Many people don’t know any better: watching video on your mobile or your computer virtually feels the same as watching television. Videos load quickly and don’t get stuck. That was not always the case. In 2006/2007 on-demand video was still in its infancy. Jeroen Wijering was still studying back then and decided to build his own system: the JW Player, based on Flash. The JW Player is used by many large media companies. “NOS, Talpa, RTL, NRC, de Persgroep and PSV are all customers here in the Netherlands.”
After graduation, Wijering decided to professionalize his idea, which at the time was highly succesful. He established the company with the help of two American business partners. JW Player was founded in Eindhoven and now has offices in New York, Singapore, London and a development division in Eindhoven. The company has a total of more than 200 employees. “It has grown slowly, from the video player to broadcasting. Encoding video and worldwide distribution. Nowadays we work on a lot of data-related issues: making recommendations on the basis of content and video transcriptions.”
“Nothing more than a mere logo.”
Major clients see that many of their users view things primarily on their mobile devices. “Then we’re talking about three-quarters who use a mobile. You also see that broadcasters must move towards the internet, because when it comes to broadcasting, revenue and reach are onthe decline. In my opinion, the average age for the top 10 public service broadcasters is currently 54 years old. You can see it coming: everything is moving towards the Internet, towards digital.”
This may sound logical and rather simple, but in practice it takes a lot of time and effort. In general, you can’t copy and paste a television programme onto the Internet, because interaction takes place differently there. People do not watch for as long. “We are really focusing on the development of the system, and what comes before and after it. On the user experience, so as to ensure that you are able to compete with Netflix and YouTube on those terms. This includes buffering, smooth play, speed. The film that follows should also be relevant.”
The JW Player is a godsend for media companies. If they put their content on YouTube, they are giving away a lot: advertising revenue, data and their users. “Basically, you’re nothing more than a mere logo.” The JW Player is still open source in principle. “When I started, my player was subject to an open source license and that still applies. At the company we work together with many other companies on industry standards: encoding standards, distribution standards, advertising standards. So as to make it all a little more open and manageable. There’s definitely a passion for that. Which also plays a role when it comes to recruitment policy. You see a lot of programmers working on Github projects, open source. Then they find us and think it’s interesting.” This makes the JW Player an attractive employer.
“Don’t cut or chuck.”
In terms of trends and developments, JW Player knows exactly what’s going on. Video is linear, this model continues to work well. Viewing time is on the rise. Video quality doesn’t have to be excellent, but good sound is extremely important. Watching video without sound is also gaining in popularity, so the provision of automated subtitles is becoming very important. Illegal ripping of video is on the decline.
JW Player is focused on two important areas: compression and fast loading by anticipating what the viewer wants to watch after a film. “We are also really busy with the extraction of data from video and using that data to improve the viewing experience. Think in terms of recommendations. One of the things we’re also doing is analyzing video, seeing where the shot breaks are, where subjects change over, so that you can place an advertisement in the middle instead of at the beginning.”
As far as business is concerned, things are also moving in the right direction. After having raised around 70 million in investment capital, divided over six different meetings, major profitability is now really in sight. Up until now, offers to divest the company have been rejected by Wijering. “So far, it has been great to be independent and be your own boss. But at some point, a sale could take place. We’re always in discussions. We have had several serious offers, however we have always want too much and they have always offered too little. Plans for the future are also important: what happens to our staff or our customers? That’s a big thing when someone says: we want to turn this ship around and make it a YouTube competitor. It’s something we really don’t want. And exactly why all our customers are still with us: so that won’t happen. It should not be cut or chucked out.”