I'm pleased to present the 173rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we focus on the rising cost of content to pay-TV operators and the rising quality of content found online.
In a post yesterday, Colin validates pay-TV operators' complaints about programming costs, noting, for example, that at Comcast they rose from 34% of video revenue in '08 to 40% in '11 (at Time Warner Cable they were 41% and at DirecTV they were 45%). As we discuss, these escalating costs are eating into operators' profit margins as subscriber rate increases haven't kept pace. As VideoNuze readers know, sports is a major culprit in all of this, though entertainment networks have raised their own rates as well.
Against this backdrop, the quality of content available online is improving markedly. For example in just the past couple of weeks, we've seen Netflix announce another new series, with the producers of The Matrix films and Babylon5, Amazon Studios announce new shows "Betas," "Zombieland" and "Sarah Solves It" and Crackle a second season of "Chosen." Further, anime network Crunchyroll disclosed it's now up to 200K paying subscribers, TheBlaze (Glenn Beck's online video network) is raising $40M. Even the BBC, one of the most traditional TV networks, announced it will be premiering shows on its iPlayer.
In short, the quality of programming online is getting better all the time, while the cost of content to pay-TV operators is escalating, in turn putting pressure on subscriber rates. All of this means viewership patterns are bound to change and with the broader video industry.
Reminder: sign up for "Sizing Up Apple TV" a free video webinar, next Tuesday, April 2nd featuring Brightcove's Jeremy Allaire and me.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)
Betsy Morgan, currently president of TheBlaze (Glenn Beck's media company) and former CEO of The Huffington Post and SVP of CBS Interactive, has a highly informed perspective of today's video landscape. And in a recent interview I did with Betsy at NATPE, she doesn't mince words, observing, among other things, that "all of the burdens of legacy media really suck" and that "advertising will be disrupted first" and that "cable still has enormous value."
In her role at TheBlaze, Betsy is on the front lines of defining a new kind of cross-media, personality-driven media company. TheBlaze has a free, ad-supported online property, a subscription service called TheBlaze TV that has 300K members (who pay $9.95/mo) and a distribution deal with Dish Network which it hopes to emulate with others. Betsy explains how in the new video landscape, there's no longer a one-size fits all model; rather what's needed is a flexible approach that serves consumers however and whenever they want to access content.
At NATPE, I sat down with Drew Buckley, COO and Head of Digital for Electus, which has become one of the most successful studios producing programming for both TV and online. In the interview, Drew explains the company's strategy, and how it thinks about different screens or "glowing rectangles."
Among the specific topics Drew discusses:
- How Electus works to get talent to connect with their audiences, through various social media, and which ones Drew has found perform the best.
- How Electus is using its 3 YouTube channels to create and promote its own brands and personalities.
- Why the episode length for its "K-Town" unscripted series on Loud has nearly doubled from 11 minutes to 21 1/2 minutes in its first 2 seasons, proving longer-form does work online.
- What Electus does with brands to help extend their DNA through its original programming, beyond simple product placements.
Categories: Indie Video
I attended the D: Dive Into Media conference earlier this week for the first time. It is mainly a series of one-on-one interviews with senior executives from a variety of media and technology companies, plus networking. Overall it was a great conference, and it's hard to beat a couple of days in beautiful Dana Point, CA, especially when coming off a blizzard in Boston.
My main interest was the video-related sessions, and from those I had 6 takeaways which I share below (along with selected session video clips), in no particular order:
At the NATPE conference in Miami Beach last week I did a series of short one-on-one video interviews, which I'll be posting to VideoNuze over the next couple of weeks.
First up is Rob Barnett, CEO of My Damn Channel, which announced its new "My Damn Channel Comedy Network" at NATPE. In the interview, Rob talks about My Damn Channel's positioning and how the new comedy network differentiates itself. He delves into how he sees bigger online video properties emerging in the same way as happened in cable TV. Other topics Rob discusses:
- More than 30% of the company's videos are now viewed on mobile devices and durations are being mainly kept to 2-3 minutes max as a result.
- Why My Damn Channel continues to focus on the series format, rather than one-off comedic clips.
- The important role of the "human element" in curating how creative work gets noticed and promoted.
- Brand extensions and the importance of entrepreneurs doing one thing right before moving on to others.
Categories: Indie Video
I'm pleased to present the 165th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week I first share some reflections from spending 2 days at the NATPE conference earlier this week, focusing on content creators' attitudes toward online video.
That's a segue into discussing "binge-viewing," which will get a lot more visibility starting today, as Netflix releases all 13 episodes of its high-profile original series "House of Cards" (I watched the first 5 minutes of Chapter 1 this morning, and I'm hooked already). We discuss how binge-viewing is changing viewers' expectations and influencing content creators. For more about the pros and cons of Netflix's binge-viewing strategy, see my prior analysis here.
Next we talk about eyeIO, and its THX certification announced yesterday. Colin provides a layman's explanation, that augments his post yesterday, of why this is so important along with the context of H.264 and the new H.265 standard just approved by the ITU. We also review the benefits to content providers and viewers.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 36 seconds)
Audience fragmentation isn't a new concept, but the proliferation of high-quality online-only originals suggests the trend is only going to intensify. These days, a week doesn't go by without another key player announcing a new or renewed online-only series, in turn creating ever-more choices for viewers and advertisers. Combine the surge in originals with the broad adoption of video-enabled connected devices, and the pieces are falling into place for even more changes in viewing behaviors.
Categories: Indie Video
This past Saturday night's "Rumble 2012," a half-serious, half-comedic live-streaming debate between Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was another great example of online video's potential, but also its peril. Here was a situation where the bustling online video medium provided two of TV's biggest stars an unfettered creative and business opportunity, only to be undermined by technical snafus.
In case you weren't following this closely, Rumble 2012 was an online-only live-streaming event staged at George Washington University. Even though many viewers registered in advance, paying the $4.95 fee to watch the live-stream - and therefore indicating to the organizers how much server capacity would be required - a last minute server crash left many viewers unable to watch. I don't quite understand why this occurred, as any high-quality CDN would likely have been able to avoid such a problem. Be that as it may, organizers haven't shared any further details.
Categories: Indie Video
Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group and I are back for the 148th edition of the VideoNuze-TDG podcast.
First up this week we discuss Microsoft hiring former CBS Entertainment executive Nancy Tellem to develop original content for the Xbox platform and other devices. Colin thinks it's a odd choice because of the apparent mismatch between the type of programming CBS has excelled at vs. the type of programming that will likely resonate with Xbox owners. In particular, Colin notes that 40% of Xbox owners are age 18-24, whereas Nielsen has found that CBS's average viewer's age is 55. Clearly Microsoft is betting that Ms. Tellem can extend her significant programming skills to different formats, audiences and devices.
Speaking of confusing, we then turn our attention to comments that Time Warner Cable's COO Rob Marcus made this week in reference to the company potentially working with Apple on a set-top box. On the one hand he said that TWC is "open to giving up control of the user experience" to new devices, but on the other, that this does not mean it is willing "to give up the customer relationship." Both Colin and I find the two objectives at odds with one another, particularly when introducing a UI powerhouse like Apple into the living room. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, if cable operators partner with Apple and its set-top, it will be akin to allowing the fox into the henhouse. We know how that story ended.
Lastly, as frequent flyers, both of us were excited to read about Delta's new in-flight VOD plans, and JetBlue's forthcoming high-speed WiFI rollout. We discuss implications briefly.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 20 seconds)
Is online video its own medium, or is it a farm league for those aspiring to make the transition to the majors of traditional TV? This has been a persistent question for years, and has gained more attention as numerous big-name celebrities have begun creating online-only originals. Are these stars committed to online video, or is it just a stepping stone to the conventional TV world they know so well and have benefiting from so greatly?
No doubt, the question will be re-visited anew, as former Fox News host - and current online video star - Glenn Beck has announced this morning a new distribution deal with Dish Network for his online network TheBlazeTV, along with the intention to pursue other pay-TV carriage deals. Regardless of what you think of his politics, Beck's move back into pay-TV, leveraging his success online, will surely be viewed as a template by others looking to make a similar leap.
If you were trying to tune out last week, whether lying on a beach or on a family getaway, you didn't miss all that much exciting online video-related news. However there were some items worth noting and below I've highlighted five that caught my eye.
Six months in the making, HuffPo Live has launched this morning, seeking to define a new online programming format at the intersection of live-streaming video, news coverage and community involvement. Unlike other news outlets that have primarily relied on re-purposing on-air broadcasts, or on creating online segments featuring their own reporters, HuffPo Live is looking to transform its huge base of active readers/commenters into participants in live-streamed, topical discussions. As a result, HuffPo Live is being positioned as not just a "video network," but more broadly as a "platform for engagement."
Categories: Indie Video
Independent online video production is flourishing, helped along by investments from major players like YouTube, Yahoo, AOL and others, and the enthusiasm of thousands of mom and pop creators looking to carve out a valuable niche audience. But unlike the pay-TV business, where content is supported by advertising and distributor fees, virtually all online video relies solely on advertising. Independents face the acute challenge of conveying the value of their content and audiences to media buyers who are increasingly overwhelmed by the choices in front of them.
To address this problem, this morning Outrigger Media is announcing the beta launch of OpenSlate, a marketplace for online video that uses a proprietary "SlateScore" to consistently measure the value of over 10,000 different video productions. SlateScore measures a video's reach, engagement, influence and consistency - attributes that buyers look for when assessing "premium content" - by ingesting and analyzing thousands of data points about the videos' viewer behavior.
HealthiNation, which produces and syndicates health and lifestyle video across multiple platforms, is getting a big boost to its library via an exclusive distribution deal with PumpOne, which has the largest collection of fitness and workout videos and images. PumpOne offers content such as step-by-step workout plans and hour-long exercise classes yoga, bootcamp and other areas.
HealthiNation separately announced that Seth Solomons has joined its board of directors. Solomons is currently Global CEO of CRM365, a CRM agency that's part of Publicis' VivaKi unit, and is also the former global CMO of Digitas.
At the recent NABShow, MSN's Joe Michaels stopped by the VideoNuze booth and discussed how it is now producing 15-20 original video series on its network. Some are produced by MSN itself, while others are with studio or 3rd-party production partners, or are branded entertainment. Joe said the ones that are most successful are focused on verticals, like TV recap show "Last Night on TV" and auto guide series "Road Raves." Joe also talks about the success MSN is having with "MSN Now," which tracks top social media trends with a companion video series. See the video below (4 minutes, 19 seconds).
Categories: Indie Video
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 131st edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for May 4, 2012. This week Colin and I discuss how fundamental battle lines have been drawn between the traditional TV ecosystem vs. the numerous digital outlets that are launching online-only original programs. To be more specific, the former group seems intent on erecting ever-higher paywalls to access its programs, which is in turn opening up a gigantic opportunity for free, ad-supported programs to be provided by the latter group. How this battle unfolds will have far-reaching and profound implications for everyone involved.
For the traditional TV ecosystem, there appear to be two core drivers at work; first, the desire by broadcast TV networks to morph themselves into cable TV networks, and second, the role that TV Everywhere is taking on as a foundation of paywall economics.
As with TV, it's awfully hard to predict which particular programs and initiatives unveiled at last week's Digital Content NewFronts ("DCNF") will succeed and which will flop. But one thing that I'm fairly certain of is that the aggregate effort by digital outlets to create high-quality originals portends significant audience fragmentation ahead. To me, the historical parallel is as follows: what cable TV has done to broadcast TV in re-distributing audiences, online is about to do to cable TV and to broadcast.
Revision3's CEO Jim Louderback gave an impromptu interview at VideoNuze's NABShow booth last week, providing insights from the company's experience of delivering 30 shows online. One of Jim's key points is that while mobile as a category is red hot, it's important to understand that tablets and smartphones are very different. He likens tablets to "mini-TVs" and is seeing longer much longer viewing times vs. smartphones.
Jim also talks about how his company is providing a place for shows that wouldn't ordinarily be found on cable or broadcast TV. And he talks about the innovative way that his shows' hosts integrate brand messages during the programs. All great insights for other content producers looking to distribute online. See video below (7 minutes, 32 seconds)
I'm constantly on the lookout for data points that provide insights into how viewer behavior may be changing, particularly with respect to possible shifts from traditional pay-TV offerings to new over-the-top (OTT) alternatives.
That's why a client note from the media analysts at Citigroup this week, which highlighted the ratings drop-off that cable TV networks as a group are experiencing, caught my eye. The Citigroup note follows a recent WSJ report explaining that 11 of the top 15 cable networks have lost audience this year, including a whopping 25% decline at Nickelodeon among its kids 2-11. Citigroup said that for each of the last 6 months, cable's total day ratings decline has actually accelerated, from 2.3% last October to 7.8% in March.
Citigroup's main concern about this ratings drop-off is that cable networks' ad revenue growth is slowing as well, in turn pressuring their media company owners' valuations. While that is surely a worry for investors, an even broader issue to consider is whether the drop-off in cable's ratings is the tip of the OTT iceberg, signaling that the explosion of online-delivered alternatives is beginning to impact viewership patterns. While it's too early to conclude this, all of the elements that would drive OTT's rise - at cable's expense - appear to be falling into place.
At yesterday's IAB Digital Video conference, 10 industry executives (see list at bottom of this page), debated how best to define "premium video." It's not an academic question, because for many brands and agencies, the concept of "premium" determines whether the video will qualify for ad spending at all. And of course, the more "premium" the video is, the higher the pricing its ad inventory will command, which in turn drives the video's profitability. At a time when more original online video is being produced than ever (much of it deficit-financed), understanding in advance what is premium - and therefore monetizable - is critical to achieving success.