Barstool Sports is a sports & pop culture blog featuring videos and podcasts on their website and social media. They have a loyal following with over 6 million monthly unique visitors to their website and 5.5 million followers on Instagram. Their content includes a variety of shows with one of their fan-favorites being the Pizza Reviews show featuring their founder, David Portnoy. Dave’s quirky reviews get about an average of 796,000 video views per episode across platforms, with some episodes receiving almost 2 million views.
Seeing the popularity of the show, Barstool saw the opportunity to create an app, One Bite, dedicated to helping their users discover pizza restaurants, read reviews, and post reviews of their own. A key feature of the One Bite app, which includes over 104,000 restaurants, is the ability for users to upload video reviews just like Dave’s.
Building an app that supports UGC
There were two types of video the app needed to support: longer form (>2 minutes) and user generated content (UGC). Barstool was already familiar with single upload videos for the longer form videos which had already been a part of their blog for years. But when they decided to include UGC, they knew they couldn’t use their current infrastructure.
Andrew Barba, the Senior Engineer leading this project, started out looking at AWS. “We use AWS for everything so it made sense to try Elemental MediaConvert. I spent a lot of time messing with it but it had way too much configuration–I had to pick all the inputs and all the output resolutions. Plus, their docs were difficult to use.” After exploring some other providers, Andrew found Mux.
“I wanted Twilio for video. I was looking for a very developer-friendly API and a key requirement was that I didn’t want any CMS. Some of the other providers kept pushing their CMS features but I wanted to build the CMS myself. That was really important to me. I wanted really easy uploads and encoding and needed webhooks. Mux was exactly what I was looking for,” he said.
Thanks to Barstool’s incredibly engaged users, they exceeded the signup max in the first 15 minutes of releasing the beta. After the reception of the beta, Andrew naturally had some concerns prior to launch. His concerns were twofold: on the technical-side, he was worried about the encoding quality of the videos while on the business-side, he needed a solution that could handle their traffic.
Launch Day and Beyond
On launch day, One Bite saw 70,000 downloads, growing to 300,000 in the following three months. In those first three months, Mux supported 4.5 million video views with over 157,000 hours of video delivered. “Our fans’ reactions were amazing. People loved it,” Andrew said. Mux Video not only answered Andrew’s concerns but exceeded his expectations on both fronts. Video quality was consistent and scaling with their users was not an issue. As of December 2018, the app has a near perfect rating of 4.9 with over 10.9k reviews in the Apple App Store.
As a complement to Mux Video, Andrew and his team also used Mux Data’s Real-Time Streaming Dashboard to monitor the performance of all the One Bite video streams. According to Andrew, one of the most valuable aspects about working with Mux, aside from the technology, was “the team and support we received. It confirmed we chose the right provider.”