As I mentioned at the end of February, each month I plan to step back and recap a few key themes from recent VideoNuze posts. Here are three from March '08. (And remember you can see all of March's broadband news, aggregated from across the web, by clicking here)
The Syndicated Video Economy: An Introduction In March I introduced the concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy" ("SVE") to describe how the broadband video providers are increasingly coalescing on a strategy for widespread distribution of video through myriad outlets. In the SVE media companies shift their focus from "aggregating eyeballs" in a centralized destination to "accessing eyeballs" wherever (and whenever) they live. The SVE is a big departure from traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution approaches. Investors have responded by funding SVE-oriented content and technology startups. In March I provided several examples of SVE initiatives. CBS launched its Local Ad Network to distribute content to local bloggers and web sites. 60Frames, a new broadband studio, is explicitly focused on partnerships for distribution, and is not even building destination web sites for its programs. And FreeWheel is developing management tools so that content can be optimally monetized across a content provider's sprawling network of syndication partners. The SVE resonated strongly with VideoNuze readers; many are focused on it and vested in its further development. Expect to hear a lot more about the SVE from me in coming posts. I'll also have supporting slides I'm developing for upcoming webinars on the topic. Over-the-Top: Getting Broadband Video to the TV Bringing broadband video all the way to the TV by bypassing existing service providers (so-called "over-the-top") continues to be the big elusive prize for many. This past month YouTube and TiVo announced a partnership to let a subset of TiVo owners gain full YouTube access on their TVs, a welcome move. Following that, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I suggested the YouTube, with its dominant market position and brand loyalty could in fact be the linchpin to over-the-top devices gaining a foothold with consumers. Google-YouTube executives' vision for YouTube as a video platform, powering experiences wherever they are, lends support to my proposition. Lastly on over-the-top, new contributor Michael Greeson, founder of market researcher TDG, proposed that adapting low-cost devices like DVD player may well be the best way to bridge broadband and TV. Social media and video: 2 sides of the same coin This past month also continued an escalation of interest in the intersection of social media and broadband video. At the Media Summit there was intense focus on engagement, and how broadband can uniquely create new user experiences that deeply involve the user. These social experiences include sharing, personalization, commenting, rating and so on. In this vein, Maginfy.net introduced new social features to support its specialized user-created channels, a smart evolution of its product. And in a follow-up to "The Intersection of UGC and Brand Marketing?" I clarified the opportunities that brand marketers may or may not have to get involved with this hot space. For those interested in more on this subject, new VideoNuze sponsor KickApps provided an informative webinar which is still available here. So that's March's recap. There will be plenty more on all of these and other broadband video topics in April and beyond!
The Syndicated Video Economy: An Introduction
In March I introduced the concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy" ("SVE") to describe how the broadband video providers are increasingly coalescing on a strategy for widespread distribution of video through myriad outlets. In the SVE media companies shift their focus from "aggregating eyeballs" in a centralized destination to "accessing eyeballs" wherever (and whenever) they live. The SVE is a big departure from traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution approaches. Investors have responded by funding SVE-oriented content and technology startups.
In March I provided several examples of SVE initiatives. CBS launched its Local Ad Network to distribute content to local bloggers and web sites. 60Frames, a new broadband studio, is explicitly focused on partnerships for distribution, and is not even building destination web sites for its programs. And FreeWheel is developing management tools so that content can be optimally monetized across a content provider's sprawling network of syndication partners.
The SVE resonated strongly with VideoNuze readers; many are focused on it and vested in its further development. Expect to hear a lot more about the SVE from me in coming posts. I'll also have supporting slides I'm developing for upcoming webinars on the topic.
Over-the-Top: Getting Broadband Video to the TV
Bringing broadband video all the way to the TV by bypassing existing service providers (so-called "over-the-top") continues to be the big elusive prize for many. This past month YouTube and TiVo announced a partnership to let a subset of TiVo owners gain full YouTube access on their TVs, a welcome move.
Following that, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I suggested the YouTube, with its dominant market position and brand loyalty could in fact be the linchpin to over-the-top devices gaining a foothold with consumers. Google-YouTube executives' vision for YouTube as a video platform, powering experiences wherever they are, lends support to my proposition. Lastly on over-the-top, new contributor Michael Greeson, founder of market researcher TDG, proposed that adapting low-cost devices like DVD player may well be the best way to bridge broadband and TV.
Social media and video: 2 sides of the same coin
This past month also continued an escalation of interest in the intersection of social media and broadband video. At the Media Summit there was intense focus on engagement, and how broadband can uniquely create new user experiences that deeply involve the user. These social experiences include sharing, personalization, commenting, rating and so on. In this vein, Maginfy.net introduced new social features to support its specialized user-created channels, a smart evolution of its product.
And in a follow-up to "The Intersection of UGC and Brand Marketing?" I clarified the opportunities that brand marketers may or may not have to get involved with this hot space. For those interested in more on this subject, new VideoNuze sponsor KickApps provided an informative webinar which is still available here.
So that's March's recap. There will be plenty more on all of these and other broadband video topics in April and beyond!
Closing out another busy week, here are 3 diverse broadband video snippets that hit my radar in the past few days:
1. YouTube Drives the Political Newscycle
Back in December, in 6 Predictions for 2008, I suggested that "2008 is the year of the broadband presidential election." This seems to become more evident with each passing week. I find that particularly when watching cable news, YouTube's influence just keeps on growing.
For example, I'm a fan of "AC360" on CNN, which I try to catch at 10pm each night. This week the show was constantly replaying the YouTube videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright that have dogged the Obama campaign. Conversely, a few weeks ago, Obama got a great tailwind from the massive attention paid to the viral "Yes We Can" music video sensation by will.i.am. That of course was on top of the earlier "Obama Girl" phenomenon. Separately, the McCain campaign just yesterday fired a campaign worker for posting a controversial video on YouTube about Obama and race. This too was covered on AC360 last night. Then of course there were the YouTube co-sponsored debates, offering video-based questions that were constantly replayed afterward.
The point of all this is that broadband video has turned election coverage upside down, making it incredibly hard for candidates to control the political newscycle. The "democratizing" effect of YouTube means that on any given day, at any given moment, something may get posted which diverts the campaign's attention. And with major media outlets paying such close attention to YouTube, everything is immediately amplified. Not since the early 1960s when TV began influencing presidential politics have we seen a new medium have such a profound impact on an election. And we still have 8 months to go until November...who knows what's yet to come!
2. SI Vault is Addictive
On to something more fun, if you haven't yet checked out Sports Illustrated's new "SI Vault" site just launched this week, I suggest you do. It's a highly addictive trip down memory lane. SI has digitized all of its assets and also made available non-SI content, all in one easy-to-use location powered by Truveo. Focusing on video, I found Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception" from the 1972 Steelers-Raiders playoff game and also Doug Flutie's famous "Hail Mary" pass to beat Miami in 1984. I could have spent hours at the site, although it's not perfect. I tried finding Tom Watson's 1982 U.S. Open chip-in at Pebble Beach to beat Jack Nicklaus, but alas no results were found. Obviously all this stuff is available elsewhere online, but SI Vault creates a great context for sports fans to enjoy themselves, wrapping SI and non-SI content together in one nice package.
3. Apple's Roadblocks are Baaaack
Yesterday Magnify.net, a company I've previously written about, released its version 3.0, introducing new social features and also Pro and Enterprise versions. Magnify's CEO Steve Rosenbaum gave me an update.
Magnify is a platform that enables enthusiasts to assemble relevant video from sharing sites (YouTube, Metacafe, Dailymotion, others) into channels. One of the things I originally liked about the Magnify approach is that it is a powerful avenue for would-be curators to simplify the morass of video now available at disparate locations into one easy-to-access area for others with similar interests. The concept has clearly proven popular: since I wrote the original post in October '07 the number of Magnify channels has roughly doubled from 17,500 to 33,000+ and page views have spiked to 18 million this month.
The social features Magnify is introducing in its 3.0 version are aimed at creating deeper community interaction within the channels and are a natural evolution for the company. Quite frankly, they're something I would have expected earlier (chalk it up to finite resources?). The social features allow members to create and view profiles, "friend" each other and to track and subscribe to other members' activities. There's also integration with Twitter, Mogulus and Flickr.
Reactions to Magnify's move have been mixed and raise interesting questions about the interplay of social media and broadband video. For example, if I understand TechCrunch writer Erick Schonfeld's perspective correctly, he just doesn't buy into the idea that video is a solid foundation for community building and that the existing social networks can and do incorporate video just fine, thereby obviating the need for community within Magnify's channel context. While he rightly identifies a potential logistical issue of Magnify not offering cross-channel profiles, and simmering social networking saturation, overall I think he's underestimating the potential of video as a catalyst for social interaction.
Using well-organized and curated video as a foundation for community development actually makes a ton of sense. In our media-saturated society, video is a common and defining thread for starting and sustaining our interactions. As one example, Steve pointed me to the "Native American Tube" channel at Magnify. Have a look, there are 388 members and counting, and see how active the back-and-forth commenting is? People have strong and passionate affiliations with particular videos, programs and even networks - and want to share their thoughts.
Meanwhile, for all the growth of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, social media is far from a mature space. At last week's Media Summit, the integration of social media and video was among the hottest topics. The reality is that existing media brands (especially in the niches) and aspiring ones like those Magnify is powering have a strong ability and economic incentive to create community and interaction opportunities for their audiences. I expect we'll see no let up in their enthusiasm, and Magnify's social tools, as they further evolve, will become a key part of the company's success.
(Note: if you want to know more about this topic, yesterday there was a webinar sponsored by KickApps and Akamai. KickApps helps companies set up their own social networks and is getting significant traction in the media space.)
I had 3 key takeaways from the 2008 Media Summit which just wrapped up in NYC. The event just keeps getting better - great keynotes, terrific informal hallway chit-chats/networking and tons of well-directed energy. Though the event's agenda is broad, I was focused on the video-related elements. Here are 3 takeaways:
1. Iger and Moonves Get Tech; Lots of Innovation/Growth Ahead
A clear highlight for all attendees was the 2 morning keynote interviews, day 1 with Disney CEO Bob Iger and day 2 with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves. Both were ably conducted by senior Businessweek editors. Until a couple years ago, big media was in a defensive crouch regarding technology's uninvited incursion into their businesses. No more. Iger and Moonves are obviously convinced that technology, the Internet and broadband video delivery are now their companies' friends. Iger in particular really pounded this theme home.
An example of how technology helps which Iger repeatedly touched on was how Disney will leverage the platform of Club Penguin, its recent acquisition, to build communities for other properties (e.g. "Cars", "Pirates," etc.). These moves are intended to engender ever-greater levels of engagement. By the way, if you're a parent of youngsters and you've ever bemoaned how Disney's gotten its hooks deeply into your kids, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Moonves was emphatic that the Internet extends the value of CBS properties. March Madness was an example he offered. Three years ago it generated $250K of broadband subscription revenue. Two years ago CBS converted to ad-support and generated $4M. Then last year it generated $10M and this year is projected for $23M. And as Moonves pointed out, other than bandwidth, it's all incremental profit for the company. Echoing another conference theme, he further added that "the Internet should not be used to just regurgitate TV," but rather for the medium's unique capabilities.
Iger's and Moonves's mantras are no doubt being sent down to the troops from the executive suite. That suggests we can all expect a whole lot of tech-based innovation springing from these media giants.
2. Engagement and Originality: Buzzwords or More?
Two touchstones in many sessions were "engagement" and "originality." Both reflect the evolving viewpoint that broadband video has its own unique capabilities and that breaking through requires going far beyond traditional, passive programming approaches. With respect to engagement, the concept of introducing "social media" opportunities was often cited as the key tactic. An amorphous term, social media refers to all manner of user participation: content sharing, interactivity, personalization, mashups, uploading, commenting, rating and so on. Basically it's anything that gets viewers to do more than just sit back and enjoy the show. (For those looking to learn more, note next week's webinar on social media, presented by VideoNuze sponsors KickApps and Akamai)
Regarding originality, this relates back to Moonves's comment about not using the medium for regurgitation of TV shows (though to be sure there's value to that). Many people echoed that theme, emphasizing broadband must be used for original programming. The proliferation of independent "broadband studios" is encouraging early evidence that the originality bar will keep rising, prompting established and startup players to harness broadband's limitless possibilities.
3. Missing in Action: Paid business models
It wasn't that long ago that discussions about broadband video business models focused evenly on paid and ad-supported. No more. The paid model was completely missing in action at the event. I think I can count on one hand the number of times the concept was raised in sessions. Also MIA was DRM, the paid model's enabler (or torturer, depending on your perspective).
I detect a broad consensus that the broadband video industry has hitched its wagon to free ad-supported video for the foreseeable future. Many of you know I've been a long-time and enthusiastic proponent of this approach and I'm extremely happy to see things unfold this way. Though the broadband video ad model is still immature, all macro trends point to a bright future. One in particular is video syndication, which I wrote about 2 days ago. Syndication was a dominant theme, as panel representatives from both large and small content providers enthusiastically embraced it. See my post earlier this week, "Welcome to the Syndicated Video Economy" for more on this.
Ok, there you have it. There's plenty more tidbits I took away from the summit, so feel free to ping me if you'd like. And if you attended, post a comment and share your takeaways as well!
CES 2008 broadband video-related news wrap-up:
NETGEAR® Joins BitTorrent™ Device Partners
Categories: Advertising, Aggregators, Broadband ISPs, Broadcasters, Cable Networks, Cable TV Operators, Devices, Downloads, FIlms, Games, HD, Mobile Video, P2P, Partnerships, Sports, Technology, UGC, Video Search, Video Sharing
With 2007 wrapping up, it's time to look ahead to the new year and make 6 predictions about what's ahead for broadband video in 2008. In general, I'm extremely optimistic about broadband's potential in the new year. To be sure, there are lots of challenges ahead, but much to look forward to.
Here's what my crystal ball is telling me:
1. Advertising business model gains further momentum.
Many of you have been hearing me beat this drum for a long time now; I'm just going to go right on beating it in 2008. Advertising is the primary business model for broadband video and this will only continue to grow in importance as the year goes along.
All the elements are falling in place for the ad model's momentum. In '08 we'll see more video consumption, especially of high-quality video, and more syndication, all of which will lead to more ad inventory. But 2008 is about more than just a quality and volume; it's also about better targeting, better formats, more sophisticated sales processes and more interactivity/community building around video. I'm impressed with the range of companies pursuing each of these areas and expect them to gain lots of traction.
2. Brand marketers jump on broadband bandwagon.
2007 marked the continuation of brand marketers creating their own broadband video-centric destinations, wrapped in increasingly clever campaigns. I track these initiatives very closely and wrote about many of them (Dell and Gap, Frito-Lay, Neiman-Marcus, Smirnoff, Dove, CIT, Campari, Universal Pictures, Showtime, etc.).
In 2008, we're going to see a proliferation of these direct-to-consumer broadband-centric marketing campaigns. Marketers and agencies across the board are coming to recognize how important broadband is for engaging their audiences in a way that TV spots simply can't match. Then factor in the high cost of TV and the rampant use of DVRs to ad-skip. I'm expecting lots of creativity from brand marketers in '08 as they push deeper into broadband, further pressuring the traditional TV ad business.
3. Beijing Summer Olympics is a broadband blowout.
NBC plans to stream an unprecedented 2,200 hours of live Olympics coverage at NBCOlympics.com. All of this is going to completely redefine how broadband adds new value to live sporting events. In particular, NBC's coverage is going to shine a very bright light on the appeal of broadband to deliver multiple simultaneous events in their entirety as they occur, instead of the usual chockablock, tape-delayed coverage. It's also going to demonstrate how well-suited broadband delivery is for niche but passionate audiences.
If NBC executes well, I think it has the potential to open up a whole new horizon in how broadband can augment (and in some cases, maybe even replace) broadcast coverage of sports events. For example, golf is a sport that cries out for improved coverage that broadband can offer. Instead of cutting back and forth to players' key shots, broadband would allow for cameras to stream all players' full rounds simultaneously, with fans able to watch just their favorite player, while also keeping an eye on the main feed. Bottom line, the '08 Olympics is going to show sports and live events producers everywhere what broadband can offer them too.
4. 2008 is the "Year of the broadband presidential election."
What TV was to the 1960 presidential campaign is what broadband is going to be to the '08 campaign. Broadband's impact has already been felt. Virginia Gov. George Allen's campaign was aborted after he was caught uttering a racial slur in his classic "YouTube moment." CNN has already hosted joint debates with YouTube. Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in a video posted on her web site and also just launched TheHillaryIKnow.com with a passel of video testimonials about her softer side. Barack Obama's web site brims with video from the trail.
In '08 broadband video will be interweaved into the fabric of the major candidates' campaigns. It won't be an augment, it will be a central feature for reaching voters, particularly young ones. Broadband offers an unprecedented inexpensive way to convey the candidates' emotions and connect with voters. Presidential campaigning will never be the same again.
5. WGA strike fuels broadband video proliferation.
As the writers' strike slogs on, it is inevitable that many writers and producers (especially below the top tier) are going to look upon broadband as an attractive new medium to ply their trade. The signs are already there. It will be an ironic twist that the strike, which is centered on reallocating "new media" revenues, is going to stoke more interest in broadband productions, but outside the traditional apparatus.
I can't put my finger on exactly how this is going to unfold, but I think I can say with confidence that there is a lot of smart money eager to place bets on broadband video content. Writers and producers with track records and plausible plans will get funded. Quarterlife, Next New Networks, FunnyOrDie are all pre-strike examples of this. The strike only accelerates things.
6. Broadband consumption remains on computers, but HD delivery proliferates.
I wrote about this in detail just last week: regrettably broadband video is NOT coming to the masses' TVs any time soon. My guess is that 99.9% of users who start the year watching broadband video on their computers (or mobile devices in some cases) will end the year no closer to watching broadband on their TVs. Some initiatives will gain some ground, but on the whole, don't expect any mass adoption of devices or mechanisms to converge broadband with TVs in '08.
Nonetheless, do expect that HD or near HD-quality broadband video is going to proliferate in '08. A survey I worked on with a client, whose results will be shared in early '08, will attest to strong content provider interest in HD broadband video. That means that viewer experiences are only going to improve, and for those with big monitors and/or easy chairs, it may actually start to feel like this whole connect-the-computer-to-the-TV is unnecessary anyway.
So there you have it. Post a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree!
YouTube's role in our lives just keeps expanding.
A little blurb I read in the newspaper lead me to this humorous/serious video created by a liberal group named Campaign for America's Future now posted at YouTube.
The video spoof shows Ken and Barbie hooking up in a bar and then talking by phone a week later. In that conversation, Barbie tells Ken that she's having some "symptoms", but the twist is they are not what you're expecting. She says she is suffering from lead poisoning.
The video then cut to messages focused on the importation of 2 million toys from China with toxic levels of lead paint, why our inspection regulations aren't sufficient and that Nancy Nord, Acting Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission should be dumped.
Regardless of where you are on these questions, this little video again demonstrates how ingrained YouTube has become in our lives. It also illustrates how video is the most persuasive method for advocacy. How long will it be before producing videos for YouTube distribution is a standard part of any PR/advocacy campaign? Not very.
Categories: Video Sharing
While most of the world was de-stuffing itself from Thanksgiving over the last few days, a firestorm was raging at TechCrunch, a popular blog, over a guest post that described how you can rig YouTube to drive viral video success. The post was written by Dan Ackerman Greenberg (don't know him) who is co-founder of The Commotion Group and a graduate student at Stanford. His original post is here and his follow-up post is here.
The original post in particular is well worth reading. While it's easy to focus on the author's integrity (and many of the comments following the post do so), the most interesting takeaway for me is how YouTube, and broadband in general, is still a "wild west" environment, where popularity isn't always what it seems and knowing how to play the game can be a key to success.
Greenberg runs through a litany of "strategies" which his firm has used (or not used depending on how you read his follow on post) successfully to drive his clients' videos to huge success. These include using catchy titles, manufacturing dialogue around the video using fake identities, embedding videos in others MySpace pages, optimizing thumbnail descriptions, emailing the clips to everyone possible, manipulating tags, etc.
Of course there are no laws against any of this stuff, in my view it's an extension of guerilla marketing techniques seen elsewhere. It's using the full range of tactics available to achieve a client's goals and a stark reminder that consumers must always have their BS antenna up.
But whether you think it's unseemly or just an extension of guerilla practices long established in the offline world is beside the point. It's easy to tisk-tisk others for their business practices. But the reality is that if viral video success is important to you then you'd better be well-versed in the rules of the game and be prepared to play it like the winners do.
Categories: Video Sharing
Does TV programming beget broadband video programming or is it the other way around?
If you were expecting a simple answer, recent evidence suggests that none will be forthcoming. Step away from the relatively straightforward model of streamed or downloaded TV episodes, and the question of how original video content will be produced and distributed between broadband and TV is whole lot more complicated. Layer on the writers' strike and the world only fogs up further.
For those who see broadband as a pathway to TV, Quarterlife's deal announced last Friday with NBC to bring their new Quarterlife series to the network following its run on MySpace offers encouragement that Internet programming can move to the TV (bear in mind that Quarterlife was originally pitched as a TV series however).
Another example is TMZ.com, which has been successfully syndicated as TMZ TV this fall by Warner Bros. TMZ shows us that a brand that was created and built solely online can make the leap to TV. And just last week TV Week reported that Twentieth Television and Yahoo were close to a deal to create a new syndicated series based on popular broadband videos that they've collected.
On the flip side, there is plenty of evidence of opportunities for TV programs spinning off broadband programming, or existing TV producers with assets and skills pushing into broadband as a first outlet for their work.
Consider Sony's Minisode Network, with distribution on MySpace, Joost, AOL and Crackle. In an effort to squeeze more life out of its library of classics, in June Sony launched abbreviated versions, for broadband "snacking". This initiative is being closely watched as a model for how to repurpose existing assets to make them more palatable for attention-challenged online audiences.
And Endemol's recent deal with Bebo to produce "The Gap Year" series for exclusively for Bebo's audience shows that a successful TV producer is turning its sites on broadband as a first outlet.
All of these deals underscore broadband's disruptive nature - its ability to create new opportunities for incumbent players, and also for new entrants. My read is that most (though not all) broadband producers would love to make the leap to the TV. In the mean time, broadband offers a low-cost, interactive distribution path to experiment with more engaged audiences.
Many key industry players are now waking up to the idea that broadband is fundamentally re-writing traditional equations of how to extract value from well-produced video. But these equations are not yet well-understood. Some of the early deals, as outlined above, will be showing everyone the way.
Red Lasso is a stealthy company that's been around for about 2 years, though only now coming up to the surface. I did a phone briefing earlier this week with Kevin O'Kane, President/founder and Al McGowan, COO. They also gave me access to the private beta and I've been playing around with it for the last couple of days.
Red Lasso's goal is "to help broadcasters extend the life of their content, legitimately." They're positioning themselves as "an anti-YouTube", allowing broadcasters to proactively contribute long form video and audio, which users can then search and clip for exactly the content they're looking for. The video can simply be watched or it can be embedded. Though they don't want to be seen as an "online DVR", it is tempting to see them as such. Monetization is most likely through advertising, though a licensing model is possible as well.
Red Lasso's playing in the same basic space as Voxant (note: a VideoNuze sponsor) and Clip Syndicate (see this for more), with a key differentiator being the long form content availability and clipping feature. Red Lasso is currently taking 150 different broadcast feeds from around the country, and their ability to get the industry to cooperate is helped by the fact that Al and Kevin are broadcast veterans.
Red Lasso is trying to appeal to at least 3 types of users: broadcasters seeking to flexibly publish specific video clips on their own sites, independent web sites trying to feature key segments of their own video (e.g. sports teams) and bloggers seeking to embed video. They believe this third group is the most fertile territory and I agree.
Bloggers across the spectrum (politics, entertainment, sports, etc.) have been hungry for video clips to enhance their sites. I believe this demand will only increase. If you're a blogger looking just for the "money quote", clipping from long form assets provides a lot of value. I did some searching and clipping (below is one result).
I found the clipping pretty straightforward, and I liked the fact that I could save mine, which I can also publish to the community for widespread viral use if I choose to. The searching is based on phonetic and closed caption text. It was not quite as accurate as I hoped, but video search is a very tough nut to crack, and so I'd expect room for improvement there.
At a strategic level, Red Lasso again demonstrates how broadband's influence is going to be felt in the broadcast TV industry. I think traditional concepts of appointment viewing, geographic constraints and local ad sales are all going to seem quaint as broadband allows quality video to fly around the net. I'd urge broadcasters to be looking closely at all the players in this space.
When I was in NYC earlier this week I caught up with my old buddy Lewis Rothkopf, who's now the VP of Biz Dev at PaltaIk. I got to know Lewis when he was at Lightningcast before it was sold to AOL. Lewis and Joel Smernoff, Paltalk's COO/President gave me a demo of their latest offering Paltalk Scene.
This product allows full video chat and interactivity in private or public rooms, with up to 5K participants per room. It enables what Paltalk calls "social-casting" which means that all chat room participants can watch the same video in the main window and comment/interact around that video. Kind of like a "virtual bar".
I think this kind of engagement around a specific video is very cool and is certainly going to become more popular going forward. Paltalk has already implemented with a bunch of partners including Lifetime for its new Lisa Williams show. And Paltalk is creating a slew of its own "programs" including comedy specials, celebrity "talk shows" and sporting events (wrestling, tennis, etc.).
For Paltalk the goal of these events is to upsell basic members to subscribe to the premium service so they can see video of other members. Down the road there are certainly many other models (PPV, subscriptions, software licensing, etc.). Any user is able to access Paltalk Scene to create their own room.
Paltalk also has an Active X control right now so content partners can embed the video chat window right into their web site, to both retain branding and also offer sponsorship opportunities. Soon there will also be a Flash embed version, which will allow Mac users to enjoy as well.
In short, Paltalk Scene seems like an easy-to-use system for content providers to deepen engagement with their audiences around specific video events creating a totally new user experience.
Categories: Video Sharing
Based on answers to several questions of mine that Metacafe executives answered, I sense that behind all those words Metacafe is trying to create its own "virtuous cycle". This is a concept taught in all MBA programs, which describes how various elements of a business can act to reinforce one another. When it occurs, both operational and financial results are optimized.
Here's how I think Metacafe's virtuous cycle, as exemplified by "Director's Cut", could work:
By showcasing their highest-quality producers (as determined by Metacafe's own users) in a prominently highlighted section of its well-trafficked site, Metacafe will no doubt drive lots more views of these videos. These views count for their producers' in Metacafe's "Producer Rewards" program, which in turn results in more earnings for the producers. In theory, greater earnings will result in more loyalty to Metacafe among their best producers. Ultimately this yields an overall better-quality user experience and more overall ad revenues.
If successful, this kind of self-reinforcing program could be a real differentiator for Metacafe as it pursues the short video segment which is its focus. All UGC/video sharing sites, led by YouTube, are trying to ratchet up their video quality from their roots as pure UGC sites. Yet doing so is elusive. Even with the proliferation of the number of video producers, there's always going to be a finite number of really high-quality ones. So helping them genuinely earn a living from their work is a real key to winning their long-term loyalty.
All content providers or aggregators should be thinking like Metacafe in terms of how they too can create their own "virtuous cycles."
Categories: Video Sharing
One of the things I really enjoy about being an analyst in the burgeoning broadband video industry is getting first-hand exposure to all the clever innovation that's going on. I find it endlessly fascinating to hear directly from entrepreneurs on the front lines where the kernel of their idea came from which led to their business plan. A user experience issue? A technology deficiency? A business model flaw? Over the years I've heard many stories. Some kernels have real weight, while some don't quite resonate for me.
Magnify.net falls into the former category. My read is that this is a company trying to solve a real problem with a very clever solution and the right "corporate attitude" to make it a likely winner.
Magnify is actually solving a number of real problems, many of which relate to the highly distributed or "Long Tail" nature of the Internet and broadband video. First is that while consumers love broadband video, finding what they want is problematic. Novelty quickly turns to frustration when rummaging through big video sharing sites to find something relevant. No matter how much users want choice, some level of editorial or "curation" is essential to optimize their experience.
Magnify enables existing enthusiast or vertical web sites (whether independent or major media) to obtain video from the best video sharing sites (YouTube, Metacafe, etc.) and coherently present a screened assortment to their users. The sites' use their editorial skills to sort the wheat from the chafe, with easy-to-use admin tools ensuring that no offending video slips through the cracks.
So the second problem Magnify solves is enabling thousands (17,500 and counting to be exact) of sites to provide quality video to their users without the hassle and expense of creating it themselves (the "matchmaker" role). These sites get 50% of the revenue from the ads Magnify sells around the video (or they can keep up to 50% of the inventory to sell themselves), leveraging their audience and subject matter expertise. Incorporating video into web sites is becoming online table stakes. I agree with Steve, in the years ahead, sites without video are going to look "charming".
The only real hole I can find in Magnify's model is that it doesn't currently compensate the content creators themselves (a la Revver for example). However I'd expect that to change as creators upload directly to Magnify and the company's network and traffic builds out over time.
Lastly, I like Steve's attitude. He views the market as an incredibly expanding pie, and not "winner take all." As a result, while there are others who touch on Magnify's space (Brightcove, ROO, VideoEgg, Ning, KickApps, etc.), he's less concerned about competition per se and matching feature-for-feature, but rather on responding to the needs and wants expressed directly by their own user base. Companies that do this ultimately win, regardless of competition.
The Magnify story plays into a number of areas I follow closely - the changing role and power of video distributors, the continued "nichification" of video, the challenge of video discovery and the reliance on ads, not subscription fees. To the extent that their approach succeeds it will further morph traditional video models. For a 10 person company that's only done an angel round, they've accomplished a lot in addressing genuine Long Tail issues in the broadband video industry. (Btw, TechCrunch has 2 great reviews, here and here).
As I have written repeatedly, robust syndication is a crucial piece of the broadband video economy. That's because advertising is going to be the main business model for a long time to come. And the only way to make the ad business work is through massive traffic increases, and of course improved ad monetization methods.
There's no better way to scale up traffic than through turnkey syndication. Google's ability to harness AdSense as a combination video syndication engine and monetization platform for content providers (by eventually marrying video units to AdWords) is unmatchable by anyone else.
As Google expands this initiative, it will be simultaneously alluring and threatening to others. Trying to capture the same benefits without the same underlying technology infrastructure and far-reaching distribution network is going to be very challenging to replicate.
Take for example, Hulu, the News Corp/NBCU JV, meant to regain control over their broadcast TV programs. Hulu has been striking its own distribution deals and will no doubt monetize its traffic with a "feet-on-the-street" ad sales approach. While there are benefits to this approach to aggregate the biggest sites as partners, Google's one-stop syndication/monetization capability provides the turnkey, hands-off approach needed to gather up the all the rest of the market (i.e. the Long Tail).
Depending how Google chooses to split the revenues between AdSense partners and content providers, Google/YouTube could well become a dominant part of the broadband-centric video value chain that is now taking shape.
Herb Scannell, who was on my CTAM panel yesterday pointed me to "Internet People" part of his firm's Channel Federator "Meth Minute 39" series (side note, it's actually quite clunky to try to adapt traditional TV lingo to describe broadband video properties...). If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend. It's like a stroll down the Internet's memory lane. All the famous and infamous characters over the years.
What's impressive about Internet People how it shows how fluid creative development and partnerships around broadband video (especially animation) is. Herb said that his partner at NNN was exposed to Dan Meth's "Hebrew Crunk" animation and that spurred them to work together. They had a similar philosophy and were able to figure out a relationship quickly. Also, I asked Herb how long he estimated it took to create Internet People..he thought less than 100 hours probably. And NNN coordinated to premier Internet People on YouTube, helping drive 800K views in the first week.
Pretty impressive, see for yourself.
This list continues to grow. Here are some of the names that are on it, and their activities:
What do all these big names see? In 2 words: colossal opportunity. Broadband is a wide open playing field. They all understand that a classic paradigm shift is happening in the video industry and are rushing to understand the medium and its new rules. How to engage audiences? How to monetize most effectively? How to optimize the formats? How to retain creative control?This activity is only going to accelerate. As early successes get more publicity and the business models crystallize expect even more big Hollywood talent to jump on the broadband video bandwagon.
WSJ reported today that DailyMotion, the French video sharing site, has raised $34 million in a round led by Advent Venture Partners LLP of London and AGF Private Equity. This financing adds to a wave of capital that has poured into the overall ad-supported video sharing/video aggregator platform space in the last few months.
Companies that I think fit in this group that have recently raised big money are Joost ($45 million), Veoh ($26 million), Metacafe ($30 million) and blip.tv ($10 million). Hulu, the NBC-News Corp JV which raised $100 million could even be considered in this category. And thinking a little more broadly you could include sites like Heavy.com, Break, Vuguru, Next New Networks, DaveTV, Babelgum, BitTorrent and others which are creating and/or aggregating broadband programming.
To be fair, each of these companies has a slightly different approach to their content strategy (pure aggregation vs. original development vs. hybrids), market positioning and technology capabilities. However, as best I can tell, they're all trying to offer distinctive video content into broadband-only delivery networks and to one extent or another, surround this programming with interactive tools. The intended result is unique viewing experiences.
In the aggregator roles they play, they're muscling themselves into the market owned by traditional video distributors like cable and satellite operators, and more recently telcos. These new companies are all very interesting to watch because ultimately they must do at least 3 things to generate traffic and revenue: (1) differentiate themselves from each other, (2) add value to content providers/producers relative to CPs/producers relying solely on a direct-to-consumer approach and (3) shift viewing time from the traditional distributors' programming to their own.
Any one of these would be a pretty high hurdle to get over. Doing all three will be even tougher. Yet a lot of smart money keeps backing these companies, further demonstrating how hot this overall category is -- and how quickly it could become overfunded. But I don't expect things to cool down any time soon. We can expect further funding in this space as investors clamor to get a piece of the action in broadband video.
Lots of scorn flying around the net this week criticizing Oscar's takedown notices to YouTube combined with their miserly video offering at their own site. I'm just going to pile on here. What's happening is totally consistent with the findings of our Q4 '06 report on the broadcast industry and broadband video. A key conclusion of that report was that today networks look at broadband as essentially a new distribution path for existing shows. The 2 options are consumer paid downloads (dominated by iTunes) and free streaming episodes.
What they haven't done yet is create robust clip areas complete with interactivity. This area has been dominated by YouTube and others. As I said in Variety, as a result of networks' inactivity, a vacuum has been created which YouTube is filling. Consumers want clips and they want to interact. The networks should be creating these offerings on their own sites. And they should be working with YouTube. But to do neither is ostrich-like. Their inactions suggest they just wish this whole broadband/community thing would just pass already.