In an effort to let you get to know a bit about our customers we wanted to start shining the spotlight on featured customers of ours. This week we reached out to the amazing guys at Catch the Fire. We got to talk briefly via email about their business model, their web video initiatives and a bit about the Twistage integration.
Twistage: What is your business? What are the primary focuses/goals of Catch The Fire?
Jonathan Puddle: Catch The Fire is a global network of Christian churches that grew out of a spiritual revival that began in Toronto in 1994. We’ve been live streaming our Toronto church meetings since 1997 (yup, you read that right… RealPlayer G2, baby!), introduced video-on-demand in 2003 with Windows Media, and rebuilt our live and VOD service in 2009 with Flash video.
Benjamin Jackson: When revival exploded at our church in Toronto in the 1990s we had literally millions of visitors travel from everywhere around the world, they came to experience what was happening here and to see for themselves. Twistage allows us to reliably reach everyone of those people on a daily basis with live and archived footage from all our events – technology has never been so pivotal in the distribution of the gospel than it is today.
We also have a large training division, known as Catch The Fire College, with a whole bunch of campuses around the world and hundreds of training events elsewhere when our teams are travelling. We’d like to expand our training into the online arena, which will allow even more people to participate without increasing costs. We have loads of content ready to stream!
T: Where do you see Catch The Fire heading in the short term? In the long term?
BJ: Our vision is to provide fresh, world-class Christian content and resources TO people all around the world FROM people all around the world. We are planting churches, schools and ministries in locations across the planet and want to not only be able to bring content to those locations, but also send from those locations out to anyone. The task of equipping these locations with all the technology is quite a challenge, but Twistage handles all the back-end seamlessly once we’re streaming!
JP: We’ll be planting more churches around Canada in the next few months, and are really hoping to start streaming French language church meetings from Montréal before long. We’ve not done anything multilingual yet, so it poses some fun challenges! If you visit CatchTheFire.com, you’ll see we have churches or schools in 7 different nations. My goal is to eventually stream live from all of those locations, in their native languages, making CatchTheFire.TV a truly global video resource.
T: How has Twistage helped your company from a technology standpoint and from a business standpoint?
JP: Oh man… Where do we start? We like to think of ourselves as pretty smart guys; we have talented developers, good project managers, and fairly high standards of quality. We took 18 months to give up on building our own OVP service, and then found, developed & re-deployed on Twistage within 6 months. We’ve been predominantly a .Net shop, so we integrated Twistage’s capabilities into a DotNetNuke site, which probably took 3 months of active development from a single dev. The fruit is CatchTheFire.TV, which has been live just over a year now, and which our customers love. All during that time Twistage’s product has been excellent, and the partnership we’ve found with their team is pretty much the best we’ve found with any company we’ve ever dealt with, in any industry. That’s high praise, to be sure, but they deserve it. In those 12 months we’ve served 57,000 unique viewers from all over the world, and the Twistage platform handles it all with aplomb. Their API is rock solid, high performing, and well documented, and their 2-week release cycle has often put new functionality into our hands within days of chatting with them about stuff.
BJ: As Jonathan said, we went through a painful season of trying to accomplish what Twistage does right out of the box. Working with Twistage has helped us to focus on creating and providing the right content rather than worrying about all the systems and technology that can so often distract us. As a non-profit, we’re not looking to make a load of cash from our online video service, but just to cover it’s operating costs. Twistage have made it possible for us to keep impressing our customers with new features and functionality while they’re the ones doing much of the hard work behind the scenes. I’ve never seen a company so committed to the future of their product, or so passionate about the needs and service of their customers. The whole team at Twistage are outstanding!
T: Any final thoughts?
BJ: One thing that’s worth mentioning is that Twistage’s APIs make it so easy for us to switch our other service providers and platforms without compromising service. We have integrated with three different CDNs for content storage and delivery without any hitches, and we’re also able to easily develop with an alternative CMS for our sites without losing all our content and metadata.
JP: As Ben said, technology is so pivotal to spreading the gospel today. In the last 12 months we’ve seen OVPs change from saying “Huh? Church streaming?” to featuring Houses of Worship as one of their main verticals. We evaluated 4 or 5 OVPs at the time, and Twistage understood us from the start. My only fear today is that Twistage will be snapped up by a CDN (or someone else) looking to capitalize on Twistage’s success. Whatever the future holds for us both, Ben and I hope this partnership is a long one, and we wish them all the best!