Can an entertainment-centric skinny bundle succeed? That question will be answered soon when a new service including TV networks from Discovery, Viacom, AMC, A+E and Scripps launches, according to a recent WSJ report. The service will be called “Philo” which is the same name as the technology provider that will power it.
Skinny bundles have received a huge amount of attention over the past couple of years as a lower cost approach the pay-TV industry is using to retain would-be cord-cutters. However, skinny bundles have faced the vexing question of whether to include expensive sports networks in their offers, which in turn pressure already minuscule profit margins.
Categories: Skinny Bundles
These days everyone has their own favorite device on which to consume video. While improved convenience is great for content providers and advertisers, the resulting fragmentation also causes huge headaches developing for multiple devices.
In a session at the recent Video Ad Summit, executives from Adobe, AOL, Scripps and TheBlaze shared their insights on the challenges and opportunities of surging video consumption across devices, how to generate an ROI and what it all means for advertisers.
The video is below and runs 22 minutes, 14 seconds.
5Min, the video syndication platform company focused on the instructional and lifestyle categories and Scripps Networks, owner of HGTV, Food Network, DIY, Fine Living and Great American Country, are announcing this morning a content and advertising partnership. 5Min, which I described in December, '08 and again in July when it raised $7.5M, is a classic "Syndicated Video Economy" company. Its VideoSeed syndication tool drives relevant video from its content partners to specific pages within its distribution network's web sites. I talked to 5Min CEO/co-founder Ran Harnevo late last week to learn more about the new Scripps deal.
Scripps will be contributing thousands of clips to 5Min for syndication across 5Min's network, which now generates 22 million unique viewers/mo. This is significant because Scripps owns the premier brands in the food and home & garden categories and so for 5Min the content is an important enhancement to its library. For Scripps, choosing to partner with 5Min is a strong endorsement of the syndication model as a driving force for online video.
I've been saying for a while that to succeed in online video, established media companies need to evolve from being "destination-centric" to being "audience-centric." In other words, instead of solely focusing on attracting users to a specific channel or a web site (the traditional approach), it's becoming as important to proliferate content to the Internet's nooks and crannies, to ensure content is available wherever audiences live (niche sites, social media outlets, portals, etc.).
However, I think a key to content providers' succeeding with this model is retaining control over ad inventory that the syndicator creates, to fully leverage their ad sales capabilities. This is another element of the 5Min-Scripps deal. As Ran explained, Scripps will sell ads against its clips that run in the 5Min network and also against all clips in 5Min's food and home & gardening categories. 5Min will collect a revenue share in exchange. Even though 5Min's own ad sales efforts have been strong, Ran reasoned that with Scripps' reach and relationships, this was a better approach to optimizing the value of the ad inventory.
This model underscores how important the concept of scale is in online video advertising. Ad sales professionals understand that it is not just targeted audiences that appeal to prospective advertisers, it's being able to offer sufficient scale to make them matter. Sub-scale media businesses have a hard time attracting major brand advertisers because their audience sizes are not large enough to meaningfully move the brand's numbers. In other words, no matter how targeted the audience, and how effective the ad campaign, the campaign's results likely will not be sizable enough to register a difference. Scale is not just a problem with niche vertical sites. Larger horizontal sites can have the same problem in certain of their content categories. In fact, whenever you visit a site (or a section of a site) and only see Google AdSense ads, that's likely an example of sub-scale.
The scale issue is particularly relevant in online video and the Internet in general because there's so much audience fragmentation. Barriers to entry for starting a web site are incredibly low, and many sites can obtain some initial traffic flow. But generating ads is another story. Brands and their agencies are not set up to deal with a lot of the Internet's minnows. Their media planning focus is on the whales that have at least reasonable targeting and significant reach. In fact, ad networks often rep smaller sites that don't have their own sales teams (as well as some that do), but even they require some minimal size to ensure they can deliver results.
All of this leads to why smart, automated video syndication is so important for the syndicated video economy to work. High-quality video is still expensive to produce so to really succeed online it needs to drive monetizable views wherever it can, not just at a single destination site. Scripps clearly understands this, and I think others are beginning to as well. Syndication platforms like 5Min's, which allow both content providers and would-be distribution points to be easily and effectively matched, are important glue in this process, which I see only becoming more critical going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
(note: I've been under the weather this week, which explains yesterday's absence of VideoNuze. I'm getting back on my feet and hope to be resuming regular publication)
Late last week Scripps Networks, parent of cable networks Food Network, HGTV, FLN and others, launched Food2, a web site targeting the 21-34 demo. Scripps has long been a leader among cable networks in capitalizing on online/broadband's potential, and this newest entry is yet another example of how important broadband is to cable networks' future growth. I spoke with Bob Madden, GM of Food's online properties to learn more.
First and foremost, Food2 is distinguished by its focus on the 21-34 demo. One of the interesting things about Food Network on air has been its appeal to younger audiences (this will likely resonate with those of you who have teenagers). But based on research it conducted Food executives realized that - no surprise - younger audiences want to experience food-related content in different ways: with shorter form non-linear content, more emphasis on experimental tastes and increased access to social/content sharing tools.
So Food2 was conceived as an effort to "super-serve" this audience. Scripps defines Food2 as "designed to be a social experience - just like food itself. It's the intersection of food, drink and pop culture." With a heavy emphasis on Facebook/Twitter integration, tons of short videos featuring hip young culinary talent and original webisodes plus challenges, recipes and tips, Food2 seeks to live up to its goal of experiencing food through the eyes of millennials.
To me, Scripps' real insight from a business perspective is recognizing that broadband creates new "shelf space" for them to launch properties that target specific audiences and in turn specific advertisers seeking to reach those audiences. This matters a lot because due to existing contracts with cable/satellite/telco operators, cable networks have been constrained, at least relative to broadcast networks, in their ability to fully distribute online their popular full length programs (for example, there is no Food Network content on Hulu). While these contracts have led cable networks to achieve highly stable financial performance in this rocky economy, it has deprived them of fully serving their audiences.
Food2 demonstrates that there's online value to be built separate and aside from simply distributing full-length programs online. And because Food2 will be promoted on Food Network's air, and will have some of its advertising sold in packages with Food Network and other Scripps properties, it is off to a running start. Lastly, while Scripps doesn't want Food2 to be seen as a "farm team" for Food Network, there's no question that if talent gets traction on Food2, it has the potential to migrate to the 90M homes that Food Network is carried in, offering lots of interesting upside.
Food2 is a tangible example of a traditional media company recognizing that younger audiences want to consume media differently and that broadband is a new kind of medium that can serve them accordingly. With practically all cable networks savoring access to younger audiences, I expect Food2 will be watched by others and eventually spawn similarly targeted sites.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Categories: Cable Networks
Scripps Networks, owner of the powerhouse cable brands HGTV and Food Network plus niche brands DIY, Fine Living and GAC, is joining the syndication fray, today announcing a deal with AOL Video for distribution of clips from at least 25 of its programs. The deal stops short of full program syndication along the lines of last week's Comedy Central-Hulu deal and others, but is still a meaningful step in extending these brands beyond the borders of their respective web sites.
I've been following Scripps Networks for a long while and recently got a briefing from Deanna Brown, who serves as president of the Interactive Group which handles all Internet-related activities at Scripps Networks. Brown joined the company a little over a year ago and is an online veteran, having served as an executive at both Yahoo and AOL previously.
Scripps was one of the early adopters of broadband video, initially seeding its site with program clips from HGTV and Food and more recently creating standalone broadband properties (e.g. HGTV KitchenDesign, HGTV BathDesign, others). Brown explained that Scripps views video as part of the overall user experience, not to be positioned as standalone. Contextualization drives more video consumption and page views. For the most recent 3 months Scripps averaged almost 10 million video views/month, up about 36% from the prior year's period. HGTV was a big part of that, doubling its video views year over year.
I've long thought that broadband is a huge win for Scripps because its lifestyle brands and programs are part information, part entertainment and presented in short segments. This is about as good a fit for online consumption as possible. In fact, over the years when content startups have sought my input, I've often referred to Scripps as an example of content having a highly actionable content model and a "natural base" of advertisers, a model for others to emulate in further product categories.
With Scripps, advertisers reach an audience that is both targeted and action-oriented. Given the massive size of the home and kitchen-related products markets, Scripps is in an enviable position. Yet once again reflecting the early state of the broadband video ad market, Brown explained that they're continuing to test what works in video advertising, particularly mid-rolls and overlays recently. Brown cited monetization flexibility as a key part of Scripps' recent decision to standardize on Maven Networks' platform. Note that in the AOL deal, Scripps will sell ads against its inventory.
Though Brown described herself as partnership-driven, most of Scripps broadband efforts have centered on building out its sites. She explained that they haven't felt pressure to do a lot of deals quickly, instead tending to be methodical about which distributors offer the best ROI potential. A key goal of its distribution deals is to reach younger audiences and video is seen as a way to speak to this audience. A slew of social networking initiatives are underway as well to tap this demo's online behavior.
With Scripps Networks poised to be separated on July 1st from the larger newspaper and broadcast businesses at E.W. Scripps, online will be a critical growth driver. That suggests we can expect plenty more video activity going forward.
Categories: Cable Networks