Net2TV has announced this morning that its 18 branded OTT programs will be added to ARRIS Market, a platform for cable operators to combine OTT and traditional linear programming. Arris Market was announced this past July, and is powered by Wurl, which offers an API and hosted HTML5 apps. ARRIS has not yet announced any ARRIS Market deployments.
The significance of the news - and the ARRIS' Market initiative in general - is that cable operators are increasingly being presented with options to incorporate access to OTT content into their overall value proposition. This is an opportunity for operators to capitalize on viewers' ongoing shift from linear TV viewing to OTT viewing.
Time Inc. is further bolstering its online video efforts, unveiling a new weekly program called "Sports Illustrated," available exclusively through its partner Net2TV's Portico TV service.
Like other recently-launched Time programs that are part of a broader deal with Portico TV (including "The Week in TIME," "PEOPLE This Week," "Cooking Light," "Southern Living," and "Inside Golf Magazine"), Sports Illustrated curates previously-released, shorter-form videos into a full-length program professionally hosted by one of the respective magazine's personalities.
One of the key takeaways so far from this year's NewFronts is that traditional print publishers are doubling down on online video. Last week, four big print publishers - the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Inc and Conde Nast each shared ambitious plans (here, here, here and here) to expand upon existing video initiatives.
While the specific plans vary from company to company, the common underlying thread is that online video is a once-in-a-generation game-changer, that could ultimately redefine every aspect of these businesses, including how they will engage their audiences, what their competitive advantages will be and how they will make their money.
Expanding on their existing partnership, Bonnier, one of the largest U.S. magazine publishers, and Net2TV, a startup connected-TV media company, will create 30-minute TV programs for Bonnier titles "Cycle World" and "Saveur." The companies have also renewed the current "Popular Science" program. All of the programs are built by curating short-form videos into shows that are available on Net2TV's Portico TV service, on millions of connected TVs.
As I've written in the past, Net2TV's model is to create ad-supported TV-like experiences using high-quality short-form videos from branded partners. The videos are curated and assembled into 30, 60 and 90-minute programs, often accompanied by hosts who help create a narrative. The programs are typically updated on a weekly basis for now, with more frequent updates planned in the future. The Portico service is delivered from the cloud, accelerating the scaling of its integration with multiple connected TVs and devices.
With billions of video streams now being viewed each month, across an ever-growing array of devices, consumers' expectations are higher than ever that video is a part of the storytelling mix. For print publications like magazines and newspapers, that's creating a massive new opportunity to re-imagine their businesses, better connect with their audiences and pursue a new vein of ad spending.
To get a better sense of why video is so strategic for magazines, last week I spoke with Lauren Wiener, who 6 weeks ago became president of global sales and marketing at Tremor Video, after spending 9 years at Meredith Corp, most recently as SVP of Digital. Meredith has been among the most active magazine publishers with video through its Meredith Video Studios business. The unit creates original video that is syndicated to YouTube and other online outlets along with VOD, and provides videos to Meredith's numerous magazines' online properties.
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Sports Illustrated's 2010 swimsuit edition hit the stands this week and video is a central part of its promotion. For the real die-hards, SI has been hosting a series of videos with the models at its Ustream channel. There's also a collection of videos at the site, though I have to say the video quality is surprisingly mediocre. SI has also included "JAGTAGs" in the print issue. When readers take a picture of the JAGTAG with their phone and send them in via MMS, they receive additional behind-the-scenes videos of the models. I give SI credit, they're really turning the swimsuit edition into a multi-media extravaganza. If (and it's a big if) the iPad sells well, SI will be able to do even more next year. I continue to believe that video gives magazines a whole new editorial and advertising opportunity which some like SI are aggressively pursuing.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Topics: Sports Illustrated
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 30th week:
1. Alicia Keys concert on YouTube is an underwhelming experience - Did you catch any of the Alicia Keys concert on YouTube this past Tuesday night celebrating World AIDS Day? I watched parts of it, and while the music was great, I have to say it was disappointing from a video quality standpoint -lots of buffering and pixilation, plus watching full screen was impossible.
I think YouTube is on to something special webcasting live concerts. Recall its webcast of the U2 concert from the Rose Bowl on Oct 25th drew a record 10 million viewers. That concert's quality was far superior, and separately, the dramatic staging and 97,000 in-person fans also helped boost the excitement of the online experience. It's still early days, but to really succeed with the concert series, YouTube is going to have to guarantee a minimum quality level. Notwithstanding, American Express, the lead sponsor of the Keys concert had strong visibility and surely YouTube has real interest from other sponsors for future concerts. It could be a very valuable franchise YouTube is building and is further evidence of YouTube's evolution from its UGC roots.
2. Being a Jeff Zucker fan is lonely business - In yesterday's post, "Comcast-NBCU: The Winners, Losers and Unknowns" I said I've been a fan of Jeff Zucker's since seeing him deliver a brutally candid and very sober assessment of the broadcast TV industry at the NATPE conference in Jan '08. My praise elicited a number of incredulous email responses from readers who vehemently disagreed, thinking Zucker's performance merits him being sent to the woodshed rather than to the CEO's office for the new Comcast-NBCU JV.
To be sure, NBC's abysmal performance under Zucker (falling from first place to fourth in prime-time), will be one of his legacies, but I take a broader view of his tenure. A good chunk of NBCU's cable network portfolio came to the company via the Vivendi deal around the time Zucker took over responsibility for cable. Since that time the networks have grown strongly in audience and cash flow has doubled from about $1 billion to a projected $2.2 billion in '09. NBCU added Oxygen (which combined with its iVillage property makes a strong proposition for women-focused advertisers) and The Weather Channel, in a joint buyout with two PE firms.
While Zucker's hiring of Ben Silverman to run NBC was a misstep, NBCU has enjoyed stability on the cable side, with two of the highest-regarded women in TV, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick cranking out hit after hit for their respective networks. A CEO's tenure is always a mixed one, with plenty of wins and losses. It can be hard to know how much of the wins to ascribe to the CEO personally, rather than the executives below, but at the end of the day, NBCU was transformed from a single network company to a cable powerhouse; even Zucker skeptics have to give him some credit for this.
3. Comcast rebrands On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV - yuck! - Largely lost in the NBCU commotion this week was news that B&C broke that Comcast is changing the name of its soon-to-be-launched TV Everywhere service from On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV. Yikes, the branding gurus need to head back to the drawing board, and quick. The name violates the first rule of branding: pronunciation must be obvious and easy. Not only is it unclear how you pronounce Xfinity, it's a an unnecessary mouthful that doesn't fit with any of Comcast's other workmanlike brands (e.g. "Digital Cable," "On Demand," "Comcast.net"). If we're talking about a new videogame targeted to teenage boys, Xfinity is great. If we're talking about a service that provides online access to TV shows, there's no need for something super-edgy. I'd suggest just sticking with "On Demand Online." But even more importantly, priority #1 is getting the product launched successfully.
4. Sports Illustrated demo builds tablet computing buzz - If you haven't seen SI's demo of its tablet version being shown off this week, it's well worth a look at the video here. Never mind that there isn't such a tablet device on the market yet, the rumors swirling around Apple's planned launch of one has created an air of inevitability for the whole category. As the SI demo shows, a tablet can be thought of a larger version of an iPhone (likely minus the phone), providing larger screen real estate to make the user experience even more interesting. It's fascinating to think about what a tablet could do for magazines in particular, along the lines of what the Kindle has done for books. The mobile video and gaming possibilities are endless. Judge for yourselves.
Enjoy the weekend!
Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 35th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for October 9, 2009.
This week Daisy and I first discuss Daisy's New Media Minute piece on how book publishers and authors are building iPhone apps, which include video, to enhance their books. The apps also present content in the interval between when a book is finished and when it finally hits the store shelves. Daisy highlights apps for marketing expert Bob Gilbreath's new book "The Next Evolution of Marketing" and novelist Nick Cave's new book "The Death of Bunny Munro." While the book publishing industry is not known for being on the bleeding edge of technology adoption, interest in iPhone appears to be building.
Speaking of publishing, I provide more detail on my post this week "Goumet Magazine's Closing Offers Lessons for Navigating the Broadband Era." I received a lot of emails in response to this post, as the 68 year-old Gourmet clearly had a passionate following and its shuttering by owner Conde Nast was further evidence of how the media industry is changing. I contend that media brands need to embrace a multi-platform approach to survive. It's not good enough to simply be a great magazine anymore. All media brands need to figure out how to play in both online and mobile video.
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Earlier this week when Conde Nast pulled the plug on Gourmet magazine and 3 other titles, there was much hand-wringing about the depressed state of the magazine industry. But while falling ad sales, costs of production, editorial issues and redundancy were all contributors to the 68 year-old Gourmet's ultimate fate, in my view, its failure is part of a much larger story of how much the media business has evolved. More specifically, Gourmet offers abundant lessons for those trying to successfully navigate the broadband era.
Gourmet, and its owner Conde Nast, are part of a proud media tradition that relied mainly on tying an editorial approach and brand to one specific media outlet - the magazine. In this traditional paradigm, the media world was thought of in terms of categories: broadcast TV network, newspaper, radio, cable, etc. While the same corporate owner might have interests across categories, the specific mission of each media property was well-defined: turn out the best product possible for your chosen medium and keep your audience and advertisers coming back for more. (As a sidenote, this is a key reason why most magazine companies did not launch cable TV networks related to their areas of specialty 25 years ago, thereby opening the field for upstarts.)
The problem is that this model is out of synch with the way many real people actually experience media today. People affiliate with media brands in a more deeply self-identifying way. It's no longer just the information and entertainment that's conveyed, but also about the statement affiliating with that media brand makes and/or the implied trust and comfort that's provided. For better or for worse - depending on your perspective - brand affiliation is now a deeply ingrained part of our cultural landscape.
Smart advertisers know this too. They are not just interested in just reaching their target audience when they pick up a magazine for example. They want to surround consumers with their brand whenever consumers engage with their chosen media. Advertisers continue to grapple with how to optimize their media spending to gain mindshare and drive sales.
Forward-thinking media companies have realized for sometime now that changing consumer and advertiser preferences must drive the way they do business, not the other way around. Two examples I like to cite are ESPN and Food Network, two highly successful cable networks that have built strong media brands and prospered by constantly reinforcing the value of their core franchises.
Among the many non-cable activities each has launched are successful magazines. That may seem ironic given the magazine industry's woes, but in truth each has figured out how to extend their brand, editorial, and importantly, advertiser interest into print. Food Network magazine's recent success is all the more remarkable; while Conde Nast has undergone a wrenching downsizing, Food Network Magazine, which launched in October '08 (in partnership with Hearst), has recently expanded its circulation base to 900,000, nearly on par with what Gourmet achieved after 68 years.
Noteworthy for ESPN and Food Network have been their successful online initiatives and push into broadband video, all reinforcing their core franchises. In addition to its ad and commerce supported web sites, ESPN has rolled out ESPN 360, a subscription online video service available in 41 million U.S. broadband homes for which ISPs pay a monthly fee. Food Network too has been busy expanding its franchise in online video, among other things recently launching Food2, a broadband-only channel catering to younger viewers that cultivates up-and-coming talent. And as I wrote on Monday, Scripps Networks (Food's owner) just announced a deal with 5Min (an online video syndication platform) to proliferate its content across the web while also gaining access to additional targeted ad inventory to sell.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
The partnership between Magnify.net and American Business Media announced last week is further evidence that online video is gaining ground in b-to-b media, and that video shouldn't be looked upon as solely consumer-centric.
For those not familiar with ABM, it's a professional association for 300 business information companies, comprising 6,000 print and online titles, plus trade shows and databases that reach over 100 million professionals. Late last week Magnify's Steve Rosenbaum gave me more details about the deal.
Magnify has focused consistently on helping vertical publishers create engaging video offerings. It does so with tools to curate and aggregate all video relevant to the publisher's audience, rather than requiring the publisher to create all of the video itself. I originally wrote about Magnify's approach a year ago and how it was powering Taste of Home magazine's video initiative.
For editors, the challenge - and opportunity - is to evolve from the mindset of controlling all editorial, and instead think of the web as a rich trove of content that can be sorted through so that the best nuggets can be offered to their audiences. With the cost of creating high-quality original video still relatively high, the economy suffering, and product companies and users getting better at creating worthwhile video, this approach makes a lot of sense.
In the ABM deal, Magnify will initially power ABM's own web site, but the more important part of the deal is that it gives Magnify a stamp of approval to seek out ABM members to power their video offerings. Many of these companies, which focus on niche markets, have long offered their IP in multiple forms - print, online, email, databases, conferences, etc. Video is the newest media opportunity for them, and Magnify's goal is not only to support original video they create, but also educate them about how to harness video that's available from 3rd party sources.
In general, video is becoming more central to b-to-b media. For example, just last week, the WSJ, long an online video leader among business media, launched the News Hub, a twice-per-day show featuring its reporters and guests. As a side note, the show feels a lot like cable with its split screens, fast cuts and guests talking over each other. The News Hub joins sibling FoxBusiness.com which offers a robust video section. Moving a little more into the consumer space, CNNMoney.com continues building on its leadership. There are scores of other video suppliers as well.
Increasingly b-to-b media seem to be recognizing that with their audiences spending more and more time on sites like YouTube and Hulu, it is essential to reach them with video as well. I see no let up in this trend.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 24th:
1. Time Warner Cable, Verizon launch TV Everywhere trials - Little surprise that Time Warner Cable announced its own TV Everywhere trial yesterday, given that former sister company Time Warner has been one of its biggest proponents. More interesting was Verizon launching a TV Everywhere initiative, which I regard as a pretty strong indicator that most or all service providers will eventually get on board. (The Hollywood Reporter has a story that DirecTV is in talks too for online distribution of TBS and TNT to start).
I have to give credit to Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, TV Everwhere's key champion, who's clearly generated a groundswell of support. While some critics see TV Everywhere as being at odds with the "open Internet" ethos, I continue to think of it as a big win for consumers eager to get online access to their favorite cable programs. Assuming authentication is proven in during the trials I expect a speedy rollout.
2. Conde Nast distributes through boxee - I was intrigued by news that Conde Nast Digital will begin distributing video from its Wired.com and Style.com sites through boxee. boxee and others who connect broadband to TVs are valuable for magazines and other content providers who have long been shut out of the cable/satellite/telco distribution ecosystem, thereby unable to reach viewers' TVs. Years ago special interest magazines missed big opportunities to get into cable programming, allowing upstart cable networks to grow into far larger businesses (consider ESPN vs. Sports Illustrated, Food Network vs. Gourmet or CNBC vs. Forbes). Broadband gives magazines, belatedly, an opportunity to get back into the game.
3. Amazon announces 5 finalists in UGC ad contest - Have you seen the 5 finalists' ads in Amazon's "Your Amazon Ad" contest, announced this week? They're quite clever, with some amazing special effects. The contest is another great example of how brands are tapping users' talents, posing new competition to ad agencies. I haven't written about this in a while, but I continue to be impressed with how different brands are pursuing this path. Doritos has been the most visible and successful with its user-generated Super Bowl ads.
4. Microprojectors open up mobile video sharing opportunities - Maybe I've been living under a rock because I just read about "microprojectors" for the first time this week (I have a decent excuse since as I non-iPhone owner I wouldn't have a use for one, yet). As the name suggests, these are pocket-size projectors that allow you to output the video from your iPhone to project onto a large surface like a wall or ceiling. According to this NY Times review the quality is quite respectable, and is no doubt only going to improve. The mind boggles at what this could imply for sharing mobile video. Imagine bringing a kit - consisting of an iPhone, portable speakers and microprojector - to your friend's house, then plugging in and projecting either a live stream or an on-demand program for all to see.
Enjoy your weekend!
New York magazine, the go-to-source for in-the-know New Yorkers, has relaunched the video section of its web site using the Magnify.net platform. What separates the magazine's effort from others is its plan to actively augment video it produces itself with other video sources, including users. By "curating" others' video, New York is looking to beef up the video section of its site by tapping into others' energy. Michael Silberman, the magazine's GM, Digital Media, explained more to me last week.
Michael said that as a print publication, New York was unlikely to ever have a large staff devoted to video production (it currently has just one dedicated person). However, the New York team has been watching broadband video's surging popularity and wanted to capitalize on this by making video an integral part of its web site. A key goal was to cost-effectively bulk up the volume of video it offered. That led the team to focus on how to aggregate and intelligently curate video from other sources so that the magazine's sensibility would be maintained. And all of this needed to be done in a "Hulu-like" user experience with accurately tagged videos presented in a logical flow.
In a prior post about Taste of Home magazine, I wrote about curation and how it can be a powerful editorial lever for print publishers' sites that have lean video budgets. The reality is that there is a lot of really interesting video being created that would be quite valuable to mainstream publications. In the Internet era, timeliness and omnipresence are important calling cards. Tapping into video-enabled readers, who often find themselves at the right place at the right time with their cellphones, digital cameras and Flips on hand, can produce real value if incorporated the right way.
New York plans to bring on a producer who will, among other things, run the curation process. No doubt there will be plenty of trial-and-error in the hunts for and includes appropriate 3rd party video, including users' submissions. But as I explained in the Taste of Home post, curation's potential suggests the emergence of a new editorial model for video that is particularly relevant in these penny-pinching economic times. It's the kind of break-from-tradition that may be jolting to editorial purists, but which reflects pragmatic - and strategic - thinking about how print publications can evolve and succeed in the broadband video era.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
I've been optimistic about print publishers' (magazines and newspapers) opportunity to expand into broadband video for a while now. They bring recognized brands, editorial expertise and advertising relationship to their video initiatives. But of course they have plenty of learning to do about how to create compelling yet inexpensive video that serves their audience's needs.
Yesterday's Online Media Daily had a good piece on what Forbes, Conde Nast and the NY Times for example, are doing to bolster their video efforts. Their executives' sentiments echo what I heard from Eric Grilly, president of Philly.com, the web site associated with the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a recent conversation with him.
Philly.com has been building out a number of programs this year on topics including wine ("Philly Uncorked"), local restaurants ("The Philly Dish") and local gossip ("The Gossip with Marnie Hall"). Philly.com seems to have hit on an initial formula for identifying a sponsor first, recruiting outside talent and regularly releasing episodes. Eric noted he's not trying to compete with local broadcasters, but rather trying to do something new and different. The programs look like they're inexpensive to make, but have high advertiser appeal. Despite print publishers' larger challenges, I expect to see them continue pushing hard into video in '09.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Welcome to October. Recapping another busy month, here are 3 key themes from September:
1. When established video providers use broadband, it must be to create new value
Broadband simultaneously threatens incumbent video businesses, while also opening up new opportunities. It's crucial that incumbents moving into broadband do so carefully and in ways that create distinct new value. However, in September I wrote several posts highlighting instances where broadband may either be hurting existing video franchises, or adding little new value.
Despite my admiration for Hulu, in these 2 posts, here and here, I questioned its current advertising implementations and asserted that these policies are hurting parent company NBC's on-air ad business. Worse yet, In "CNN is Undermining Its Own Advertisers with New AC360 Live Webcasts" I found an example where a network is using broadband to directly draw eyeballs away from its own on-air advertising. Lastly in "Palin Interview: ABC News Misses Many Broadband Opportunities" I described how the premier interview of the political season produced little more than an online VOD episode for ABC, leaving lots of new potential value untapped.
Meanwhile new entrants are innovating furiously, attempting to invade incumbents' turf. Earlier this week in "Presidential Debate Video on NYTimes.com is Classic Broadband Disruption," I explained how the Times's debate coverage positions it to steal prime audiences from the networks. And at the beginning of this month in "Taste of Home Forges New Model for Magazine Video," I outlined how a plucky UGC-oriented magazine is using new technology to elbow its way into space dominated by larger incumbents.
New entrants are using broadband to target incumbents' audiences; these companies need to bring A-game thinking to their broadband initiatives.
2. Purpose-driven user-generated video is YouTube 2.0
In September I further advanced a concept I've been developing for some time: that "purpose-driven" user-generated video can generate real business value. I think of these as YouTube 2.0 businesses. Exhibit A was a company called Unigo that's trying to disrupt the college guidebook industry through student-submitted video, photos and comments. While still early, I envision more purpose-driven UGV startups cropping up in the near future.
Meanwhile, brand marketers are also tapping the UGV phenomenon with ongoing contests. This trend marked a new milestone with Doritos new Super Bowl ad contest, which I explained in "Doritos Ups UGV Ante with $1 Million Price for Top-Rated 2009 Super Bowl Ad." There I also cataloged about 15 brand-sponsored UGV contests I've found in the last year. This is a growing trend and I expect much more to come.
3. Syndication is all around us
Just in case you weren't sick of hearing me talk about syndication, I'll make one more mention of it before September closes out. Syndication is the uber-trend of the broadband video market, and several announcements underscored its growing importance.
For example, in "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications" I described how well-positioned Google is in syndication, as it ties AdSense to YouTube with its new Seth MacFarlane "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" partnership. The month also marked the first syndication-driven merger, between Anystream and Voxant, a combination that threatens to upend the competitive dynamics in the broadband video platform space. Two other syndication milestones of note were AP's deal with thePlatform to power its 2,000+ private syndication network, and MTV's comprehensive deal with Visible Measure to track and analyze its 350+ sites' video efforts.
I know I'm a broken record on this, but regardless of what part of the market you're playing in, if you're not developing a syndication plan, you're going to be out of step in the very near future.
That's it for September, lots more planned in October. Stay tuned.
What do you think? Post a comment!
Welcome to September. Before looking ahead, here's a quick recap of 3 key topics from August:
1. Advertising model remains in flux
Broadband video advertising was a key story line in August, as it seems to be every month. The industry is rightly focused on the ad model's continued evolution as more and more players in the value chain are increasingly dependent on it. This month, in "Pre-Roll Video Advertising Gets a Boost from 3 Research Studies," I noted how recent research is showing that user acceptance and engagement with the omnipresent pre-roll format is already high and is improving. However, as many readers correctly noted, research from industry participants must be discounted, and some of the metrics cited are not necessarily the best ones to use. I expect we'll see plenty more research - on both sides of pre-roll's efficacy - yet to come.
Meanwhile, comScore added to the confusion around the ad model by first highly ranking YuMe, a large ad network, very high in its reach statistics, only to then reverse itself by downgrading YuMe, before regrouping entirely by introducing a whole new metric for measuring reach. In this post, "comScore Gets Its Act Together on Ad Network Traffic Reporting," I tried to unravel some of this mini-saga. Needless to say, without trustworthy and universally accepted traffic reporting, broadband video is going to have a tough slog ahead.
2. Broadband Olympics are triumphant, but accomplishments are overshadowed
And speaking of a tough slog, the first "Broadband Olympics" were a huge triumph for both NBC and all of its technology partners, yet their accomplishments were overshadowed by a post-mortem revenue estimate by eMarketer suggesting NBC actually made very little money for its efforts. This appeared to knock broadband video advertising back on its heels, yet again, as outsiders pondered whether broadband is being overhyped.
The Olympics became a hobbyhorse of mine in the last 2 weeks as I tried to clarify things in 2 posts, "Why NBCOlympics.com's Video Ad Revenues Don't Matter" part 1 and part 2. These posts triggered a pretty interesting debate about whether technology/operational achievements are noteworthy, if substantial revenues are absent. My answer remains a resounding yes. But having exhausted all my arguments in these prior posts, I'll leave it to you to dig in there if you'd like to learn more about why I feel this way.
3. Broadband's impact is wide-ranging
VideoNuze readers know that another favorite topic of mine is how widespread broadband's impact is poised to become, and in fact already is. A number of August's posts illustrated how broadband's influence is already being felt across a diverse landscape.
Here's a brief sampling: "Vogue.TV's Model.Live: A Magazine Bets Big on Broadband" (magazines), "Tanglewood and BSO Pioneer Broadband Use for Arts/Cultural Organizations," (arts/culture), "American Political Conventions are Next Up to Get Broadband Video Treatment," (politics), "Citysearch Offering Local Merchants Video Enhancement," (local advertising) and "1Cast: A Legit Redlasso Has Tall Mountain to Climb" (local news).
I expect this trend will only accelerate, as more and more industries begin to recognize broadband video's potential benefits.
That's it for August and for the busy summer of '08. Lots more action to coming this fall!