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David Parker, streaming video expert and Senior Director of Product Management at ProQuest, takes a deep dive into video acquisition models

Lately, the news has been inundated with stories about the risks of a demand-driven acquisition (DDA) model for streaming video in libraries. The buying model is hugely successful, popular and cost-effective for ebooks, so why is it such a budget gamble when used for streaming video?

Read our interview with David Parker, streaming video expert and Senior Director of Product Management at ProQuest, for a deeper understanding of this ongoing issue.

ProQuest: More people than ever are turning to the library to access streaming video for both learning and entertainment. There are two primary models that libraries use to acquire large collections of streaming videos to serve their patrons: subscription and DDA. Can you talk about the history of the debate between the two?

David Parker: Starting in about 2013, when streaming video access options in libraries was really taking off, librarians expected DDA to be much more affordable than subscription on a cost-per-use basis. And while it started out that way, it has not proven to hold true. By 2016, that number began to level off – subscription and DDA were about equal in terms of cost per use. And, in the last two years, we’ve seen it shift dramatically in favor of subscription being more effective on a cost-per-use basis.

PQ: Why do you think this is?

DP: In simple terms, a subscription comes with one predictable annual cost. The more views, the lower cost per use. But with DDA, the popularity of streaming video has generated broader and deeper viewing that has triggered costs that the library is often not prepared for pay.

Take Sony Picture Classics (available in Academic Video Online), for example. There are countless Sony documentaries and feature films that become a critical piece of curriculum – like “Merchants of Doubt,” used in environmental science and journalism courses, and “Persepolis,” used in film courses. But many Sony films are also appealing for pure entertainment value to students who are really burned out on a Saturday night. They’re studying for finals, and stumble upon a documentary they want to watch, for example.

Every incremental title viewed more than four times – whether it’s for a course or because a student wants to watch a great movie on a Saturday night – triggers a spend and drives costs up on a DDA platform. But, on a subscription plan, on a per-view basis, it drives cost-per-view down. These are things librarians now need to consider that they didn’t back in 2013: Is the content course-selected, or is it entertainment viewing?

PQ: But millions of librarians love the DDA model for ebooks. Why does it work better for books than for video?

DP: We’ve looked at this from several different angles, including empirical data from a decade of DDA, speaking with librarians and attending conferences. It’s clear that librarians consistently benefit from having the DDA option for books in terms of cost-per-use versus firm ordering. 

When it comes to books, patron demand leads to a perpetual license for the title. Post-purchase book usage then drives down the average price per title, which in turn, helps libraries get excellent value from DDA. However, most video DDA programs don’t offer perpetual licenses, so popular titles trigger shorter-term licenses at a higher rate.

The nature of the content is different, especially in a university setting. The titles triggered in DDA ebook programs are for scholarly research and the completion of assignments. In general, we’re not seeing a lot of entertainment reading as the reason for these ebooks getting the views that trigger the DDA spend.

PQ: How do you feel about the multitude of use cases for streaming video?

DP: There’s a continuum of opinions about use cases for video content. There are librarians who firmly believe that the library of a university should be about nothing but providing content and services to support research and curriculum development – and there are others who believe that the library has a larger role, to provide content for entertainment and personal development.

It’s up to each librarian to decide what content should be in their library, and it’s our job to provide the content that their faculty and students want and need access to.

PQ: Cost aside, what are some of the other benefits of subscription for streaming video?

DP: The first is volume of titles. There’s absolutely no DDA program that includes anywhere near the volume of titles that are available in Academic Video Online. Many publishers don’t put their backfiles (or “long tail”) into DDA in fear that these titles will not generate the requisite four views to trigger a DDA sale, but they’re willing to offer them via subscription aggregation.

And second, a subscription model is much easier from an administrative perspective. Because of rising video DDA costs, there’s a massive move toward mediated purchasing – limiting the content available to patrons or only making content available when a request is triggered.

Not only is this extra work for the library, it delays access for the patron until someone at the library makes the decision to turn it on. I know from anecdotal conversations with librarians that they tend to stay on top of those requests, particularly if they’re faculty requests, but it is an extra burden on the library from a resource perspective.

If video DDA programs aren’t mediated, they require increasingly more time invested in monitoring, so costs don’t get out of control. Librarians spend a lot of time looking at near-trigger lists, number of minutes viewed on titles, the nature of views and other statistics.

PQ: One downside of a subscription is that libraries don’t get permanent access to titles. Is there any way customers of subscription services like Academic Video Online can get around that?

DP: Yes! Frequently, when a faculty member selects a title to put it in a course, he or she will leave it there for a good long time. Academic Video Online has a Build by Choice benefit that allows customers to select individual eligible video titles within the collection for perpetual rights ownership at no extra cost. The average customer, based on subscription value, is picking between 10 or 20 titles a year that they get to hold forever, regardless of whether they cancel their subscription. This is an annual benefit – the longer you subscribe, the more titles you can keep. In other words, professors will be very upset if they lose the rights to an important film. Build by Choice can prevent that from happening.

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Want to try a subscription service like Academic Video Online? Visit our website to learn more 

Interested in seeing how Academic Video Online could fit into your library’s budget? Request a quote!
23 Aug 2019

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