Posts for 'People'

  • Interview with Tom MacIsaac, New CEO, ExtendMedia

    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)

  • Media Buyer Interview Series Part 1: Ed Montes, EVP/Managing Director, Havas Digital US

    Not a day goes by where there isn't an article about the health of the broadband video industry - how viewer consumption is growing, how much ad revenue it's slated to generate (or not), and what content and infrastructure partnerships have been inked. With the lion's share of the industry ad supported, it's time to hear from the people who are in position to make or break projected revenue budgets: the media buyers.

    This interview is with Ed Montes, EVP/Managing Director of Havas Digital US; it is the first of a series of interviews that The Diffusion Group's senior analyst, Mugs Buckley, is conducting with advertising's key media buyers.


    We buy pre-rolls, mid-rolls, in-line video ads. The only thing we have not bought much of are ads around user-generated content.


    Sears, K-Mart, Fidelity Investments, Amtrak, Tyson, Choice Hotels, Volvo, Air France, and Reckitt Benckiser, to name a few.


    Many of our clients are placing ads in online video.


    We're definitely see it grow in importance and yes, it is a "must have" on some media plans. What I can say with more certainty is that online video advertising is becoming, and for some clients is, as important as display advertising. What remains a more consistent "must have" are search buys.


    A buyer considers two things: scale (will it reach enough people) and the size/cost of a buy. It depends on the overall size of the campaign. For instance, in a large campaign a buy is south of $50K, may not make the plan, unless we're going to do it for the intelligence of the buy or because the CPM is very discounted. On a smaller campaign $50K might be the entire campaign so you will see much smaller video purchases. There is a huge swing for CPM range depending on the content. Everything hinges on the content. We see CPMs ranging from $15-$40 for non-UGV content in-stream units. UGV, the lower-end quality content CPMs tend to be in the single digits. In-banner video is generally on the lower end of the single digit range.


    Relatively speaking, it is a lot more labor intensive than a broadcast buy. In the online world, there are a lot of steps in the process to create, buy, optimize, build and analyze a video ad campaign.


    I'd like sellers to be informed about our clients, their campaigns, and goals so we can build the best possible idea. I want someone to bring me a solution, not just sell me their unsold inventory.


    I think it's about audience fragmentation, the inverse of scale. People buy TV because they can aggregate a large audience; it is the best mass media vehicle. As TV ratings decline, a buyer has to buy an increased mix of television to achieve the same scale they did previously. Now the consideration shouldn't just be TV, it should be all video.


    Both online buyers and broadcast buyers do the buying but like anything, it depends on the buy. Pure online purchases (like Hulu, Veoh, YouTube), the online buyers are in the lead. On the network side (such as buying from ABC), it's a little bit different because there are instances where media is bought by network buyers with the assistance of online buyers.


    I would consider such a buy but it goes back to the issue of scale. Would we buy directly from the programmer or buy from a network? In a world where I'm trying to aggregate reach, they may fall out of the category due to their limited audience size.


    "We're bullish on online video, the performance we've seen from it is highly encouraging."

  • Brightcove Executive and Board Updates, '08 Review

    Brightcove is announcing some significant executive and board additions today and also posting a review of its '08 progress. On the executive front, Jeff Whatcott (formerly at Adobe and Acquia) is coming on as SVP of Marketing, replacing Adam Berrey, who's been in the role from the company's inception. Mike Quinn (formerly at FAST) is joining as SVP, Sales for the Americas. And David Mendels (formerly at Adobe) and Deb Besemer (formerly at Lotus and BrassRing) are joining the company's board of directors.

    As for '08, CEO Jeremy Allaire's letter to customers (posted here) provides the following highlights:

    • Launch of Brightcove 3, the updated version of the company's platform
    • International expansion with a new office in Germany and formation of a Japanese subsidiary
    • Launch of Brightcove Alliance, the ecosystem of 100+ partners (see VideoNuze related post)
    • Triple digit revenue growth for third consecutive year
    • Plan to reach profitability in '09

    As the video management/publishing platform company that has raised the most funding, many in the industry continue to focus on Brightcove as a key indicator of the market's health. With economic and ad spending pressure everywhere, their 2009 progress will be closely watched.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • Video is the Killer App Driving Coming Bandwidth Explosion

    A short interview in Multichannel News with Rouzbeh Yassini before the Thanksgiving break last week caught my eye.

    Rouzbeh's name is likely unfamiliar to many of you. But for others who have been in and around the cable and broadband industries since the '90s, he is semi-famous. In those days Rouzbeh ran a company called LANCity, which was a pioneer in designing and manufacturing cable modems. These of course are the devices that now reside in tens of millions of homes around the world, enabling broadband Internet access and the high-quality video services like YouTube, Hulu, iTunes and others that run through them.

    Though it's only been about 15 years, the early-to-mid '90s seem like another age entirely. Can you remember dial-up Internet access? Busying up your phone line if you wanted to be online? Listening to all those weird tones as your creaky 56K modem connected you to Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL, or eventually this thing everyone seemed to be talking about called the "World Wide Web?"

    In my opinion, Rouzbeh deserves as much credit as anyone for the transformation of the dial-up Internet era to the broadband world we now enjoy. He played a crucial role in articulating broadband's business potential to scores of senior cable executives who barely knew what a computer was, much less this new-fangled thing called the Internet. Importantly, he was a key technical architect of modern cable networks, which today barely resemble the passive, one-way networks of old.

    In short, I've learned to take notice of Rouzbeh's prognostications. Though he can be irrepressibly optimistic, he's directionally right more often than not.

    All of that brings me to his Multichannel interview. Rouzbeh now envisions the era of gigabit or 1,000 megabit Internet access within a decade. To put this in perspective, today's cable modems typically deliver around 10 megabit service or 1% of a gigabit. Spurred by competitive pressures, Comcast has recently announced the rollout of 50 megabit service to certain regions, with expansion to its entire footprint by 2010. These new rollouts are part of the cable industry's "DOCSIS 3.0" standards, covering a new generation of modems and channel management techniques.

    There's an axiom in the broadband industry that usage always rises to the level of bandwidth provided. Yet when we're talking 1 gigabit service, one has to rightly ask, "what in the world are people going to do with all that bandwidth?" Rouzbeh posits things like corporate networking, remote offices, medical services and the like, but only touches briefly on video delivery.

    From my perspective, video is the killer application that will drive this bandwidth explosion. As I wrote recently in "Video Quality Keeps Improving - What's it All Mean?" we are on the front end of a shift toward dramatically higher video quality, with near HD delivery already becoming common (Hulu, Netflix and Vudu are among the most recent to announce HD initiatives). This shift will only accelerate going forward. And to accommodate it will require lots more bandwidth from network providers.

    In reality, the trickiest part of bandwidth expansion is less the technology development and deployment and more the business models that support the investments and make the most strategic sense. Questions abound: Is the right model to charge $150/mo for 50 megabit access as Comcast plans? Or to build a content service available only to those high-powered users? Or act like a CDN and provide services so as to charge content providers themselves to deliver higher-quality video? Maybe some hybrid of these, or some other model? And of course, what impact do these models have on the incumbent multichannel subscription video offering?

    While there's murkiness now, like Rouzbeh, I'm a big believer that these things will ultimately be worked out and that bandwidth expansion is inevitable. Just as we now look back on the dial-up era and wonder how we got by, eventually we'll look at the mid-to-late 2000s and wonder how we survived on so little bandwidth.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • Digital Media and Broadband Video Executives Play Musical Chairs

    It's been hard not to notice the recently growing roster of digital media/broadband video executives who are either leaving their jobs or jumping to other companies.

    Among the many recent changes:

    • Bill Day (moved to CEO, ScanScout from Chief Media Officer, Marchex)
    • Ned Desmond (leaving as President, Time, Inc Interactive)
    • Tony Fadell (leaving as SVP, iPod Division, Apple)
    • Karin Gilford (moved to SVP, Fancast/Comcast from VP/GM, Yahoo Entertainment)
    • Bob Greene (left as EVP, Advanced Services, Starz)
    • Kevin Johnson (moved to CEO, Juniper Networks from President, Platforms & Services Division, Microsoft)
    • George Kliavkoff (leaving as Chief Digital Officer, NBCU)
    • Michael Mathieu (moved to CEO, YuMe from President, Freedom Communications Internet Division)
    • Scott Moore (leaving as SVP, Media Group, Yahoo)
    • Herb Scannell (moved from CEO to Executive Chairman, Next New Networks)
    • David Verklin (moved to CEO, Canoe Ventures from CEO, Aegis Media Americas)

    Of course there are many more as well.

    There's no blanket explanation for all of this movement. Senior executives - particularly those with strong track records in unchartered territory like digital media and broadband video - are always in demand by competitors. And established companies who can't execute or who are losing altitude in their core businesses become fertile ground for executive recruiters. Then there are always personal reasons for causing executive change (family matters, geographic restrictions, etc.).

    The whole digital media and broadband space is extremely dynamic. Major incumbents continue to struggle with defining their strategies and how to organize themselves properly to execute. The financial meltdown has caused huge profit pressure, prompting operational streamlining.

    Still, I'm hoping that all this executive movement doesn't slow broadband's growth. In particular, prematurely folding a digital operation into an incumbent product area can limit innovation as executives who are primarily focused on the core business and who lack detailed domain knowledge will inevitably shy away from riskier or more complex digital initiatives. I've seen this myself first hand. Broadband is still early in its evolution; hopefully executive change will foster, not hinder, its continued progress.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • Interview: MTVN's Greg Clayman, EVP, Digital Distribution

    As MTV Networks' Executive VP of Digital Distribution and Business Development, Greg Clayman is the company's main digital deal-maker, striving to reach far-flung audiences in the broadband and mobile era. Given MTVN's stable of powerhouse brands and the myriad opportunities that cross his desk daily, Greg's goals, and the strategies he uses to achieve them, have far-reaching implications.

    In this interview on the cusp of the NATPE show, Clayman explains how MTVN has organized its digital deal operation for success, why broadband video's benefits can't always be easily quantified, what the company looks for in syndication deals and why advertising is poised to play a big role in mobile video. An edited transcript follows.

    VideoNuze: Let's start with the basics - what's your role at MTV?

    Greg Clayman: I'm the EVP of Digital Distribution and Business Development for MTV Networks. I manage distribution of our content across all digital partners, such as AOL, MSN, Bebo - basically our whole digital syndication business. Just prior to this I ran just the mobile group, which I actually I still do. I report to Mika Salmi, who runs everything digital at MTVN.

    VN: You have a pretty broad role, how do you organize things?

    GC: We have a group of biz dev people, some dedicated to broadband, some to mobile. Same on the operations and product development side. We learn a lot from each other by being all together, though these areas do diverge in certain ways. Remember, video is just one piece of what we do. We're also in ring tones, games, voting, you name it. But there's a lot of things that broadband and mobile video have in common - I'm always amazed.

    Also, our partners were a real motivator for us to organize this way. Some of our key mobile partners like AT&T and Verizon started getting into broadband in a big way around a year or so ago. We wanted to make sure we were all aligned so we worked most productively with them.

    VN: Let's talk specifically about broadband - what are MTVN's goals?

    GC: Well, there are really two. First is to make money - if that isn't too obvious. We think there's a terrific ad-driven business that's growing nicely. We can measure our performance very well and are getting a pretty good handle on how to grow revenues.

    Second, we want to use broadband to drive traffic and awareness to our other platforms, specifically on-air and our various web properties. The latter is a significant business now in its own right. So for example, if someone sees a video of The Daily Show somewhere online, that may entice them to come to and maybe start doing searches for other stuff. We also want to drive awareness of our shows in general. The fact is that the TV business is still where essentially all of our revenue comes from right now. So if we can spark interest in shows and move the ratings by even by a little bit, that pays great dividends for us. So we're balancing how to achieve both goals.

    VN: How do you measure the success of the promotional stuff?

    GC: Admittedly, that can be tough. Certainly we look at ratings, and what we think is contributing to them. For example, we had excellent ratings for the Movie Awards. But it's hard to say, is that because we had excellent talent? Or because we did a big partnership? Or was it billboards? It's hard to know specifically.

    VN: Is MTVN's syndication push a recent phenomenon and how important is it?

    GC: It's very important, we're embracing it equally, alongside building out our own destinations. Look, MTV has some of the top online brands, obviously growing them further is a top priority. We want to do everything we can to achieve this.

    We've always been interested in getting content in front of lots of consumers, but it's really been only the last few years that broadband video has exploded in a significant way and some of these social networking spaces have taken off. So we want to work with lots of people - people we have good relationships with. Where we see eye-to-eye with them. And importantly people who respect copyright - which by the way is becoming more commonplace these days. This is trending in the right direction I'm happy to say.

    VN: Talk about business models in these broadband syndication deals - what do you favor?

    GC: In the majority of cases we provide video streams and a player and we serve ads on top of that content. We're experimenting with ad formats - lower third, bugs, pre-rolls, etc. For the most part we sell the ads and give a revenue share to the partner. That's the most basic model. Getting to a point where we have multiple partners and we can turnkey this stuff is a goal. But there's a lot of integration work still to do.

    VN: Let's shift to mobile video - how developed is it really, particularly compared to broadband?

    GC: Look, we're still very early in both, but certainly earlier in mobile. For example, look at MediaFLO (Qualcomm's initiative) - it's only supposed to launch this quarter. But what's interesting in the mobile space is that people pay for things. I think that matters. So it has the potential to become a pretty material business quickly. And for better or for worse, there's a finite number of players - both carriers and providers. So it's more akin to the cable model in some ways.

    Contrast this with broadband - in that world there are tens of millions of users, but they're dispersed across so many different properties. And they don't want to pay. So actually making money can be a lot more difficult.

    VN: You're touching on the "closed" nature of mobile video today - how and when will that change?

    GC: One of the things we'll start to see more of soon is direct-to-consumer, off-deck video. But platforms for this don't necessarily exist in a big way right now. We're years away from a huge critical mass. In the next few years we'll see developments around open platforms like Google's Android, but it's not going to be material for a while to come. And remember, carriers have tens of millions of happy subscribers, who are willing to pay for services. There's a strong incentive to maintain that. To make this market really take off, we think standards are needed, the same as we've seen online and in broadband to some extent.

    VN: So net, net, do you think mobile video remains largely a paid medium?

    GC: I think advertising can and will play a big role. We're seeing a big movement in mobile ads. That's because there's a role for advertisers to play in subsidizing content development. But advertising has to be done in a way that's not incredibly annoying to the user.

    Where we have done research, we've found people really like mobile video, and they watch it everywhere. The bathroom. The bedroom. Waiting for the schoolbus. Even at work! People are doing it. Bite-sized clips work very well. We see this all the time. So no question, there's a bright future for mobile video.

    VN: What's your panel about at NATPE?

    GC: I'm moderating a session with a great group of folks who are driving mobile video forward. They have tons of experience and love to talk! Attendees are sure to gain a lot of insights about the mobile video opportunity.

    VN: You've been gracious with your time. Thanks and good luck.

    (Note: Greg Clayman will be moderating "Mobile Content: What's Hot? What's New? What's Next?" on Tues, Jan. 29th at 3pm)

  • Bob Pittman, Pre-NATPE Interview

    Bob Pittman will be presenting at next week's NATPE conference. A long time media executive, he is a founding member of Pilot Group LLC, a consumer brand focused private investment firm based in New York. Among other prior roles, he's served as President and COO of America Online and was also a co-founder of MTV and later CEO of MTV Networks.

    Yesterday I caught up with him for a pre-NATPE briefing. Read on to learn why he's bullish on broadcast TV stations, skeptical about broadband video's impact on the TV business and emphatic that convenience rules.

    VideoNuze: Pilot has been a buyer of broadcast stations. That's somewhat contrarian. What do you see in the industry?

    Bob Pittman: Broadcast stations are greatly unappreciated. TV is America's hobby. Look at any category, the biggest is always the most important. So we want to invest in place where most people are. It is a fantastic advertising medium. There's no substitute for TV advertising. It works like nothing else. It's still wildly cheap - for the most part it's a $7-8 CPM, compared with newspapers and magazines which are $25-30, and it outperforms by every measurement - reach, time spent, effectiveness. It's still wildly underpriced.

    We have focused on small market television, where local advertising is the predominant revenue stream. We have done that because we believe national advertisers will slow down spending in economic downturns, whereas in local market when you're dealing with a local retailer he still has to sell everything that's on the shelf, come good times or bad. And we believe that in small markets, newspapers and yellow pages are getting wildly disproportionate share of the revenue, so we think there's a great growth opportunity as well. In smaller markets the station's coverage area nicely matches the advertiser's reach goals. It's also a fantastic free cash flow business.

    VN: Is broadband video a net positive or a net negative for broadcast stations, or is it not clear yet?

    BP: We have to be really careful about broadband video, it's still a very small percentage of use for most people. Most of what people talk about is still 3 minutes or shorter clips on YouTube, many sent to you by a friend in email. The idea of people sitting down and watching their computer is a small part of the overall audience. So we have to be careful not to talk about fringe uses as if they're going to be major uses.

    However, we think it presents an opportunity for our stations and we've pursued that, by setting up what are in essence "newspapers online." And in our smaller markets, we're not competing with Google or MSN, so we can get large local audiences, which allow us to better serve our advertisers. But I don't think broadband is competitive with TV, putting TV shows on the Internet is nice, but you're talking about small audiences.

    VN: What will the impact of services like Hulu and CBS's Audience Network on broadcast stations' audience size?

    BP: Well, you may occasionally watch a program online if you can't get to your TV, or it wasn't available, or you're a little geeky, but as a replacement offering, I don't think so. TVs are big screen, public viewing devices, computers are not. They're 18 inches away and are private experiences, you don't want people looking over your shoulder at it. They're completely separate uses and devices, so to try to put the wrong kind of programming on either one limits your audience severely.

    VN: Does anything change as new devices (e.g. Apple TV, Vudu, etc.) bring broadband video all the way to the TV?

    BP: If it's completely invisible to the consumer then yes things change, but if people have to do a whole lot of work then it's not going to be big. The one thing that motivates the consumer through every product category is convenience. The easiest thing to get is what people will use, even if the quality is lower.

    I think it's going to be pretty hard to get something in the home that's easier to use than pushing a button on my TV set that I already know how to do and I'm set up to do. To start connecting a box and moving stuff around, then my rule of thumb is about 10% of the population will adopt new technology because it's cool and neat, but it will be hard to get past that threshold.

    VN: So it sounds out like you're not that bullish on these new boxes succeeding?

    BP: Right now these require a step or two more, and my experience from the Internet is that just one more click means a lot less response. You think, well it's just one more click. But for example, when I was at Time Warner, we had 2 options for ordering PPV - one to click a button and one to call an 800 number. The response rate for the former was three times the latter - that's the power of ease of use and convenience.

    VN: How about broadband's larger impact on the video industry - who's helped and who's hurt?

    BP: Short form appears to be working very well. If there's a nifty little video that's great, but get above 3 mintues and you start to lose people - certainly you lose me. So who's advantaged - people who have short clips that they can build a business out of. But I still think the best thing to do online is to read and write, because it's quiet, it's personal, you can do it with others in the room. Importantly, it's not sequential. Internet is like a newspaper - it's random access - if I don't like sports I can skip that section. But video by its nature is sequential, it's linear, you have to have a story arc, you have to sit through the whole thing. So I think you're asking people to make a different sort of commitment.

    VN: Your take on user-generated video?

    BP: I think it's great. Probably 99.9% of it is crap, but the rest of it is brilliant. If you have a way of editing it down to the brilliant stuff and also allowing people to discover it easily, then it can be very appealing. So when you look at YouTube for example, and you can look at the "most viewed" and can skip my neighbor's kid's birthday party, that's great.

    VN: Does user-generated video compete at any point with professionally produced content?

    BP: Well, what's happening with the level of technology that's now in the hands of consumers plus their ability and knowledge of how to edit makes you ask the question, "who's really the professional now?" So I think you're going to see some shows on TV by what were once considered "amateurs." Professionals are anyone that has a good idea and other people want to see their stuff.

    So I think the world is opening up and that's very healthy. When the studios have a set list of actors, writers and directors, by definition you're limiting the innovation process. When you've got those capabilities in the hands of everyone, you're now opening up to the possibility of some real breakthrough innovations. And that's good for the TV business, because if they do it in a 30 or 60 minute form, the best way to watch it is on the TV. And that's the medium that can pay the most for it, and has the biggest audience.

    VN: What's your message to NATPE attendees?

    BP: I'll be trying to put broadcast television into perspective. You hear so many negative stories yet I think it's one of the most misunderstood mediums out there today. So the idea is to try to point out how it relates to Internet, newspapers, magazines, what the trendlines are and explain why believe it's actually a very good business with a brilliant future.

    People keep talking about Internet as if it's competing with TV. But what the Internet has really done is replace print - things like yellow pages, newspapers and traditional research books. It's also replaced communications - phone calls, voice mail. So when you hear these stories about the Internet replacing TV, I think they've got it all wrong.

    VN: Thank you and see you in Las Vegas.

    (Bob Pittman's NATPE presentation is Tues, Jan 29th at 10am)

  • Albrecht Should Propel IMG Media

    IMG announced today that former HBO boss Chris Albrecht is joining IMG as head of its Global Media unit, suggesting that big things are in store for the company.

    I've had a fair amount of exposure to IMG over the past couple of years through Greg Fawcett, their VP Biz Dev. Greg and I met some time ago, and I've had the pleasure of having him on a couple of industry panels I've moderated.

    When I started learning more about IMG I realized it is really the hidden jewel of the media business. The company has been steadily transforming itself from a talent firm to a full-fledged multi-platform video production powerhouse under the Forstmann ownership.

    They produce over 10,000 hours of programming annually across every major category. They have an enormous library of video assets waiting to be monetized. And they have relationships with everyone in the sports, media, advertising and entertainment industries, all of which will only be enhanced under Albrecht.

    The key to their future success will be leveraging all this great content across broadband and mobile platforms. Ironically, despite HBO's prowess, these were weak spots for the company. Watching all the cable nets closely over the last several years, HBO's been a noticeable laggard, particularly compared to its premium channel brethren, Starz and Showtime. For Albrecht to fully realize IMG's potential, he'll need far more emphasis on these areas than was shown at HBO. I'm betting we'll see it.
  • Josh Freeman Moves from AOL to Discovery

    File this one under "AOL's loss is Discovery's gain." Today Discovery announced that Josh Freeman, who had been an SVP of AOL Video, has joined Discovery as its Executive Vice President, Digital Media.

    Josh and I did business together when I was consulting for TotalVid and we signed a distribution/promotion deal with AOL Video. Josh is among the smartest, most experienced people in the broadband video space and will no doubt have a huge impact on Discovery's growth in the area.

    From the release:

    "As Discovery's top digital media strategist, Freeman will be responsible for growing Discovery brands across digital platforms globally. Charged with seeking out new technology and strategic alliances, and developing new business models and markets, he is expected to help Discovery expand its footprint through the role and visibility of its world-class portfolio of brands online, on mobile and through other digital platforms."

    At Discovery Josh will report to Bruce Campbell, President, Digital Media and Business Development. Coincidentally, Bruce, who's also relatively new to Discovery, will be on my CTAM NY Blue Ribbon Breakfast panel in 2 weeks, joining other panelists Dallas Clement (Cox), David Eun (Google), Herb Scannell (Next New Networks) and Matt Strauss (Comcast). The session promises to be a blockbuster and is already fully sold out.

  • Joost Names Volpi CEO, Things are About to Get More Interesting


    Today Joost announced that Mike Volpi, formerly a long time senior executive of Cisco, would become its new CEO.
    The NY Times has a story with a couple of noteworthy quotes from Volpi that give a window into how interesting things are about to become.
    "Joost is a piece of software and it can reside on a variety of platforms," he said. "It could be on a television set-top box. Or potentially it could be imbedded in a TV set with an Ethernet connection, or on a mobile phone, or in some alternative device that might come out in the future. The flexibility is really high."
    Would that be a cable set-top box or one possibly made by Apple, Linksys or Sony, perhaps? I'd bet on the latter possibilities. Of all the broadband video aggregators, Joost is most clearly positioning itself to be a new competitor to cable and satellite operators.
    "Content owners don't care where content is distributed so long as it reaches a larger number of users who can be monetized."
    Well, sort of. What content providers care most about these days is doing no additional harm to their already perilous existing revenue streams. If doing a deal to distribute content through Joost is neutral to potentially positive, they'll do it. If it's neutral to potentially negative vis-a--vis current relationships, they won't do it. I believe they'll get all the broadcasters to sign up with them. But the big challenge is whether they can get cable networks to give them their best prime-time programming, available at the same time it's available on cable.
    Even if cable networks can do this (and that's an "if" yet to be unraveled by scads of lawyers), it may not be a good business decision to do so. To my knowledge, Joost isn't paying the precious monthly affiliate fees which are the lifeblood of cable networks. Do a deal with Joost for no fees and you run the risk that existing paying customers (i.e. cable and satellite operators) might just want the same deal next time you meet at the negotiating table. Volpi knows cable operators like the back of his hand. Cisco's made billions supplying them networking gear to power their broadband networks for years and more recently digital cable gear from Scientific Atlanta. Now Volpi needs to convince cable operators' programming suppliers to work with him. This will be interesting to watch.
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