This morning thePlatform is rolling out its latest Player Development Kit (PDK) which offers its media customers the option of turning on a series of video sharing/social media features for their users. Marty Roberts, thePlatform's VP of Marketing, gave me a demo last week. One of my key reactions is that interest in the PDK by thePlatform's customers shows how much media companies' executives' mindsets have evolved in a very short time.
With the player enhancements, users are able to embed video into ten of the most popular social networks: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Windows Live, Yahoo! Buzz and Vodpod. All are pre-integrated by thePlatform so just a couple of clicks by the user places the video player, complete with its original branding, into these 3rd party sites. All of the advertising logic flows through to wherever the player is distributed, so ads run according to the same rules as they would on the destination site. All of the views are reported in the admin console, including detail on where the videos played.
An additional feature is the ability for users to clip a specific segment out of the underlying video and embed just that segment into these social networks. That means that users no longer have to say to their friends something like "check out the joke approximately 45 seconds into the attached 3 minute clip;" instead they can embed a new segment with just the joke itself. thePlatform has also handily integrated URL shortening, so embedding in Twitter is a snap. It also exposes hash tags in the meta data which are automatically added to the tweet.
Marty explained that thePlatform's customers, recognizing their users' interest in sharing clips, have pushed for these new social features. That's a pretty remarkable evolution in thinking by big media companies, which not that long ago were focused both on driving users only to their own destination sites for online viewing and also on bearing 100% of the promotional responsibility for doing so. By advocating for these new social/sharing features these companies are recognizing that online viewing should happen wherever users decide to hang out (this is the premise of the Syndicated Video Economy I've discussed many times) and that users themselves should be considered a critical ingredient in promoting content.
Gone too appears to be traditional concerns about the environment in which branded video would show up. I can't count how many times over the years I've heard content executives express worry about having their brands and programming end up in semi-pornographic or amateurish user-created sites. I asked Marty about this evolution in thinking and he said that even some of thePlatform's most conservative customers now seem to be over this perceived problem. Looks like Dylan was right, "The times, they are a-changin.'"
Separate, I recently conducted short interviews with a handful of industry executives who attended thePlatform's customer meeting in NYC, and I'm pleased to share them today. Browse below to see several minute-long Q&As with Bill Burke (Global Director, Online Video Products, AP), Ian Blaine (CEO, thePlatform), Channing Dawson (Senior Advisor, Scripps Networks), Kip Compton (GM, Video and Content Platforms, Cisco) and Stephen Baker (Chief Revenue Officer, RAMP). More interviews will be added in the days ahead, so please check back again.
Here's something cool: ClipBlast updated its Facebook app yesterday to now include access to practically all of Hulu's content. ClipBlast's CEO/founder Gary Baker walked me through a demo and I was quite impressed. Once you've added the app, you can favorite certain Hulu shows and they appear as tiles which you can then easily scroll through. It's a huge step forward from Hulu's own mediocre Facebook app. You can also choose video from over 8,500 other sources that ClipBlast offers.
Though I'm personally not a huge Facebook user, the app resonated with me because it makes discovering and sharing video even more powerful as Facebook friends are just a click away. Of course Hulu has offered embedding from the start, but to get almost the whole Hulu library into Facebook, in front of a potential audience of 400 million users is classic "syndicated video economy" thinking. In the SVE, instead of solely trying to bring audience to your content (the traditional media model), efforts are also focused on bringing your content to the audience, wherever they live. All of Hulu's ads flow through as well, so views are still fully monetized. What's missing is full screen viewing, which Gary said is coming shortly.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Following are 4 items worth noting from the Oct 26th week:
1. Online video viewership claims are murky - Props to Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, for his opinion piece in AdAge this week, "Where's the Outrage Over Online Video Viewership Claims" in which he cites multiple examples of how content providers' hyperbole and the media's lack of fact-checking/analysis allow all kinds of ridiculous viewership numbers to gain traction as fact. Compounding things is the inconsistent definition of what even constitutes a "view." Jim notes that a fraction-of-a-second play start often can be enough. For advertisers in particular, trying to understand where to place their spending in the emerging online video medium, it is "buyer beware." A great reminder of how immature the online video industry remains.
2. Zappos's "world's fastest nudist" viral video campaign adds to media's gullibility - The NY Times had a great item this week on Zappos's "world's fastest nudist" campaign, a series of humorous videos on YouTube showing a guy named Donnie streaking around the streets of New York with nothing but a fanny pack on.
While the videos are clever, the media that picked them up and ran with them as being real are now looking decidedly dim. CNN's Anderson Cooper surely tops the gullibility list, as he and anchor Erica Hill featured one of the videos (showing Donnie buying a taco at a food stand) on AC 360's nightly "The Shot" feature. Cooper blithely passes on that Donnie "holds over 400 nude speed records..." One suspects Walter Cronkite would have dug in and not have been duped by Zappos. However, I'm hardly one to talk, as I was taken in by the "Megawoosh Waterslide Video" this past summer. The old adage "don't believe everything you read" really needs to be updated to "don't believe everything you watch." Meanwhile, Zappos undoubtedly loves all the free publicity.
3. Enough of HDTV, get ready for 3DTV - Speaking of not believing what you watch, and shifting focus somewhat from online video, I got my first peek at what 3DTV looks like earlier this week. 3D has become a mini-rage recently, with various TV set manufacturers launching 3D-enabled models, looking to drive content creators to jump on the 3D bandwagon. The catch to 3D video is that it's much more expensive to produce because of the need for multiple cameras. That may be OK for movies where the extra cost can be recouped through higher ticket prices, but for regular TV shows it's been a serious obstacle.
However, the approach used by a small NJ-based company named HDLogix, whose demo I saw, introduces a workaround to this issue. Instead of requiring original production to be shot in 3D, the company runs existing video through its algorithms to dynamically generate 3D effects (I saw segments of the movie "300"). That means no additional production expense is incurred by the content creator. Don't ask me any more about how it works, as the technology is way outside my sweet spot. I will say this, it's pretty cool stuff and I could see 3D adding a lot of new value to online video, especially advertising.
4. What to look for in 2010 - One last follow-up to the CTAM Summit panel I moderated on Tuesday. My last question to the panelists was to name 1 thing that the 1,500+ cable industry attendees in the audience should be paying most attention to in 2010. These were their answers:
Paul Bascobert (Chief Marketing Officer, Dow Jones & Company) - e-book readers make huge advances, especially with a new Apple product hitting the market
Matt Bond (EVP, Content Acquisition, Comcast) - the "customer is king" - stay focused on that
Andy Heller (Vice Chairman, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.) - the advent of 4G mobile networks and adoption of the "mobile Internet"
Jason Kilar (CEO, Hulu) - follow your companies on search.twitter.com to stay in touch with what your customers are saying
David Preschlack (EVP, Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate U.S. Sales and Marketing) - the number of access points for content providers will continue to explode
Peter Stern (EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Time Warner Cable) - make every interaction with customers an opportunity to build a positive relationship
Great food for thought.
Enjoy your weekends!
Following are 4 items worth noting from the week of Oct 12th week:
1. Bell Canada is first to offer "TV Everywhere" type service - While U.S. operators have been busy with their TV Everywhere trials, Bell Canada, which has 1.8 million linear video subscribers, has jumped into the lead, announcing this week the launch of "TMN Online." The service, available through the Bell TV Online portal, allows subscribers to The Movie Network premium channel to gain online access to about 130 hours of content.
I spoke briefly with Peter Wilcox, Bell TV's director of product strategy, who explained that ExtendMedia's OpenCASE is being used for content management, in conjunction with Microsoft's Silverlight and PlayReady DRM. Users login with their Bell user name and password and are authenticated against the billing database as valid TMN subs. Only 1 simultaneous log-in is allowed, and Bell is also geo-blocking, so for example, there's no accessing TMN Online from outside Canada. The launch is part of what Bell calls "TV Anywhere" - a broader context for eventual distribution to its mobile subscribers, and further content being added. The deployment is the first milestone in what promises to be a busy 2010 on the TV Everywhere news front.
2. BlackArrow launches ad insertion for Comcast video-on-demand - BlackArrow, the multiplatform ad technology provider, announced its first customer deployment this week, with Comcast's Jacksonville, FL operation. I talked to company CEO Dean Denhart and President Nick Troiano, who gave me an update on how the company dynamically inserts ads in long-form premium content across TV, broadband and mobile. As I wrote 2 years ago, BlackArrow has bitten off the hardest challenge first: working with cable operators to get its system into their headends/data centers. Dean and Nick believe that if the company can succeed in this goal then it will have created formidable differentiation that can be leveraged for the other two platforms.
The key risk is that cable operators are famous for grinding down promising technology startups with their endless testing and brutal negotiating tactics (I say this from personal experience with a promising technology startup earlier this decade, Narad Networks). Robust VOD ad insertion is plenty strategic for the industry, but years since cable operators launched free VOD, the fact that it still isn't widely deployed is a telling sign, particularly while ad insertion technology in broadband is now fully mature. Comcast's role as an investor in BlackArrow should help its odds of success. I'm rooting for BlackArrow; their holistic approach to multiplatform advertising is right on. Whether they have the juice to fully succeed remains the big question.
3. Political battle over net neutrality is heating up - This week brought fresh complaints from Republican Senators who are coalescing to fend off new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to introduce net neutrality regulations for both broadband ISPs and wireless carriers. B&C reported that 18 Republican senators wrote to Mr. Genachowski concerned that the FCC's process is "outcome driven" and unsupported by data.
I rarely find my views aligning with Republicans, but net neutrality is an exception. As I wrote last month in "Why the FCC's Net Neutrality Plans Should Go Nowhere," Mr. Genachowski's plan is deeply flawed and completely illogical. The core premise of the new regulations - that they're needed to ensure continued broadband investment and innovation - misses the reality that the market is already functioning well. As one example, investment in broadband-related technology is continuing apace. By my calculations, over $180 million was raised in Q3 '09 by video-related companies whose very viability depends on open broadband and wireless networks. The sector's potential is amplified by the fact that venture capital fundraising itself is at its lowest level since 2003, with new capital raised by the industry in 2009 down 58% from 2008. Despite the VC industry's troubles, it continues to bet big on video. Why do we need new Internet regulations to sustain innovation?
4. Have you seen the 9 year-old hockey player's trick goal? On a lighter note, you have to love the serendipity of online video sharing. For example, though I don't consider myself a hockey fan, when a friend sent me this video clip of a 9 year-old hockey player pulling off this incredible trick shot, I was reminded just how much fun online video is and promptly passed the clip on to my circle (it's also now all over YouTube). See for yourself, it's just amazing. And nothing fake about it either.
Enjoy the weekend!
If your family or extended family is like most, then someone in your home is what Josh Grotstein, CEO of Motionbox, refers to as a "Chief Memory Officer" or family "CMO." That's the person who's responsible for toting the camera/camcorder, uploading, developing and distributing the family's photos and videos to family and friends, and storing the treasures for future use.
And just as the proliferation of digital cameras launched Ofoto, Shutterfly and SnapFish (plus sites like Flickr, Picassa, etc.), who targeted the family CMO to help manage and create further value from their growing digital photo collections, the advent of inexpensive video cameras is creating a new set of companies looking to help CMOs manage their family's video assets.
While still early days, the impending explosion of video-capable smartphones, coupled with cheaper HD camcorders and popular low-end video cameras (e.g. Flip, etc.), all suggests this is yet another growing corner of the market fueled by broadband video's adoption. To learn more I spoke last week with Josh and with Andres Espineira, President and co-founder of Pixorial, which recently emerged from private beta.
These companies and others in the space like iMemories, provide a number of key features and value propositions - uploading new or archived digital video (or sending physical tapes), easy transcoding from multiple formats into multiple formats, storage, online editing to create short movies which can be shared online and offline, and customized hard goods/gifts
The primary play here is to get the CMO engaged in the act of editing raw video footage, to stay organized and/or optimize their memories. Sharing becomes a pretty logical extension though, as does getting other stakeholders involved. For example, these stakeholders could include other moms/dads uploading video from their kids' soccer games to multiple wedding guests who shot their own video. Getting these people to mix and edit (and then share and order hard goods/gifts) is the behavior these companies hope to engender. Since most people don't fancy themselves as video editors, the online tools need to be extremely easy-to-use.
Another point of commonality is that these companies all use some type of "freemium" model, where a base level of service is offered for free, with the goal of converting a percentage of freebies to paid services tiers. The freemium model has become widely used online, and has been further popularized recently by Chris Anderson's new book "Free," which contends "freemium" is the way of the future.
Yet as Josh explained, freemium creates a delicate balance, where user behavior must be carefully monitored. The biggest cost driver is storage, so as more free users look to these services as providing back-up redundancy, a higher percentage of them need to be converted to paying in order to make the whole model work. Josh explained that Motionbox (which has raised $17M to date and is the granddaddy of the category with 2M+ registered users) has continuously tweaked its model to optimize the conversion process. It is moving to a model where free users get a finite number of free uploads, and then beyond that you have to pay. In a world where YouTube is the free standard for video sharing, creating and effectively communicating the value of being a premium sub is all-important.
Assuming this hurdle can be surmounted, the proliferation of convergence devices suggests even more tailwind for the category. Think about being able to easily share and access your movies online through devices like Roku, Xbox, Internet-connected TVs, etc. Even incumbent service providers (cable/satellite/telco) could find value in offering personal video services, white-labeled by these companies.
While video is a more complex media format than photos, as more CMOs shoot more video that they want to save and share, it's likely this category will continue to see plenty of growth.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
In last Friday's "4 Items Worth Noting..." post, I made a quick reference to the Megawoosh Waterslide video - what I thought was a genuine user-generated video of a German man barreling down a huge waterslide into a small pool. It turns out that I, along with many others, got punked. It's a fake, created through effects by a German marketing firm and sponsored by Microsoft Office. If you want all the details, NewTeeVee has a great write-up.
The waterslide incident contrasts with a second incident that happened to me just two weeks earlier. Taken together, I think the two represent a fascinating, yet unexplored side-effect of the broadband video revolution that all of us as human beings are currently experiencing. Let me explain what I mean.
In July 31st VideoNuze Report podcast, Daisy Whitney was very excited to describe the "JK Wedding March" viral video phenomenon (19 million + views to date) and how YouTube was publicizing on its blog that it was generating exceptional click-throughs and revenue for the video's background song "Forever" by Chris Brown through overlay ads.
When I quickly watched the video, my internal "authenticity detector" went off loudly as I wondered whether the wedding march was authentic or simply staged to generated buzz and sales for the song. I expressed this skepticism to Daisy on the podcast, and it wasn't until I did further research, and found the young Minnesota wedding couple interviewed on the "Today" show that my suspicions were allayed.
Meanwhile, when I quickly watched the Megawoosh video I thought, hey, it's an outlandish stunt. I wondered about the engineering involved to pull it off, but my authenticity meter remained relatively quiet.
Here's what I think the difference is: In the JK Wedding March I saw an obvious commercial opportunity that made me suspicious, while with the Megawoosh slide I did not see such opportunities so I was more willing to accept it as genuine. My authenticity lens has been shaped by having watched many broadband videos over the years where brands were involved in subtle and clever ways that I've become very aware. On the flip side, I've seen so many incredible user-generated stunts, that I've become conditioned to thinking that just maybe, anything is possible to pull off and some people's willingness to risk injury and death in the name of fleeting celebrity is unlimited.
The larger point here is that broadband video puts all of us in unchartered waters with respect to understanding if what we're watching is real. In the past, we rarely needed to question this. We knew when we were watching special effects or a documentary, reality programming or scripted fiction. And when authenticity representations were breached, it was a big deal (remember the outcry when NBC's "Dateline" admitted staging a test crash of a GM pickup truck?).
With broadband video however, we often don't even know who the producers are, much less what hidden motivations they may have or what third parties may be involved. Sometimes things are incongruous - for example, why is Microsoft Office even involved in sponsoring this German waterslide stunt?
Bottom line: all of us are on a new learning curve, requiring that we develop entirely new media literacy skills so we can successfully navigate broadband video's unchartered territory.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 3 key themes from VideoNuze in May:
1. Hulu Moves to Center Stage
Already on a roll, Hulu gained lots of mind share in May. After YouTube it is clearly the most-buzzed about video site - not a bad accomplishment for a site that just celebrated its one year anniversary.
The month began with the announcement that Disney would invest in Hulu, at last making available ABC and other programs in Hulu's ever-growing portal. Hulu gained stature during the month as the statistic from comScore released in late April - that Hulu was now the #3 most-popular video site, with 380 million video views in March - was repeatedly recirculated. (Hulu was separately disputing data released from Nielsen showing a far-smaller audience.)
In addition to the Disney content, Hulu also announced its first live event, tonight's concert from the Dave Matthews Band. Capping the month was last week's Hulu Labs announcement, showcasing the desktop app that moves Hulu one step closer to being TV-ready.
Hulu's growth and top-notch user experience continue to set the pace in the online video world. Still, as I noted in my post about the Disney deal, what's still unproven is the Hulu business model and how it plans to navigate the convergence of broadband and TV. The spin coming from its owners is that financial progress is being made, yet Hulu's per program viewed revenues continue to be a fraction of those derived from on-air viewership. Sooner than later, I predict the Hulu growth story is going to start to give way to the Hulu financial story, which may yet include subscriptions.
2. Susan Boyle Shows Power and Conundrum of Viral Video
It was hard to miss the Susan Boyle phenomenon in May. As of last Thursday (before the finale of "Britain's Got Talent" in which she placed second) her original video had generated over 235 million views, according to tracking firm Visible Measures. Ms. Boyle's sensational performance has mainstreamed the term "viral video." The idea that you can become a worldwide personality is truly a broadband-only invention.
Yet 3 1/2 years after SNL's "Lazy Sunday" video became the first bona fide big media YouTube hit (despite NBC's efforts), the process for copyright holders and distributors to monetize these viral wonders remains immature. The NY Times described the interplay over the Boyle viral videos between YouTube, Fremantle, ITV and others, and why those hundreds of millions of views are still under-monetized. But with broadband distribution's increasing importance, this won't last; viral monetization rights are inevitably going to become a key part of the upfront negotiating mix.
3. Mobile video growth
Mobile video continued to get a lot of attention from content providers, service providers and handset makers in May, with initiatives from NBC, NBA, E!, Samsung, Sling, among others (a full listing of mobile video news is here). The mobile video ecosystem is responding to data indicating surging consumer acceptance, primarily driven by the iPhone. In May Nielsen released a report indicating mobile user growth from Feb '07 to Feb '09 was 74%, and that iPhone users are 6 times more likely to consume mobile video. The crush of new smartphones coming in the 2nd half of '09 promises that mobile video usage is going to continue growing rapidly. Limelight's acquisition of mobile ad insertion company Kiptronic is likely the tip of the deal iceberg as companies position themselves for mobile.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Hearst-Argyle's goal is to allow local residents to discuss news topics important to their community and to upload their own photos and videos. The first u local area was launched in Dec '08 by WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire and according to Hearst-Argyle generated tens of thousands of submissions in the first week alone. The other stations in Hearst-Argyle's portfolio will roll out u local in the coming months. For KickApps, the deal follows one with WorldNow, announced last year to drive social media into WorldNow-powered sites.
The question begs: can a local TV station become a social media hub for its local residents? In the Facebook-MySpace-Twitter-YouTube age, we seem to be on the cusp of social media saturation. Yet despite all these engagement opportunities, focused local social media initiatives could well find a place. People are extremely passionate about their local communities and the social bonds are very tight. Sharing common experiences, concerns and passions online with local neighbors seems like an updated version of what's been happening over backyard fences since the beginning of time.
The key is execution, not just in the user experience, but in the positioning of what the local broadcaster's brand will stand for. Striving to be a social media hub is a new positioning, and to incent viewer behavior, Hearst-Argyle will need to embrace the capability, heavily promote it and then manage it so it's a safe, well-lit area of its sites.
It's no surprise that local broadcasters have been slammed by the economic downturn. They were already hit hard by free classified services like Craigslist, fragmenting audience behavior, the shift of network programs to online and more recently the decline of the auto industry which is a key advertiser category. Now there are numerous entrants trying to grab their traditional local video advertisers. Not a day goes by without multiple stations announcing cutbacks. In short, local broadcasters need a total reinvention of their business models if they're to survive. u local is not the complete answer, but it is certainly a move in the right direction.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
EveryZing, a company I wrote about last February, is announcing the launch of its MetaPlayer today and that DallasCowboys.com is the first customer to implement it. My initial take is that MetaPlayer should have strong appeal in the market, and could well shake things up for other broadband technology companies and for content providers. Last week I spoke to EveryZing's CEO Tom Wilde to learn more about the product.
MetaPlayer is interesting for at least three reasons: (1) it drives EveryZing's video search and SEO capabilities inside the videos themselves, (2) it provides deeper engagement opportunities than typically found in other video player environments and (3) it enables content providers to dramatically expand their video catalogs, while maintaining branding and editorial integrity.
To date EveryZing's customers have used its speech-to-text engine to create metadata for their sites' videos, which are then grouped into SEO-friendly "topical pages" that users are directed to when entering terms into the sites' search box. Speech-to-text and other automated metadata generating techniques from companies like Digitalsmiths are becoming increasingly popular as content providers continue to recognize the value of robust metadata.
MetaPlayer takes metadata usage a step further by creating virtual clips based on specified terms, which are exposed to the user. A user's search produces an index of these virtual clips, which can be navigated through time-stamped cue points, transcript review, and thumbnail scenes (see below for example). The virtual clip approach is comparable in some ways to what Gotuit has been doing and is pretty powerful stuff, as it lets the user jump to desired points, thus avoiding wasted viewing time (e.g. just showing the moments when "Tony Romo" is spoken)
Next, MetaPlayer enables deeper engagement with available video. Yesterday, in "Broadband Video Needs to Become More Engaging," I talked about how the importance of engagement to both consumers and content providers. MetaPlayer is a move in this direction as it allows intuitive clipping, sharing and commenting of a specific video clip within MetaPlayer. Example: you can easily send friends just the clips of Romo's touchdown passes along with your comments on each.
Last, and possibly most interesting from a syndication perspective, MetaPlayer allows content providers to dramatically expand their video offerings through the use of what's known as "chromeless" video players. I was first introduced to the chromeless approach by Metacafe's Eyal Hertzog last summer. It basically allows the content provider to maintain elements of the underlying video player, such as its ability to enforce a video's business policies (ad tags, syndication rules, etc.), while allowing new features to be overlayed (customized look-and-feel, consistent player controls, etc.).
MetaPlayer takes advantage of chromeless APIs available now from companies like Brightcove, and also importantly YouTube. For example, the Cowboys could harvest select Cowboys-related YouTube videos and incorporate them into their site (this is similar to what Magnify.net also enables). With the chromeless approach, the Cowboys's user experience and their video player's branding is maintained while YouTube's rules, such as no pre-roll ads are also enforced.
To the extent that chromeless APIs become more widely available, it means that syndication can really flourish. The underlying content provider's model is protected while simultaneously enabling widespread distribution. All of this obviously leads to more monetization opportunities through highly targeted ads.
Bottom line: EveryZing's new MetaPlayer addresses at least three real hot buttons of the broadband video landscape: improved navigation, enhanced engagement and expanding content selection/monetization. All of this should give MetaPlayer strong appeal in the market.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Notwithstanding the countless times I've received emails with links to video clips or visited social networking pages where video is embedded, I've often had the sense that true social engagement around premium quality video has been lacking.
"Engagement" is one of those nebulous Internet words that can mean many things to different people. To me, the most appropriate online engagement opportunities should be modeled on how we have traditionally engaged with offline media. Some relevant offline examples that come to mind include recommending a movie to a friend, clipping a newspaper article to send to a colleague, chatting informally with friends and family during a TV show or sharing opinions about favorite actors and actresses over drinks.
As consumers shift their viewing to broadband, the key to engagement is to enable users to effortlessly and intuitively emulate some or all of these behaviors. I concede that's easier said than done. Yet in addition to existing efforts, I see new signs that premium video sites are starting to understand how strategic it is for them to incent user engagement. New steps are being taken to make deeper, more consistent engagement a reality, not just a goal.
For example, just yesterday CBS announced its "Social Viewing Rooms" which allow users to view programs together while commenting, interacting and finding each other (note this is something that Paltalk and others have pursued for a while). It wasn't clear from the announcement, but I think a critical success factor for CBS will be allowing users to bring existing friends (from Facebook, MySpace, etc.) into the rooms, rather than requiring new relationships to be built.
I found another example in a presentation I recently attended by Ian Blaine, thePlatform's CEO. In it, he made clear that his company is planning a big push into engagement-oriented features ranging from recommendations to ratings to social networking via sister company Plaxo. Still another initiative is "MediaFriends" a clever application that's coming soon from Integra5 which converges text messaging and social networking with viewing across multiple screens. Finally, another is from Volo Media, which is today announcing a plug-in for iTunes that allows one-touch sharing, bookmarking and more, helping open up a window from iTunes into the larger web environment.
All of these activities are in addition to other social media capabilities being brought to premium video from companies like KickApps, PermissionTV, Brightcove, Gotuit and Magnify.net. Then of course there's the steady migration of premium video into YouTube, which is the granddaddy of video sharing and social engagement.
Broadband is much more than an exciting new distribution outlet for video providers, it's also a whole new platform for extending social behaviors that are deeply valued and highly ingrained in all of us into the virtual world. Embracing opportunities for deeper engagement with and around premium video means thinking of viewers more as participants and less as passive audiences. When done right the payoffs in engagement, loyalty, viewing time and monetization will be substantial.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Categories: Video Sharing
"Widgets" are an area that VideoNuze hasn't really touched on to date, yet they are quickly proving to be a potent way of distributing content in general and video in particular. I was pleased to get an email recently from Jimmy Hutcheson, president and founder of EgoTV, a broadband content startup, who wanted to share some details on their success distributing their "Malibu U" program through Clearspring's widget platform. In a subsequent call with Jimmy and Bill Rubacky, who leads Clearspring's marketing, I got a better handle on how the model works.
For those of you not familiar with widgets, they are small chunks of HTML code that essentially create a container into which content can be continuously pushed. Widgets have gained widespread popularity with the rise of web 2.0 social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, as users can select different widgets for embedding in their personal pages. This allows both the user and visitors to easily view content there. A user can also embed widgets in personal content sites using PageFlakes, iGoogle or others, or can use widgets right on their desktop.
Content providers view widgets as a low-cost opportunity to dynamically distribute content to opted-in audiences. Similarly, advertisers look at widget advertising as an opportunity to reach targeted, engaged audiences.
As an example, EgoTV is now distributing "Malibu U," through Clearspring's widget and its site. Getting the widget is simple, you just click on it, find the social media platform to which you want to embed the widget and go. Jimmy explained that about 50,000-75,000 unique visitors/day can now see his widget. He's able to track video traffic across all places the widget is embedded and when he pushes a new episode, users are automatically notified. I put the widget on my rudimentary Facebook page and this is how it looks:
From an advertising standpoint, you'll notice in the upper right corner a little peel-back flap, which is one of the ways that Clearspring implements advertising. (In fact, VideoEgg's new AdFrames approach unveiled yesterday uses a similar peel-back, which in turn links to Clearspring's widget sharing capability.) Widget ads can work in all kinds of ways, including banners, pre/mid/post-rolls and overlays.
Clearspring's play is to create a "Widget Ad Network" by aggregating the content flowing through its widgets. With 4 billion pieces of content served through its widgets each month and working with many of the top 100 publishers, Bill explained that it is able to offer targeted inventory to media buyers who want to tap into the web 2.0 world.
In short, widget platforms from companies like Clearspring provide both large content providers and smaller ones like EgoTV yet another way of reaching and engaging their fragmented audiences on their terms. I fully expect more content companies, especially early stage ones looking to gain an audience toehold, to take advantage of this low-cost distribution option. Widgets will take their place as yet another distribution choice in the rapidly-evolving "syndicated video economy."
If you were off the grid last week celebrating the July 4th holiday, there were some important fireworks in the ongoing Viacom - Google/YouTube litigation well worth paying attention to.
Judge Louis Stanton of the US District Court in New York, who is presiding over the litigation, handed down an opinion that granted and denied some of what each party was requesting. The opinion is here. I have read it and below is my synopsis (remember I'm not a lawyer):
The fourth item is the one that has gained the most attention and controversy. Privacy advocates are ballistic that this is a violation of users' privacy rights. Specifically they have cited Judge Stanton's characterization of Google/YouTube's objection to this particular Viacom request on the basis of privacy concerns as "speculative." A cottage industry of ridicule has broken out across the blogosphere regarding whether the 80 year-old Judge Stanton is sufficiently tech literate to grasp online privacy concerns. Many believe Viacom will use the data to sue individual users for viewing pirated copies of Viacom's programs on YouTube.
Like everyone else, I'm concerned about privacy here as well and recognize that Judge Stanton has moved this case into some very slippery territory. Yet, at a higher level, I'm feeling some resentment toward Google and YouTube, especially given its famous "do no evil" mantra. There is no question that they knew pirated versions of key Viacom (and other) programs were showing up on YouTube, yet at the time months went by without them candidly addressing the issue and doing something sufficiently proactive about it. To many, including me, the standoff then was (and continues to be) a high-stakes battle between two multi-billion dollar companies jockeying for negotiating leverage.
When we use various web sites (whether for broadband or other uses), there is an implicit and explicit understanding that our privacy will not be trifled with. Sites have a right to defend their business practices based on their interpretation of the existing laws, but they need to be balanced by what impact their actions may ultimately have for their users. Each of us has our own interpretation of whether Google/YouTube should have done more to protect Viacom's and others' copyrights, but as Judge Stanton's decision shows, to what extent YouTube's users' privacy is protected is now entirely up to his interpretation.
What do you think? Post a comment and let everyone know!
Closing out the week, I missed this blurb from Information Week yesterday reporting YouTube's staggering dominance of broadband video traffic. New numbers out from Hitwise show that in May '08 YouTube garnered 75% of the 10 million visits to 63 video sites that Hitwise is tracking. That's 9 times the traffic of #2 MySpaceTV and more than 20 times that of the #3 site which is Google's other video property (remember it?)
According to Hitwise YouTube's share rose 26% from a year ago compared with drops by all the others in the top 5 sites except Veoh, which rose by 32% from a year ago.
It's just mind-boggling to think that one site could have such market share, particularly when a lot of the networks' programs cannot be found there. I think it speaks to how strong users' appetites are for UGC and viral content remain, how YouTube has become a de facto video platform for lots of smaller players in the industry (and consumers) and how the company is likely beginning to enjoy some early success with its partners' channels.
A few months ago, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I wrote that YouTube is quickly becoming the perfect ally for all those makers of new broadband-to-the-TV devices. These companies desperately need content and credible brands to help pull through consumer demand. YouTube offers both. In this sense, YouTube has huge value yet to be tapped (of course demonstrating that it can monetize its massive audience wouldn't hurt its partnership value...)
However, looked at another way, YouTube's success should be very encouraging to other players. To start with, YouTube is doing a marvelous job educating the world about the virtues of broadband video. And while YouTube is the market's 800 pound gorilla, it is still leaving key opportunities open for other players to differentiate themselves. Potential areas include high-quality delivery, ad-based and paid monetization and offering content that YouTube simply doesn't have (examples: Comedy Central programs like "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report")
Volumes are yet to be written about YouTube. Whether it turns its market-leading traffic into a financially-explosive franchise or forever remains a red-ink spewing blip on Google's P&L is yet to be seen. Either way, when the history of broadband video is written, YouTube will be featured prominently.
Looking back over two dozen posts in May and countless industry news items, I have synthesized 3 key topics below. I'll have more on all of these in the coming months.
1. Broadband-delivered movies inch forward - breakthroughs still far out
In May there was incremental progress in the holy grail-like pursuit of broadband-delivered movies. Apple established day-and-date deals with the major studios for iTunes. Netlix and Roku announced a new lightweight box for delivering Netlix's "Watch Now" catalog of 10,000 titles to TVs. Bell Canada launched its Bell Video Store, complete with day-and-date Paramount releases, with others to come soon. And Starz announced a deal with Verizon to market "Starz Play" a newly branded version of its Vongo broadband subscription and video-on-demand service.
Taken together, these deals suggest that studios are warming to the broadband opportunity. This is certainly influenced by slowing DVD sales. Yet as I explained in "iTunes Film Deals Not a Game Changer" and "Online Move Delivery Advances, Big Hurdles Still Loom" broadband movies are still bedeviled by a lack of mass PC-TV connectivity, no real portability, well-defined consumer behavior around DVDs and the studios' well-entrenched, window-driven business model. Despite May's progress, major breakthroughs in the broadband movie business are still way out on the horizon.
2. Broadcast TV networks are embracing broadband delivery - but leading to what?
Unlike the film studios, the broadcast TV networks are plowing headlong into broadband delivery, yet it's not at all clear where this leads. In "Does Broadband Video Help or Hurt Broadcast TV Networks" and "Fox's 'Remote-Free TV': Broadband's First Adverse Impact on Networks?" I laid out an initial analysis about broadband's pluses and minuses for networks. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks, including more in-depth financial analysis.
On the plus side, in "2009 Super Bowl Ads to Hit $3 Million, Broadband's Role Must Grow," "Sunday Morning Talk Shows Need Broadband Refresh" and "Today Show Interview with McClellan Showcases Broadband's Power," I illustrated some opportunities broadband is creating. On the other hand, "Bebo Pursues Distinctive Original Programming Model" and "More Questions than Answers at Digital Hollywood" explained how exciting new programming approaches are taking hold, challenging traditional TV production models. Broadcasters are in the eye of the broadband storm.
3. Advertising's evolution fueled by innovation and resources
Last, but hardly least, I continued on one of my favorite topics: the impact broadband video is having on the advertising industry. Over the last 10 years the Internet, with its targetability, interactivity and measurability has caused major shifts in marketers' thinking. With broadband further extending these capabilities to video, the traditional TV ad business is now ripe for budget-shifting. We'll be exploring a lot of this at a panel I'm moderating at Advertising 2.0 this Thursday.
In "Tremor, Adap.tv Introduce New Ad Platforms" and "All Eyes on Cable Industry's 'Project Canoe'" (from Mugs Buckley), key players' innovations were described along with how the cable industry plans to compete. Content providers are being presented with more and more options for monetizing their video, a trend which will only accelerate. Yet as I wrote in "Key Themes from My 2 Panel Discussions Last Week," many issues remain, and with so many content start-ups reliant on ads, there may be some disappointment looming when people realize the ad market is not as mature as they had hoped.
That's it for May. Lots more coming in June. Please stay tuned.
Magnify.net, which I have previously written about here and here, has just launched its Magnify Publisher application, to facilitate bloggers' integration of video into their posts. Steve Rosenbaum, Magnify's CEO/founder gave me rundown the other day.
As a refresher, Magnify is the ultimate Long Tail of video enabler, allowing individuals to create branded personalized channels from video that is publicly available on the net. To date over 37,000 of these channels have been created on virtually every niche subject imaginable.
Magnify Publisher is another example of a tool to advance video syndication. Publisher inverts Magnify's usual approach though, offering bloggers the chance to start building video channels inside their blogs, but without really knowing it. The blogger begins by downloading the Publisher app (today WordPress and Movable Type are supported) and can instantly start searching for relevant videos for specific posts and embed them. The over time, as they've grabbed more and more videos, a channel starts to organically take shape, which itself can then be exposed at some point to users.
All of this is predicated on Magnify's belief that blogging is increasingly going to be multimedia, but only if access to video is easy and well-integrated. My quick reaction was that Magnify Publisher feels close to syndication sites like Voxant, ClipSyndicate and others. Steve suggests that Publisher's differentiators are that a personalized channel can be built rather than just a collection of clips, and that Publisher offers access to content beyond news, which tends to be the others' focus. In fact ClipSyndicate's videos are available to bloggers through Publisher, and Steve sees others being integrated down the road.
HBO's deal with Apple to include its programs in the iTunes store has received widespread coverage in the last couple of days, particularly because it includes differentiated pricing for the first time.
Indeed, while it's a big story that Apple's Steve Jobs has finally consented to deviate from his "one price for all" approach - which NBC couldn't attain last fall - there is another angle on this announcement: the possibility that, at long last, HBO has woken up to broadband video's potential.
HBO's absence from the broadband scene has been noticeable. As the most profitable and acclaimed TV network, I've long thought that HBO had significant upside in pursuing broadband initiatives. Instead it has badly lagged Showtime and Starz, its two principal rivals in the premium network space, as well as other networks.
Showtime in particular has been quite innovative in both creating broadband-only extras for its programs, plus enticing user-involvement opportunities. For its part, Starz has been aggressive in pursuing Vongo, its broadband-subscription service, which continues to make inroads with numerous device partnerships.
Yet HBO has seemed contentedly disinterested in broadband. Between its hefty subscription fees and healthy DVD business, broadband has likely been seen as just a gnat buzzing about. HBO's lack of broadband interest is evident on its web site which has just a smattering of video clips and highlights, and it is fairly static, with little-to-nothing enticing for the broadband user.
In reality, broadband could have likely been adding real value to HBO's business. With the proper incentives, HBO's creative production partners could have easily come up with broadband extras that would have appealed to the diehard fans of its programs. In addition to their sheer programming value, these would have helped drive more fan loyalty and stickiness between seasons. That would help address HBO's churn rate during its off-season periods.
While HBO's iTunes relationship is a step forward, it's a small one. Contrast its approach to soon-to-be-corporate-sibling Bebo's programming model (which I wrote about yesterday), with its intense focus on community engagement and the different philosophies are evident. Of course HBO is a programming powerhouse and there's no arguing with its success. But for it to fully embrace broadband's opportunities, it would benefit from looking at what Bebo and others are currently doing.
Bebo, the social networking giant being acquired by AOL for $850 million, is pioneering a new programming model by mixing original online-only video series, community engagement and brand integration. While in LA last week I attended an invite-only session in which Bebo VP of Marketing Ziv Navoth provided an overview of its approach and elaborated on its upcoming plans.
Since its inception in 2005, Bebo has quickly mushroomed to 40 million+ members with a core audience of 16-24 year olds, concentrated in the U.K. While a distant third to Facebook and MySpace in size, the depth of Bebo's user engagement is significant.
I think Bebo has cleverly grasped the notion that by offering original online video series, it is providing valuable, relatively inexpensive fodder for its members to engage with. So valuable is this programming to serving Bebo's larger corporate mission that its "Open Media" model allows content partners to keep 100% of revenue generated.
Bebo's programming initiatives are gaining traction with its members. Its first series, "KateModern," the successor to "LonelyGirl15," the YouTube phenomenon, received 35 million views in its first season, and is currently averaging 1.5 million views per week, according to the company. Its next series, "Sofia's Diary," is getting half a million viewers per episode according to the company, and its broadcast rights were just acquired by FIVER, the UK broadcaster. Other programs launched or in the works include Vuguru's "The All-for-Nots", "Conquering Demons" (in association with Oakley, the sunglass company) and "The Gap Year."
When you look across all these programs, a key thread is that they all showcase young characters to whom Bebo's audience can easily relate and/or fantasize about being. Ziv repeatedly referenced that in Bebo's model, community and programming are inseparable. Bebo encourages members' feedback and involvement in the stories, and in some cases will bend the narrative to members' desires. Meanwhile Bebo offers a range of community tools to help shows gain promotion to its member base. Bebo's promotional capabilities, massive reach and member engagement are of course the main reasons why producers will seek out Bebo as a partner.
If there's one current weakness I perceive in Bebo's programming model it is monetization. Given its young, media-savvy audience, Bebo knows that advertising must be approached with care. To date Bebo has emphasized product placement, but in a way that "propels the story line forward" according to Ziv, and is believable, not gratuitous. This of course necessitates a lot of custom, one-off selling, which not a model that is scalable across dozens of eventual programs. My guess is that traditional pre-rolls and even possibly overlays will have to play a bigger part if AOL wants to fully monetize Bebo's viewership. If done with proper targeting and capping this could be acceptable to its audience.
What I like about Bebo's programming approach is that it is clearly indigenous to the online medium. As such, it is distinct from models like Hulu, which though also valuable, are primarily new conduits for existing broadcast programming. To the extent Bebo succeeds, it will become a model for how new programming that is exclusively tailored for the online medium will work.
What do you think of Bebo's programming model? Post a comment and let everyone know!
Enabling managed syndication is becoming an imperative for video management platforms like Brightcove as customers increasingly seek to proliferate their content to multiple distributors. In particular, social networks like Bebo and others are prime syndication targets. They have huge and highly engaged users who can drive huge volumes of video streams.
However, syndication raises a host of new operational issues, which in turn creates an opportunity for companies like Brightcove to add value to their platforms. Issues include rights management, monetization, tracking/reporting, business model implementation and others. Syndication is an exciting new push for many, but is already starting to pay off. One recent example is CBS Television Stations, which now derives more than 50% of its total monthly streams just through its syndication deal with Yahoo.
(Note: Brightcove is a VideoNuze sponsor)