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!
Next Thursday, July 23rd at 12pm noon ET, I'm going to be moderating a teleseminar for CTAM, titled "Understanding Viewers' Multi-Screen Migration." We'll be digging into the impact of 3 screen (TV, PC, Mobile) user behavior and what the implications are for the cable industry specifically and the media industry in general. CTAM has recently released new proprietary research on 3 screen usage which we'll be using to guide the discussion. With broadband video consumption surging and the iPhone sparking significant mobile video interest, the teleseminar is very timely.
Panelists include Amy Banse, President of Comcast Interactive Media and SVP, Comcast Corporation, Dallas Clement, SVP, Strategy and Product Management, Cox Communications, David Evans, SVP, Broadband, Rainbow Media and Perkins Miller, SVP, Digital Media, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
The teleseminar follows a unique format; I'll be moderating from Fuse TV's studio in NYC in front of a live audience and the session will be uplinked via satellite for simultaneous viewing at over 35 CTAM chapter locations around the U.S. and Canada. Questions will be taken from both the studio audience and the remote viewers. It promises to be a fascinating discussion.
Click here for more information and registration or email Lisa Jackson at CTAM (email@example.com)
Yesterday, I hosted and moderated the inaugural Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast, in association with the CTAM New England and New York chapters, here in Boston (a few pics are here). We taped the session and I'll post the link when the video is available. Here are a few of key takeaways.
My opening question to frame the discussion centered on broadband's eventual impact on the cable business model: does it ultimately upend the traditional affiliate fee-driven approach by enabling a raft of "over-the-top" competitors (e.g. Hulu, Netflix, Apple, YouTube, etc.) OR does it complement the model by creating new value and choice? As I said in my initial remarks, I believe that how this question is ultimately resolved will be the key determinant of success for many of the companies involved in today's broadband ecosystem and video industry.
I posed the question first to Peter Stern, who's in the middle of the action as Chief Strategy Officer of Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable company in the U.S. I thought his answer was intriguing: he said that it is cable networks themselves who will determine the sustainability of the model, depending on whether they choose to put their full-length programs online for free or not.
Later in the session, he put a finer point on his argument, saying that "a move to online distribution by cable networks would directly undermine the affiliate fees that are critical to creating great content" and that finding ways to offer these programs only to paying broadband Internet access subscribers was a far better model for today's cable networks and operators to pursue (for more see Todd Spangler's coverage at Multichannel News).
Peter's point echoes my recent "Cord-Cutters" post: to the extent that cable networks - which now attract over 50% of prime-time viewership, and derive a third or more of their total revenues from affiliate fees - withhold their most popular programs from online distribution, they provide a powerful firewall against cord-cutting. Speaking for myself for example, the prospect of missing AMC's "Mad Men" (not available online anywhere, at least not yet...) would be a powerful disincentive for me to yank out my Comcast boxes.
These thoughts were amplified by the other panelists, Deanna Brown, President of SN Digital, David Eun, VP of Content Partnerships for Google/YouTube, Roy Price, Director of Digital Video for Amazon and Fred Seibert, Creative Director and Co-founder of Next New Networks, who held fast to a highly consistent message that broadband should be thought of as expanding the pie, thereby creating a new medium for new kinds of video content. David, in particular cited the massive amount of user-uploaded and consumed video at YouTube (amazingly, about 13 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day) as strong evidence of the community and context that broadband fosters.
Still, our audience Q&A segment revealed some very basic cracks in the panelists' assertions that the transition to the broadband era can be orderly and managed (not to mention that afterwards, I was privately barraged by skeptical attendees). First and foremost these individuals argued the idea that the cable industry can maintain the value of its subscription service by using the control-oriented approach typified by the traditional windowing process flies in the face of valuable lessons learned by the music industry.
Of course most of us know that sorry story well by now: an assortment of entrenched, head-in-the-sand record labels forcing a margin rich, but speciously valued product (namely the full album or CD) on digitally empowered audiences, who decided to take matters into their own hands by stealing every song they could click their mouses on. Consequently, a white knight savior (Apple) offering a legitimate and consumer-friendly purchase alternative (iPod + iTunes), which would grew to be so popular that it has made the record labels beholden to it, while simultaneously hollowing out the last vestiges of the original album-oriented business model.
Does history repeat itself? Are Peter and the other brightest lights of the cable industry deluding themselves into thinking that a closed, high-margin, windowed platform like cable can ever possibly morph itself into a flexible, must-have service for today's YouTube/Facebook generation?
I've been a believer for a while that by virtue of their massive base of broadband-connected homes, high-ARPU customer relationships and programming ties, cable operators have enormous incumbent advantages to win in the broadband era. But incumbency alone does not guarantee success. Instead, what wins the day now is staying in tune with and adapting to drastically changed consumer expectations, and then executing well, day after day. One look at the now gasping-for-breadth behemoth that was once proud General Motors hammers this point home all too well.
As Fred succinctly wrapped things up, "The reason I love capitalism is that it forces all of us to keep doing things better and better." To be sure, broadband and digital delivery are unleashing the most powerful capitalistic forces the video industry has yet seen. What impact these forces ultimately have on today's market participants is a question that only time will answer.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
As I alluded a week ago, today I'm very pleased to share details of VideoNuze's first Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast Panel.
The session will be held on November 10th, in Boston, and is entitled, "How to Profit from Broadband Video's Disruptive Impact." It is being held on the first full day of the annual CTAM Summit, so if you're coming to town for that event, I hope you'll be able to carve out time to attend the leadership breakfast.
The panel features an A-list group of executives, whose companies are at the forefront of the broadband revolution:
I recruited this diverse group specifically to ensure a range of perspectives (established vs. early stage, content vs. distributor, ad supported vs. paid, etc.) are represented. It will be invaluable for attendees to hear the pros and cons of varying broadband video strategies, as well as the current data supporting these approaches. Having moderated dozens of panels over the years, I'm focused on bringing together best practices I've observed to ensure this is a well-structured, high-impact discussion.
Among other things, I expect attendees will learn about the tradeoffs of different business models, how consumers' video behaviors are changing, what these five companies' broadband priorities are and what roles upstart content providers and aggregators will play in the future. The most important takeaway will be what you, as participants in the broadband market, can be doing now to ensure your future success.
The breakfast panel is generously sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks, Akamai, Anystream, KickApps and Yahoo and is being run in association with CTAM's New England and New York chapters, on whose boards I serve.
I'm incredibly excited about the leadership breakfast, as it marks a continued push by VideoNuze into the events space, a key priority going into 2009. In fact, last night marked the kickoff of our events push, with the inaugural VideoSchmooze networking evening, which drew 200+ attendees on a rainy, Red Sox-at-home night (pictures are here). Look for more VideoSchmoozes in '09 as this networking event goes on the road.