Hosting Talk: When ‘Progressive’ Isn’t Quite Enough

Steven Daris

While the adult entertainment industry has long enjoyed a reputation for being “tech-forward,” it’s surprising to see so many top adult content sites relying on progressive download, a video delivery method long denounced by the likes of YouTube and Netflix. Progressive download not only dramatically inhibits a pleasurable viewer experience (want to fast forward to the money shot? Sorry, you can’t!) but it also significantly affects your bottom line.

Adaptive bitrate streaming is the new buzz term and is the recommended alternative to antiquated delivery methods. But it’s common for content owners to believe offering this kind of viewing experience is beyond their financial and technical scope – a conversation I keep having with colleagues both in and out of adult. Quite simply, it’s not.

Files transferred by way of adaptive streaming also present a far more difficult target for online content pirates, who tend to gravitate to sites that offer downloadable full-length scenes.

There are some industry leaders who have considered and embraced adaptive bit rate streaming – but it’s important to recognize the differences between it and progressive download. You might find that your videos aren’t playing via true streaming technology.

You can recognize a progressive download instantly. If you see the play bar loading in chunks (no matter how fast or slow), it’s progressive. This means your, the viewer’s, computer is downloading the video file onto your desktop, wasting time and bandwidth while enabling content sharing and piracy. There is a core user population that prefers progressive downloading primarily due to the fact that they’re left with a local copy of the video on their hard drive. Plus, progressive download won’t let you skip to the good part until it’s ready.

Adaptive streaming is the approach of choice for mainstream heavyweights like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube, meaning that it is increasingly the method that end users are accustomed to – and ultimately will expect from any video-focused site or service. In this day and age, with the reliability, response and quality of streaming media – and the ever-increasing amount of mobile device use on the consumer end – larger, high-definition videos chew up drive space much more quickly than did the compressed, short-run video clips of yesteryear.

Files transferred by way of adaptive streaming also present a far more difficult target for online content pirates, who tend to gravitate to sites that offer downloadable full-length scenes. Obviously, the ability to easily download and save a file also affords users an easy way to redistribute your content on tube sites, file lockers and other common sources of pirated content. For an industry in which many site owners and content producers identify piracy as the No. 1 problem facing the industry, it’s incredible that so many site operators haven’t addressed the obvious vulnerability that downloadable files present. It’s like complaining that your house keeps getting broken when you leave your front door wide open.

Since adaptive bitrate streaming consumes bandwidth only for the portion of the video that the user watches, as opposed to delivering the entire file, it substantially reduces bandwidth cost on top of its benefits as a deterrent to piracy and file-sharing. This is particularly true with respect to adult videos, as it is well-established that adult video viewers often skip forward and back regularly as they watch, bypassing portions of scenes or sex acts that don’t interest them – or leaping forward to the so-called “money shot.” Some users will fire up a full scene, but watch only a minute or two before moving on, an incredible waste of resources (and money) when watched via progressive download.

Companies typically consider adaptive bitrate streaming to be far more complex technology than a lot of adult site operators (and hosting services, for that matter) are used to, and I find that business owners are hesitant to commit to something they perceive as expensive and potentially complicated. These concerns, while reasonable on their face, are simply outdated and moot at this point.

Offering a Netflix experience is now possible no matter where you host thanks to software we’ve created that can be implemented into any existing hosting plan. Called Media Commander, this program is a user-friendly and convenient means of making the leap from progressive downloading to adaptive bitrate. It’s “copy and paste” approach lets site operators publish content in a format that supports JWPlayer, FlowPlayer, Silverlight and more. And with real-time reporting, advanced security features, and industry-wide CMS compatibility, Media Commander can truly change the way you run your websites.

So at this point – especially with products like Media Commander on the market – there’s no excuse for progressive download to be an industry norm. If you operate video-heavy sites and haven’t made the switch, the iron is hot. After all, the market won’t wait for you to come on board. It’ll keep on rolling, as it historically does, and you certainly don’t want to be left behind.

Steven Daris is CEO and co-founder of Red Apple Media (RedAppleMedia.com), a managed hosting, ecommerce and video streaming solutions provider.