Yesterday, Encoding.com announced that Revision3 (which was recently acquired by Discovery) is replacing its in-house encoding infrastructure with Encoding.com. The win is a validation of Encoding.com's vision for its cloud-based, encoding-on-demand service model as more scaleable and cost-effective vs. the traditional approach of media companies operating their own encoding systems.
Jeff Malkin, Encoding.com's president and I caught up at the recent NABShow. Jeff discusses why over 3,000 companies across multiple industries have elected to work with the company for their encoding needs. Encoding.com is also moving into TV Everywhere, to support longer-form video encoding for multiple device delivery. Watch the video below (5 minutes, 58 seconds)
Revision3's CEO Jim Louderback gave an impromptu interview at VideoNuze's NABShow booth last week, providing insights from the company's experience of delivering 30 shows online. One of Jim's key points is that while mobile as a category is red hot, it's important to understand that tablets and smartphones are very different. He likens tablets to "mini-TVs" and is seeing longer much longer viewing times vs. smartphones.
Jim also talks about how his company is providing a place for shows that wouldn't ordinarily be found on cable or broadcast TV. And he talks about the innovative way that his shows' hosts integrate brand messages during the programs. All great insights for other content producers looking to distribute online. See video below (7 minutes, 32 seconds)
Categories: Indie Video
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!
Having staked out the idea of the "Syndicated Video Economy" as a key driver of the broadband video landscape about 6 months ago, I'm continually looking for insights from those companies operating on its front lines. How is it evolving? What are the key challenges and opportunities? How are they being addressed?
I got more feedback yesterday, moderating a session at the Contentonomics conference in LA. On it were:
Here are a few takeaways I scribbled down during the session:
Revenue issues persist - Jimmy was quick to note that while he's an optimist about syndication, EgoTV's current deals have yet to produce a lot of revenue. I pressed him on the reasons: lack of distributor promotion/traffic, their inability to monetize traffic, both or neither? Jimmy's response was that with so much video flowing through key distributors, gaining solid promotion is a real challenge. A bigger issue is distributors' ability to monetize the traffic they're generating. I've heard this from others as well. This could suggest a continued shift to content providers owning/selling their ad inventory, with distributors focusing mainly on promotion/traffic, and receiving a revenue share for their efforts.
Friction in executing syndication - Though Damon highlighted that Revision3 has 40 distribution partners, that's definitely the exception, not the norm these days; a recurrent SVE theme the panel discussed is the overhead involved in identifying partners, negotiating deals, implementing them, collecting performance stats and doing follow-up analysis. There are no easy answers here. As I've written in the past, some of this just gets resolved as the ecosystem of companies matures.
Brand building takes on greater importance in syndication - There was some consensus on the panel that with content be viewing through multiple outlets, a clear challenge is building a consistent and differentiated brand. The importance of a content provider's own web site magnifies in the SVE. Even though a lot of viewership may occur elsewhere, it's still the best opportunity to control and define the brand for viewers. Further, even if substantial revenues don't materialize from syndication, these deals are still viewed as solid brand-building.
Push to programming quality - As broadband video proliferates, getting noticed is harder than ever. As a result there's a real push to quality video that's underway. In part this involves pulling more high-quality talent into broadband originals. The quality bar is getting ever higher for broadband video especially as better-know talent adopts the medium. Distributors will be in a stronger position to choose which video to include and promote.
That's it for now. I'll keep providing regular updates on the SVE as I gather more information from those fully immersed in it.
What do you think? Post a comment.
(Note: tomorrow's a rare day off for VideoNuze as I observe Yom Kippur)
Categories: Syndicated Video Economy
Last week I had a chance to sit down with Brent Weinstein, CEO/founder of 60Frames, which is among a new group of companies I refer to as "broadband studios." This is a category that has generated a healthy amount of funding and activity recently, including, among others, Next New Networks ($23 million to date), Generate ($6 million), Revision3 ($9 million), Stage 9 (Disney/ABC's in-house unit), Vuguru (Michael Eisner's shop) and a slew of comedy-focused initiatives. 60Frames itself has raised $3.5 million from Tudor, Pilot Group and others.
The impetus for 60Frames came when Brent was heading up digital entertainment at UTA and observed that many clients wanted to create digital/broadband fare but wanted a partner for the same roles they've come to expect studios to handle (e.g. financing, distribution, legal, creative, etc.). 60Frames aims to differentiate itself from the pack by being "artist-friendly" - allowing greater creative control and more significant ownership and by relying on strong relationships. With an existing staff of 11 and a goal of launching 50 programs by year end, the 60Frames team is no doubt going full tilt.
60Frames is following a traditional portfolio approach, working with great talent (Coen brothers, John August, Tom Fontana, others) but recognizing that results in this new medium will vary - there will be some winners and some losers. The goal is obviously to have the best ratio possible. Traditional studios improve their odds by using collective history and data about what types of projects succeed and which ones don't. But no such lengthy track record or data exists in broadband just yet, so it's a lot more speculative pursuit.
I asked Brent if there's any creative formula 60Frames is using to guide its decision-making. He was pretty emphatic that there's no "formula," but did concede 60Frames is focused on short-form (under 5 minutes), is biased toward comedy where episodes can stand alone more readily, and is mainly looking at niche audiences with a bulls-eye of 18-34 men, where consumption is highest.
Nurturing relationships and developing great content is only part of the equation for these budding studios' success. Distribution and monetization are also incredibly important, as broadband necessitates an entirely different model. Regarding distribution, I was encouraged to see 60Frames is solidly in the syndication camp to the point that it has not even set up destination sites for its 7 launched programs yet. 60Frames has a network of partners including Bebo, blip.tv, DailyMotion, iTunes, MySpace, YouTube and others. Gaining access to all the popular online destinations will accelerate success. Meanwhile advertising is being handled by partner SpotRunner, which has deep hooks in the space.
Broadband studios like 60Frames harken back to the original studio moguls in some ways - taking creative and financial risk to explore what works in a new medium. It's way too early to know if or to what extent they'll succeed, but if they do we can expect a gold rush of imitators.
Recently I was in
Well, it seems to me that the same type of vast selection is coming to the world of video. For example, a number of recent broadband video-related announcements have further convinced me that we are on the cusp of experiencing an explosion in the quantity of high-quality video available and choices we’re all offered.
Consider these recently-announced examples:
- Next New Networks – founded by a group of ex-Viacom executives, plans to launch 101 “micro-networks, consisting of 3-11 minutes of content refreshed on a schedule, daily, weekly, or bi-weekly.”
- Michael Eisner, Disney’s former CEO, has launched Vuguru, a studio that will produce and distribute videos. Its first release is a project called "Prom Queen," which is a scripted 80-episode mystery consisting of 90-second episodes.
- Stephen Bochco (creator of “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues”), has partnered with Metacafe, a broadband video destination site initially to produce “Cafe Confidential," 44-clip online series, with others to follow.
- MSN has continued to rollout of its “Originals” series, having now launched half a dozen different programs.
To this list can be added broadband video initiatives from dozens of cable TV networks, online publishers, magazines, newspapers, broadcast stations, brand marketers and others.
Add it all up, and indeed, we are on the cusp of a world awash in video.
How to Succeed?
With all this video coming online, the question begs: can all of these producers succeed in building their audiences and actually turning a profit? To me, there are 5 key success factors for any of these players:
Target your audience and incent their participation – In the cable TV business, the smartest business plans identified target audiences and then relentlessly programmed to them. Examples included music aficionados, sports fans and science fiction fanatics. Knowing the audience you’re going after, what their interests are, where gaps exist in current programming, and how to address audiences on their terms are all key. But all that’s not enough. It’s also crucial to incent audience participation in the development, promotion and review process. Like it or not, audiences are now able to be active programming partners. Their talent and passion needs to be harnessed.
Produce inexpensively – Beyond just programming to the target audiences, it is essential to produce inexpensively. Cable budgets are lower than network budgets. Broadband video budgets must be lower still, at least for now. Audience sizes will be smaller and so for a while to come ad dollars will be scarcer. Plus smaller budgets can result in more edgy, authentic-feeling video which broadband users actually expect anyway. Producing on a shoestring will certainly be an adjustment process for the big-name TV talent now piling into broadband.
Appeal to advertisers – In the scrappy world of broadband video, understanding what matters to advertisers when developing programming is more important than ever. Since audiences will be far smaller, advertisers aren’t going to be buying reach. Rather, they’re going to being the niches they value. The better your programming appeals to identifiable and valuable audiences (see above), the easier it will be to find advertisers willing to open their wallets.
Distribute widely and syndicate often – Traditional TV was about driving audiences to specific channels at specific times. The Internet is all about making content available wherever audiences live and whenever they want access. Broadband will follow the same rules. So learning to distribute content widely and leveraging new syndication networks and technologies is key. For now, terms for these types of deals will vary considerably.
Be flexible – Given its early-stage nature, there are no formulas yet for how any of this will ultimately work. So job # 1 is appealing to your audiences and building their loyalty. Since there are no expensive pilots to shoot, it’s key to “invest a little and learn a lot.” Be willing to change direction on a dime. When it comes to broadband video, a rigid mindset is the enemy.
The Golden Age is Upon Us I’ve been telling people for a while now that we’re entering a “golden age of video”. Broadband’s open platform removes much of the traditional friction associated with delivering video into target audience’s homes. When combined with new, low cost production equipment and editing software, the result is an exploding array of new video choices. For creative people, this is liberating and exhilarating - truly a golden age. For consumers, it is going to be an era of unprecedented choice. For everyone, it’s going to be a world awash in video.
Categories: Indie Video