Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 51st edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for February 26, 2010.
First up this week Daisy discusses the Beet TV online video roundtable in which she participated this week. Beet got a bunch of industry executives together for a discussion moderated by Kara Swisher of AllThingsD. Daisy talks about what she learned and the one-on-one interviews she conducted which will be available soon at the Beet site.
Then we discuss my post from yesterday, "Sezmi is Slick; Marketing It Will Be the Big Challenge," in which I reviewed the opportunities and challenges that Sezmi, the recently-launched next-gen video service provider is facing. Sezmi is now available in the entire LA area, with expansion to other U.S. geographies in store for later this year. I delve into why I think the skeptics are getting ahead of themselves in their downbeat assessments.
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Topics: Will Richmond
1. Goodbye to RealNetworks' Rob Glaser - For broadband veterans like myself, this week's news that RealNetworks' founder and CEO Rob Glaser is stepping down from the CEO role after 16 years brought to mind how far the online video and audio worlds have come, in a relatively short time. Having done a fair amount of work with Real back in my Continental Cablevision days, some of my first memories of seeing video delivered through the Internet were with the RealPlayer.
There is no question Rob was one of the pioneers of the online video industry, and everyone working in the industry today owes him and Real a debt of gratitude. In the Internet's first wave, Real was out ahead of everyone in audio and video. Unfortunately for the company, Microsoft's decision to roll out its own media player (and to bundle WMP with Windows) scrambled Real's future and set off years of antitrust litigation. Over the years Real has tried many things, some of which worked and some of which were serious head-scratchers (Ryan Lawler recounts 5 of the company dumbest moves here).
Personally, it's been a while since any video I wanted to watch required the RealPlayer download. And the last time I did download it, I was so incessantly bombarded with offers that I uninstalled it and swore I'd never download it again. Nonetheless, Real remains one of the largest digital media and technology companies, with $140 million in Q3 '09 revenues and almost $400 million in cash and short term investments. The new CEO will inherit all this, plus the challenge of how to make Real a more significant player in a broadband-dominated world that Rob envisioned so many years ago.
2. ESPN: "Mobile will be bigger than the web" - I'm always on the lookout for insights from content executives charged with building their company's mobile initiatives (and mobile video more specifically) and so I found MocoNews.net's interview with John Zehr, ESPN's SVP and GM of Mobile a worthwhile read. ESPN has made a ton of progress in mobile since its MVNO was shut down and the post provides growth stats on some of ESPN mobile's most successful efforts.
Reflecting the key shift in mobile away from "on-deck" carrier-focused distribution deals to a more open Internet-like environment, Zehr said ESPN's mobile revenue model is built on payments from aggregators like FLO TV and MobiTV, advertising and app sales. That sounds a lot like the traditional cable model of affiliate fees, advertising and ancillary revenues like commerce. And just like in cable ad sales, ESPN sells all of its mobile ads itself, avoiding third-party ad networks that it believes would commoditize the ESPN brand. ESPN is clearly bullish on mobile, with Zehr saying "Not too far in the future, mobile will be bigger than the web." With the Apple vs. Google mobile war getting underway there's a lot of momentum building. Still, to keep things in perspective, we're a long way from mobile eclipsing the web.
3. Does broadband help the economy or not? - I was intrigued by this piece in Network World, reviewing a new study, "Does Broadband Boost Economic Development?" which makes the case that where broadband connectivity is available, it helps local economies, though it doesn't necessarily help the individuals who live there. I'll admit, this is pretty wonky stuff, but as broadband becomes ever more central to our economy and to video in particular, it's important to understand broadband's impact. This is true all the more so as we have a major net neutrality debate looming this year, which could have far-reaching consequences for both content providers and network operators.
4. Vail introduces 360 degree video, it's almost like being there - Finally, on a lighter note, if you've been itching for that ski trip to Colorado this winter, or just want to escape the daily grind for a few minutes of pleasure, check out Vail's new virtual video clips, shot in 360 degree splendor with partner Immersive Media. The company's Dodeca spherical camera system captures video from 11 different sensors, allowing the viewer to click on the controls to switch angles.
Immersive caught my attention recently with music concerts they've captured and plus their work with brands like Red Bull, Armani and Mercedes. The company offers a full suite of capture, production and distribution services. In Vail's case, you get to experience some of the mountain's best runs alongside other skiers. It's great marketing for Vail and though it's no substitute for actually being there, your legs won't hurt afterwards either!
Enjoy the weekend!
(Note - The VideoNuze Report podcast with Daisy Whitney will resume next week)
Brightcove has appointed David Mendels as president and COO, a new executive position at the company.
Mendels has been on Brightcove's board of directors since late 2008 and for the last several months has been its acting head of sales. He was most recently the EVP and GM of Adobe's $1 billion enterprise software and business productivity division which includes Acrobat, Connect, LiveCycle and Flex. Prior, he was an early employee and spent many years at Macromedia, where he helped the company expand internationally, ran business development and alliances and managed a number of the company's key products.
Mendels and Jeremy Allaire, Brightcove's founder, Chairman and CEO, briefed me over the holidays on the appointment. The two worked together following Macromedia's acquisition of Allaire back in 2001. From Jeremy's perspective, bringing on Mendels won't prompt any radical changes. Rather, the goal is to strengthen the company operationally and help it scale to capture opportunities both see in its 3 target markets: core media, non-media (i.e. business, government and education, which Jeremy said already account for over half the company's revenues) and small organizations (which Brightcove is pursuing with its recently launched Express product). Both also envision Mendels further globalizing Brightcove's business and also building out its channel sales efforts.
For his part, Mendels thinks of Brightcove as being comparable to Macromedia back in 1993 when he joined it - still relatively small but profitable, with a strong management team in place and operating in a product area with huge mainstream opportunities ahead, yet where no single company or larger enterprise has established a dominant position. Mendels said he's not coming to Brightcove with a big agenda for change, but instead to help drive execution, create efficiencies and further penetrate newer market segments. One important area of emphasis is building out a developer program to help proliferate video applications based on Brightcove's APIs. As part of Mendels' transition, Brightcove is also searching for a head of North American sales and a head of Asia Pacific sales (Japan excluded).
The two believe that a continuing preference by many organizations to build vs. buy is Brightcove's biggest source of competition, though they see this starting to soften as video becomes more integral to customers' overall operations. Both are also very mindful of the plethora of other online video platforms in the market, as well as new startups that continue to spring up. As Jeremy and other Brightcove executive have told me in the past, the company believes it distinguishes itself from others not only on the basis of its platform, but also by its breadth of offerings, international presence and simultaneous pursuit of numerous market segments.
Brightcove is indeed well-positioned, though as I pointed out recently, I don't foresee there being any single, truly dominant provider in the video platform market any time soon. It is still relatively early days in the industry and there will be lots of competitors. I continue to believe that the best way for prospective customers to determine which provider meets their own particular requirements is to intensively demo various products and see how they each perform.
However, as the market inevitably matures, requirements converge and video becomes more mission critical, video platform providers' ability to effectively scale all aspects of their operations is going to become an increasingly important differentiator. In this respect, Mendels' Macromedia and Adobe experience is going to be extremely valuable to Brightcove's ongoing success.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
(note: Brightcove is a VideoNuze sponsor)
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 30th week:
1. Alicia Keys concert on YouTube is an underwhelming experience - Did you catch any of the Alicia Keys concert on YouTube this past Tuesday night celebrating World AIDS Day? I watched parts of it, and while the music was great, I have to say it was disappointing from a video quality standpoint -lots of buffering and pixilation, plus watching full screen was impossible.
I think YouTube is on to something special webcasting live concerts. Recall its webcast of the U2 concert from the Rose Bowl on Oct 25th drew a record 10 million viewers. That concert's quality was far superior, and separately, the dramatic staging and 97,000 in-person fans also helped boost the excitement of the online experience. It's still early days, but to really succeed with the concert series, YouTube is going to have to guarantee a minimum quality level. Notwithstanding, American Express, the lead sponsor of the Keys concert had strong visibility and surely YouTube has real interest from other sponsors for future concerts. It could be a very valuable franchise YouTube is building and is further evidence of YouTube's evolution from its UGC roots.
2. Being a Jeff Zucker fan is lonely business - In yesterday's post, "Comcast-NBCU: The Winners, Losers and Unknowns" I said I've been a fan of Jeff Zucker's since seeing him deliver a brutally candid and very sober assessment of the broadcast TV industry at the NATPE conference in Jan '08. My praise elicited a number of incredulous email responses from readers who vehemently disagreed, thinking Zucker's performance merits him being sent to the woodshed rather than to the CEO's office for the new Comcast-NBCU JV.
To be sure, NBC's abysmal performance under Zucker (falling from first place to fourth in prime-time), will be one of his legacies, but I take a broader view of his tenure. A good chunk of NBCU's cable network portfolio came to the company via the Vivendi deal around the time Zucker took over responsibility for cable. Since that time the networks have grown strongly in audience and cash flow has doubled from about $1 billion to a projected $2.2 billion in '09. NBCU added Oxygen (which combined with its iVillage property makes a strong proposition for women-focused advertisers) and The Weather Channel, in a joint buyout with two PE firms.
While Zucker's hiring of Ben Silverman to run NBC was a misstep, NBCU has enjoyed stability on the cable side, with two of the highest-regarded women in TV, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick cranking out hit after hit for their respective networks. A CEO's tenure is always a mixed one, with plenty of wins and losses. It can be hard to know how much of the wins to ascribe to the CEO personally, rather than the executives below, but at the end of the day, NBCU was transformed from a single network company to a cable powerhouse; even Zucker skeptics have to give him some credit for this.
3. Comcast rebrands On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV - yuck! - Largely lost in the NBCU commotion this week was news that B&C broke that Comcast is changing the name of its soon-to-be-launched TV Everywhere service from On Demand Online to Fancast Xfinity TV. Yikes, the branding gurus need to head back to the drawing board, and quick. The name violates the first rule of branding: pronunciation must be obvious and easy. Not only is it unclear how you pronounce Xfinity, it's a an unnecessary mouthful that doesn't fit with any of Comcast's other workmanlike brands (e.g. "Digital Cable," "On Demand," "Comcast.net"). If we're talking about a new videogame targeted to teenage boys, Xfinity is great. If we're talking about a service that provides online access to TV shows, there's no need for something super-edgy. I'd suggest just sticking with "On Demand Online." But even more importantly, priority #1 is getting the product launched successfully.
4. Sports Illustrated demo builds tablet computing buzz - If you haven't seen SI's demo of its tablet version being shown off this week, it's well worth a look at the video here. Never mind that there isn't such a tablet device on the market yet, the rumors swirling around Apple's planned launch of one has created an air of inevitability for the whole category. As the SI demo shows, a tablet can be thought of a larger version of an iPhone (likely minus the phone), providing larger screen real estate to make the user experience even more interesting. It's fascinating to think about what a tablet could do for magazines in particular, along the lines of what the Kindle has done for books. The mobile video and gaming possibilities are endless. Judge for yourselves.
Enjoy the weekend!
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of Sept. 14th:
1. Ad spending slowdown continues - TNS Media Intelligence reported that 1st half '09 U.S. ad spending declined 14.3% vs. a year ago, to $60.87 billion. Spending in Q2 '09 alone was down 13.9% vs. a year ago, the 5th straight declining quarter. The only bright spots TNS reported were Internet display ads (up 6.5%) and Free Standing Inserts (up 4.6%).
Rupert Murdoch and others in the industry have lately been suggesting that advertising is starting to improve and that the worst is behind us. But TNS SVP Research Jon Swallen was less sanguine, saying only that "Early data from third quarter hint at possible improvements for some media due to easy comparisons against distressed levels of year ago expenditures." While the online video ad sector has held up far better than most, the ad spending crash has caused many in the industry to re-evaluate whether ad-only models are viable, particularly for long-form premium content online. Subscription-oriented initiatives will only intensify the longer the ad slowdown lasts.
2. Veoh's court victory is important for all in the industry - I'd be remiss not to note the significance of U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz's granting of Veoh's motion for summary judgment, effectively throwing out Universal Music's suit alleging Veoh had infringed UMG's copyrights. Judge Matz articulated the specific reasons he believed Veoh operated within the "safe harbor" provisions of the DMCA.
As a content producer myself (albeit at a completely different level than a music publisher or film studio!), I've generally been a huge advocate of copyright protection. But the fact is that DMCA - for better or worse - set out the rules for digital copyright use and they must be enforced clearly and forcefully. Anything less leaves the market in a state of confusion, with industry participants wary of inviting costly, time-consuming legal action (Veoh has said the UMG suit cost it millions of dollars in legal fees). For online video to thrive the rules of the road need to be well-understood; Judge Matz's ruling made an important contribution toward that goal.
3. Digitalsmiths announces new senior level hires - This week Digitalsmiths announced that it has brought on board Josh Wiggins as its new VP, Business Development, West Coast and two others, who will collectively be the company's first L.A.-based presence. They'll report in to Bob Bryson, SVP of Sales and Business Development.
I caught up with Digitalsmiths' CEO Ben Weinberger briefly, who explained that with tier 1 film/TV studios and other content owners (news, sports, etc.) the company's major focus, it was essential to have a full-time presence there staffed with people who know the industry cold. Ben reported that the company has honed in on target customers who have very large files, have video as their core business/revenue center, require sophisticated metadata management and often need a rapid video capture, processing and playout workflow. Digitalsmiths is proving a solid example of how to effectively differentiate through product and customer focus in a very crowded space. Announced customers include Warner Bros., Telepictures and TMZ.com, others are in the hopper (note Digitalsmiths is a VideoNuze sponsor).
4. New EmmyTVLegends.org site is a worth its weight in gold - On a somewhat lighter note, this week the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation unveiled EmmyTVLegends.org, which offers thoughtful, introspective video interviews with a wide range of TV's most influential personalities. If you have nostalgia for the classic TV shows from your youth, or just appreciate the amazing talent that has made the medium what it is, this site is for you. It is remarkably well-organized and accessible and brilliant proof of online video's power in presenting invaluable material that was previously available only to a lucky few.
I happily got lost in the site listening to Alan Alda talk about the fabulous writers of M*A*S*H and Steven Bochco describing the magic of "Hill Street Blues." I searched by "Happy Days" and quickly found the exact clips of Ron Howard talking about the role of his "Richie Cunningham" character in the show's arc and Henry Winkler revealing the influence of Sylvester Stallone on how he developed the voice of "Fonzie." Mary Tyler Moore is irresistible discussing specific scenes of the Mary Tyler Moore show and her poignant memories of Mary Richards navigating the working world. Kudos to the Academy, the site is a gem.
Enjoy the weekend and L'shanah tova (Happy New Year) to those of you, who like me, will be observing Rosh Hashanah this weekend!
I spoke to Roxanne Austin this afternoon, whom Move Networks announced as its new president/CEO earlier today. Roxanne is a former president/COO of DirecTV, partner at Deloitte & Touche, and current board member of Ericsson, Target, Abbott Laboratories and Teledyne. Since 2004 she's been running her own investment and consulting firm Austin Investment Advisors. Move's president/CEO slot has been vacant since the spring when John Edwards was shifted to Executive Chairman.
Roxanne believes Move's distinct competitive advantage is that it is the only provider of end-to-end solutions for high-quality live, streaming and VOD video delivery. Roxanne sees the timing as being right for Move because the industry has evolved to an understanding that broadband video must have both paid and advertising-based models. In addition, it must be able to offer users traditional linear experiences as well as VOD, all in HD.
My recent post on Move's repositioning detailed the company's new focus on supporting video service providers (e.g. cable, satellite, telco, ISPs, etc.), however Roxanne equally weights content providers (its traditional customer base). As Roxanne put it, "we want to follow the rights." In other words, whoever has the ability to distribute premium video content - either the creator or the authorized distributor - is in Move's sights.
Roxanne wants to see Move's adaptive bit rate streaming technology remain best-of-breed, even as new competition from Microsoft and Adobe heats up. But I think she correctly emphasizes that the company's total solution - which now includes Inuk's "virtual set-top box" software - is how it will distinguish itself.
As all industry participants feel the pinch of the recession and the need to demonstrate viable broadband business models, better video quality alone is not sufficient to succeed. Move is betting that by supporting traditional linear, paid models, along with new VOD (and sometimes ad-only)-based models, it will be the technology partner of choice.
There are a lot of moving pieces here, but Roxanne's industry relationships and know-how surely enhance Move's odds of eventual success.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Topics: Move Networks
If you have a spare 10 minutes, have a look at this interview Walt Mossberg did with John Malone yesterday at the D7: All Things Digital conference. Malone, who's now chairman of Liberty Media/Liberty Global, was the head of cable giant TCI for many years. Nobody on planet earth knows more about how the cable TV business works than Malone, and his responses to Mossberg's questions about how premium TV programming will or won't shift to online and a la carte availability are well worth listening to.
Digitalsmiths has added to its executive team, hiring Bob Bryson as SVP of Sales and Business Development and Melissa Sargeant as VP of Marketing. Both are industry veterans; Bob was most recently in a similar role at Move Networks and Melissa was director of product marketing at CA.
Digitalsmiths has been expanding beyond its roots in indexing by also offering content management and publishing solutions. In Q4 '08 it raised a $10M round, and in Q1 '09 it received a strategic investment from Cisco. The hirings continue a trend I see throughout the industry - companies with traction are able to continue to raise money and bring on new talent. Other recent examples include Betawave, Brightcove, ExtendMedia and Tremor Media.
This morning ExtendMedia is announcing that one of its board members, Tom MacIsaac has been named CEO. Tom is a long-time technology executive and venture capitalist. He and I got to know each other when he was running Lightningcast, one of the earliest broadband video advertising companies, which was sold to AOL in 2006. Tom went on to run strategy and M&A at AOL, where he led a $1B in acquisitions and more recently has been a venture partner at BlueRun Ventures and run Cove Street Partners, his own investment and advisory firm.
Tom's addition is a big step forward for the company, which has established a strong, yet relatively low-key position in the market. In my view that's been for two reasons: first, because Extend has emphasized pay media models, whereas a lot of the attention has been on ad-supported ones, and second, because while Extend has had a very strong team, the CEO role itself has been vacant for some time. For better or worse, one of the lessons I've learned over the years is that a high-profile, well-known CEO, who spends a significant portion of his/her time on externally-oriented visibility-building activities is a key success factor for young companies. I'm not a fan of the "rock star" CEO model, but I do believe in the "CEO as #1 company salesman" approach. Without such a person in place, a young company's whole team has to work that much harder to succeed.
Tom and I talked about his new role, ExtendMedia's opportunities and the broadband market in general. An edited transcript follows:
VN: Congratulations on joining ExtendMedia. What attracted you to the role?
TM: Extend is in an extremely exciting space as IP video changes the entire media and communications landscape. It has a great team with deep domain expertise, is very well-funded with great investors in Atlas Venture, Venrock and TVM Capital and has an enviable competitive position being the leading independent carrier-grade multi-screen video platform.
VN: Describe ExtendMedia's key product and technology differentiators and who its primary competitors are.
TM: We provide an enterprise class, multi-screen video platform that content owners and distributors use as a foundational asset in building video services. We manage video content across the lifecycle from ingest to monetization and across IPTV, web and mobile services in both ad-supported and pay media business models.
Our primary competitor is thePlatform, a division of Comcast. We don't really run into the Flash-based web video publishing companies like Brightcove, Ooyala, PermissionTV, etc. because we are usually deeper in the our customers' infrastructure trying to solve more complex problems that span the set-top box, PC and/or mobile devices, using multiple business models.
VN: ExtendMedia has always been strong with pay media business models, but has focused less on ad-supported ones. Given your background at Lightningcast, do you think that will change?
TM: Extend has always supported both ad-based streaming business models as well as pay media, but you're certainly right that we have been particularly strong in pay media. That said, we have new additional capabilities to help our customers in their ad-supported streaming media businesses in our next release and later this year will have yet another set of interesting enhancements targeted on maximizing video CPMs for our customers. We aren't going to get into the ad serving business but we are going to extend the boundaries of our product in that direction so that we can help the ad monetization engines we partner with leverage everything at our customers' and our disposal to maximize CPMs. We have some specific ideas on how we can really add value here.
VN: What kind of company is an ideal ExtendMedia customer?
TM: A telco, cable MSO or mobile carrier that is building a multi-screen video platform or a large diversified media company that has built several stove-piped digital video services over the last few years and is now trying to pull everything together on a single infrastructure.
VN: What areas of your background and experience do you think will be most valuable to the company?
TM: I've been in the technology business for 20 years, as a lawyer to tech companies, as a venture capitalist, as a board member, as a founder/entrepreneur and as an executive in large technology companies. I've sold three companies that I've run to public companies and acquired five venture-backed companies as an executive at AOL. That's a pretty good array of perspectives to bring to the table.
But my video advertising expertise in particular will definitely come into play at Extend. At Lightningcast we built the first advertising technology platform designed to monetize IP video and were at the table at the inception of some of the most successful video services out there - Comcast's Fancast and Hulu, for example. Despite all the activity and investment in the area, with possibly one or two exceptions, in the three years since I left Lightningcast no one's doing anything we didn't think of and do first.
VN: What do you think your top 2-3 priorities will be?
TM: We're on the right track, so it's all about execution.
VN: What's your perspective on the broadband video market today? And what would you say about incumbent service providers' evolving role in delivering broadband video services?
TM: I think the incumbent service providers are getting much smarter about IP video. They are leveraging their advantages much more effectively. When the web video phenomenon took off it was initially about user-generated content and giving the little guy content creator a direct-to-consumer path. The problem is that that hasn't paid off - the business model doesn't work yet - the dollars just aren't there.
The trend today is back to professional content and that plays to service providers' strengths. Initially it was all about advertising, and now the trend is toward dual offerings of both ad-supported and pay media business models, which is also good for incumbents. Many service providers, like our customers AT&T and Bell Canada for example, have set-top box, web and mobile sand boxes to play with and if folks like Extend can help them deliver video across and between those platforms and help manage the environments and entitlements from a single platform that will provide real value to their consumers and will drive loyalty. Comcast's On-Demand Online and Time Warner's TV Anywhere initiatives are good examples of service providers figuring out how to leverage their strengths in ways that benefit them, their content partners and consumers.
VN: You've been a venture capitalist, have raised venture financing and have successfully sold companies. What advice do you have for broadband video entrepreneurs given the state of the economy?
TM: The space is clearly overbuilt in many segments. There will be a lot of fallout. Investors are gun-shy. So do your research and make sure you have something unique. That said, it is going to be one of the most interesting and lucrative areas in all of technology over the next decade. So if you've got something truly innovative - go for it.
VN: Thanks Tom, and good luck.
(note: ExtendMedia is a VideoNuze sponsor)