CNN Digital Video

In 2019, I led the effort to converge all video-related product and technology efforts for CNN Digital to one team with the goal of rethinking and redefining all our video platforms. Before, every team – web, mobile apps, TV apps, video player, and off-platform – was responsible for understanding, managing, and operating the complex world of video. By centralizing on one group for all-things-video, we could offer focus, excellence, and a strategic vision for the company.

My blend of product-design-technology-editorial hands-on experience allowed me to build a team with a clear vision for the future. Understanding the technological challenges was as critical as to understand how small understanding we had of our user video experience. We needed to tackle both sides.

In a year we grew from 2 to almost 30 software engineers, product managers, designers, and project managers. We called ourselves Video Experience & Platforms. Having a holistic responsibility for video on CNN Digital gave us the opportunity to think big, and create new experiences specifically for news.

Video Infrastructure

One of my major responsibilities – after building the team – was to re-platform the video infrastructure. Because of the previously disaggregated approach, we ended up with a dozen different video player technologies, 10-year old encoding and orchestration workflows, and running on out-of-warranty encoding equipment.

Analysis of video clips’ outdated encoding infrastructure

A few of our successful technology efforts:

  • Migrated live video encoding and packaging to iStreamPlanet
Video Architecture for Alternative Live Streams
  • Architected the Live-to-VOD workflows for all TV-originated content
iStreamPlanet migration architecture model
  • Created a modular cloud abstraction layer between our different CMSs and the encoding infrastructure
High level architecture for abstracted encoding model

Before focusing on the overall CNN Video architecture, I was responsible for CNNgo’s Architecture.

Video Experience

A good platform could only be valued by our users if the playback experience is high-quality. One of the major efforts from a Product and Design standpoint was to create a unified and coherent experience across video platforms. We had too many visual language approaches and an inconsistent feature and capability parity across the web, mobile, and TV apps.

We defined another abstraction layer, where our CNN Video Player would look and behave consistently across devices. The partner teams across the organization would not need to know which playback engine, digital advertising approach, nor monitoring techniques we would use under the hood. This way our product and technology partners responsible for and CNN Apps would be able to focus on how to expand the video capabilities instead of debugging why SSAI does not work.

CNN Player abstracted architecture
Video Player Controls explorations

Our user-centric approach had one important goal: How to create the best news video experience in the industry. This meant how to rethink live-breaking-news-realtime video coverage, video segmentation, video recommendation, and so forth.

Cronkite, an example of a real-time synced experience between the video stream and staff curated commentary.

Video from Home

As needs for the video were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we built a work-from-home video solution for live digital shows for CNN Español and CNN Business. I implemented a mix of AWS and Wowza solutions, together with iStreamPlanet encoding and delivery for remote digital shows.