Brightcove announced this morning that it is acquiring Unicorn Media for approximately $49 million, a savvy move to expand into cloud-based video ad insertion, which is particularly beneficial for mobile devices.
Unicorn has differentiated itself by enabling content providers to dynamically insert ads in the cloud, rather than in the video player. By "stitching" ads in the cloud, Unicorn obviates some of the major issues in video ad insertion today, including delays and buffering caused by the video player switching between content and ad playback. These diminish the user experience, in turn causing abandonment which hurts overall consumption and monetization.
Categories: TV Everywhere
Topics: Unicorn Media
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Oct 5th week:
New research shows TV viewing shifting - Mediapost had a good piece this week on Horowitz Associates' new research showing that 2% of all TV programming watched now occurs on non-TV devices. This translates to 2 hours of the 130.2 hours of TV that viewers watch each month shifting. This top line number is a little deceiving though, as the research also shows that for viewers who own a PC or laptop, they watch 9%, or 13 hours of TV programming per month, other than on their TV. I plan to follow up to see if I can get breakout info for young age groups, my guess is that their percentages are even higher.
I've been very interested in these kinds of numbers because there has been much debate about whether making full-length programs available online augments or cannibalizes traditional TV viewing. The broadcast networks have forcefully asserted that it only augments. I agree online augments, but I've suspected for a while that it is also beginning to cannibalize. If networks generated as much revenue per program from an online view as they do from an on-air view this shifting wouldn't matter. But as I wrote in Mediapost myself this week, the problem is they probably only earn 20-25% as much online. TV viewers' shifting usage is a key area to focus on as broadband video viewership continues to grow.
PermissionTV becomes VisibleGains, targets B2B selling - PermissionTV, one of the original media-focused online video publishing and management platforms, officially switched gears this week, changing its name to VisibleGains. Cliff Pollan, CEO and Matt Kaplan, VP of Marketing/Chief Strategy Officer briefed me months ago on their plans and I caught up with them again this week. Their new focus is on enabling companies to provide their prospects with informative videos during the information-gathering phase of the sales process.
Cliff argues persuasively that in the old days the sales rep presented 80% of the information about a product to a prospect; now prospects collect 80% of what they need to know online, and the sales rep then fills in the blanks. Through VisibleGains "ask and respond" branching format, companies better inform their prospects, qualify leads and add personality to their typical text-heavy web sites. It's another great example of how video can be used beyond the media model.
Unicorn Media demo is impressive - Even as PermissionTV changes its focus, Unicorn Media is entering the crowded video platform space. I mentioned Unicorn, which was founded by Bill Rinehart, founding CEO of Limelight, in my 4 items post a couple months. This week I got a demo from CTO AJ McGowan and Chief Strategy Officer David Rice and I was impressed. Key differentiators AJ focused on were an enterprise-style user rights model for accessing the platform, APIs that allow drag-and-drop content feeds, and an "ad proxy" for configuring ad rules.
Most interesting though is Unicorn's real-time data warehouse feature, which provides granular performance data up to the minute. Data can be displayed in a number of ways, but most compelling was what AJ termed the "magic Frisbee," a clever format for showing multiple data points (e.g. streaming time, ad completes, # of plays, etc.) all at once, so that decision-makers can hone in on performance issues. AJ says prospects are responding to this feature in particular as assembling this level of information today often requires multiple staffers and data sources. David reports that Unicorn is finding its biggest opportunity is with large media companies that have built their own in-house video solutions, as opposed to competing with other 3rd party platforms. Unicorn doesn't charge a platform fee, instead it bills by hours viewed. Separately, I have a briefing next week with yet another stealthy platform company; there seems to be no shortage of interest in this space.
Vitamin D shows breakthrough approach to object recognition in video - Speaking of demos, Greg Shirai, VP of Marketing and Rob Haitani, Chief Product Officer from startup Vitamin D showed me their very cool demo this week. Vitamin D is pioneering a completely new approach to recognizing objects in video streams, using "NuPIC", an intelligent computing platform from Numenta, a company founded by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Dileep George. Some of you will recognize Hawkins and Dubinsky as the founders of Palm and Handspring.
The demo showed how Vitamin D can recognize the presence of moving humans or objects throughout hours of video footage. While the system starts with the assumption that upright humans are tall and thin, it learns over time that their shapes can vary, if for example they are crouching, or carrying a big box, or are partially obscured behind bushes. Once recognized, it's possible to filter for specific actions the humans are taking, such as walking in and out of a door to a room. Vitamin D is first targeting video surveillance in homes or businesses, but as it is further developed, I see very interesting applications for the technology in online video, particularly in sports and advertising. Say you wanted to filter a Yankees game for all of CC Sabathia's strikeouts, or insert a specific hair care ad only when a blond woman was in the last scene. Vitamin D and others are continuing to raise the bar on visual search which is still in its infancy.
Following are 4 items worth noting from the week of August 3rd:
1. Research, research, research - For some unknown reason, there was a flurry online video-related research and forecasts released this week. In no particular order:
eMarketer was out with a new forecast indicating 188 million online video viewers in the U.S. in 2013.
Veronis Suhler released its forecast of 2009-2013 communications industry spending, showing advertising shrinking as a percentage of total spending.
PWC's UK office released its 2009-2013 forecast, which also anticipates declines in advertising.
CBS's research head David Poltrack used detailed data to explain the company's online video strategy and buttress its argument that in a TV Everywhere world, it should be compensated for its content (slides are here, via PaidContent).
Ipsos found that Americans streamed a record amount of TV programs and movies, doubling their consumption from Sept '08 to July '09.
Yahoo and a group of research partners released data finding that 70% of online video consumption happens throughout the day and night, as opposed to traditional TV viewing which is concentrated in the prime-time window.
Last but not least, TDG released excerpts of its research on "over-the-top" video services, available for download at VideoNuze.
2. Unicorn Media launches, hires ex-Move Networks executive David Rice - It will be hard for some to believe there's room for yet another white label video publishing and management platform, but startup Unicorn Media is going to try elbowing its way into the crowded space, with a specific focus on large media companies. I spoke with Unicorn's executive team this week, led by Bill Rinehart, who was the founding CEO of Limelight.
Unicorn is positioning itself as the first "enterprise-grade" solution, staking out key differentiators such as enhanced analytics/reporting, faster/easier transcoding, improved APIs for content ingest/management and more flexible monetization/ad queuing. I have not yet seen a demo, but I'm intrigued by what I heard. The company has raised $5M to date from executives/angels and has a staff of 25. David Rice, formerly Move's VP of Marketing has come on board as Chief Strategy Officer. Given the team's industry expertise and relationships, this could be a company to watch.
3. Google acquires On2 Technologies and other encoding-related news - The blogosphere was in a flurry about Google's $106M acquisition of video compression provider On2 Technologies this week. Speculation flew about Google open-sourcing On2 new VP8 codec, which could potentially force a new standard to emerge as a challenge to H.264, today's leading codec. This is important stuff, though a little further down the stack than I usually focus, so I refer you to Dan Rayburn's analysis of the deal's implications, which is the best I've seen.
There was other news in the emerging cloud-based encoding/transcoding/delivery market this week, as Encoding.com announced a new premium service with tighter service level agreements (4 minute max wait time and 50 Gbyte/hour/customer throughput). Encoding.com's Gregg Heil and Jeff Malkin explained the company is using the new SLAs to move upmarket to service tier 1 and 2 media companies. Separate, Encoding.com's competitor mPoint's CEO Chiranjeev Bordoloi told me they're now on a $3M annualized revenue run rate as cloud-based alternatives continue to gain acceptance.