A fascinating article in the WSJ over the weekend described the lengths to which Apple is going to maintain a family-friendly strategy for its original TV shows. The article describes how CEO Tim Cook personally screened “Vital Signs” about Dr. Dre and nixed it for being too violent. It also says that producers Jamie Erlicht and Zach Van Amburg, whom Apple hired in June, 2017, spend significant time winning approval from Cook and SVP Eddy Cue for any new projects.
None of this is surprising, as Apple seeks to balance its desire to move into the entertainment business while not causing any damage to its gold-plated brand. Where a TV network can cultivate creativity and push the envelope with a new show with little downside, Apple risks harming sales of its devices if audiences feel an Apple original is discordant with the company’s brand.
The WSJ is reporting this morning that Apple has created a budget of $1 billion for original content for the next year, to be managed by Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, two high-profile producers Apple lured from Sony in June to head up its video efforts.
While details are light (as they always are), the report said Apple could use the funds to acquire and/or produce up to 10 TV shows either to be included in its Apple Music service or in a new standalone video service. The report said that Van Hamburg and Erlicht have “begun meeting with Hollywood agents and holding discussions about shows Apple could acquire.” Another industry executive, Matt Cherniss, previously president of WGN America, has been brought on to run development.
Categories: Indie Video
There was plenty of industry buzz last Friday after Apple announced that it had hired Sony Pictures Television’s presidents Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to oversee video programming. After all, Apple has long been spinning its wheels in video, and so the hiring of two high profile producers with a string of TV successes (e.g. “Breaking Bad,” “The Crown,” “The Blacklist,” etc.) would appear to signal that the company has finally, belatedly, realized how strategic video is to its future.
To be sure, it’s almost inconceivable that Van Amburg and Erlicht would take their talents (as LeBron would put it) to Apple without a guarantee from their new boss, and Apple media head, Eddy Cue, that the company was serious, at last, about making high quality TV shows. The problem for Van Amburg, Erlicht and most importantly Apple, is that to actually succeed, the company needs to do far more than just make great shows (which in itself is of course, far from a slam dunk).
Ten years ago, in my pre-VideoNuze days, I wrote “A World Awash in Video,” for my then once per month e-newsletter. Based on numerous recentIy announced initiatives, I predicted that we were “on the cusp of experiencing an explosion in the quantity of high-quality video available” and that all of these choices would create a “golden age of video.”
Of course that was all before Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and many others exploded. My main premise - that broadband’s open platform, which removed the traditional friction of reaching audiences - was a powerful catalyst that would fuel a massive escalation of video production.
Indeed, there’s no doubt that we have more choices than ever, but reviewing last week’s news, it’s clear we ain’t seen nothing yet. We are on the brink of being even more awash in video than ever. And one big difference vs. 10 years ago is that today’s boom is driven by companies that all have extraordinary resources and very strong incentives to invest heavily in video.
Here’s a quick recap:
Categories: Indie Video
I recently had a chance to talk with Eddie Lee, who is VP of Programmatic at 495 Communications, which combines original travel-related video and programmatic video advertising. Eddie brought me up to speed on the company and their recently launched 495 QeX product. Following is a transcript.
VideoNuze: Explain the multiple parts of 495 Communications' business and how they work together?
Eddie Lee: 495 Communications has two subsets on the supply side: one being a large publisher-direct network and the other side being our O&O content, HTML5 player (SavvyGo), and Travelsavvy.tv - true cross device inventory (desktop, mobile and CTV/OTT apps). Using our own proprietary RTB exchange, we are able to service advertisers and demand partners by providing them quality traffic, in scale.
Topics: 495 Communications
Reports surface every week that hail the demise of TV and highlight the shortcomings of cable networks. However, it’s important to note that these trends are merely symptoms. They are symptoms of a larger, cultural change spearheaded by the generation of yours truly—the *in James Earl Jones’ voice* millennials.
We are consuming more content than any other generation and are, as a result, reshaping digital consumption and the future of video production, as you know it. Habits are hard to break, but if an attractive alternative is presented, it becomes much easier to shift gears and form new habits. The classic Gen X habits of being a couch potato and tied down by their DVR has nearly come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, millennials still want to consume the same, if not more, content than their Gen X counterparts. We are just more inclined to want to stream it from different places/applications via two, maybe three, screens.
Let’s take a deeper look at my generation alongside the younger generation coming up behind us, and how our changing habits are transforming the broadcast and pay TV world, as we all know it.
It’s no secret that the content monetization models of yore have had a tough run over the past decade. Newspaper print revenues are down 70% in that time period. The decline in home video sales is outpacing growth in digital options. CD sales dropped 30% between mid-2015 and 2013, and digital downloads fell 13% over that same span. Then there’s pay TV, which has lost nearly 900,000 net subscribers in 2015 alone.
Clearly, the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people think about paying for content. Particularly with video content, there are some big success stories. Over The Top (OTT) video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have been able to monetize shifting consumer attitudes through lucrative subscription models. As a result, the OTT video market has been on a big growth path.
Beachfront Media has launched RISE, a full-service OTT platform for independent video creators to deliver their apps to connected TVs and mobile devices. Beachfront’s CEO and founder Frank Sinton told me that RISE is meant primarily for popular video creators who are becoming their own brands to reach audiences seamlessly across multiple devices.
I'm pleased to present the 295th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week we dig into Yahoo’s decision to write off $42 million related to 3 of its long-form original programs, including the high-profile “Community.” As Colin and I explain, Yahoo faced a lot of headwinds from the start in making these a success. Yahoo’s bellyflop is actually not a big surprise and it’s a yellow flag for others interested in providing long-form content.
We then transition to talking about why HBO Now’s distribution with large pay-TV operators / broadband ISPs is stymied. At the WSJD conference this week, HBO CEO Richard Plepler lamented the company’s lack of progress. But as I explain, HBO Now represents more cord-cutting risk than upside opportunity to most operators (for more color on that, see here). Colin disagrees and thinks operators should be more aggressive. We have a healthy debate.
Listen now to learn more!
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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…"
If you’re looking for a stark illustration of the diverging fortunes of the online video and pay-TV industries - as well as the generational attention/passion gap between the two - then comparing the buzz out of last week’s 6th annual VidCon with the poor early Q2 video subscriber numbers from big pay-TV operators is about as good as it gets.
For those not familiar with VidCon, it’s the annual convention of YouTube creators, fans and increasingly advertisers that want to weave themselves into this community. This year VidCon drew somewhere between 20K-30K attendees (up from 1,200 just 5 years ago) to the Anaheim Convention Center, with the vast majority being teenagers seeking to get up close to their favorite YouTube celebrities for a coveted selfie.
Neeraj Khemlani, co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication shared his insights on the new video landscape and how to succeed in it during his keynote interview with me at the recent Video Ad Summit. Neeraj has a great perspective on the topic given his role at Hearst and the company’s investments in video leaders like AwesomenessTV, Roku, BuzzFeed, Vice and others.
Neeraj sees this as a time of huge experimentation, with Hearst looking to place bets on brands that will resonate with younger audiences. The key here is for talent to be authentic and build their audiences. When this happens, they’re “earning” their distribution organically, rather than trying to establish it formally as in traditional media distribution models. That’s a huge shift.
Among other topics, Neeraj discusses “CosmoBody,” the company’s new SVOD service and why it’s ad-free, why news is a perfect fit for video and mobile, why having a strong editorial point of view is critical, how Facebook is changing video viewing and lots more.
2,400 industry executives and fans packed the Madison Square Garden Theater for YouTube's Brandcast NewFront Wednesday night that was part 10-year birthday celebration, part evangelical commercial about online video/YouTube's ascendance and part pure entertainment spectacle.
The evening began with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noting that hours watched are up 50% year-over-year and that YouTube now reaches more 18-49 year olds on mobile ALONE, than does any single cable network reach on TV. YouTube daily viewers are up 40% vs. 2014. And in a pitch to how advertisers can succeed on YouTube, Wojcicki said that 4 out of 10 of the top trending videos in 2014 were actually ads, not content.
Hulu held its NewFront on Wednesday, highlighting its growth, which includes approaching 9 million subscribers, up 50% vs. 2014, with 700 million hours of video streamed in Q1 '15, up 83% vs. Q1 '14. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said that 61% of Hulu's viewers no longer watch on a computer. 82% of Hulu's audience is in the 18-49 year-old age range, with a median age of 33 years-old.
I have long wondered whether Hulu was going to be the odd man out, sandwiched between Netflix, OTT's 800-pound gorilla, and Amazon, with its unlimited resources. But Hulu is clearly investing heavily in both licensed and original content, and seemingly carving out its place in the OTT landscape.
AOL hosted its NewFronts presentation Tuesday night, with the key highlights including a new strategy dubbed "Content 365" structured around a screen-based content development approach, a new slate of 16 different programs, and a deal to obtain clips from NBCU's entertainment and news programs.
Content 365, the new mantra from AOL, describes an expansion from a NewFronts "season" to a NewFronts "year." AOL's content development strategy is to focus on 3 formats: short/snackable for smartphones, 5-7 minute mid-form "storytelling" for tablets and desktops and longer-form for connected TVs. In all, AOL plans to produce over 3,600 pieces of video in 2015.
Crackle is introducing a new linear TV feature dubbed "Always On," which will begin streaming a scheduled program whenever a user opens Crackle. The move gives viewers a TV-like experience in addition to the 100% on-demand experience that Crackle has been. Crackle will launch Always On exclusively on Roku devices in May, with other platforms to follow during the summer.
Always On helps differentiate Crackle and appeal to TV-oriented ad buyers, a stated goal when it decided to pull out of the NewFronts this year. The hybrid linear/on-demand approach will be powered by Adobe Primetime under a broader deal also announced yesterday. Adobe Primetime will provide playback, ad insertion and DRM for Crackle.
Categories: Indie Video
Netflix made waves in its recent Q4 earnings report by announcing a massive acceleration of its international rollout, with its goal to now be in 200 countries by the end of 2016, up from 50 today (note there's some murkiness around counting to 200 countries as well). One of the keys to Netflix's successful international expansion is offering a robust content library, which in turn means owning the worldwide distribution rights to marquee programming.
But a new note from analysts MoffettNathanson observes that studios are increasingly resisting Netflix's proposed global license fee structure, which only allows for a 20-30% markup on the actual cost of producing the shows. Instead, studios are biased to retain international distribution rights because of the potential for far more lucrative distribution deals.
(Note, I'll share details of online viewing of Super Bowl ads and the game later today…I'm still pulling all of the relevant data together.)
We're just a month into 2015, and there are already abundant signs of online and mobile video's momentum, with lots more growth to come as the year unfolds. Here's what's hit my radar so far:
Not so long ago, content on YouTube was mostly user-generated, leaving advertisers uninterested. But now things have changed dramatically. Content has been professionalized by a vast range of independent creators, who are attracting huge audiences, especially among younger viewers. This was the key context for the 2014 surge in M&A activity among multichannel networks (MCNs) like Maker Studios, Fullscreen, AwesomenessTV, etc.).
In parallel, there have been significant innovations in how to monetize YouTube content. The latest is Outrigger Media's new OpenSlate demographic data, allowing advertisers improved targeting across 250K+ YouTube channels and Nielsen-backed audience guarantees in a program called "OpenSlate Select." The demo data complements OpenSlate's traditional "SlateScore" scoring of YouTube channels based on engagement and influence.
I'm pleased to present the 256th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week Colin and I share our predictions for the video industry in 2015. In addition, we look back at our predictions for 2014 and share how we did (yes, accountability!).
Listen in to learn more!
In yet another sign of how SVOD is upending the traditional TV industry, Amazon has announced this morning that renowned film director Woody Allen has signed on to create his first-ever TV series. Amazon ordered a full season of the half-hour series, named "Untitled Woody Allen Project." It will available in Prime Instant Video in the U.S., U.K. and Germany at launch. No additional information on release date, casting or subject matter was released.
In typical Woody Allen fashion, he is quoted in the press release saying "I don't know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I'm not sure where to begin. My guess is that (VP of Amazon Studios) Roy Price will regret this."
Categories: Indie Video