What Is the Role of API-First in Video Architecture?

Video streaming is becoming a must-have for compelling apps in browsers, apps, and TV devices. For development teams that want to create the most engaging streaming experiences, it’s crucial to leverage video application programming interfaces (APIs). Ed Laczynski, founder and CEO of Zype, provides an overview of what it means to be API-first, the benefits of that approach, and its role in video architecture.

Do we build it or buy it? That’s a question many business leaders and their development teams face when formulating their streaming video software architecture strategies. Deciding between build or buy is an essential first step for developers and stakeholders to identify, especially for companies without in-house expertise in video encoding, management, and distribution technology. 

While building technology internally can allow developers to have complete control over the innovation process, the process can be costly, time-consuming, and complex. With time-to-market pressure, budget constraints, and the reality of a fragmented marketplace with so many different languages, interfaces, and standards to maintain, it can be distracting from a media company’s core competency – content and audience relationships. 

With the ultimate goal of creating compelling streaming experiences that increase the company’s reach and drive revenue and growth, leveraging a video application programming interface (API) is a crucial strategy worth considering. 

See More: Five Tricks for Boosting Your Video Marketing 

What Are Video APIs?

Video APIs encompass any APIs related to streaming and facilitating video content. APIs enable developers to add features to existing software, define how specific components interact within a system, and foster communication between servers. 

Why Video APIs Are Important

With the proliferation of video streaming, APIs have become essential to the over-the-top (OTT) application pipeline. According to a recent survey by entertainment technology company TiVo, streaming service use is on the rise, with today’s consumers using nearly ten different apps. Not only that, but Grand View Research projects the video streaming market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21 percent, reaching $330.5 billion by 2030.

Organizations that want to capitalize on this exponential growth and deliver engaging streaming experiences must embrace an API-first approach to video architecture.

What Does It Mean to Be API-First?

API-first means approaching software development with APIs as the primary consideration. It involves defining and designing APIs before developing dependent applications or integrations. Unlike the traditional method of building all functions into one piece of code, an API-first strategy divides a single code base into features that can run autonomously.

Benefits of an API-First Approach to Video Architecture

Research shows it pays to be API-first. In a recent survey by API platform Postman, 75 percent of respondents said developers at API-first companies are more productive and happier, launch products faster, eliminate security risks more quickly, and create superior software. 

Within the context of video architecture, there are several key benefits development teams can reap by taking an API-driven approach.

1. Flexible design process

The arduous task of internally developing video architecture can result in a slew of errors that impact not only the project’s success but also the user experience. By leveraging a platform with API-centric architecture that works “out of the box,” engineering teams can exercise greater control over the design process and have more freedom and flexibility to experiment.

Instead of getting bogged down in video streaming codecs, syndication formats, video player integration hiccups, and ad-stack peculiarities, developers can focus on enhancing their product user experience, marketing stack, and unique value propositions. For example, Video APIs can be integrated into existing technology investments, like audience data management and CRM, to create a smart feedback loop to help tune and accelerate user adoption and reduce churn. 

2. Cost savings

On top of being an inefficient use of time and resources, the cost of building video architecture from scratch can quickly add up. Given that much of the development work is likely related to features or functionality better served by APIs, it’s often logistically and financially impractical to undertake such a project in-house. The cost to run video encoders, coordinate metadata management, integrate with dozens of video streaming standards and expectations across distribution platforms, and integrate with payment and ad systems just simply isn’t time well spent when there are product deadlines and user experience expectations on the line.

Over the long term, it’s more prudent to enlist the services of a video infrastructure provider with robust API endpoints to reduce the cost of maintaining software and help streamline content management and distribution workflows.

3. Optimized market strategy

Time is of the essence when launching tech projects. It’s not enough for businesses to create and offer best-in-class solutions—they need to do it faster than their competitors and keep up with the market.

With an API-first approach to video architecture, engineering teams can move more nimbly and under less pressure by focusing on design and the user experience—leaving heavy-lifting tasks related to content storage and encoding to the infrastructure provider. 

APIs are also ever-changing as innovations arise. According to MarketsandMarkets, the API management market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25 percent between now and 2027. As APIs increasingly permeate the video industry, it will be critical for developers to take advantage of them to future-proof their content strategies. Rather than spending time working on commoditized products, most engineering teams would be better off utilizing pre-built video infrastructure and employing APIs to innovate and achieve differentiation.

Video API Use Cases

There are many instances where content companies might want to incorporate video APIs to streamline their video workflows. Use cases for video APIs include: 

  • Encoding: Compressing files and preparing them for delivery over the internet.
  • HTTP live streaming (HLS): Delivering content to internet-enabled devices as a continuous stream of data users can watch without downloading.
  • Live streaming: Streaming live content to any device from a mobile app, broadcast software, or hardware encoder. 
  • Managing playout services: Building linear programming workflows, analyzing viewership metrics, and customizing ad breaks. 
  • Storing metadata: Retrieving, deploying, creating, updating, or deleting page layouts and content organization parameters.

Types of Video APIs

The kinds of video APIs teams use depend on the goals they want to accomplish. There are seven key types of video APIs:

  • Analytics: Analytics APIs provide insight into what content viewers watch and for how long, what devices they use, and where they’re from. Analytics APIs allow developers to scan real-time data, make programming decisions, and ultimately deliver important insights to business stakeholders.
  • Authentication: Authentication APIs enable the use of open protocols to create secure, delegated access to content.
  • Content rules: Content rule APIs help set specific access levels for videos, categories, or playlists.
  • Entitlement: Entitlement APIs help manage consumers’ use of paid or code-redeemed content. 
  • Monetization: Monetization APIs streamline the process of managing subscriptions, including types, updates, deletions, and cancellations.
  • Platform: Platform APIs are an effective means of importing, managing, and curating content and workflows.
  • Player: Player APIs assist with complex processes that ensure high-quality streaming experiences, such as adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming support, social sharing, and attribution settings. 

See More: Using AI to Enhance Video Marketing Strategy — Internal Efficiency and ROI

Pursuing an API-First Strategy

The “build or buy” question is crucial for developers and stakeholders who want to create and deliver video experiences that engage audiences and drive revenue and growth. While a build process can be executed internally with the right people, many teams discover their time, money, and resources are better allocated by taking an API-first approach to video architecture and leveraging an outside vendor.

By enlisting the help of a reliable, customer-focused digital video infrastructure provider, video engineers can seamlessly integrate APIs into their workflows, manage protocols, and build and deploy customized streaming products that deliver impressive returns on investment.

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