Vessel has launched an invite-only beta of its service, on desktops and iOS devices. I was provided access to the beta and I'm excited to share some initial reactions. As a reminder, Vessel was started by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar and CTO Richard Tom. Vessel's core value proposition is providing exclusive, early access to online video content to super-fans, for a $2.99/month fee. A light ad load is included.
Vessel is a fascinating test of viewers' willingness-to-pay for early access to online video content that's otherwise free. This so-called "first window" represents a completely new business model that could dramatically alter the online video landscape. For content creators, the lure of higher revenue per video view (given Vessel's more attractive ad splits and subscription revenue) seems irresistible to try. And for super-fans, Vessel's $2.99/month fee seems pretty compelling to get early access.
Vessel has pulled back the curtain on its long-rumored business model this morning, which essentially boils down to being a huge willingness-to-pay test case. The fundamental question: will online video viewers pay $2.99/month for Vessel's service, which includes a "modest amount of advertising," to gain early access to select online videos that will otherwise be available for free within 3 days or more?
If the answer is yes, there is no doubt we'll see an explosion of paid early access models from all kinds of video content providers. If the answer is no, then Vessel would have to revert to an ad-supported only business model, which would leave it with a far less interesting value proposition to content creators.
Vidible, a startup video syndicator, has announced its platform enabled 1 billion video streams in August. Further highlighting its momentum, Vidible said it has 150+ content providers across the U.S., Europe and Asia in 12 different categories now using its platform. Vidible anticipates 300% growth in 2014 and profitability in 2015.
Michael Hyman, Vidible's CEO and co-founder, recently explained to me that Vidible is differentiating itself from other video syndication platforms with greater transparency and controls for all parties plus a lower cost structure for publishers. Michael believes that to date video syndication has offered minimal transparency, akin to the early days of ad networks where arbitrage was the primary business model.
I'm pleased to present the 236th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we discuss the demise of two online video businesses that were short-lived, Qplay and Xbox Entertainment Studios. Qplay was founded by 2 TiVo founders and backed by blue-chip venture capitalists, but lasted in the market just 6 months. Colin provides a cogent analysis of the 4 key challenges the company faced, which it couldn't surmount.
Xbox Studios was shut down for completely different reasons, and, as I wrote last week, it is just the latest lesson in how difficult it is to create high-quality, long-form content.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (20 minutes, 53 seconds)
Aereo lost big at the Supreme Court last week. But millions of Americans, in particular those who do not consider themselves sports fans, are also the real losers from the ruling. Why? Because, as retransmission consent fee payments in the U.S. soar from $3.3 billion in 2013 to a projected $7.6 billion in 2019 (according to SNL Kagan), these fees will be used to help fund broadcasts of increasingly expensive sporting events in which many of these viewers have no interest.
I'm pleased to present the 233rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo, essentially ending the ambitious startup's dream of providing low-cost, flexible online access to broadcast TV. Colin and I have discussed Aereo many times on previous podcasts. Both of us are disappointed by the decision and we discuss some of its many implications.
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Aereo has launched a PR blitz ahead of its April 22nd Supreme Court hearing, the centerpiece of which is a new advocacy site called "Protect My Antenna," which includes all of the court briefs, decisions and documents related to the Aereo case. The site also invites visitors to sign up for email updates. Presumably additional media, such as interviews with Aereo's founder and CEO Chet Kanojia will be added as well.
Chet has been interviewed by many media outlets in the past couple of years (including VideoNuze, here and here), but a new one appearing today as part of the PR campaign is with Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric (embedded below). As he has done in prior interviews, Chet adroitly positions the case as being about far more than Aereo itself, but rather about the legitimacy of cloud computing, the expense of today's pay-TV bundles, consumer choice and the importance of innovation.
I'm pleased to present the 220th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. First up, we discuss the WSJ report from earlier this week that Apple and Comcast may be collaborating in some way to deliver video through a "managed service" from Comcast. Neither Colin nor I can understand why Comcast would enable anything in its territory that would be remotely competitive with its own video services, but since the WSJ was thin on details, we don't know enough yet to fully judge.
We're also dubious about the fit for Apple given the company's emphasis on global scale for its products and also its premium positioning. And we're both struck by the regulatory red flags a "managed service" would raise for Comcast, at the very time they're trying to gain approval for the TWC deal. More of my thoughts are here.
We then turn quickly to Aereo's Supreme Court filing this week. As expected, it paints the case as being about cloud services in general, not just copyright specifically. We agree it's a clever strategy that positions Aereo as pro-innovation and pro-consumer, making it harder for the Supreme Court to rule against Aereo this summer.
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 58 seconds)
Aereo announced late yesterday that it has raised $34 million in Series C financing. Adding to the $20.5 million in its Series A and $38 million in its Series B, Aereo has now raised a total of $92.5 million. The new funding will support Aereo's ongoing regional rollouts, plus new hiring and technology. Of note, the new financing includes Gordon Crawford, a well-known media investor, whose involvement certainly gives Aereo further credibility.
Aereo is currently live in 10 markets, and said yesterday it plans to be live in 15 by the end of Q1. That's a downward revision from its expansion plan announced a year ago, which was to be in 22 cities by the end of 2013. Last September Aereo announced technical issues delayed its Chicago launch and hasn't updated when that area will go live.
Yesterday Aereo announced that it will not oppose the petition by the major broadcast TV networks (formally a "petition for a writ of certiorari") for a U.S. Supreme Court review of a ruling last May in Aereo’s favor. In that instance, the broadcasters were thrown for a pretty significant loss by Aereo when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled preliminarily that Aereo’s business should not be halted due to alleged violations of the copyrights of broadcasters.
Normally it is big news when two sides so diametrically opposed like Aereo and the broadcasters seek (or at least willingly accept) review from the Supremes. But in this case there may be less than meets the eye (at least from a litigation perspective - see below).
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday of the year. But for many people, food is a year-round personal obsession, which can now be amplified through mobile, social and video technologies. Operating at the intersection of these powerful trends is a startup called Tastemade, which is building a foodie community of digital natives through an innovative prosumer and user-generated video programming model. When I was in LA recently, I visited with Stephen Kydd, one of the 3 co-founders of Tastemade, who all worked together previously at Demand Media.
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.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 11 seconds)
TV4 Entertainment is a well-pedigreed LA-based startup positioning itself as a creator and super-distributor of multiple online niche channels. Today the company is announcing a deal with Cinebx, whose library contains 10,000+ titles will power a minimum of 6 co-owned online channels, beginning with one focused on classic sports.
Recently I caught up Jon Cody, founder and CEO of TV4, to learn more about the company's strategy. Jon was previously SVP, Digital for Fox Digital Media and launch GM of Hulu, so he knows his way around programming and digital distribution very well, as does the rest of the founding team.
Topics: TV4 Entertainment
When we last left Aereo in its battles with the broadcast TV networks, our trusty (or not so trusty - it's complicated) over-the-top service was in the midst of a maelstrom of litigation and new market rollouts. The dynamic has only gotten more heated, highlighted by the broadcasters' petition for relief from the U.S. Supreme Court filed just over a week ago.
For all of the attention of the broadcasters petition to the Court, the finish line here is far from in sight. The Court is not obligated to take this case, and in fact grants less than 2% of all 'cert' petitions. The broadcasters are seeking resolution of what they say is a 'split' among Circuit Courts, which is certainly a well-established basis for the Court to step in. Yet to date no other appellate court has ruled in opposition to the 2d Circuit - only other lower district courts. So while I would fully expect the Court to eventually take this case, the timing may not be ripe in their eyes. So we may well be back to sorting through the continuing morass for some time. So what is happening in the hinterlands?
Teads.tv, a provider of innovative video ad units, has raised $5.2 million in a Series A round by Partech Venture and Elaia Partners. As I wrote several months ago, Teads' big differentiator is that it enables premium text-based web pages to carry video ads as well. So in other words, rather than a premium publisher having to create expensive video in order to tap into the booming demand for online video ads, it can monetize existing web pages this way. the video ads only become visible when a pre-determined about of content has been consumed. Teads ads can also run in slideshows, music, video and social media.
(Note: Following is the first of several interviews I'm doing with speakers appearing at X Media Research's upcoming BroadbandTVCon in Hollywood on Nov. 5th and 6th, where I'll also be moderating. VideoNuze readers can save $75 on registration using the code "VideoNuze.")
Following is an edited transcript of my interview with Lisa Judson, GM of YEAH!, a new streaming movie service launched by AMC Networks this past March.
What is the philosophy behind YEAH!?
We believe that movies have become a commodity online and that we could provide a unique experience, to enrich a film with original content about the film. We try to tell the story of the movie while you watch the movie. We see ourselves as movie lovers, so we're aligned with our audience. We don't want to just deliver a movie, but rather an overall experience that will connect and engage audiences (see screenshot below).
Reports surfaced last week that Intel Media's planned OTT pay-TV service "OnCue" has hit a major speed bump, and the company is now looking for potential partners such as Samsung or Amazon to help get the service launched.
I for one was not surprised by the news, as I've regarded Intel Media's pay-TV venture as facing extremely long odds. As well, I view the likelihood of Samsung, Amazon, or anyone else riding to Intel's rescue as being similarly improbable. Since Intel Media reportedly has had a 300-person team working on OnCue for almost 2 years, its potential demise would be an expensive lesson for the company in how hard it is to break into the pay-TV industry.
The Internet is awash in free videos to watch. For consumers, that's been great news as there are more choices available today than ever. For independent content creators, the Internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to build audience and visibility. The problem is that for these creators, actually making money online has remained a tough nut to crack.
Now, a startup named LittleCast is giving content creators an easy way to sell their videos, via Facebook and in iOS and Android mobile apps. CEO Amra Tareen explained to me that the process is pretty straightforward - content creators just upload their videos to LittleCast and decide how much to charge. LittleCast transcodes the video into various formats and HD/SD resolutions and stores them in the cloud. They can then be published in LittleCast's media player on Facebook and in the mobile apps.
Startup BrandAds is announcing availability of its BrandAds Bridge product this morning, aiming to provide universal, real-time video advertising analytics. As Avi Brown, co-founder and CEO of BrandAds told me last week, the company is looking to solve the problem of ad buyers having to use multiple analytics solutions, with each one tied to a particular ad buying platform. Ultimately these need to be synched up in order for a buyer to understand a campaign's total results.
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.