Casey Panell
 
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Project Page

High-level description of some of the projects I've lead.

 
 
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Business Issue:

Two Netflix initiatives drove their need to launch a new Media Center. The first initiative was the production and exponential growth of original content. Netflix needed a polished website to promote their shows and a platform to securely deliver high-quality screeners to journalists. The second initiative was international growth. Netflix planned to be completely global by the end of 2015, and they needed a website that could deliver media assets (most importantly screeners), blogs, press releases, and general company information to very important journalists around the world in their native language.

The former website had an outdated design that was difficult to navigate. Further, any updates to the website (even timely press releases) required emailing an offshore team and hoping the changes came through without errors. They had a long list of changes they needed and realized that their former vendor could not produce a website that met all of their requirements, and they could not find the vast amount of internal support needed to get it done in-house rapidly.

We saw this as an opportunity to combine our core expertise in securely delivering high quality screeners with detailed analytics and our ability to deliver large-scale custom solutions.


Solution:

Our team made up of several companies (Ooyala, Ratio, Brooklyn United, ETA, and Vertis) delivered a website, CMS, iOS app, and Android app. The website launched in 12 languages (and quickly added a thirteenth, Arabic) with a fully responsive design. The iOS and Android apps were built with PlayReady DRM.

Here is a list of (some of) the features:

  • Fully Customizable Website: The design and content of every page on in the website can be easily updated in the CMS.

    • Homepage: Hero images, links, featured news, and callouts can all be quickly changed.

    • About Netflix: Company information, contacts, management team, and timeline can be updated.

    • Corporate Assets: New categories and assets can be uploaded in multiple formats.

    • Only on Netflix: New titles can be easily created with all custom required metadata and media assets. Each page is different for logged in journalists and the general public.

  • Screeners: Secure delivery of screeners through the website, iOS app, and Android app. Journalists are assigned to screeners in the CMS. Each screener is watermarked with the journalists email address.

  • Localization: Website is available in thirteen languages (including Arabic, which requires a right-to-left template). All content is localized automatically through Netflix’s proprietary translation service.

  • Design: Fully responsive design for mobile and desktop. Designed concurrently with a new brand redesign and approved by the branding team (“the best PR website we’ve seen”).

  • Blogs and Press Releases: Blog and Press Release pages are custom developed for Netflix’s requirements and are fully responsive. Allows users to sign up for automatic update alerts (and that list of users is tracked in the CMS).

  • Security: Website and apps passed multi-round security audits from the Netflix team.

  • Newsletter Management: Easy registration, subscriber list, and delivery.

  • Journalist Management: Custom system registers journalists for access to exclusive press material based on their country. Admins can activate, suspend, or delete journalists, assign them screeners, create custom groups, and deliver email messages to them.

  • Admin Management: Robust permission structure allows for very specific access to each section of the CMS for each admin and logs for tracking changes.

  • Custom Integrations: Custom integrations to Netflix’s internal systems for authentication, messaging, and translation. Each of these systems are proprietary with little (or no) documentation.


Additional Services:

In addition to building the website and apps, Ooyala provided the following additional services.

  • Migration: Ooyala PSG migrated thousands of press releases, blogs, media assets (photos and images), in several languages, from the previous website to the new.

  • Training and Documentation: Ooyala PSG went on-site for all day training sessions with follow up sessions drilling down into all aspects of the backend workflow. Ooyala, Ratio, and Brooklyn United, collaborated to produce a suite of user guides covering Netflix’s various workflows and the each of the CMS features.

  • Hosting and Infrastructure: Ooyala along with our partners at ETA and Ratio host four environments for the website (development, QA, Staging, and Production) through AWS. ETA was able to manage the enormous spikes we experienced during the CES announcement without any interruption of service.


Results:

At launch, the website had well over a million users and over 3 million page views in almost every country around the world (besides two). Users have given Netflix high marks (particularly on the quality of their new screener solution) for both the website and the apps. The platform was developed in such as way that we could continue to rapidly deploy new features and improvements post-launch. 

 
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Business Issue:

There was a very large market opportunity of companies that needed OTT apps and websites launched quickly for a relatively small budget. Creating and launching these solutions from scratch was costly and time-consuming. In order to serve these customers, we needed a platform that could rapidly deploy apps that were unique and could be easily updated without technical resources.

Our team had to work under a very tight schedule, as the first customer signed based on a very early pitch on the concept before work started and more customers quickly followed. These deals were all contingent on delivering the solution on time.


Solution:

We convinced our executive team to commit the resources necessary. It helped that our sales team was already signing up deals before we could begin work.

I gathered all of the requirements for this product and translated those requirements into clear user stories, prioritized and organized into a road map from pre-release milestones, beta (demo), and the the initial 1.0 release. I added a plan for post-launch releases for months into the future.

Our team set out to build a platform of templated shell apps for every device and screen powered by an App CMS backend. We needed to ensure that a non-technical person could update the user experience across all apps (from layout to video content) without requiring any technical resources, rebuilding the apps, and resubmitting to apps stores. We designed an architecture that was flexible enough to allow for a completely unique solution out-of-the box for each customer with a robust package of APIs to allow further customization wherever necessary.

I managed an international team that ended up collaborating on nearly everything, but for the purpose of simplicity I’ll describe each teams primary roles. Clear Code, a team in Poland, developed the App CMS based on designs from Ooyala. Odd Networks, a team in New York, worked on the underlying technology, the architecture, and SDKs. Ratio, a team in Seattle, focused on building shell application for all platforms we were targeting (web, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android phone, Android Tablet, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Smart TVs like Samsung). Ooyala’s Professional Services Group (in Guadalajara, San Francisco, London, and New York) worked on architecture, design, integration with Ooyala services, and QA, as well as helping the customers through the development process.


Features

  • Video on Demand

    • Create a carousel of featured videos at the top of any screen

    • Ability to create, edit, and delete video lists based on any search criteria or genre and update the order of those lists in the app interface

    • Sort videos in lists based on date, popularity, trending, or manual

    • User search for any video in the library

    • Update video player design

    • Set date for a video list to appear in the apps and a date for the video list to disappear

    • Create a Recently Watched Videos list

    • Support for a user watchlist

    • Support for Ooyala recommendation engine

  • Live Video

    • Support for an Electronic Programming Guide (Schedule)

    • Support for live events

    • Create, edit, and delete live event metadata, thumbnail, and trailer

  • App Design Updates

    • Choose from professionally designed themes

    • Update the color scheme, fonts, and logo

    • Support for uploading banner images or carousel of hero images

    • Choose generic images to replace missing thumbnails

    • Create, edit, or delete a splash and loading screen

    • Edit all text or images in any navigation menus or buttons

    • Support for creating, editing, or deleting a background image

  • Subscription Support

    • Integration with Adobe Pass, Cleeng, Gigya and other subscription services for end user management

    • Assign videos that require subscription (and indicate videos that require subscription access in all app interfaces)

    • Support for purchasing subscriptions in the apps

  • Additional Features

    • Service for resizing uploaded image assets to fit all screen resolutions

    • Support for creating, editing, and deleting terms and conditions, privacy policy, support information, contact information, and any marketing copy

    • Support for previewing your work before pushing changes to apps

    • Future support for A/B testing in the apps

    • Future support for tracking user navigation analytics

    • Future support for push notifications

  • Secure Access

    • Secure login and logout

    • Create, Edit, Delete admins with differing roles based on privileges (video content, branding material, navigation, written copy, legalese)

    • Secure process for changing passwords and removing admins

  • Troubleshooting

    • Error messaging that clearly explains behavior (for example, cannot create a  video rail because the query returns no assets)

    • Robust logging

  • Technical Documentation:

    • Detailed guide for all APIs and SDKs

  • Sales Engineering Support

    • Built demo apps and CMS with full video content and branding for sale presentations


Results:

Our international and cross-organization team built the entire platform in 6 months to meet the timeline of our first customer, Fusion TV. We launched on iOS (iPhone and iPad), TVOS (Apple TV), Android (phone and tablet), Roku, Amazon Fire (TV and tablet), and Samsung TV, nearly simultaneously and to great user reviews (5-stars across all app stores).