In a first, IBM’s Watson Media will enhance the Grammy awards’ digital workflow and user experience with artificial intelligence. IBM Watson Media has partnered with The Recording Academy, which hosts the Grammys and produces the full digital experience. According to David Mowrey, Head of Product and Development at IBM Watson Media, AI will be used to augment the Academy’s teams in order make the digital user experience more immersive than ever. The 60th annual Grammy Awards are coming up on January 28th.
Specifically, Mowrey said that Watson Media will be used to index video from the red carpet pre-show, by tagging celebrities and topics in real-time. Watson will also enrich photos from the red carpet with metadata such as name, position and facial dominance. Watson Media is providing a web-based tool that Grammys editors can use to build galleries of videos and photos to present to users.
I’m pleased to present the 386th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
After taking a couple weeks off from the podcast, Colin and I are back, and today we discuss 4 different industry stories that have caught our attention. First up, just before Labor Day, Roku filed its S-1 IPO document, sharing financial details for the first time. Colin and I are both struck by the strength of Roku’s “platform revenues” and believe the company’s strategy of innovating with low-priced streaming devices to gain market share has opened up many revenue options (though Colin’s a bit worried about Roku losing its valuable neutrality position in the wake of launching the Roku Channel this week).
We then move on to T-Mobile’s plan to give away Netflix to its unlimited family plan subscribers. It’s the latest “video as bait” play by a wireless carrier, and we both see this trend accelerating. Another interesting bundle play this week was the $5/mo promotion from Hulu and Spotify. We discuss its potential to extend beyond the initial college student target.
Finally, Colin and I were both intrigued by a plan unveiled by Newsy, a popular millennial-focused news app, to create a linear TV channel by taking over Retirement Living TV’s pay-TV subscribers. It’s a relatively unusual move given most TV networks are launching OTT apps these days.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 55 seconds)
Popular song ID app Shazam is expanding into video in partnership with music video curator Vadio. After users Shazam a song, they’ll be presented with the music video for that song, along with a curated playlist of related music videos that play within the app. The user will have to click to play the fist video, and then subsequent ones will be autoplayed until the app is closed.
Music services are omnipresent, but pay-TV operators haven’t had much of a role. Seeking to change that, data provider Gracenote, a subsidiary of Tribune Media Company, has announced a suite of music data and services to enable pay-TV operators to launch their own music video channels and services, identify music on TV and search for artists’ on linear and on-demand programming.
Noting that 72% of YouTube viewership is music videos (according to Statista), Gracenote believes pay-TV operators have an opportunity to launch various services that bring music videos to HDTVs and home media environments.
When MTV stopped ruling the music world maybe 20 years ago, the joke was that people had been tuning in not to watch the song of the day, but to watch their song of the day. So, as MTV tried to appeal to the widest possible audience, hard-core music fans tuned out.
These days, MTV is focusing again on music after a long sojourn in reality programming. But when people want to watch music videos these days, they tend to go to one of two places, YouTube and Vevo, which YouTube owns along with major music labels. There they can find, if they know what to look for, a bewildering and fantastic array of videos about all kinds of music.
That's a key phrase: "if they know what to look for." YouTube is the world's second-largest search engine and search is what drives discovery there. But how do you find music you'll love, particularly music that's situationally relevant, if you don't know what to look for? More importantly, what if you'd like to go somewhere else to watch music videos? Music discovery shouldn’t be something that is left to one or two destinations.
More news in the white-hot live-streaming space, as YouTube announced yesterday support for 360-degree live-streaming as well as spatial audio (which will initially be for on-demand streams only). In a blog post, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said that YouTube will use 360 streaming itself for coverage of select performances at Coachella this weekend.
I interviewed Neal on-stage at the NABShow Online Video Conference, as part of his kickoff keynote yesterday and he noted that 360-degree streaming will work for viewers on multiple platforms without any new hardware (distinguishing it from 4K and VR, for example). YouTube is also easing the path for content creators by offering the 360 capability at its YouTube Space studios and by working with camera makers via its Live API.
The global recorded music industry generated $15 billion in revenue in 2015, a 3.2% year-over-year improvement, its first meaningful gain in nearly 20 years, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s new Global Music Report. But rather than celebrating, the IFPI is emphasizing that a “value gap,” created by YouTube and other upload/sharing sites, is sapping the industry of much-needed revenue.
Startup Vadio (as in “radio”) has released a new tool called “ChannelBuilder” which allows publishers and brands to easily curate and embed customized music video playlists. Publishers and brands can select music videos that align with their editorial or business model from a catalog of hundreds of thousands of music videos that Vadio has licensed.
YouTube Red was announced last week and became available yesterday. After taking it for a spin on my iPad (note, access for subscribers is included in the YouTube app), I’m pretty convinced that the current offering is unlikely to gain any significant traction. To be fair, there are more benefits coming to YouTube Red in the near future, but even with those, the service is unlikely to appeal to more than a small number of YouTube users.
YouTube promoted the primary feature of YouTube Red as ad-free viewing. For sure, watching YouTube without ads is an improved experience, but as I wrote last week, because YouTube’s skippable TrueView ads are already so viewer-friendly, the marginal improvement from not having to click “Skip Ad” doesn’t end up feeling like a big breakthrough, especially for viewers used to YouTube being free.
VEVO has announced that it delivered 10.3 billion video views globally in January, 2015, up 86% from 5.4 billion views in January, 2014. VEVO's January, 2015 views also show how global the site has become, with over 80%, or 8 billion of its views, coming from outside the U.S.
Compared to January, 2014, U.S. views rose by over 800 million in January, 2015, to 2 billion. Mexico, the second-largest of 14 territories VEVO operates in, accounted for over 1 billion views in January, less than a year after its 2014 launch.
VEVO released its U.S. Music Video Viewership Report for 2013 this morning, revealing that the site generated 55 billion video views last year, up 33% vs. 2012. In the second half of 2013, VEVO had 165 million videos viewed daily worldwide, up 40% vs. 2H 2012. In December, 2013 alone, VEVO had 243 million unique viewers and 5.5 billion video views, up 45% vs. the 3.8 billion in December, 2012 and up 140% vs. the 2.3 billion views in December, 2010.
Behind all of the growth is the dramatic surge in mobile usage. As the chart below shows, global mobile/tablet and connected TV views grew 176% to 17 billion streams in 2013 vs. 2012. In the U.S. alone, views on mobile/tablet and connected TVs grew 118% and in December, 2013 accounting for a whopping 60% of all views. That's among the highest rates of mobile usage I've heard about; by comparison, YouTube says it gets about 40% on mobile, while PBS Kids says it gets almost three-quarters.
There was an eye-opening data point in VEVO's viewership report for the first half of 2013, published this week: 50% of its U.S. video views now come from mobile, tablet and connected TV devices. In fact, in an interview on Bloomberg in late August (see below), VEVO CEO Rio Caraeff said non-desktop U.S. views are now over 500 million per month, more than half of its approximately 1 billion U.S. monthly views. He also characterized non-desktop as the fastest growing part of VEVO's business.
The 50% non-desktop number is the highest I've seen disclosed by any online video content provider. Over the past year, when I've informally asked content providers about mobile/connected TV views, I've typically heard 25%-30%. By comparison, YouTube (note, VEVO is the largest partner) says on its site that mobile is 25% of its global watch time.
Here's the pitch: string together 24 hours a day of curated music videos, hire hip experts to act as on-air hosts, broadcast it all to audiences wherever they can watch, and support it with ads and fees from pay-TV operators. Sound familiar? It should, because that was essentially MTV's business plan in 1981 and it worked brilliantly. And now, in a classic "what's old is new again" play, it's also the plan for VEVO TV, a new network that VEVO announced yesterday.
But wait, haven't viewers moved on from linear broadcasts to all on-demand behaviors? Yes and no. While on-demand's surging popularity is indisputable, the world isn't monolithic. There are times and situations where a good old curated broadcast stream is actually quite valuable to audiences. That's the bet that VEVO is making with VEVO TV and it seems pretty smart.
Vevo, the much-heralded "Hulu for the music industry" venture backed by Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Abu Dhabi Music Company and Google/YouTube (and with video provided by EMI as well) officially launched late last night. I've been browsing around the site this morning and my first reaction is that it's a decent start, but has a long way to go if it is to fulfill its lofty mission.
Conceptually, I like the idea behind Vevo. The music industry, which has suffered multiple blows over the last 10 years, is getting together to create a destination site where music videos are distributed legally, with a coherent ad strategy. YouTube's participation means that videos that have been watched in the labels' YouTube channels can be branded Vevo, giving the new site tons of visibility, and helping migrate traffic over time.
From a design standpoint, the Vevo site has a similar feel to Hulu: large, wide-screen images on the home page promoting certain videos/artists, thumbnails below, of top videos, playlists and artists, quick links to most popular today, and search/navigation. A nav bar at the bottom of the screen invites users to easily create new playlists by adding up to 75 videos with one click. Videos are embeddable and shareable, and there are quick links to buy the music at Amazon and iTunes. The site was periodically very slow to load and occasionally even gave me a server error page. I don't know how much of this to ascribe day 1 hiccups that will be worked out over time or really poor capacity planning.
Less clear to me is how Vevo distinguishes itself from a user experience standpoint from YouTube itself. This has been a question that's nagged at me since the Vevo concept was first unveiled - how do the partners plan to make 1+1=3? The partners have made references to being indifferent to whether users watch at Vevo.com or YouTube, presumably because there would be similar advertising on both with similar splits. Yet, my experience going back and forth between the sites, albeit very limited, reveals lots of inconsistencies and a lot of promotional leverage left untapped.
Focusing on U2, one of my personal favorites, I found only about a dozen of the band's music videos on Vevo. Switching over to YouTube, I found many more tracks, such as "Beautiful Day," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Where the Streets Have No Name," all in the Universal Music Group's channel. All of the videos were monetized: the first was preceded by a 15 second pre-roll ad for Chevy Malibu and the latter two carried an overlay ad to "Play Free Games" which was accompanied by a companion ad in the right column (the overlay was incredibly distracting, but that's another story). None of the videos had any Vevo branding whatsoever. It's also worth noting that even the UMG channel in YouTube has no Vevo branding or promotion.
Conversely, a search in YouTube for "All Because of You," a video that is available on Vevo, loads in YouTube with full Vevo branding. Above the video window are options to "Watch with Lyrics," "View Artist Profile," and "Create a Playlist." Clicking on any of these carries you over to the Vevo site. However, none of these actions are well-executed. "Watch with Lyrics" restarts the video, whereas a much slicker implementation would resume playing on Vevo from the point of drop-off. "View Artist Profile" simply displays a list other videos available, without any real artist profile information offered (background, upcoming concerts, etc.). And "Create a Playlist" just brings you to Vevo's home page, without any prompts for what to do next if indeed you want to actually want to create a playlist.
Elsewhere, the Vevo team hasn't even bothered to update its blog to officially announce the site's launch (it still says "Launching Tonight!" at the top). That's a missed opportunity, especially considering there was a splashy launch party in NYC last night (attendees ranging from Google's Eric Schmidt to Rhianna, Bono and Mariah Carey) and pictures and video from that event would have been a big drawing card. Come on - where's the Vevo PR team here?
How much of this should be forgiven to it being early days of Vevo's launch is a subjective call. From my vantage point though, I think the Vevo team could have done a lot more to think through and execute on the user experience. Back in November '07, when I looked at Hulu in its private beta, I gave it a solid B+. The Hulu team had clearly obsessed about each and every detail of the site - and have continued to do so. Hulu's user experience isn't perfect, but it has set the bar very high for those seeking to emulate it. For now Vevo probably rates around a C; much work is still ahead.