit heavy-handed, to put it mildly. It takes over the cursor, and also seems to run very slowly. I agree that they tried too hard here, adding too many bells and whistles. Concentrate on the content, image quality, and usability, rather than adding everything but the kitchen sink to your player.

  • Julian

    I actually think the player is quite innovative and, most importantly, useful. Under this article’s logic, there’d be no use for Tivo (all I want is to watch a show… what’s with all the recording, etc.)
    Bravo to Break for the drag-to-stretch. It’s bloody brilliant…

  • Jessie T.

    They’re both important. Media and technology. I see that Youtube is testing some new functionality in their embed player, so seems as they are both on the same track. It’s true that some people just want a cell phone to make calls. So why do people care about Blackberrys and iPhones? Because some people want more.