Time Inc. is further bolstering its online video efforts, unveiling a new weekly program called "Sports Illustrated," available exclusively through its partner Net2TV's Portico TV service.
Like other recently-launched Time programs that are part of a broader deal with Portico TV (including "The Week in TIME," "PEOPLE This Week," "Cooking Light," "Southern Living," and "Inside Golf Magazine"), Sports Illustrated curates previously-released, shorter-form videos into a full-length program professionally hosted by one of the respective magazine's personalities.
Of course, the question still looms, will people pay $500-$800 for all that iPad coolness? Apple itself appears sensitive to the issue, clearly softening the market for possible price reductions soon after the iPad's release if volumes don't materialize. Going out on a limb a little, I for one believe we'll see an approximately $200 price reduction by holiday season '10, if not sooner. The iPad is too important to Apple and Steve Jobs to be allowed to flounder and the coming release of numerous lower-priced tablets from competitors will only add to the pressure on Apple. If iPad prices fall, it could indeed become a game-changer for Wired and other print publishers.
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Sports Illustrated's 2010 swimsuit edition hit the stands this week and video is a central part of its promotion. For the real die-hards, SI has been hosting a series of videos with the models at its Ustream channel. There's also a collection of videos at the site, though I have to say the video quality is surprisingly mediocre. SI has also included "JAGTAGs" in the print issue. When readers take a picture of the JAGTAG with their phone and send them in via MMS, they receive additional behind-the-scenes videos of the models. I give SI credit, they're really turning the swimsuit edition into a multi-media extravaganza. If (and it's a big if) the iPad sells well, SI will be able to do even more next year. I continue to believe that video gives magazines a whole new editorial and advertising opportunity which some like SI are aggressively pursuing.
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Topics: Sports Illustrated
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 30th week:
1. Alicia Keys concert on YouTube is an underwhelming experience - Did you catch any of the Alicia Keys concert on YouTube this past Tuesday night celebrating World AIDS Day? I watched parts of it, and while the music was great, I have to say it was disappointing from a video quality standpoint -lots of buffering and pixilation, plus watching full screen was impossible.
I think YouTube is on to something special webcasting live concerts. Recall its webcast of the U2 concert from the Rose Bowl on Oct 25th drew a record 10 million viewers. That concert's quality was far superior, and separately, the dramatic staging and 97,000 in-person fans also helped boost the excitement of the online experience. It's still early days, but to really succeed with the concert series, YouTube is going to have to guarantee a minimum quality level. Notwithstanding, American Express, the lead sponsor of the Keys concert had strong visibility and surely YouTube has real interest from other sponsors for future concerts. It could be a very valuable franchise YouTube is building and is further evidence of YouTube's evolution from its UGC roots.
2. Being a Jeff Zucker fan is lonely business - In yesterday's post, "Comcast-NBCU: The Winners, Losers and Unknowns" I said I've been a fan of Jeff Zucker's since seeing him deliver a brutally candid and very sober assessment of the broadcast TV industry at the NATPE conference in Jan '08. My praise elicited a number of incredulous email responses from readers who vehemently disagreed, thinking Zucker's performance merits him being sent to the woodshed rather than to the CEO's office for the new Comcast-NBCU JV.
To be sure, NBC's abysmal performance under Zucker (falling from first place to fourth in prime-time), will be one of his legacies, but I take a broader view of his tenure. A good chunk of NBCU's cable network portfolio came to the company via the Vivendi deal around the time Zucker took over responsibility for cable. Since that time the networks have grown strongly in audience and cash flow has doubled from about $1 billion to a projected $2.2 billion in '09. NBCU added Oxygen (which combined with its iVillage property makes a strong proposition for women-focused advertisers) and The Weather Channel, in a joint buyout with two PE firms.
While Zucker's hiring of Ben Silverman to run NBC was a misstep, NBCU has enjoyed stability on the cable side, with two of the highest-regarded women in TV, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick cranking out hit after hit for their respective networks. A CEO's tenure is always a mixed one, with plenty of wins and losses. It can be hard to know how much of the wins to ascribe to the CEO personally, rather than the executives below, but at the end of the day, NBCU was transformed from a single network company to a cable powerhouse; even Zucker skeptics have to give him some credit for this.
3. Comcast rebrands On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV - yuck! - Largely lost in the NBCU commotion this week was news that B&C broke that Comcast is changing the name of its soon-to-be-launched TV Everywhere service from On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV. Yikes, the branding gurus need to head back to the drawing board, and quick. The name violates the first rule of branding: pronunciation must be obvious and easy. Not only is it unclear how you pronounce Xfinity, it's a an unnecessary mouthful that doesn't fit with any of Comcast's other workmanlike brands (e.g. "Digital Cable," "On Demand," "Comcast.net"). If we're talking about a new videogame targeted to teenage boys, Xfinity is great. If we're talking about a service that provides online access to TV shows, there's no need for something super-edgy. I'd suggest just sticking with "On Demand Online." But even more importantly, priority #1 is getting the product launched successfully.
4. Sports Illustrated demo builds tablet computing buzz - If you haven't seen SI's demo of its tablet version being shown off this week, it's well worth a look at the video here. Never mind that there isn't such a tablet device on the market yet, the rumors swirling around Apple's planned launch of one has created an air of inevitability for the whole category. As the SI demo shows, a tablet can be thought of a larger version of an iPhone (likely minus the phone), providing larger screen real estate to make the user experience even more interesting. It's fascinating to think about what a tablet could do for magazines in particular, along the lines of what the Kindle has done for books. The mobile video and gaming possibilities are endless. Judge for yourselves.
Enjoy the weekend!
Closing out another busy week, here are 3 diverse broadband video snippets that hit my radar in the past few days:
1. YouTube Drives the Political Newscycle
Back in December, in 6 Predictions for 2008, I suggested that "2008 is the year of the broadband presidential election." This seems to become more evident with each passing week. I find that particularly when watching cable news, YouTube's influence just keeps on growing.
For example, I'm a fan of "AC360" on CNN, which I try to catch at 10pm each night. This week the show was constantly replaying the YouTube videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright that have dogged the Obama campaign. Conversely, a few weeks ago, Obama got a great tailwind from the massive attention paid to the viral "Yes We Can" music video sensation by will.i.am. That of course was on top of the earlier "Obama Girl" phenomenon. Separately, the McCain campaign just yesterday fired a campaign worker for posting a controversial video on YouTube about Obama and race. This too was covered on AC360 last night. Then of course there were the YouTube co-sponsored debates, offering video-based questions that were constantly replayed afterward.
The point of all this is that broadband video has turned election coverage upside down, making it incredibly hard for candidates to control the political newscycle. The "democratizing" effect of YouTube means that on any given day, at any given moment, something may get posted which diverts the campaign's attention. And with major media outlets paying such close attention to YouTube, everything is immediately amplified. Not since the early 1960s when TV began influencing presidential politics have we seen a new medium have such a profound impact on an election. And we still have 8 months to go until November...who knows what's yet to come!
2. SI Vault is Addictive
On to something more fun, if you haven't yet checked out Sports Illustrated's new "SI Vault" site just launched this week, I suggest you do. It's a highly addictive trip down memory lane. SI has digitized all of its assets and also made available non-SI content, all in one easy-to-use location powered by Truveo. Focusing on video, I found Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception" from the 1972 Steelers-Raiders playoff game and also Doug Flutie's famous "Hail Mary" pass to beat Miami in 1984. I could have spent hours at the site, although it's not perfect. I tried finding Tom Watson's 1982 U.S. Open chip-in at Pebble Beach to beat Jack Nicklaus, but alas no results were found. Obviously all this stuff is available elsewhere online, but SI Vault creates a great context for sports fans to enjoy themselves, wrapping SI and non-SI content together in one nice package.
3. Apple's Roadblocks are Baaaack