What Does "End-To-End" Really Mean?

There is a barrage of marketing messages filled with claims of “end-to-end solutions” designed to help make your business successful. In a complex content ecosystem, everyone claims to be “end-to-end,” but what does this really mean to you and your business?

Dictionary.com defines “end-to-end” as “a term that suggests that the supplier of an application program or system will provide all the hardware and/or software components and resources to meet the customer's requirement and no other supplier need be involved.” One look will tell you that this does not tell the entire story. “End-to-End” solutions come in many flavors.

In one variation, there are solutions that take you from beginning to end of a portion of the workflow. For example, some on demand providers can take your assets, add metadata, transcode them and send them out to distributors. This is “end-to-end” for the video on demand (VOD) portion of the content lifecycle, but does not address preparing or delivering these same assets for online video. In this scenario, it is up to you to find the next vendor who can convert these assets into multiple bit rates and package for multiple devices. And, it is often up to you to negotiate with and manage the second vendor as well as collect and provide the same files from the previous step in the process to the new vendor. Not really “end-to-end” in a multiplatform world is it?

Other providers offer “end-to-end” solutions that are really a patchwork of multiple partners and hand-offs. One specializes in a portion of the content workflow, such as linear acquisition, enhancement or transcoding. Once completed, they hand the files over to another vendor for transformation into various bit rates another for delivery. This happens “under the covers,” meaning you deal only with the primary vendor, but in reality your content changes hands many times. The problem with this model is that while you are only dealing with a single vendor, you are paying premiums for each vendor in the chain and losing time to market with each handoff.

By definition, an “end-to-end” solution encompasses the entire content workflow, from acquisition and capture to delivery and playout, using a single integrated platform and vendor. This holistic approach to content acquisition, media management, and distribution offers advantages over other variations of the end-to-end concept.

First, you get to work with a single vendor to take your content from linear broadcast to VOD and online streaming or replay. With the acquisition of single asset, the vendor can transcode, encode, and package the asset, and deliver it to multiple platforms. This single source approach simplifies workflows and reduces failure potential by keeping the asset in an integrated solution from acquisition to distribution.

Second, you can decrease operational labor and costs. When you deal with multiple vendors (or even a single vendor who is passing your assets to partners), the management of the process becomes more complicated. You may need several people to deliver and QC content, along with people to manage the project and handle the bill. Working with a true “end-to-end” provider gives you a single point of contact, thereby reducing the amount of staff needed to ensure content makes it through the entire lifecycle in top quality. Clearly, this approach results in quicker turns and faster time to market.

So next time you see “end-to-end,” don’t just skim right over it and say, “yeah, everyone is end-to-end.” Think about what this really means and whether it matters to your business. If it does, you may want to dig a little further into how the company interprets this buzzword. Are the vendors promising this approach helping you carry your content through the entire process or putting a marketing bow on a complex problem?