Visible Measures is unveiling its "Certified Publisher Program" (CPP) this morning, to help establish standardized MRC-accredited online video campaign metrics for publishers to report to advertisers and agencies. The program, which is free to publishers and advertisers, is meant to enhance consistency and transparency. This in turn reduces the friction of agencies needing to expend resources normalizing self-reported and highly variable publisher results.
Topics: Visible Measures
Yesterday Nielsen made its Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings commercially available, following trials by GroupM, ESPN, Facebook, Hulu and Unilever. Cross-Platform provides, for the first time, "unduplicated and incremental reach, frequency and GRP measures for TV and Internet advertising." Cross-Platform brings together Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) with its longstanding national TV panel.
The Cross-Platform launch follows Nielsen's announcement two weeks ago that 15 leading video and digital ad platforms have integrated OCR, plus last week's news that the CW Network will use OCR to measure its online viewership and offer demographic guarantees for online advertisers for the 2012-2013 TV season. As I explained last week, Cross-Platform is so critical to online video advertising because it helps align the ecosystem with media buying expectations of the multi-billion dollar TV advertising industry.
Talk to anyone involved in the business of online video advertising and they will quickly say that the number one challenge to increased spending is better audience measurement. If only advertisers and agencies had a TV-style Gross Rating Points (GRP) metric - not just impression and clickthrough levels - to gauge the effectiveness of their spend, then traditional TV ad dollars would flow more freely into online video campaigns. Inevitably, the online measurement discussion focuses on Nielsen, the undisputed king of TV ratings, whose measurement standard is the common currency for billions in brand advertising dollars.
And that's why Nielsen's announcement yesterday, that 15 leading video and digital ad platforms - which together deliver thousands of online video ad campaigns and billions of impressions - are integrating Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings (OCR) for use by their clients in campaign planning and analysis is a big milestone. As Amit Seth, Nielsen's EVP of Global Media Products explained to me late yesterday, these new partners will help cement OCR as an "online GRP" helping them to establish accountability and ROI quantification, two pre-requisites for traditional TV advertisers.
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.
This week's eye-popping $2.15 billion acquisition of the Dodgers officially makes Los Angeles ground zero for the most egregiously anti-consumer aspect of today's pay-TV multichannel bundle: the massive annual subsidization by non-sports fans of hyper-expensive sports programming.
This is a topic I have written about previously in "Not a Sports Fan? Then You're Getting Sacked For At Least $2 Billion Per Year" and "Why Albert Pujols is Over-the-Top's New Best Friend." A confluence of factors, some particular to L.A.'s sports market, is bringing this little-understood issue into the spotlight, in turn raising the question of whether non-sports fans will revolt, seeking out less expensive over-the-top alternatives.
Topics: Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Thursday night, a Bloomberg headline, "Online Film Viewing in U.S. to Top Discs in 2012, IHS Says," caught my eye. The article reported that media research firm IHS Screen Digest is forecasting that "legal online viewings of films will more than double to 3.4 billion this year from 1.4 billion in 2011." Meanwhile IHS is forecasting that DVD/Blu-ray viewing will decline from 2.6 billion viewings in 2011 to 2.4 billion in 2012.
Over the weekend, as I kept seeing other publications essentially reiterating the Bloomberg story, I started wondering how IHS arrived at its forecast, the details of which I haven't seen. Doing a little back of the envelope analysis, as I show below, it's awfully hard to see how streaming movies in the U.S. will more than double from last year, unless some very unexpected things happen with Netflix (IHS notes that 94% of streaming movie volume was subscription-based, and of course, Netflix massively dominates this segment). Rather, it seems likely DVD/Blu-ray will hold on for another year.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 126th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 23, 2012. This week finds Colin in London, providing him an even better perspective on our first topic this week, Sky's new over-the-top service called NOW TV, which it will launch this summer. Colin is bullish on NOW TV and likes the lessons it provides for U.S. pay-TV operators.
Topics: Kantar Video
Visible Measures, the third-party measurement firm for online video, is taking the wraps off its new "Trends" web-based application this morning. I've been playing around with it for the last couple of days with a courtesy login and not only does it pack a ton of value, it's also really addictive.
Trends offers access to videos in 3 different data sets, or "collections": Social Video (currently 165 online ad campaigns that have gone viral), Film Trailers (currently 115, and growing by 3-4 per week), and all the recent 2010 Super Bowl ads. The results table for a query displays the campaign's thumbnail image and its name, along with its views or "reach" based on Visible Measures' "True Reach" data (either incremental or cumulative) plus the number of comments, ratings and points of distribution. The table also displays each ad's industry categorization, ad agency, brand name and type of creative type (humor, contest, product demo, etc.). Viewing any particular ad is also just one click away.
Users can take advantage of Trends in any number of ways, depending on their particular interest. As one example, I started by choosing the Social Video collection and "Cumulative Reach" for the current time period. I was interested to see just campaigns for beverages, so I chose that category, but allowed all agencies, brands and creative types to be displayed. In an instant I was presented with a table of 20 results on 2 pages, starting with Evian's hilarious "Live Young" campaign featuring the dancing babies that has garnered almost 74 million views to date. After looking it over, I also reviewed the other campaigns in the top 5, from Pepsi, AMP and Anheuser-Busch. Click on the image below if you'd like to see a 4 minute video demo.
In the social and online video-dominated world we now live in, Trends data is invaluable for brand advertisers and their agencies. It allows them to customize their views of the database, compare different campaigns and analyze what worked online and what didn't. Online distribution is now a key part of calculating the ROI on a campaign, so being able to benchmark the performance of past campaigns provides insight not normally available in traditional TV advertising.
For example, say an agency is formulating a plan for its client's new shampoo - Trends lets its creative executives understand whether prior campaigns featuring product demos, humor or celebrities worked best online. A few quick queries will yield data that can be exported to create charts and graphs for everyone on the team to review. Of course past experience can perfectly predict the future, but Trends provides hard data that lets the creative discussion quickly move beyond gut instinct.
The Visible Measures team told me last week that they've been gradually exposing more and more of their data, through top 10 lists with media partners like AdAge, Variety, Mashable and Motor Trend. With Trends, the data is even more accessible. Visible Measure is also making a public beta of Trends available, though just for the Social Video collection. It's free and it's fun - I recommend giving it a try.
What do you think? Post a comment now (now sign-in required).
Note - Visible Measures is a VideoNuze sponsor.
Topics: Visible Measures
Undoubtedly we've all had the experience at one time or another of watching (or trying to watch) a particular online video, only to have some problem arise that interrupts our experience. To the average user, it's a mystery what might have happened. Is it a problem with my computer? With my personal Internet connection? With my Internet service provider? With the source of the content?
Regardless, it causes user frustration, which can lead to clicking away from the video, possibly never to return. More often than not, the content provider isn't even aware of these user problems. As online video becomes more central to content providers' strategies and P&Ls, inferior user experiences are a growing concern for content providers. And given the vagaries of the Internet and the exploding volume of video being consumed, it's an issue unlikely to go away anytime soon.
That's where Conviva comes in. Conviva gives content providers unprecedented insight into their users' viewing behaviors as well as tools to quickly identify and resolve problems. As Darren Feher, Conviva's new CEO explained to me when I met up with him recently, and in a subsequent demo, the company's studies show that at least 25% of all streams suffer one problem or another. Affected users watch between 30-80% less video than those who don't have problems.
Here's how Conviva works: a small bit of its code is integrated by the content provider alongside the Flash or Silverlight player, whichever is used (in either case no user download involved). Conviva is also integrating with online video platforms (so far just thePlatform, but others to come), so the step is eliminated for the content provider. When deployed, Conviva's code monitors the user's video experience and sends back "heartbeat" reports every 10 seconds to the Conviva console. The console gives the content provider multiple views of their users' experiences, including things like a geographic distribution of current viewing, what player's being used, the average time it's taking to start streaming, the average duration of viewing, the amount of buffering, and so on. Conviva shares the science behind all of this if you're so inclined.
Conviva's secret sauce is mashing up all that in-bound data in real-time and detecting if/where problems exist, and when they do, what the source is. Problems could include buffering on the user's machine, issues with the currently-used CDN, congestion in the local ISP, etc. In addition to these telemetry/analytics services, the company also offers a service it calls "Conviva Distribution" which will seek to remedy problems as they arise based on a set of pre-configured policies. For example, if the user's machine is buffering, Conviva will adjust the stream being sent to a lower bit rate. Or if the CDN being used is the problem, Conviva will switch to another CDN (of the content provider's choosing) in mid-stream, unbeknownst to the user. The content provider gets real-time visibility into what troubleshooting is happening.
In addition to improving the user experience, Darren believes this degree of insight opens up new opportunities for content providers. For example, say there's a higher value set of streams, maybe for a subscription service or a live event. Those streams can be tagged and monitored separately, and have greater resources allocated to them to ensure up-time. Improved visibility into videos that are going viral means their placement on the site and their monetization can be enhanced. Another example is better-informed customer service agents responding to issues specific to a certain set of videos.
Some of what Conviva does is similar to analytics products like Omniture, performance measurement from companies like Keynote and Gomez and some of the reporting CDNs themselves provide to customers. But Conviva seems to bring together user viewing data in a unique and far deeper way than any of these. This week Conviva is helping NBC better understand its Olympics streaming using Silverlight. Conviva also counts Fox, ABC, NFL and others as customers. Conviva started life as Rinera Networks, pursing managed P2P distribution. It has raised $29 million to date from UV Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Performance-based video ad network SpotXchange will announce this week a new partnership with audience profiling firm Quantcast that will allow SpotXchange to offer demographic targeting across its entire network as well as Gross Ratings Points (GRP) based campaigns, the standard for TV media buying. As Bryon Evje, SpotXchange's EVP told me last week, being able to translate campaigns into a "cost-per-point" model for its clients means SpotXchange will be more appealing to traditional TV media buyers evaluating online video ad opportunities. SpotXchange's goal is of course to lure over ad dollars traditionally spent on TV.
If a SpotXchange advertiser is also a Quantcast client, then the advertiser will be able to proactively define a specific audience it wants to target and then buy just those ad placements from SpotXchange that fulfill its objective. SpotXchange can use Quantcast's data on particular segments to determine how many GRPs are available, and then by combining its own pricing, can calculate what it would cost a client to reach that audience on a per point basis.
SpotxChange can separately offer demographically-targeted ads by doing a real-time match against Quantcast's data, before an ad is served. If there isn't a targeted user available, then no ad would be served, reducing spending waste and enhancing the overall campaign's ROI.
Quantcast's demographic information is derived by tracking the behaviors of 220 million Internet users across thousands of web sites. I talked briefly with Quantcast's head of business development Winston Crawford who explained that the company's secret sauce is an "inference model" that takes the behavioral data and mathematically translates it into affinity levels.
From this Quantcast is able to build a "lookalike" model which allows advertisers to target those users who have similar affinities (and as a result a higher probably of converting) elsewhere on the web. In the case of SpotXchange, the lookalikes targeted would be users of sites in its publisher network. Quantcast already works with other video ad networks such as Tremor and BBE, along with many display ad networks.
Melding online video ad campaigns with traditional GRP measurement has gained momentum this year, as other video ad networks like Tremor, BBE and YuMe have announced their own initiatives. Combining a GRP approach with demographic targeting offered by firms like Quantcast is further evidence that the online video ad medium is continuing to mature. Despite the news today that CBS Interactive is phasing out its use of third-party ad networks, as video ad networks move to offering campaigns that can be evaluated along traditional TV criteria, this should in turn draw traditional TV ad dollars to online video. That would mean video ad networks' value would increase.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Late yesterday Adobe surprised the market by unveiling a $1.8 billion cash acquisition of Omniture, the web analytics and optimization company. With Omniture's trailing 4 quarter revenues of $335 million, the deal was done at a little over 5x revenues and a 45% premium to Omniture's average stock price over the last 30 days - not ridiculous bubble-era terms by any stretch, but still plenty rich in this down economy.
I listened to yesterday's investor relations call explaining the rationale for the deal, talked to a number of industry executives for their reactions, and read some of the online coverage. My takeaway is that while the deal could work out, I'm somewhat skeptical until I see actual proof.
First, when I look at Adobe, I'm focused narrowly on its video-oriented products and strategy (Flash, Flash Media Server, Strobe its open player framework, etc). While a leader currently, Adobe has significant challenges ahead in the video space. It faces major competitive threats from Microsoft, which is ramping up a Silverlight and Smooth Streaming onslaught (we've seen this movie before and know how it ends) and Apple, which has frozen Flash out of its world-beating iPhones in an attempt to thwart the advance of Flash's desktop hegemony to mobile devices. From my perspective, an acquisition the size of Omniture must provide specific differentiated value to Flash, in order to help Adobe compete in the video space.
I hear the top-line rationale being provided for the acquisition: that integrating Omniture's measurement and analysis tools into the front-end creative process will help digital media executives more effectively monetize content and improve advertising ROIs. In Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen's words, the deal "completes the loop of content creation, delivery and optimization." Omniture's CEO Josh James put the goal simply: "to drive ad dollars from offline to online."
That's an incredibly important goal; I have written many times that advertising, particularly for long-form online video, is not remotely close yet to supporting the high cost of creating premium-quality programs. To the extent that eyeballs shift from offline to online without a parity (or better) economic model, content providers will be in a death spiral - racking up profitless online viewership.
While the deal's high-level rational makes some sense, I have 3 concerns about whether it's robust enough to ultimately pay off for Adobe, and more specifically strengthen their hand in the video space: (1) Are there actually incremental product integration opportunities beyond those already being pursued through the companies' existing partnership? (2) Are there actually incremental sales to be gained (and for which products), by putting the companies together? (3) Is this the optimal use of Adobe's resources given current and future market conditions for video?
The product integration issue received a lot of attention in the analyst Q&A portion of the investor call. Yet, despite the number of times both CEOs answered it, few specifics were ever revealed, leaving what I perceived as a sense among the analysts and me (manifested by repeated similar questions), that the product benefits might not be well-understood, or worse, overblown.
In my mind optimal product integration requires that the same person or team in an organization gets value from the 2 products being put together. Yet today the creative people using Flash are different from the marketing people using Omniture. In the organizations I've worked with there's already significant interaction between these groups as they continually modify apps to enhance user engagement and monetization. Maybe more can be achieved here, but with different audiences for the respective products, I'd want to see evidence.
Incremental sales were another area of intense analyst interest. Typically in acquisitions a key deal driver is that one (or both) of the companies' products can be put through the others' sales channels to increase volume. Yet, per the above, Adobe's creative tools are typically purchased in the creative group, not the marketing organization (sometimes it's even more complicated as a whole different entity is the buyer, as with CDNs and Flash Media Server). However there is a case to be made that as digital revenues become more important to companies, marketing will exert more influence.
But still, is it likely that notoriously autonomous creative types are going to be swayed to use Adobe's tools because marketing types say that improved integration with Omniture makes analysis/tracking better? Conversely, is a marketing executive going to be persuaded to use Omniture because the creative group insists it must use Flash? Looming also is the question of whether one sales team and channel versed in selling packaged software (Adobe) can effectively help sell SaaS analytics (Omniture) and vice versa.
These questions ultimately raise the final one - is this the best use of Adobe's resources? On the one hand, Omniture helps diversify Adobe's revenue and product base, opening up new markets for it. Diversification isn't a bad thing per se, but if the acquired products don't help the core business, it can quickly turn into a distraction, changing the organization into cluster of silos. Plus, while Omniture's revenues have quadrupled in 3 years, it has already forecast slowing growth. Generally I'm very skeptical of big acquisitions. Evidence has shown they rarely deliver the intended results, and often (as in the case of Ebay-Skype) they can actually be a value destroyer.
My guess is that much of what Adobe will eventually achieve with Omniture could have likely been achieved through expanding its current partnership. But I stand ready to be proven wrong as it's quite possible I just don't get it. Both leadership teams are intelligent and savvy about the market. They obviously see the benefits of the deal. We'll eagerly await the proof.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Broadband-only producers got a boost yesterday as blip.tv, which provides technology, ad sales and distribution for thousands of online shows, announced a variety of new deals as well as product improvements. The deals offer blip's producers new distribution, new monetization and new access to TVs. In order:
Distribution: blip's new deal with YouTube means that producers using blip can deliver their episodes directly to their YouTube accounts, eliminating the two step process. With YouTube's massive traffic, getting in front of this audience is critical to any independent producer. Since my first conversation with blip's co-founder Mike Hudack several years ago, the company's mantra has been widespread syndication. Blip already distributed its producers' shows to iTunes, AOL Video, MSN Video, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Vimeo is another new distribution partner announced yesterday.
Monetization: A new integration with FreeWheel means that ads blip sells can follow the programs it distributes wherever they may be viewed. I've written about FreeWheel in the past, which offers essential monetization capability for the Syndicated Video Economy. With the blip deal, FreeWheel delivered ads can be inserted on YouTube. This follows news earlier this week that YouTube and FreeWheel had struck an agreement which allows content providers that use FreeWheel and distribute their video on YouTube can have FreeWheel insert their ads on YouTube (slowly but surely YouTube is opening itself up to 3rd parties).
Access to TVs - Last but not least is blip's integration with the Roku player which will help bring blip's shows directly to TVs (adding to deals blip already had with TiVo, Sony Bravia, Verizon FiOS, Boxee and Apple TV). While Roku's footprint is still modest, it is positioned for major growth given current deals with Netflix and Amazon, and others no doubt pending. At $100, Roku is an inexpensive and easy-to-operate convergence device that is a great option for consumers trying to gain broadband access on their TVs. Gaining parity access to TV audiences for its broadband producers is a key value proposition for blip.
In addition to the above, blip also redesigned its dashboard and work flow, making it easier for producers to manage their shows along with their distribution and monetization. An additional deal with TubeMogul announced yesterday allows second by second viewer tracking, providing more insight on engagement.
Taken together the new deals help blip further realize its vision of being a "next generation TV network" and provide much-needed services to broadband-only producers. This group has taken a hit this year, given the tough ad sales and funding environments, so they need every advantage they can get.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
This week's announcement by YuMe and Mindshare to introduce an "iGRP" calculation for online video ad campaigns is another important building block in the online video industry's maturation process. Under the plan, YuMe and Mindshare will offer a reach and frequency metric for ad campaigns running across YuMe's network, which will correlate to GRPs that media planners use for TV ads. I spoke to YuMe's president and co-founder Jayant Kadambi about the iGRP plan yesterday.
Jayant explained that as the online video medium has grown, YuMe's sales team has begun interacting with more and more TV ad buyers, in addition to online ad buyers it customarily dealt with. While a lot of the spending for online video ads is still based on number of uniques and impressions, recently virtually all of the TV ad buyers YuMe deals with have been asking for a way to correlate and compare online video ad buys with TV buys. To address this need YuMe introduced the iGRP calculation a little while back and this week took the wraps off of it publicly. For those interested in understanding GRPs better, and the iGRP calculation, YuMe also released this useful white paper.
The white paper suggests that in addition to measuring reach and frequency, iGRPs can also capture an "interactivity factor" which would measure things like mouseovers, click-throughs and leads. YuMe and Mindshare plan to work with agencies and advertisers on various experiments testing the performance of different ad formats, durations, content types and targeting schemes.
I've believed for a while, as have others, that while there will be experimental ad dollars flowing into online video advertising, in order for the industry to truly scale, it is going to have to draw spending away from TV advertising. This is especially true in the down economy where advertisers are paring budgets, not increasing them. The $60 billion or so that's spent per year on TV ads is a rich pot of gold for online video to tap into. And given how reliant the online video industry is on advertising (vs. the paid model), the urgency to do so is quite high.
But actually making this happen is no easy feat. The TV ad industry is well-understood by all its participants, and despite its shortcomings and recent pressures such as surging DVR usage, many in the industry have little incentive to change. As a result, I believe online video ad executives must address and resolve all the friction points in shifting ad spending. Learning to speak in the same language - GRPs in this case - that traditional TV buyers have used in building media plans and doing post-campaign analysis is essential for the online video industry's growth.
YuMe's and Mindshare's GRP plan comes on the heels of Tremor Media's own GRP announcement with comScore from February. No doubt others will follow with their own approaches as well. This will make for a noisy period until the industry coalesces around standard ways of calculating GRPs and other metrics. Nonetheless, this awkward adolescence should be viewed as an expected part of the maturation process for an industry seeking to convert an already massive, and still rapidly growing amount of monthly eyeballs into meaningful ad revenues.
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!