Topics: Thomson Reuters
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Oct 5th week:
New research shows TV viewing shifting - Mediapost had a good piece this week on Horowitz Associates' new research showing that 2% of all TV programming watched now occurs on non-TV devices. This translates to 2 hours of the 130.2 hours of TV that viewers watch each month shifting. This top line number is a little deceiving though, as the research also shows that for viewers who own a PC or laptop, they watch 9%, or 13 hours of TV programming per month, other than on their TV. I plan to follow up to see if I can get breakout info for young age groups, my guess is that their percentages are even higher.
I've been very interested in these kinds of numbers because there has been much debate about whether making full-length programs available online augments or cannibalizes traditional TV viewing. The broadcast networks have forcefully asserted that it only augments. I agree online augments, but I've suspected for a while that it is also beginning to cannibalize. If networks generated as much revenue per program from an online view as they do from an on-air view this shifting wouldn't matter. But as I wrote in Mediapost myself this week, the problem is they probably only earn 20-25% as much online. TV viewers' shifting usage is a key area to focus on as broadband video viewership continues to grow.
PermissionTV becomes VisibleGains, targets B2B selling - PermissionTV, one of the original media-focused online video publishing and management platforms, officially switched gears this week, changing its name to VisibleGains. Cliff Pollan, CEO and Matt Kaplan, VP of Marketing/Chief Strategy Officer briefed me months ago on their plans and I caught up with them again this week. Their new focus is on enabling companies to provide their prospects with informative videos during the information-gathering phase of the sales process.
Cliff argues persuasively that in the old days the sales rep presented 80% of the information about a product to a prospect; now prospects collect 80% of what they need to know online, and the sales rep then fills in the blanks. Through VisibleGains "ask and respond" branching format, companies better inform their prospects, qualify leads and add personality to their typical text-heavy web sites. It's another great example of how video can be used beyond the media model.
Unicorn Media demo is impressive - Even as PermissionTV changes its focus, Unicorn Media is entering the crowded video platform space. I mentioned Unicorn, which was founded by Bill Rinehart, founding CEO of Limelight, in my 4 items post a couple months. This week I got a demo from CTO AJ McGowan and Chief Strategy Officer David Rice and I was impressed. Key differentiators AJ focused on were an enterprise-style user rights model for accessing the platform, APIs that allow drag-and-drop content feeds, and an "ad proxy" for configuring ad rules.
Most interesting though is Unicorn's real-time data warehouse feature, which provides granular performance data up to the minute. Data can be displayed in a number of ways, but most compelling was what AJ termed the "magic Frisbee," a clever format for showing multiple data points (e.g. streaming time, ad completes, # of plays, etc.) all at once, so that decision-makers can hone in on performance issues. AJ says prospects are responding to this feature in particular as assembling this level of information today often requires multiple staffers and data sources. David reports that Unicorn is finding its biggest opportunity is with large media companies that have built their own in-house video solutions, as opposed to competing with other 3rd party platforms. Unicorn doesn't charge a platform fee, instead it bills by hours viewed. Separately, I have a briefing next week with yet another stealthy platform company; there seems to be no shortage of interest in this space.
Vitamin D shows breakthrough approach to object recognition in video - Speaking of demos, Greg Shirai, VP of Marketing and Rob Haitani, Chief Product Officer from startup Vitamin D showed me their very cool demo this week. Vitamin D is pioneering a completely new approach to recognizing objects in video streams, using "NuPIC", an intelligent computing platform from Numenta, a company founded by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Dileep George. Some of you will recognize Hawkins and Dubinsky as the founders of Palm and Handspring.
The demo showed how Vitamin D can recognize the presence of moving humans or objects throughout hours of video footage. While the system starts with the assumption that upright humans are tall and thin, it learns over time that their shapes can vary, if for example they are crouching, or carrying a big box, or are partially obscured behind bushes. Once recognized, it's possible to filter for specific actions the humans are taking, such as walking in and out of a door to a room. Vitamin D is first targeting video surveillance in homes or businesses, but as it is further developed, I see very interesting applications for the technology in online video, particularly in sports and advertising. Say you wanted to filter a Yankees game for all of CC Sabathia's strikeouts, or insert a specific hair care ad only when a blond woman was in the last scene. Vitamin D and others are continuing to raise the bar on visual search which is still in its infancy.
Yesterday was one of those days when meaningful broadband video-related news and announcements just kept spilling out. While I was writing up the 5Min-Scripps Networks deal, there was a lot of other stuff happening. Here's what hit my radar, in case you missed any of it:
Adobe launches Flash 10.1 with numerous video enhancements - Adobe kicked off its MAX developer conference with news that Flash 10.1 will be available for virtually all smartphones, in connection with the Open Screen Project initiative, will support HTTP streaming for the first time, and with Flash Professional CS5, will enable developers to build Flash-based apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. All of this is part of the battle Adobe is waging to maintain Flash's lead position on the desktop and extend it to mobile devices. The HTTP streaming piece means CDNs will be able to leverage their HTTP infrastructure as an alternative to buying Flash Media Server 3.5. Meanwhile Apple is showing no hints yet of supporting Flash streaming on the iPhone, making it the lone smartphone holdout.
Hulu gets Mediavest multi-million dollar buy - Hulu got a shot in the arm as Mediaweek reported that the Publicis agency Mediavest has committed several million dollars from 6 clients to Hulu in an upfront buy. Hulu has been flogged recently by other media executives for its lightweight ad model, so the deal is a well-timed confidence booster, though it is still just a drop in the bucket in overall ad spending.
IAB ad spending research reports mixed results - Speaking of ad spending, the IAB and PriceWaterhouseCoopers released data yesterday showing overall Internet ad spending declined by 5.3% to $10.9B in 1H '09 vs. 1H '08. Some categories were actually up though, and online video advertising turned in a solid performance, up 38% from $345M in 1H '08 to $477M in 1H '09. Though still a small part of the overall pie, online video advertising's resiliency in the face of the recession is a real positive.
Yahoo ups its commitment to original video - Yahoo is one of the players relying on advertising to support its online video initiatives, and so Variety's report that Yahoo may as much as double its proportion of originally-produced video demonstrates how strategic video is becoming for the company. Yahoo has of course been all over the map with video in recent years including the short tenure of Lloyd Braun and then the Maven acquisition, which was closed down in short order. Now though, by focusing on short-form video that augments its core content areas, Yahoo seems to have hit on a winning formula. New CEO Carol Bartz is reported to be a big proponent of video.
AEG Acquires Incited Media, KIT Digital Acquires The FeedRoom and Nunet - AEG, the sports/venue operator, ramped up its production capabilities by creating AEG Digital Media and acquiring webcasting expert Incited Media. Company executives told me late last week that when combined with AEG's venues and live production expertise, the company will be able to offer the most comprehensive event management and broadcasting services. Elsewhere, KIT Digital, the acquisitive digital media technology provider picked up two of its competitors, Nunet, a German company focused on mobile devices, and The FeedRoom, an early player in video publishing/management solutions which has recently been focused on the enterprise. KIT has made a slew of deals recently and it will be interesting to watch how they knit all the pieces together.
Product news around video delivery from VBrick, Limelight and Kaltura - Last but not least, there were 3 noteworthy product announcements yesterday. Enterprise video provider VBrick launched "VEMS" - VBrick Enterprise Media System - a hardware/software system for distributing live and on-demand video throughout the enterprise. VEMS is targeted to companies with highly distributed operations looking to use video as a core part of their internal and external communications practices.
Separate, Limelight unveiled "XD" its updated network platform that emphasizes "Adaptive Intelligence," which I interpret as its implementation of adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming (see Limelight comment below, my bad) that is becoming increasing popular for optimizing video delivery (Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Apple, Akamai, Move Networks and others are all active in ABR too). And Kaltura, the open source video delivery company I wrote about here, launched a new offering to support diverse video use cases by educational institutions. Education has vast potential for video, yet I'm not aware of many dedicated services. I expect this will change.
I may have missed other important news; if so please post a comment.
While the majority of my focus is on media companies' use of broadband video, a presentation by executives of Wachovia Bank last week at the VeriSign customers' meeting served as a reminder that broadband is being used successfully by non-media companies as well.
Wachovia, which is America's third largest bank by deposits, is making strong use of broadband, particularly as an internal communications vehicle, now turning out 800 individual video "programs" per year. These include, "Take 5," a five minute daily broadcast on their internal "V-Net" network, continuous video pumped into all of their branches, customer podcasts and support for live shots of their analysts from Wachovia's trading floors when interviewed on business news broadcasts.
All of this is managed by an impressive staff of 18 full-time staffers, 10 full-time contractors and 20-30 freelancers. They're managing a state-of-the-art digital production facility in Charlotte that is likely comparable to anything found in the broadcast industry. The company has also deployed 80,000 desktops using VeriSign's Kontiki commercial P2P platform, which it says is highly reliable and scalable.
Patty Perkins, a Wachovia VP who's been the key evangelist for video's growth, noted in her presentation that senior executives video consider video a critical mechanism in keeping the bank's far-flung employee base informed and up-to-date. In fact, Patty said that in internal surveys, the Take 5 program is consistently cited as the number 1 driver of employees feeling more connected to the bank and its goals.
Patty and many of the others in Wachovia's enterprise video group are broadcast veterans. This got me to thinking, maybe with there's a new revenue opportunity for broadcast professionals to help enterprises understand how to leverage broadband for internal communications. If Wachovia's any example, there may be a lot of upside.