The face of television has completely changed, and SnapStream is one of the companies that's helping buisnesses and organizations take advantage of this fact. Founded in 2000, SnapStream is a Houston-based software company focused on solving “TV search” problems worldwide. You can record, search, archive and clip limitless TV right from your Mac or PC using SnapStream's TV search technology. The company just released the 6.1 version of SnapStream which features new language intelligence that enables SnapStream to deliver the most relevant TV search results in the fewest searches, new TV playlist function for sequenced playback of multiple pieces of content, and much more.
I talked with Aaron Thompson, president of SnapStream, to establish how SnapStream can make life easier for businesses and organizations that deal with TV content. Thompson oversees the day-to-day operations at SnapStream and ensures that everyone at SnapStream is empowered to succeed.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us about your career and how you became involved with SnapStream.
Aaron Thompson: Fresh out of college, I knew I wanted to design PC hardware for a living. I landed my dream job designing high-end workstation computers at Compaq. Within a year, I knew that hardware design wasn’t my passion. I really enjoyed playing in the lab, but in reality it was just kinda cool.
This was around the Internet bubble, so I figured I’d try my hand at software development. Startups were throwing money all over anyone that called himself or herself a Java Developer. Although I had worked for a small software startup as well as a large software company, I still wasn’t finding my place.
In 2003, I saw a job posting for SnapStream and immediately got excited. Back then, SnapStream wrote software that turned your PC into a DVR. I applied, got hired and started working as a software engineer on Beyond TV (which was called Personal Video Station at the time). Lots of late-night release “parties”. Lots of pranks. Lots of Halo. Lots of learning. Lots of coding. Dare I say, it was fun?
In 2008, under the technical leadership of our current Director of Engineering, Jason Baumeister, our team took that prototype and turned it into an elegant, yet sophisticated solution for monitoring television. This enterprise solution is what we still sell today (although it has gone through several revisions and upgrades since 2008).
After the first version of the rewritten solution was released, our CEO, Rakesh Agrawal, asked me to step into a succession of leadership roles that led to my current position of President.
You spent over 5 years on SnapStream’s Development Team…how has that impacted the way you approach things in the long and short term?
My software engineering experience enables me to fully understand the product we make, of what it’s capable, and how it works. But most importantly, it helps me envision what it can be, what it should be, what it will be and how we’ll get there. I carry that understanding and insight into every conversation and meeting. It helps me approach the opportunities we face with a deep understanding of how our product travels from developers’ minds, to whiteboards, and finally into the customers’ hands.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us what SnapStream does and why it’s useful?
SnapStream makes TV Search technology for businesses and organizations that want to record and search massive amounts of television. Think of a massive DVR with a simple and intuitive search interface sprinkled on top.
Award-winning late night comedy shows and news shows use SnapStream to record and archive television, then they use it to search for relevant television clips for research and/or for use on their shows.
Government PIOs and political parties use SnapStream to monitor what’s being said about their organizations and their opposing organizations. From the content they gather, they can choose to react, respond, or just keep record.
Schools use SnapStream to deliver television content to the classroom faster and more efficiently than ever before. Top-tier journalism schools use it in their classrooms to analyze how different news outlets handle breaking news and how students leverage the content in their research projects.
What kind of impact does TV Monitoring technology have on a company or organization?
TV monitoring technology allows businesses and organizations to leverage the power of computing to do the dirty work of sifting through hours of television to find relevant/important content. It turns what was a very manual, time-consuming job into one that is hands-off and easily accessible so organizations and their employees can focus on their business.
You don’t need a full-time employee sitting in a room filled with stacks of VCR tapes, anymore. With TV monitoring technology you can set up alerts for keywords, use the built-in search engine to discover content on TV the same way you would the internet, and store hundreds of hours on a server instead of tapes or CDs. This leads to cost savings, increased monitoring coverage, and a level playing field for small businesses, local political candidates, new TV shows, small city governments, etc.
Why can’t these companies just go to YouTube or pull clips off other websites?
Television content doesn’t last very long on YouTube and most websites. The only exception would be the actual content owner’s website. Even then, our customers would be forced to use screen-scraping software or other dubious means to obtain the videos. Not to mention the legalities of reproduction and the low quality of many of the clips you find online.
Tell us what’s different about the just released SnapStream version 6.1.
Some of the most exciting changes in 6.1 are our new search enhancements. For example, we added suffix searching that automatically displays results for campaigned, campaigning, and campaigns when you search for campaign. We also added synonym matching that shows results for large when you search for big. In addition, now we apply spelling correction and improved capitalization to the incoming closed captions. All of these search enhancements, and more, combine to make our TV Search more powerful and productive.
We increased the flexibility of our workflow engine to make it easier than ever to integrate SnapStream into your video production, television monitoring and business workflows.
We made it easier to manage conflicting recordings for those times when you need to record more than your capacity.
We added playlist playback functionality so that clips can be viewed in sequence to streamline your workflow, whether from your desktop computer or using a projector to give a presentation.
We improved our cloud sharing technology for video clips and improved our iPad app.
The list goes on and on. Our engineers are very prolific.
What kind of feedback have you gotten internally and from your clients around this version?
Internally, we’re extremely excited! Especially since search is one of our core features and we’ve made it even easier to use, faster, and overall better for our clients. This version was a lot of hard work, but as always, a lot of fun!
We try to stay in constant communication with our customers so we best understand their needs and wants and can better serve other companies with similar needs. Like all of our releases, we always keep in mind the requests we’ve heard so we can incorporate the biggest priority items. For example, many of our customers requested new features and improvements around workflow/video sharing and post-processing, which we were able to include in this release. The feedback we’ve heard is that users are very happy with these changes…so I think we must be doing things right!
Aside from that, we’ve gotten positive feedback about the ability to play back multiple videos simultaneously in one viewer. Some clients needed to compare videos for various reasons. In previous SnapStream versions there was a lot of jumping back and forth in the browser window. This wasn’t a problem, per se, but once we introduced the multi-video playback we heard a big sigh of relief from those clients. That’s always a good feeling to know you’ve made someone’s job easier.
We’ve also heard a lot of positive feedback about the new ability to organize videos into playlists. Our users really like how intuitive this feature is and have found many different uses for it — from review meetings to brainstorming sessions. In fact, we've already got some pretty interesting requests about richer options with that feature that we're excited about working on.
Where can we go to learn more?
For detailed information on our television monitoring technology, industries we serve, products we offer, etc. you can go to www.snapstream.com.
For a description and list of all the new enhancements of 6.1, you can read the 6.1 blog article.
Or for more specific questions, or to schedule a demo, you can call us at 1 (877) 762-7787 or fill out a simple online request form.