Thanks to everyone who came out for VideoSchmooze last night. We had about 250 people in attendance and thousands more watching live via the NATPE-sponsored Stickam feed (replay available soon). I asked Steve Donohue, a veteran cable TV journalist and friend to cover the panel discussion for VideoNuze while I was moderating. His edited coverage is below; more commentary is available on Twitter, search hashtag #VS09.
Media Executives Debate Online Video Trends at VideoSchmooze
Media companies won't succeed in distributing programming online through sites like Hulu and others unless content providers and advertisers develop new ad formats and better ways to measure video that is distributed on multiple platforms, executives on the VideoSchmooze panel said Tuesday night.
Hulu and the sites operated by major broadcast TV networks today rely mostly on distributing 15- and 30-second ad units, a tactic criticized by Hearst Entertainment EVP George Kliavkoff, formerly Chief Digital Officer at NBCU and the first CEO of Hulu.
"If that (traditional TV advertising) is the conversation, then we've failed as an industry. I think the conversation should be what's new and engaging, taking advantage of the technology to deliver ads that are not just repurposed 15- and 30-second spots, " Kliavkoff said, reiterating a theme he espoused throughout the night that more needs to be done, and faster, to improve the online video ad model.
But Matt Strauss, Comcast's SVP, New Media said the industry shouldn't abandon traditional advertising. "We need to embrace the fact that there is a model right now on television that we all live with," Strauss said, adding that he hopes Nielsen Media Research will be able to incorporate online viewing into its C3 ratings reports, which measure viewing on TV and through digital video recorders.
The urgency of going beyond the CPM-based model for online video ads was highlighted by panel moderator Will Richmond from VideoNuze, who noted that "today's sites distributing full-length TV shows will not succeed in the long-term by inserting one-fifth the number of ads as done on-air, even if these ads can command a 20-25% price premium."
Perkins Miller, SVP of Digital Media at NBCU Sports explained that his company's live streaming of Sunday Night Football (now in its second season), which carry full ad loads, have been a big a success, saying "users are watching twice as much content because they're engaged." It is important to note that with built-in time-outs to support ad insertion, live sports are in a unique position to replicate their on-air models online.
Still, blip.tv co-founder Dina Kaplan reported that in the last 2-3 years, the online video ad-supported model for entertainment programming has made great strides. Kaplan revealed that blip has recently inked 8 deals with major advertisers, indicating that auto companies, packaged goods firms and other advertisers are moving budgets to online video ads. On the flip side, Kaplan conceded that generating unique creative for online ads will be a key challenge, saying, "with staff reductions at agencies....it's going to be a bigger problem, not a smaller problem, in 2010."
Another area discussed in detail during the panel was TV Everywhere, an initiative to deliver cable and other programming online to subscribers of traditional multichannel video services. Comcast's Strauss said that with 20-25 cable networks involved in the company's TV Everywhere trial, the company has been running fast to keep up with networks' interest.
Richmond mentioned however, that Hulu's 3 media owners, NBCU, Disney and Fox (as well as Viacom), which together constitute 4 of the 5 biggest cable network owners, have not yet publicly committed to distributing their shows via TV Everywhere. Strauss indicated that these companies are taking a "thoughtful" approach to their distribution strategy, and expressed confidence that while all networks may not be represented when Comcast begins rolling out TV Everywhere commercially later this year, the line-up will become more complete over time. "All programmers we've talked to are in agreement that making content more accessible to viewers is important," Strauss added, while also acknowledging that protecting online-distributed content from theft is a key focus of the TV Everywhere initiative.
Lastly, panelists touched on the proliferation of various viewing devices. In particular, Miller praised the significant popularity of the iPhone as an example of how mobile video is becoming a strong priority for NBCU, though still well behind broadband distribution. He also speculated about what's ahead for e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle, when additional features like color screens and video support are offered. To put an exclamation mark on shifting viewing patterns, especially among younger audiences, Strauss capped the discussion off by relating his experience of coming home recently to find his 4 children under the age of 7 huddled around his iPhone watching a show while his 50 inch plasma TV stood just feet away, silent and dark.