From a Media Repository to a Video Community: The Story of AirTV and Airbnb

Steven McNellie
Updated August 26 2021
Just in time learning- Man with hands on computer
Steven McNellie
Updated August 26 2021

Since I joined Airbnb in 2015, live video has been a strong part of our company culture, connecting employees to leadership and providing technical education. What has changed is the volume of content, the complexity by which that content is organized, and the permitted audiences. The launch of Kaltura MediaSpace has met pent-up demand to scale enterprise video. Over the course of a year, AirTV grew from 47 to 87 migrated channels, delivering 1.8 million minutes of content to 5.9k unique viewers.


Launching AirTV – Airbnb’s Internal Video Portal 

Our transition to Kaltura MediaSpace Video Portal over a year ago grew out of a need for a feature-rich and stable enterprise video platform that took a deep focus on the user experience. Previously, users had a very distinctive frontend/backend experience where we had to be overly permissive to allow someone to upload or share a video. There was a deep desire to head towards a more open and democratized organizational structure, that would allow us to harness the potential of user-generated content and accommodate more self-service functionality.


To achieve this, my main goal was to migrate our existing enterprise video platform in a way that created feature parity while up-leveling the consumption experience.


That meant:

  • Mirroring the previous level of platform permissions
  • Arranging content in a way that felt familiar but better (more on this later).
  • Gating access to contractors in a way that had previously been defined by Legal.
  • Educating stakeholders on the similarities and differences.
  • Growing the platform as an internal brand where folks could find both informational and inspirational content.


Laying the Foundation for a Content Community: From Leadership to Teams to Culture

After extensive testing and validation, we launched AirTV on March 16, 2020. This was just as we conducted our last CEO Q&A from the main headquarters (it was pretty much just the CEO, an engineer, my manager, and myself on campus at this point). The night before the launch, I was talking with my manager. I told him that due to the circumstances surrounding the global pandemic, perhaps it would make sense to put the project on hold. However, he encouraged me to go ahead — and I’m glad he did. What I was about to discover over the next several months was that AirTV laid the foundation for what was truly a content community.


During times of uncertainty, I find it best to let people know what to expect and enable them to easily search for and find answers to their questions. AirTV allowed us to do just that. Over several months, I tweaked the dynamic playlists and homepage. Users now find a mix of the expected leadership and team content (All Hands, CEO Q&As, and training videos) in addition to discovering culturally enriching content like live house DJs and one of my favorites… a puppy popping bubbles.


Organizing Content, or Why Is Content Mapping Important? 

Culturally enriching content has seen the most growth during the pandemic and is part of an organizational strategy that I have refactored several times to meet the needs of our company and the new UGC capabilities that AirTV inspires. I would recommend that platform managers set up a cadence for checking in on how content is being organized and uploaded. These are some of the items I have come to inspect on an ongoing basis:

  • Is the organizational structure too granular or too broad?
  • Does the organizational structure map well to your org and key content areas?
  • Are you making information easier or more difficult to find?
  • Is the educational material and outreach you’ve done to support UGC working?


After refactoring how content is organized several times over the last year, I’ve arrived at this current state:



Taking Stock of Employee Access and Workflows for Content Sharing

Until recently, access to our enterprise video platform has been controlled. LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) Groups have been in heavy use to define access to large categories of content. Opening a channel to contractors triggered a legal review process.


As our use of video as a data type grew internally at Airbnb, this process:

  • hampered the ability of individuals to obtain information
  • became unscalable and hard to maintain
  • became incongruent with the needs of a remote workforce
  • was not aligned with sharing policies of other enterprise applications (mainly Drive and Box).


On the path to building a vibrant enterprise video community, I’d encourage you to take stock of your existing video-sharing applications. Be loose with your definitions. Keep in mind that video is just another data type and that any tool that can be used to share video (Box, Drive, etc.) can offer you insight on acceptable use within your organization (or inspire a conversation around it).


I found looking at the characteristics of video-sharing applications to be helpful:

  • What audiences can the content be shared with? (FTEs, contractors, vendors, the public, etc.)
  • Who determines the audience that content should be shared with?
  • Which end users are allowed to download content?
  • Who can expand viewership/editing/publisher permissions?
  • Is there robust user tracking in place?


I assert that a good enterprise video portal should provide a secure platform on which to author and consume content. It is my personal belief that this portal should be behind SSO and that it should be configured in a way that prevents sharing content outside of the organization. I also prefer disabling downloads for all users unless they have a distinct business need.


However, if you are finding that your organization has different needs, an argument can also be made that your enterprise video platform should be allowed to operate with at least the same affordances as the most permissive video sharing application before it triggers additional legal and policy review. For many organizations, this is most likely some sort of file-sharing or video-conferencing application.


I’ve found that allowing video downloads is the default option for many of these applications. So, if blocking downloads is an issue for your organization, it is a good idea to bring holistic awareness to your suite of enterprise applications and not just limit it to your video portal.


Legal As Your Partner

To form a vibrant video community, I have found that video teams must interact with Legal as a partner. Far too often, content and marketing teams see legal commentary as something to be appeased, minimized, or in its worst case — ignored. Remember, legal is designed to protect the integrity of your brand, the organization, and your job. Approach legal as a partner. Present them with the information I just mentioned. Give them a high-level concept of the direction you’d like to take with your enterprise platform. Ask if they can spot additional risks that might be beyond your subject matter expertise.


Being Accessible and Available to Your Community 

To have a truly operational, vibrant video platform, it is important to understand the friction and difficulties users are experiencing. I maintain a help channel and office hours. Whenever I see an issue come up more than once, I investigate to see if there is anything I can do to improve the product or provide additional training or support. I try to provide both quick start videos as well as drill-down documentation for users to find what they are looking for.


What’s next?

With video supporting more use cases, from communication to collaboration and learning, my goal is to maximize the utilization of the tools we already have. I would encourage platform managers to keep an active conversation with their partners, stakeholders, and users. Building a vibrant enterprise video community is an active, ongoing experience requiring thought and planning.