USA Today Sports Digital Media and NeuLion have announced a strategic partnership for video syndication and original productions. The deal includes NeuLion College, a network of 170 NCAA sports properties and USA Today Sports' extensive collection of digital sports sites plus Gannett's 120+ local media properties. Dave Morgan, president of USA Today Sports Media Group and Chris Wagner, EVP of NeuLion filled me in on the deal yesterday.
The streaming industry is currently undergoing incredibly exciting and important changes that are affecting the way viewers consume content. As 'appointment TV' continues to fade, the fact is live events and sports are some of the only real appointments consumers are keeping. These live events are the driving force shaping the streaming industry; giving way to a new era of live interactive digital viewing and monetization of content with added benefits of increased time spent online, more user analytics and ultimately revenue growth.
FreeWheel has released its Q4 '13 video monetization report, revealing among things, that ads viewed in live streaming jumped 148% vs. Q4 '12, and now account for nearly 10% of ads viewed in online video streams served by pay-TV operators and TV networks. Related, ad views in authenticated, TV Everywhere content rose 268% vs. Q4 '12. Overall, ad views were up 30% year-over-year. Brian Dutt, who manages Advisory Services at FreeWheel and oversaw the report, shared more detail behind these and other data being released.
Here's one measure of how popular live streaming is becoming: according to Akamai, yesterday's concurrent men's quarter-final hockey games from Sochi drove 2.5 terabits per second of peak usage on its network, almost 3 times the peak usage of 873 gigabits per second that Akamai saw during the men's 100 meter final, which Usain Bolt won, during the London 2012 games. It's also 56% higher than the 1.6 Tbps peak Akamai delivered during the USA-Russia hockey game last Saturday (which NBC separately said attracted 600K online viewers via its "Live Extra" app). Update - NBC says yesterday's USA-Czech Republic game alone delivered almost 800K online viewers, a new record for "Live Extra."
Since Comcast announced its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable, there have been a number of articles about how broadband is really the main driver of the deal. No doubt broadband is very important, but Comcast still believes there's a lot of life left in its video service. To that end, the company has invested heavily in its X1 set-top box platform.
X1 is a hybrid box, delivering video via traditional "QAM" technology, while including a guide and other interactivity/content via web-based IP technology. Comcast said that X1 played a significant role in Comcast adding subscribers in Q4 '13, for the first time in 6+ years.
I've had an X1 since July, 2012, and to give a sense of its potential, I've shot an 11-minute demo of how X1 handles the NBC Olympics "Live Extra" authenticated app which is tightly integrated with its Xfinity on Demand service for highlights. First, for a little context, I show how "Live Extra" and the NBC Olympics apps work on an iPad.
Last week at NATPE I caught up with Brian Bedol, founder and CEO of Bedrocket Media Ventures. Brian is a long-time sports media entrepreneur, having founded Classic Sports Network (acquired by ESPN) and College Sports Network (acquired by CBS). Brian's new venture, Bedrocket, has a tagline "Media for the Post-Cable Generation." It is developing and investing in high-quality multi-platform content. Among its investments are FullScreen, VHX and Tubular.
In the interview, Brian talks about the changing landscape for sports media, including how online provides a direct connection to audiences with no gatekeepers, and also how brands are able to more deeply connect with audiences. He cites examples of how Target and Mountain Dew have done so with Bedrocket properties. Brian also discusses the rising cost of sports programming on pay-TV and potential consequences. He also explains why how multi-platform distribution is the key to success.
The edited interview is below and runs 8 minutes.
Topics: Bedrocket Media Ventures
Adobe has published its Q4 '13 U.S. Digital Video Benchmark report, finding that authenticated TV Everywhere streams more than doubled in 2013 to 574.2 million, up from 222.5 million in 2012. As the graph below shows, 73% of authenticated views occurred on mobile devices, 22% on desktop and less than 5% each on gaming consoles and connected TVs. For the mobile viewing, tablet share more than doubled vs. 2012 to 42%, with smartphone declining to 31%.
Back in February, 2006, I wrote a newsletter titled, "The $10 Million Super Bowl Ad?" In it, I suggested that sometime in the future, a Super Bowl ad could cost $10 million, up from the $2.5 million they were then selling for. My rationale was that subsequent online video viewing opportunities would drive not just exposure, but also new creative opportunities to engage the audience, translating to more advertiser value.
As it has turned out, the value of Super Bowl ads has indeed continued to march higher, with this year's spots going for $4 million. And no question, the subsequent online video views that Super Bowl ads receive reduce the net CPM that advertisers are in effect paying. But what I didn't anticipate were 3 key trends that have made Super Bowl ads even more valuable - and will continue to do so: the accelerating fragmentation of TV audiences, an emerging pre-game release/teaser strategy for the ads and the escalating media coverage Super Bowl ads themselves now receive.
Topics: Super Bowl
FOX Sports Digital (FSD) partnered with YouTube to create the FOX Sports Digital VideoFest, a great example of how established media can tap into YouTube's vast online video talent pool. For the Digital VideoFest, YouTube selected 12 of its channel creators and brought them together for several days at YouTube Space LA. Creators were challenged to produce a pilot for a potential web series, with the winner chosen by a panel of 4 FSD executives. The Digital VideoFest was sponsored by Ford Fusion, with the winner receiving a $1 million development deal.
Akamai and NBC Sports announced this morning that Akamai will be powering video streaming, site performance and security services for the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will run from February 6-23.
NBC Sports plans to stream over 1,000 hours of Olympics content, double what it did 4 years ago from Vancouver. Streaming will include all 15 sports across 98 different events, plus lots of exclusive content such as interviews, athlete profiles and backstories that have become standard Olympics fare.
I'm pleased to present the 205th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin is in London this week and shares observations on the intense battle for broadband subscribers in the U.K. BT has been aggressively laying fiber in a bid for broadband subscribers. It recently spent about 1.4 billion pounds on soccer rights to supply its BT Sport channels. Colin says BT has seen lift in both broadband and pay-TV subscribers as a result. One wonders whether Google could try something similar here in the U.S. by bidding for NFL and other rights somewhere down the road?
Speaking of the NFL, it and Major League Baseball were in the news this week for filing a brief with the Supreme Court urging review of broadcasters' challenge to Aereo. The leagues basically asserted that if Aereo is deemed legal, more of their games will migrate to cable, which of course has been happening anyway. Meanwhile Aereo's lead investor Barry Diller said this week he could see a 35% adoption rate for Aereo long-term, primarily driven by millennials. This would be hugely disruptive if it were to happen.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 11 seconds)
It turns out that football not only drives audience spikes on TV, but also online video advertising and engagement across devices. That's according to Adap.tv which this morning released select data from its video ad marketplace. Adap.tv has found that football has driven an overall 81% increase in video ad opportunities, with a 127% bump in smartphone video ads, 120% on desktops and 22% on tablets.
AOL has scored a huge coup with a deal announced today to syndicate ESPN video content across its owned-and-operated sites, plus its distribution network of 1,700 publisher sites. ESPN video in AOL will be accessible on desktops, smartphones, tablets and connected TV devices.
Importantly, the deal underscores the allure of online video syndication. By choosing to syndicate through AOL, ESPN concluded - despite its already formidable presence as the top-ranked sports property online - that AOL's distribution network could provide still further online reach and monetization potential. That's no small statement, and it is a testament to both AOL's video growth over the past several years and to the strength of the "Syndicated Video Economy" concept I began talking about back in 2008.
Online video sports syndicator CineSport has announced its biggest content and technology partnership to date, with USA TODAY Sports Media Group, a top 5 comScore sports property with 30 million monthly unique visitors. USA TODAY Sports operates the sports section of USAToday.com, plus the sports sections of 140 local newspaper/broadcast TV station sites, a network of digital-only sports sites and a network of 60 affiliates.
Under the deal, USA TODAY Sports will integrate CineSport's VaMP video platform technology throughout its content network. As a result, new and archived original video will be accessible for local producers to easily embed in digital articles. Gregg Winik, CineSport's CEO, noted that these types of contextual embeds are key to CineSport and how it helps its publisher partners differentiate themselves beyond simply displaying video clips in the right column of site pages.
I'm pleased to present the 194th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up this week we discuss CBS CEO Leslie Moonves' remarks on CNBC essentially declaring victory in the company's retrans dispute with Time Warner Cable because it had preserved its ability to license its programs to Netflix and Amazon. Listeners will recall that 3 weeks ago on the podcast we talked about how OTT licensing was at the heart of the dispute and the consequences for TV Everywhere.
Next we transition to questioning whether there's any real benefit for TV networks and pay-TV operators to stream linear channels to connected TVs. Colin observes that recent data from the BBC indicating very low levels of linear streaming on connected TVs appears to question the value of the Disney-Apple TV and Time Warner Cable-Xbox 360 deals. We speculate that these are mainly meant for 2nd or 3rd TVs that don't have pay-TV set-top boxes.
Last, we chat briefly about the massive 3-part series that the NY Times ran just before Labor Day on ESPN's dominant role in college football - a long, but fascinating read. As I wrote, it's well worth the time for anyone interested in the influence of big time TV money not only on college sports but also on the broader American higher education system.
Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 41 seconds)
The NY Times is currently running a huge, 3-part, page 1 expose on ESPN's transformative role in college football. It's a must-read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes, in-depth account of how the sports network's massive financial strength has completely changed college football, from game day and time scheduling to conference re-alignments to how star players are created. Even more broadly, the article speaks to the pervasive role college football now plays in American higher education.
A key focus of the first two parts, here and here, is the willingness of particular schools (e.g. Texas Christian, Boise State, Louisville) to play weekday night games in order to provide ESPN live football throughout the week. Various representatives of the schools are quoted recognizing the coverage they received from ESPN as being critical to raising their schools' visibility and profiles. For ESPN, importantly, these mid-week games and assorted promotional activities showcased for still other schools how valuable being a flexible partner for ESPN can be.
The Internet has been buzzing this week with the idea that Google may bid for the NFL's Sunday Ticket package, which is with DirecTV through the 2014 season. The root of the buzz is a story in AllThingsD that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Google's CEO Larry Page and YouTube's head of content Robert Kyncl and that one of the things they discussed was Sunday Ticket.
Did they seriously discuss Sunday Ticket or was it the last item on a list of things they were spitballing? Who knows. But let's assume for a moment that Google actually WAS interested in Sunday Ticket. Could it happen and does it make sense?
There's certainly no financial impediment for Google. DirecTV pays about $1 billion/year currently. Even if Sunday Ticket's value increased by 50% (which is less than the 60-70% increases the broadcasters and ESPN paid to renew their NFL deals in the past 2 years), it would still be small change for Google. Rather than the money, I see at least 5 big challenges Google (and the NFL) would have to surmount:
A fortuitous confluence of events could give Aereo a nice bump in visibility and adoption in New York City this week. First, CBS went dark for hundreds of thousands of NYC subscribers last Friday afternoon, as the broadcaster and Time Warner Cable were unable to agree on retransmission consent compensation. Then over the weekend, Tiger Woods - by far golf's biggest TV draw - smoked the field to win the WGC-Bridgestone golf tournament, which was televised by CBS (though not seen by New Yorkers). The win makes Tiger the odds-on favorite to win the fourth and final major golf event of the year - the PGA Championship, being played in upstate New York starting Thursday.
CBS has the weekend afternoon TV rights to the PGA, following TNT's Thursday/Friday and weekend morning coverage. Tiger is gunning for his first major win in 5+ years, since his infamous infidelity scandal knocked him off his game. If Tiger is leading or among the leaders going into the weekend, it would set up intense interest and very strong CBS viewership. But with CBS blacked out - and the network blocking TWC New York subscribers' access to online programming - New Yorkers wouldn't get to see Tiger in action.
I had a classic TV Everywhere moment tonight I thought I'd quickly share. I got back to my hotel room in NYC after dinner, flipped on the TV to watch the Celtics try to break the Heat's winning streak and discovered ESPN and many other channels weren't working.
But instead of calling the front desk, waiting for a technician, keeping my fingers crossed, etc. (guessing my fellow travelers know this experience too well), I fired up WatchESPN, entered my Comcast credentials and was watching online within minutes. For the most part, video quality was very strong. The key was being able to watch via the hotel's WiFi network because the stream would have drained my 2GB Verizon data cap.
Last week Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn crashed horrifically in the Super G at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, tearing two ligaments and ending her season. Terrifying though it was, it's exactly the kind of video clip (see below) that the skiing world and Vonn's fans want to be able to see immediately.
In this particular situation, Universal Sports, which had the championship's broadcast rights, was able to deliver, posting the clip, which includes audio of Vonn's agonizing cries, within minutes of the incident. As Universal Sports' VP/GM, Digital Media, Elliott Gordon and Director, Streaming Operations, Gus Elliott, explained to me, fast time-to-market drives numerous benefits for the sports network and is enabled by a relatively new relationship with SnappyTV.