Monday, September 22, 2008, 8:48 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
This morning Anystream, a leading digital media management and production company and Voxant, a content syndication network, have announced their merger. The deal marks an important milestone: it's the first M&A transaction that I'm aware of which is predicated on the Syndicated Video Economy dominating the future broadband video landscape.
NewCo's combined capabilities are noteworthy on many levels, one of which is its potential to disrupt the competitive dynamics of the video content management and publishing space by providing fundamental new value to content producers. There has been a lot of capital invested in this space, and by my recent count at least 18 companies are playing in or around it. With the broadband gold rush underway, there's been enough business to go around. Competition for new business has mainly focused on features and pricing/business models.
Anystream has traditionally (and somewhat quietly) focused on digital media transcoding and workflow for more than 700 companies around the world. It too has moved up the stack into content management and publishing, lately handling the video management for NBC's Olympics on-demand distribution, and prior to that announcing deals with Hearst-Argyle Television and others. On the other hand, Voxant has been a mid/long tail syndicator, having built out a distribution network with 30,000 publishers gaining rights-cleared content from 400+ providers. These publishers generate 35 million video views per month, making the Voxant network #15 in video views according to comScore.
NewCo's belief is that the bilateral syndication deals we've seen to date (e.g. CBS-Yahoo, ESPN-AOL, Next New Networks - Hulu, among many others) has whetted the market's appetite for this emerging business model, but that there is still far too much friction for syndication to really take off. That fits with what I hear from even the most aggressive content syndicators, one of whose CTOs said on a recent panel I moderated that his company is overwhelmed just trying to fully implement the handful of deals its already done.
So, much as I've considered the Syndicated Video Economy solidly into its first phase of development, I've been sobered by the reality that the operational overhead of negotiating deals, implementing them through distributors' often heterogeneous sub-systems, and monitoring their performance requires so much human intervention that the whole syndication concept could end up collapsing under its own weight. (Side note, this is why the Google Content Network which I wrote about last week also has so much potential).
NewCo seeks to blend Anystream's and Voxant's capabilities, offering to content producers a seamless solution to manage, publish AND distribute clips and programs, at scale, to the Internet's widely dispersed audience. As I see it, NewCo is also a potential two-pronged market disrupter if - and for now this is still a big if - it can monetize premium video at scale through advertising.
First, these new revenues could put NewCo in a position to cross-subsidize its technology platform, thereby altering some of the fundamental economics in the platform space. This could trigger possible price-cutting by others solely dependent on platform revenue. Given the vast number of players in the space, and everyone's hunger for market share, this scenario isn't unreasonable to imagine. Second, NewCo could create steep switching barriers for its media customers. Upon getting a taste for turnkey NewCo-driven syndication revenues, content producers would almost certainly be less enticed by new platform-centric features that other competitors may offer. Combined, these disruptions would create a markedly new competitive dynamic.
Yet don't expect competitors to stand still; many of them are examining how to capitalize on their own distinct advantages to alter the dynamics still further. NewCo's abundantly strong management team must now execute on its vision and help its media customers realize syndication's real value. The Anystream-Voxant merger is a bold and possibly game-changing bet on the Syndicated Video Economy being fully realized over time. If that happens, NewCo will surely be among the industry's long-term winners.
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(Disclosures: Anystream is a VideoNuze sponsor and I also provided very brief "sounding-board" reactions to this merger prior to its closing.)