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Analysis for 'MetaCafe'

  • 3 Video Predictions for 2012: Metacafe's Erick Hachenburg

    Following are 3 video predictions for 2012 from Erick Hachenburg, CEO of Metacafe, a leading creator, programmer and distributor of short-form video entertainment for men.

    continue reading

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  • Metacafe's "Shocktober Showcase" Promotion Gains 2 Million Views

    Metacafe launched a new channel at the beginning of October dubbed "Shocktober Showcase" which features 2 new pieces of exclusive short-form content each day from recent or upcoming movies and video games. Metacafe says the promotion has already racked up over 2 million views from 30+ pieces of content featured. Partners in the promotion include Electronic Arts, KONAMI, Sega, Ubisoft, Summit Entertainment, Paramount, The Weinstein Company and others.

    The promotion is meant to underscore Metacafe's positioning as a destination for curated short-form online video entertainment for males 18-34.



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  • Metacafe Expands Movies Hub; Emphasizes Short-form Premium Content

    Today, Metacafe announced the expansion of the Metacafe Movies "hub," which adds to existing film content. Metacafe is continuing its emphasis on short-form premium content targeted at the young male audience. The expansion includes adding new original programming, creating an HD Channel MetaHD, and building out a fully immersive online stereoscopic 3D showcase, where even the advertisements will be in 3D. Additionally, Metacafe CEO Erick Hachenburg explained that new team leads, Mark Poggi, recruited from Netflix and Steven Horn, from Rotten Tomatoes, will help shape an editorial voice to the video selection, keeping it fresh with content directly from the studios.

    Erick cited Metacafe's editorial voice and emphasis on video as the key sources of its differentiation. He sees Metacafe users exploring 5 or 6 additional Metacafe exclusive clips instead of just a trailer. He compared competitive video sites like YouTube, Hulu, and even Yahoo/AOL to "broadcast" networks with clips for everyone, but not enough targeted navigable content. On the other hand he sees Metacafe catering to a key demographic, much like a niche cable network.

    continue reading

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  • Metacafe is Proving Short-Form Video's Online Appeal

    While many in the industry are focused on the shift of long-form premium content to online viewing - and importantly its financial viability - Metacafe and others are continuing to prove the appeal of short-form premium content online. Although it's tempting for many to see the online video platform as a me-too medium to distribute existing programs, Metacafe's success shows that online video has its own unique usage characteristics which can be exploited. I caught up with Metacafe's CEO Erick Hachenburg recently to learn more.

    Metacafe focuses on 5 "hubs": TV, Movies, Music, Sports and Video Games, which was just launched in mid-September with EA as the lead sponsor. There are also "channels" which group content by partner. Metacafe works closely with content partners like studios, TV networks, sports leagues, independent broadband-only producers and video game publishers. It also accepts user uploads, but these are filtered through an internal process before being posted on the site. Erick explained that Metacafe strives for an "entertainment sensibility" across the hubs as a differentiator.

    Browsing through the site reveals a combination of clips, trailers and UGC videos. One thing you notice quickly about Metacafe is that it is very orderly. It's not just that content is well presented, but also that videos seem to be where they should be, have accurate descriptions and play with uniform quality. While YouTube can often feel overwhelming, Metacafe feels like a better managed environment. This reflects Metacafe's emphasis on curating everything that goes on its site, so that specific content gets showcased and any duplicates are removed.

    The approach appears to be working. In July Metacafe had its best month, attracting 12 million unique visitors in the U.S. according to comScore, up 67% vs. July '08. Because Metacafe doesn't syndicate out its content, preferring instead to build a community-centric destination, it wants to be judged by how well it ranks as a destination video site. By this count according to comScore, it's behind only YouTube, which is a clear #1 with 98 million visitors. Globally Metacafe was #3 in July at just over 50 million visitors, behind YouTube (437 million) and Dailymotion (58 million) according to comScore. Of course because syndication is such a huge trend, the rankings are completely different when this is factored in, with Metacafe falling out of comScore's top 10.

    Validating the short-form genre's online appeal, research Frank N. Magid Associates conducted over the summer showed that 37% of consumers it surveyed said they found short professional videos equally or more entertaining than full-length TV shows on their television set. In addition, it found that 8 of the top 10 most watched types of online video are short form, with UGC, news, music videos, movie previews and comedy topping the list. While the Magid research was sponsored by Metacafe, it synchs with what I continue to hear anecdotally. With most online viewership still on the computer, and in-browser, short clips are most natural to watch for many.

    Erick also reported that Metacafe is generating 20-25% quarter-over-quarter revenue growth and is poised to break even sometime in 2010. A key ad unit the site uses is a large billboard which dominates the top of the page. Pre-rolls seem to be inserted before every clip viewed; I didn't notice any frequency capping.

    Add it all up and Metacafe's focus on curated short-form premium content in entertainment-related categories seems to be paying off, proving that there's success to be had operating in the long shadow of both YouTube and TV-oriented sites like Hulu.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting from the Week of August 17th

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 17th:

    CBS's Smith says authentication is a 5 year rollout - I had a number of people forward me the link to PaidContent's in-depth coverage of CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith's comments at the B&C/Multichannel News panel in which he asserted that TV Everywhere/authentication won't gain critical mass until 2014.

    I was asked what I thought of that timeline, and my response is that I think Smith is probably in the right ballpark. However, these rollouts will happen on a company by company basis so timing will vary widely. Assuming Comcast's authentication trial works as planned, I think it's likely to expect that Comcast will have its "On Demand Online" version of TV Everywhere rolled out to its full sub base within 12 months or so. Time Warner Cable is likely to be the 2nd most aggressive in pursuing TV Everywhere. For other cable operators, telcos and satellite operators, it will almost certainly be a multi-year exercise.

    NFL makes its own broadband moves - While MLB has been getting a lot of press for its recent broadband and mobile initiatives, I was intrigued by 2 NFL-related announcements this week that show the league deepening its interest in broadband distribution. First, as USA Today reported, DirecTV will offer broadband users standalone access to its popular "Sunday Ticket" NFL package. The caveat is that you have to live in an area where satellite coverage is unattainable. The offer, which is being positioned as a trial, runs $349 for the season. With convergence devices like Roku hooking up with MLB.TV, it has to be just a matter of time before the a la carte version of Sunday Ticket comes to TVs via broadband as well.

    Following that, yesterday the NFL and NBC announced that for the 2nd season in a row, the full 17 game Sunday night schedule will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Both will use an HD-quality video player and Microsoft's Silverlight. They will also use Microsoft's Smooth Streaming adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology. All of this should combine to deliver a very high-quality streaming experience. But with all these games available for free online, I have to wonder, are NBC and the NFL leaving money on the table here? It sure seems like there must have been some kind of premium they could have charged, but maybe I'm missing something.

    Metacafe grows to 12 million unique viewers in July - More evidence that independent video aggregators are hanging in there, as Metacafe announced uniques were up 67% year-over-year and 10% over June (according to comScore). I've been a Metacafe fan for a while, and their recent redesign around premium "entertainment hubs" has made the site cleaner and far easier to use. Metacafe's news follows last week's announcement by Babelgum that it grew to almost 1.7 million uniques in July since its April launch. Combined, these results show that while the big whales like YouTube and Hulu continue to capture a lot of the headlines, the minnows are still making swimming ahead.

    Kodak introduces contest to (re)name its new Zi8 video camera - It's not every day (or any day for that matter) that I get to write how a story in a struggling metro newspaper had the mojo to influence a sexy new consumer electronic product being brought to market by an industrial-era goliath, so I couldn't resist seizing this opportunity.

    It turns out that a review Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray wrote, praising Kodak's new Zi8 pocket video camera, but panning its dreadful name, prompted Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett to launch an online contest for consumers to submit ideas for a new name for the device, which it intends to be a Flip killer. Good for Hayzlett for his willingness to change course at the last minute, and also try to build some grass roots pre-launch enthusiasm for the product. And good for the Globe for showing it's still relevant. Of course, a new name will not guarantee Kodak success, but it's certainly a good start.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  • WWE's "Smash-Ups" Drives Excitement for WrestleMania 25th Anniversary

    World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has created an innovative user-edited video application called "Smash-Ups" to engage its fans and drive excitement for this Sunday night's "WrestleMania 25th Anniversary" event. It's a great example of how long-form video can be segmented and made available to users to exercise their creativity in support of the brand. In this case, WWE is also offering a $5,000 prize to the user who creates the best clip.

    I've been a fan of these kinds of mashup or re-mix apps, going back to a post I did in August '07 about the one that Universal Pictures and Metacafe created for "The Bourne Ultimatum." More recently, NFL has had success with its NFL "Replay Re-Cutter" launched last fall. I continue to believe they offer a clever way for fans to engage with the brand and potentially tapping into archive content that likely isn't creating any current value. The clips create new video views and incremental ad inventory. And as the clips are shared by users they also become a cheap source of viral marketing.

    WWE gets all this. Brian Kalinowski, WWE's EVP, Digital Media said, "The WWE is renowned for its passionate fans and compelling content, and WrestleMania Smash-Ups allows us to bring both together in an innovative, engaging broadband video experience....unleashing the full value of our library of tens of thousands of video clips to drive greater engagement from our viewers and enhanced content monetization." In addition to the video clips, Smash-Up lets users edit the segments provided, and insert audio tracks and title cards. If there's one downside, it's that the maximum clip length is 2 minutes, which is not a lot of time for hard-core fans to create a meaningful montage out of 25 years of classic footage.

     

    The Smash-Ups are powered by Gotuit, a company I've written about which has also recently announced it is powering Major League Soccer's "QuickKicks" video portal and remix and Lifetime's "Movie Mash-up" feature. As CEO Mark Pascarella and VP &GM Patrick Donovan, explained, a key Gotuit advantage for all these initiatives is that no new video clips are actually being created. Rather, by using Gotuit's metadata and indexing capabilities, the content provider can tag particular scenes and present them as clips. When users create their mixes, they're actually just combining a series of "virtual clips" - time-coded in and out points in the underlying long-form video files. This makes managing these activities a lot simpler and cost-effective. The Smash-Ups also showcase how the Gotuit UI can be fully customized and integrated with WWE's look-and-feel.

    WWE is monetizing the clips through both sponsorships (THQ) and ads. A pre-roll or mid-roll is inserted up to a maximum frequency of 1 ad per 2 minutes of content (a Gotuit setting the content provider can adjust). Users can share their creations with embed code or via email. WWE has also done a great job promoting the Smash-Ups, enlisting its superstars to make their own videos which are posted on YouTube.

    These user-edited applications (especially if they're part of contests with meaningful incentives) are a pretty compelling tactic for content providers to drive viewership and monetization. I expect we'll continue to see more of them launched.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • October '08 VideoNuze Recap - 3 Key Themes

    Welcome to November. October was a particularly crazy month with the unfolding financial crisis. Here are 3 key themes.

    1. Financial crisis hurts all industries; broadband is no exception

    In October the financial crisis was omnipresent. During the month I addressed its probable effects on the broadband industry here and here so I'm not going to spend much more time on it today. Suffice to say, for the foreseeable future, the key industry metrics are financing, staffing and customer spending. Conserving cash and getting to breakeven are paramount for all.

    In particular, in "Thinking in Terms of a 'GOTI' Objective" I tried to provide some food for thought about why focus is so important right now. Industry CEOs' jobs have gotten a whole lot harder in the wake of the meltdown; those with the best strategic and financial skills will come through the storm, others will encounter significant challenges.

    2. Broadband video is still in very early stages of development

    I'm constantly trying to gauge just how developed the broadband video industry actually is. All kinds of indicators continue to suggest to me that we're still in the very early days. For example, in one post this month comparing iTunes and Hulu, it was evident that iTunes is currently far outpacing Hulu in TV episode-related revenues. Remember that Hulu is the undisputed premium ad-supported aggregator. And that the ad-supported business model itself is predicted by most to eventually be far larger than the paid model. That iTunes is so far ahead for now shows how young Hulu really is (in fact, just celebrating its first anniversary) and how much more development the ad-supported model still has ahead of it.

    I think another relevant indicator of progress is how well the broadband medium is distinguishing itself from alternatives by capitalizing on its key strengths. In "Broadband Video Needs to Become More Engaging," I noted that while there have recently been positive signs of progress, overall, much of broadband's engagement potential is still untapped. That's why I'm always encouraged by compelling UGV contests like the one Fox and Metacafe unveiled this month or by technology like EveryZing's new MetaPlayer that drives more granular interactivity. To truly succeed, broadband must become more than just an online video-on-demand medium.

    3. Cable operators are central to broadband video's development

    As ISPs, cable operators account for the lion's share of broadband Internet access. Further, their ongoing efforts to increase bandwidth widens the universe of addressable homes for high-quality content delivery. Still, their multichannel subscription-based business model is increasingly threatened by broadband's on-demand, a la carte nature. As delivery quality escalates and consumer spending remains pinched, the notion of dropping cable in favor of online-only access become more alluring.

    Yet in "Cutting the Cord on Cable: For Most of Us It's Not Happening Any Time Soon," I explained why restricted access to popular cable network programs and an inability to easily view broadband video on the TV will keep cable operators in a healthy position for some time to come. Still, it's a confusing landscape; this month I noticed Time Warner Cable itself helped foster cable bypass, when in the midst of its retransmission standoff with LIN TV, it offered an instructive video for how to watch most broadcast network programming online. Comcast also got into the act, unveiling "Premiere Week" on its Fancast portal. These kinds of initiatives remind consumers there's a lot of good stuff available for free online; all you need is a broadband connection.

    Lots more to come in November, stay tuned.

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  • Fox, Metacafe Have a Winner with New "Australia" Contest

    This morning Twentieth Century Fox and Metacafe are announcing "The Thirty Second Film Contest," which challenges contestants to put together a winning thirty second spot for the epic film "Australia," opening on November 26th. Though not yet fully live, I like the direction of this initiative a lot, and believe it provides an innovative example of how to blend traditional film marketing techniques with broadband-enabled audience participation.

    Contestants visit the promotional site hosted at Metacafe, a large aggregator of short-form entertainment, to obtain film-related assets provided by Fox. These can be augmented with the contestant's own music, voiceovers, sound effects and artwork to create a highly original entry. Entries are submitted through Metacafe and will be judged by the folks at Fox and Bazmark (Australia director Baz Luhrman's company).

    The contest is actually meant to be quite serious and semi-professional; Luhrmann has also created a whole library of videos about film-making, which a student of the art can use to help shape his/her entry, or just watch to learn. The grand prize is enticing: a trip for two to Australia, another to NY for a private screening/meeting with Luhrmann and inclusion of the winning entry on the film's eventual DVD.

    The Australia contest builds on a similar one that Metacafe and Universal offered for "The Bourne Ultimatum" last year, which I reviewed enthusiastically here. The concept also follows on previous posts I've done about the value of what I call "purpose-driven user generated video" or "YouTube 2.0" opportunities for users to create videos that have actual business value. I continue to believe that user-submitted videos which go beyond goofball entertainment are a huge area of broadband industry opportunity.

    The Australia contest is a winner on multiple levels as it; creates pre-release buzz for the film, allows fans and aspiring artists to get involved and showcase their work, taps into a large base of original (and free!) ideas to help promote the movie, and introduces a fresh, updated approach to film marketing that is sorely needed for differentiation.

    This week I've been talking a lot about engagement and why it's so critical in the broadband era. While media and entertainment companies must always focus on driving ratings points or a big opening day box office, the ways to do so are changing. The key change I see is that films, TV programs and other entertainment must become part of a larger experience - complete with multifaceted engagement opportunities - rather than just a one-off moment of audience consumption. Broadband enables this shift in a big way. More marketers need to take advantage of the possibilities.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

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  • EveryZing's New MetaPlayer Aims to Shake Up Market

    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!

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  • New Magid Survey: Short-Form Dominates Online Video Consumption and Hurts TV Viewership

    Survey results being released this morning by Frank N. Magid Associates, a research consultancy, and video aggregator Metacafe provide fresh evidence that short-form video dominates online video consumption. Notably, the survey also goes a step further, finding that 28% of respondents who watch online video report watching less TV as a result.

    Meanwhile though, on the same day earlier this week that I was talking to Mike Vorhaus, managing director at Magid, and Erick Hachenburg, CEO of Metacafe about this new survey, Mediaweek was reporting a separate Magid survey, commissioned by CBS, which found that "35% of the nearly 50,000 streamers surveyed...reported that they are more likely to view shows on the network as a result of having been exposed to content on the web."

    As I learned from Mike, there's no actual contradiction in these 2 surveys' findings, but you do have to squint your eyes a bit to make sure you're understanding the data accurately.

    First, the findings on short-form's domination. The Metacafe survey asked respondents about the most commonly viewed types of video and presented them with category choices. The top 5 selected were all short-form oriented: Comedy/jokes/bloopers (37%), music videos (36%), videos shot and uploaded by consumers (33%), news stories (31%) and movie previews (28%). TV shows comes in at #6 (25%), followed by more short-form categories of weather, TV clips and sports clips.

    That short-form, snackable video dominates is not really a huge surprise, given YouTube's market share and the preponderance of virally shared clips. Yet Mike emphasized that short-form does not equal UGC, a point that Erick also highlights. Rather, Mike sees short-form as a legitimate alternative entertainment format that creatives are embracing and audiences are adopting. It is causing further audience fragmentation resulting in the TV audience erosion that the survey also uncovered.

    Which of course begs how Magid's CBS survey data squares up. Mike explained that the key here is that the CBS survey is based solely on users of CBS.com. These people naturally have a greater affinity for CBS programming and their likelihood of watching CBS shows on TV will be far higher than randomly-selected audiences (such as in the Metacafe survey). Here's the CBS press release for more details.

    So the CBS data suggests that networks should be encouraged that streaming their shows builds loyalty and broadcast viewership, and therefore that they should keep on doing it. Nevertheless they need to be mindful that their shows now compete in a far larger universe of video choices, and that short-form - as a new genre - is something they too should be looking to exploit. Appropriately, all the networks, and many studios, are doing exactly that.

    There is no shortage of research concerning consumer media behavior floating around these days. As the two Magid surveys show, superficially data may appear to be conflicting, though in reality it is not. Observers need to make sure they're digging in, and taking away the right lessons.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

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  • Metacafe's New Wikicafe Refines Metadata Process

    Metacafe, the short-form video aggregator with 30 million monthly visitors, has unveiled a new feature called "Wikicafe" which addresses the daunting and ongoing problem of how to find exactly the video you're looking for and gain high-quality recommendations.

    Now in beta and available to its registered users only, Wikicafe is philisophically similar to Wikipedia, which involves users in building the knowledge base around specific content. Similarly, Wikicafe's goal is to involve users in continually refining the metadata for specific videos. This in turn will yield improved search and discovery for subsequent users.

    Wikicafe is an intriguing spin on video search which I have discussed a number of times. Last week I spoke to Eyal Hertzog, Metacafe's co-founder and now chief creative officer, who's leading the charge on Wikicafe. This was the first briefing Metacafe has given on the new Wikicafe feature.

    Eyal notes that there are really two ways to tackle content navigation. One is through super-sophisticated algorithms and distributed hardware, an approach epitomized by Google. The other is community-based collaboration, an approach epitomized by Wikipedia. He is biased toward the latter because he believes that the likelihood that the original metadata assigned by the video's creator (and even subsequent metadata that may be produced by technology-based approaches) will never be as accurate as that which is produced by other humans with specific domain knowledge.

    Thus the idea behind Wikicafe: if given the right tools, Metacafe's users will create and maintain the most accurate metadata for Metacafe's vast collection of videos. It's a classic "wisdom of crowds" approach. Of course, it also requires that users act appropriately or things could spin out of control very quickly.

    Wikicafe is very straightforward to use. Once logged in, you simply click on "Editing Options" in the upper right corner of each video. Then you can start editing the video's title, tags, description and then save your changes. You can track your changes (and those that others add), be notified about subsequent changes and start a discussion about your changes. You can even translate your changes into other languages. As Eyal explains it, this "collaborative taxonomy" allows redirection between related terms ("PS3" and "Playstation3"), clarifies ambiguous words, resolves hierarchical terms and connects different languages.

     

    In a sense, Wikicafe is a natural evolution for Metacafe, which has always emphasized community involvement in filtering which content gets added and promoted on the site. With a group of active, passionate users and Wikipedia as a model, it seems likely that Wikicafe will gain traction in the community.

    What then becomes especially intriguing is the potential for carrying the Wikicafe approach outside of Metacafe's borders for the larger universe of broadband video. Could users eventually become an augment or even replacement to top-down driven video guides, the norm in today's cable and satellite offerings? It's an interesting vision to contemplate. First let's see how Wikicafe evolves in the Metacafe community.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

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  • Survey Says Broadband To Lag TV in 2012. Forget About It.

    This piece in today's Hollywood Reporter about a newly-released survey ("Broadband Won't Overtake TV, Execs Say") caught my eye because it continues a highly speculative, and largely irrelevant debate pervasive throughout the industry about future video consumption patterns.

    Why's the debate highly speculative? Because truly, none of us has any idea how people will consume video in 2012. There are just too many variables and too many unknowns to make an accurate prediction. Here's a point of comparison: let's say 5 years ago, in 2002, you were asked what percentage of Americans would consume broadband video in a given month? How many (or few!) of us would have predicted a whopping 75%? (the correct answer according to comScore in July '07). Better yet, how many of us would have guessed that over 25% of this consumption would be at just one site (YouTube) - a site that didn't even exist in 2002? Given these examples, who's to predict what 2012 will bring?

    And why's the debate largely irrelevant?

    Read on by clicking here...

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  • Survey: Broadband To Lag TV in 2012. Forget It.

    This piece in today's Hollywood Reporter about a newly-released survey ("Broadband Won't Overtake TV, Execs Say") caught my eye because it continues a highly speculative, and largely irrelevant debate pervasive throughout the industry about future video consumption patterns.

    Why's the debate highly speculative? Because truly, none of us has any idea how people will consume video in 2012. There are just too many variables and too many unknowns to make an accurate prediction. Here's a point of comparison: let's say 5 years ago, in 2002, you were asked what percentage of Americans would consume broadband video in a given month? How many (or few!) of us would have predicted a whopping 75%? (the correct answer according to comScore in July '07). Better yet, how many of us would have guessed that over 25% of this consumption would be at just one site (YouTube) - a site that didn't even exist in 2002? Given these examples, who's to predict what 2012 will bring?

    And why's the debate largely irrelevant? Because, in my opinion, it presupposes a continuation of the existing paradigm: an either/or choice of TV consumption OR broadband consumption. Yet these traditional lines of demarcation are already fading. Broadband programming is starting to migrate to networks, as in the recent case of Quarterlife's move from MySpace to NBC, while at the same time network TV programming is increasingly being consumed online. Meanwhile shorter form programming, not bound by traditional advertising pods is on the rise, further confusing industry definitions. Sites like Metacafe, blip.tv, Veoh and others are driving a whole new category of video that could eventually be a more popular format than 30 or 60 minute programs.

    These days consumers themselves are driving this "broadband or TV" debate into irrelevance. They're busy accessing programming on demand - whether "broadband" or "TV" - through a host of devices and services whose popularity is only going to skyrocket in the future. These include TiVo, Xbox, Netflix, Amazon Unbox and many others. Yet traditional thinking is still pervasive. For example, just this week, the chairman of the FCC has attempted to enact new regulations governing how cable programming might be unbundled. Fortunately this initiative collapsed, but take heed, market forces will eventually cause cable operators to offer programming as consumers want it, not how tradition dictates.

    I think Jim Denney, a TiVo product management VP whom I spoke with yesterday hit the nail on the head. Jim said TiVo's philosophy is to have their users "not worry about where any particular video's coming from, but rather just have all choices easily available." That strikes me as a winning business approach for the turbulent and converging 5 years that lie ahead. In my view, those companies which think about how to deliver value to consumers on their terms, rather than being guided by increasingly artificial distinctions, will be the ones to emerge as the winners in 2012.

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  • Metacafe’s “Bourne Ultimatum” Mashup Will Spur Imitators

    The Metacafe team posted a progress update on its "Bourne Ultimatum" mashup initiative, launched with Universal Pictures on July 23rd. To date, over 1,000 mashups have been posted, with the most popular ones highlighted on the site. Metacafe and Universal teamed up with Diffuse Media Group for the simple-to-use mashup tool.

    These kinds of mashups are such a winning idea, it’s amazing to me that they still haven't gained a ton of market momentum. I think it’s just a matter of time, it’s so easy to execute.

    Here, Universal provided a collection of scenes and music from the movie. Fans can express their enthusiasm by mixing them up as they please overlaying the music tracks provided. Especially for a franchise like "Bourne", where rabid fans eagerly await each sequel, allowing these folks to participate in the promotional buildup is a real win-win. Tomorrow, when "Bourne" opens everywhere, there will already have been tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people talking up the flick who have seen the mashups or created their own.

    Compare this level of fan engagement and promotion to the traditional process of producing 1 trailer and then paying for expensive TV time to promote it. That model seems so yesterday by the standards of what broadband video and Web 2.0 are enabling.

    Specifically, broadband is enabling a whole new element of the marketing mix to take root. And the possibilities for where mashups go from here are limitless. Consider: how about letting fans mix in their own voice-overs of certain scenes or mix in their own video clips or have the studio create contests to showcase and reward winning mashups (e.g. Matt Damon-signed, collector’s edition DVD for the winner and such). The list goes on.

    I’m expecting lots of smart marketers are going to be increasing their mashup activity quite soon.

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  • DailyMotion Raises $34 Million, Is Category Over-Funded?

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    WSJ reported today that DailyMotion, the French video sharing site, has raised $34 million in a round led by Advent Venture Partners LLP of London and AGF Private Equity. This financing adds to a wave of capital that has poured into the overall ad-supported video sharing/video aggregator platform space in the last few months.

    Companies that I think fit in this group that have recently raised big money are Joost ($45 million), Veoh ($26 million), Metacafe ($30 million) and blip.tv ($10 million). Hulu, the NBC-News Corp JV which raised $100 million could even be considered in this category. And thinking a little more broadly you could include sites like Heavy.com, Break, Vuguru, Next New Networks, DaveTV, Babelgum, BitTorrent and others which are creating and/or aggregating broadband programming.

    To be fair, each of these companies has a slightly different approach to their content strategy (pure aggregation vs. original development vs. hybrids), market positioning and technology capabilities. However, as best I can tell, they're all trying to offer distinctive video content into broadband-only delivery networks and to one extent or another, surround this programming with interactive tools. The intended result is unique viewing experiences.

    In the aggregator roles they play, they're muscling themselves into the market owned by traditional video distributors like cable and satellite operators, and more recently telcos. These new companies are all very interesting to watch because ultimately they must do at least 3 things to generate traffic and revenue: (1) differentiate themselves from each other, (2) add value to content providers/producers relative to CPs/producers relying solely on a direct-to-consumer approach and (3) shift viewing time from the traditional distributors' programming to their own.

    Any one of these would be a pretty high hurdle to get over. Doing all three will be even tougher. Yet a lot of smart money keeps backing these companies, further demonstrating how hot this overall category is -- and how quickly it could become overfunded. But I don't expect things to cool down any time soon. We can expect further funding in this space as investors clamor to get a piece of the action in broadband video.

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