Building a Social Media ‘Bullhorn’

Establishing and maintaining a social-media presence has quickly become a critical tool for TV networks and professional sports leagues, as consumers turn to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay plugged in near-real time.

To keep those followers and friends up to speed, networks and leagues have been retooling with new and different technologies that pair text with rich media, including video clips and the ever-popular “GIF” — the bandwidth-friendly Graphics Interchange Format that supports animated and static images. But the process of obtaining such content, packaging it and distributing it to the masses can be a challenge.

One company that has benefitted from these market conditions is SnapStream, a maker of hardware appliances and their underlying software glue. SnapStream’s technology enables its partners to quickly develop and generate content that can be rapidly placed into the social-media pipeline.

Billing itself as a “DVR for business,” SnapStream’s platform ingests video signals (via terrestrial satellite, antenna or direct wireline), records them, and then indexes that content with closed-captioning data.

Taking that to the next level, SnapStream also uses special algorithms to fine-tune the data to boost search capabilities, making a show’s transcript “more usable,” CEO and founder Rakesh Agrawal said.

Once a programmer has found something it wants to share, SnapStream’s software uses a one-click format to build the clip or GIF (including the ability to overlay it with text) and pass it along to the social networks.

For example, that’s how producers of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah can quickly search each nightly episode for individual clips to share via its various social-media accounts. (The late-night show has 3.91 million Twitter followers and more than 5 million Facebook “likes.”)

“TV search is our big thing,” Agrawal said, noting that television has become a big area of expansion for the eight-year-old company. “With Facebook and Twitter links, you can do some pretty awesome things.”

But in the world of social media, speed is key, and legacy processes, such as getting an engineer to assemble the video assets, tends to take 30 minutes to an hour to complete, Agrawal said.

Using SnapStream, a company’s marketing or social-media specialist can accomplish such a task “almost immediately,” Agarwal said. “That’s important, because this activity on Facebook and Twitter around television is happening almost in real time, ad that’s when you’ll get the maximum retweets and shares.”

And it all ties into a key goal: “To use consumers as your bullhorn,” Agarwal said.

SnapStream’s approach has helped it gain footholds with clients spanning different parts of the media landscape. In addition to a recent deal with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, its client list includes the United Center in Chicago (home to the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks); Major League Soccer; ESPN; MLB Network; CBS; NBCUniversal (The Soup, Crazy Talk); Inside Edition; Access Hollywood; Extra; Sirius XM Radio; iHeartRadio; and Premiere Radio Networks.

SnapStream is also seeing pickup from the political world as campaigns and news outlets tap into the technology to deliver content or live-tweet candidate debates.

SnapStream’s business model leans on the sales of appliances and the underlying service. Its least-expensive product, Snap-Stream Express, starts at $500 upfront, plus $100 per month, and lets users record two channels at a time. Its higher-end enterprise systems can record six or 10 channels and start at $10,000 and up to $50,000.

On the competitive front, SnapStream tries to stand apart with its TV-search capabilities, but does occasionally have to win deals with media companies that have leaned on banks of TiVos or MSO-supplied DVRs.

Volicon is technically a competitor, though it’s mostly known for video-quality assurance and verification. WhipClip is more of a consumer-facing platform that touts such TV partners as ABC, CBS, Fox, Turner Broadcasting System, Viacom and A+E Networks.