I continue to be impressed with how the mobile video market is gaining traction. It seems like rarely a day goes by now where there isn't an announcement by a technology vendor, content provider or service provider related to mobile video. Though it's still well behind online video's adoption, all of the pieces continue to fall into place for mobile video's continued growth.
From a consumer usage standpoint, the iPhone has of course been the key driver. Whenever I'm with an iPhone owner, I'm struck by how deeply they've integrated video into their mobile experience. It's not just that they've downloaded TV shows and movies to watch on planes and so forth, but rather how natural it is for them to start playing a video and then pass their phone around so others can watch also. The iPhone has turbocharged the whole concept of shared, out-of-home video experiences.
And though the iPhone's 30 million estimated units sold represents a huge footprint of new mobile video users (in turn generating a large ecosystem of app developers), from a device standpoint, new entrants are poised to grow the market even further. Devices powered by the Android mobile operating system are continuing to come to market, with the most recent, high-profile example being Motorola's Droid, offered by Verizon Wireless. Verizon is putting a huge marketing push behind the Droid, contributing to a growing sense of awareness by consumers of the appeal of smartphones and their video capabilities in particular. Not surprisingly given its Google parentage, YouTube has also weighed in on the benefits of Android in allowing easier uploading at higher video quality.
In addition the iPhone and Android, among business users, Blackberry continues to dominate and internationally, Nokia has the largest smartphone position. This all suggests there will be vigorous competition among these 4 platforms, leading to lots consumer-facing promotion and rapid innovation. In a recent AdAge piece, IDC estimated that 6% of U.S. cell phone users, or 18 million people, will watch video on their cell phones this year, rising to 27 million in 2013.
Content providers have taken notice of these dynamics and have been aggressively creating video-rich mobile apps, initially for the iPhone, but now also for Android, Nokia and Blackberry smartphones. In a recent conversation I had with Ujjal Kohli, CEO of Rhythm NewMedia, which specializes in "mobilizing and monetizing" broadcast and cable networks' TV shows, he explained how clients continue to bulk up their teams devoted solely to mobile video initiatives. An example of this is Warner Bros, which is among a number of film studios now pursuing mobile initiatives. In addition to building mobile video apps, Rhythm is also creating a mobile video ad network, like Transpera (which I last covered here). As mobile video usage surges, advertising will grow right alongside it. Mobile advertising in general received major validation earlier this week as Google acquired mobile video ad display network AdMob for $750 million.
With all this mobile video activity, technology providers are increasingly their attention to serving their content customers. Just yesterday, Kyte, a video platform company that focused early on mobile, announced that it has launched "application frameworks" for Android and Nokia, following on previous frameworks for iPhone and Blackberry. As Gannon Hall, Kyte's COO told me, its content customers have pushed Kyte for other platforms. Now with native support for all four platforms, Kyte's customers can quickly and cost-effectively adapt existing apps, incorporating full social and monetization functions. While Gannon believes Kyte has taken the lead among OVPs in offering mobile capabilities beyond just APIs, he envisions others ramping up as well. Some evidence of this is today's partnership announcement by VMIX and Qik, to integrate mobile live streaming into VMIX's platform. More will surely follow.
There are plenty of other examples of how the ecosystem supporting mobile video is being built out, such as Clearwire announcing this week $1.5 billion in additional capital raised for its 4G WiMax network, Verizon leading a group of venture investors in a $1.3 billion "LTE" 4G opportunity fund, Adobe releasing Flash Player 10.1 targeted for mobile devices, AT&T accelerating deployment of "HSPA 7.2" technology in 6 cities to boost 3G speeds and Akamai launching its "Akamai HD" network, which among other things supports HD video streaming to the iPhone. These and many other examples form the foundation for ever more robust mobile video experiences in the future.
One of my predictions for 2009 was that after many fits and starts, mobile video finally seemed poised to take off. Nearly 11 months into the year, I think we're seeing ample evidence of this happening. I expect only continued growth going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Surely one of the most enduring questions I and others who watch the online video industry are asked (and in fact often ask ourselves) is: How can video management and publishing platform companies continue to launch, even as the space already seems so crowded?
Personally I've been hearing this question for at least 6 years, going back to when I consulted with Maven Networks, whose acquisition by Yahoo was one of the few industry exits (and likely the best from an investor ROI perspective, regardless of the fact that it was shut down little more than a year later as part of Yahoo's retrenching. With yesterday's launch of Episodic and the recent launch of Unicorn Media, plus last week's $10M Series C round by Ooyala, it's timely to once again try to make sense of all the activity in the platform space.
The best explanation I offer traces from my Econ 101 class: supply is expanding to meet demand. Over the past 10 years, there has been an enormous surge of interest in publishing online video by an incredible diversity of content providers. Importantly, interest by content providers has intensified in the last few years. I can vividly recall 2003 and 2004, trying to explain to leading content providers why online video was an important initiative to pursue. Still, their projects were often experimental and non-revenue producing. Contrast this with today, where every media company on earth now recognizes online video as a strategic priority.
But even as online video's prioritization has grown, many media companies don't have all the strategic technology building blocks in place. In fact, many continue to use home-brewed technology developed a while back. The range of video features needed continues to grow and evolve rapidly. Consider how requirements have expanded recently: live, as well as on-demand video; long-form programs as well as clips; paid, as well as ad-supported business models; mobile, as well broadband distribution; multiple bit rate, as well as single stream encoding; in-depth analytics as well as top-line metrics; widespread syndication as well as destination-site publishing; off-site, as well as on-site ad management. The list goes on and on.
As media company interest has grown, technology executives and investors have taken note. Venture capital firms continue to see online video as a high-growth industry (even if the revenue model for content providers is still developing, as are many of the platforms' own revenue models), with significant macro trends (e.g. changing consumer behavior, proliferation of devices, improved video quality, etc.) as fueling customer interest. Another important factor for platforms is rapidly declining development costs. As Noam Lovinsky, CEO of Episodic told me last week, open source and other development tools has made it cheaper than ever to enter the market with a solid product. With ever lower capital needs, a new video platform entrant that can grab its fair share of the market has the potential to produce an attractive ROI.
Of course all the noise in the platform space means media executives need to do their homework more rigorously than ever. I'm a strong believer that the only way to really understand how a video platform works, how well-supported it is and how well-matched it is to the content provider's needs is to vigorously test drive it. Hands-on use reveals how comprehensive a platform really is, or how comfortable its work flow is, or how well its APIs work. While I get a lot of exposure to the various platforms through the demos I experience and the questions I ask, I'll readily concede this is not the same as actually living with a platform day-in and day-out.
Another complicating factor is that while there are some companies purely focused on video management and publishing, there are many others who offer some of these features, while positioning themselves in adjacent or larger markets. When I add these companies in, then the list of participants that most often hits my radar would include thePlatform, Brightcove, Ooyala, Twistage, Digitalsmiths, Delve, KickApps, VMIX, Grab Networks, ExtendMedia, Cisco EOS, Irdeto, KIT Digital, Kaltura, blip.tv, Magnify.net, Fliqz, Gotuit, Move Networks, Multicast Media, WorldNow, Kyte, Endavo, Joost, Unicorn Media and Episodic (apologies to anyone I forgot). Again though, this list combines apples and oranges; some of these companies are direct competitors, some are partners with each other, some have a degree of overlap and so on.
There's a long list of platforms to choose from, yet I suspect the list will only get longer as online and mobile video continues to grow and mature. At the end of the day, who survives and succeeds will depend on having the best products, pricing the most attractively and actually winning profitable business.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of Sept. 21st:
1. Bashing Hulu gains steam - what's going on here? - These days everyone seems to want bash Hulu and its pure ad-supported business model for premium content. Last week it was Soleil Securities releasing a report that Hulu costs its owners $920 per viewer in advertising when they shift their viewership. This week, it was a panel of industry executives turn. Then a leaked email from CBS's Quincy Smith showed his dissatisfaction with Hulu, and interest in trying to prove it is the cause of its parent networks' ratings declines.
What's happening here is that the world is waking up to the fact that although Hulu's user experience is world-class, its ad model implementation is simply too light to be sustainable. I wrote about this a year ago in "Broadcast Networks' Use of Broadband Video is Accelerating Demise of their Business Model," following up in May with "OK, Hulu Now Has ABC. But When Will it Prove Its Business Model?" Content executives are finally realizing that it is still too early to put long form premium quality video online for free. Doing so spoils viewers and reinforces their expectation that the Internet is a free-only medium. When TV Everywhere soon reasserts the superiority of hybrid pay/ad models, ad-only long-form sites are going to get squeezed. At VideoSchmooze on Oct 13th, we have Hulu's first CEO George Kliavkoff on our panel; it's going to be a great opportunity to understand Hulu's model and dig further into this whole issue.
2. TiVo data on ad-skipping for Emmy-winning programs should have TV industry alarmed - As if ad-skipping in general wasn't already a "hair-on-fire" problem for TV executives, research TiVo released this week on ad-skipping behavior specifically for Emmy-winning programs should have the industry on DEFCON 1 alert. Using data from its "Stop | Watch" ratings service, TiVo found that audiences for the winning programs in the 5 top Emmy categories - Outstanding Comedy Series, Drama Series, Animated Program, Reality-Competition and Variety/Music/Comedy Series - all show heavier than average (for their genre) time-shifting. The same pattern is true for ad-skipping; the only exception is "30 Rock" (winner of Outstanding Comedy Series) which performs slightly better than its genre average.
The numbers for AMC's "Mad Men" (winner of Outstanding Drama Series), are particularly eye-opening: 85% of the TiVo research panel's viewers time-shifted, and of those, 83% ad-skipped. (Note as an avid Mad Men viewer, I've been doing both since the show's premiere episode. It's unimaginable to me to watch the show at its appointed time, and with the ads.) The data means that even when TV execs produce a critical winner, their ability to effectively monetize it is under siege. How long will BMW sign up to be Mad Men's premier sponsor with research like this? TiVo's time-shifting data shows why network executives have to get the online ad model right. When TV Everywhere launches it will cater to massive latent interest in on-demand access by viewers; it is essential these views be better monetized than Hulu, for example, is doing today.
3. Radio stations push into online video as GAP Broadcasting launches with VMIX - Lacking its own video, the radio industry has been a little bit of the odd man out in the online video revolution. Some of the industry's bigger players like Clear Channel have jumped in, but there hasn't been a lot of momentum, especially with the ad downturn. But this week GAP Broadcasting, owner of 116 stations in mostly smaller markets announced a partnership with video platform and content provider VMIX. I talked to VMIX CEO Mike Glickenhaus who reported that radio stations are starting to get on board. For GAP, VMIX is providing an online video platform, premium content from hundreds of licensed partners, user-generated video tools and sales training, among other things. GAP's goal is to be a "total audience engagement platform" not just a radio station. Sounds right, but there's lots of hard work ahead.
4. So is there a "Long Tail" or isn't there? Ever since Chris Anderson's book "The Long Tail" appeared in 2006 there have been researchers challenging his theory which asserts that infinite shelf space drives customer demand into the niches. The latest attempt is by 2 Wharton professors, who, using Netflix data, observe that the Long Tail effect is not ironclad. Sometimes it's present, sometimes it's not. Anderson disputes their findings. The argument boils down to the definitions of the "head" and "tail" of the markets being studied. Anderson defines them in absolute terms (say the top 100 products), whereas the Wharton team defines them in terms of percentages (the top 1 %).
I've been fascinated with the Long Tail concept since the beginning, as it potentially represents a continued evolution of video choice; over-the-air broadcasting allowed for 3 channels originally, cable then allowed for 30, 50, 500, now broadband creates infinite shelf space. Independent online video producers and their investors have bet on the Long Tail effect working for them to drive viewership beyond broadcast and cable. With Nielsen reporting hours of TV viewership holding steady, we haven't yet seen cannibalization. However, with Nielsen, comScore and others reporting online video consumption surging, audiences may be carving out time from other activities to go online and watch.
Enjoy your weekends! There will be no VideoNuze on Monday as I'll be observing Yom Kippur.
This morning Kaltura takes the wraps off its "Community Edition" open source video platform, available as a free download, thereby threatening to disrupt its established proprietary competitors (e.g. Brightcove, thePlatform, Ooyala, Digitalsmiths, Fliqz, Delve, VMIX, etc.). Yesterday Kaltura's CEO Ron Yekutiel explained open source and Community Edition's opportunity. Later in the day I spoke to executives at many of its competitors to get their take what impact open source will have on the video platform market.
As a quick primer, open source isn't a novelty; it's a standard way that certain kinds of software are now developed. Successful companies like Red Hat have been built around open source. In fact many of today's web sites run on the open source software stack commonly known as "LAMP" - Linux (OS), Apache (web server), MySQL (database) and Perl/PHP/Python (scripts). Kaltura has been pioneering open source in the video platform industry which has been dominated by proprietary competitors. Ron believes the video platform industry is ripe for open source success because it has too many proprietary companies offering minor feature differences, all using a SaaS model only and competing too heavily on price.
Kaltura Community Edition's three big differentiators are that it's free for the base platform and offers greater control through self-hosting which can be behind the customer's firewall. Ron also believes that by tapping into the open source community, CE can offer more flexibility and extensibility than its competitors.
As with all open source options though, free isn't "free," because if you're interested in support and maintenance, professional services for customization and certain features like syndication, advertising, SEO and content delivery, these all cost extra. And you can't forget about the costs of the internal staff you'd need to run the video platform or the costs of the infrastructure itself (servers, bandwidth, storage, etc.). In the SaaS world, many of these costs are borne by the provider and then reflected in the monthly fee. Determining which approach is more cost-effective depends on your particular circumstances and needs.
All of this is why, as one competitor's CEO told me yesterday, the choice to go open source more often than not isn't primarily price-based; rather it's features-based. In fact, given the range of low cost proprietary alternatives (e.g. $100-$200/mo packages from companies like Fliqz and Delve), even free doesn't represent really significant savings.
When it comes to features, clearly the ability to download CE and self-host is a big differentiator, and will be valued by segments of the market. As Ron pointed out, there are government agencies, universities and others who have mandates to self-host. He also noted that by customers' gaining access to CE's code, their ability to integrate with other applications and customize is enhanced (though again, not without an additional cost).
Other industry executives countered that unless you have to self-host, these advantages are diminished by the fact that in this capex and opex budget constraints make SaaS more appealing than ever, especially for smaller customers with less in-house technical expertise. They added that they're rarely asked about self-hosting options (though that could well be due to self-selection).
Further, many of the leading video platform companies offer a slew of APIs, which open their platforms to 3rd party developers without needing to be open source per se (examples include Brightcove's and thePlatform's robust partner programs). Another industry CEO noted that while there's a gigantic and highly active open source community in the LAMP world, it remains to be seen just how vibrant it is in the video space. And it's important to remember that the intense competition among today's video platforms have already driven the feature bar quite high.
So the question remains: will Kaltura's CE open source approach truly disrupt the video platform industry, causing rampant customer switching and gutting today's pricing models? My sense is no, or at least not immediately. Instead, Kaltura will definitely grow the market, creating new video customers from those who have been dissatisfied with current choices or have not yet jumped into video, but inevitably will. CE will likely peel away some percentage of existing proprietary customers who have been eager for a self-hosted, open source alternative. For many others though, they'll be keeping an eye on open source and will successfully push their existing providers to adopt similar capabilities if they're valued.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
The ad management company Adap.tv has taken the wraps off its new "Player Partner Program" this morning. Initial partners include Brightcove, thePlatform, Mogulus, VMIX, Twistage and Kaltura. All are now integrated with Adap.tv's "OneSource" ad management system.
Yesterday, Dakota Sullivan, Adap.tv's VP of Marketing told me that though the company has been working with Brightcove and thePlatform informally to date, the new program will provide more structure to partners. Included are a central location on the Adap.tv web site for partners for promotional purposes along with other co-marketing and technology updates. No cash is changing hands with partners though, as Adap.tv tries to maintain neutrality.
These types of partnership programs are springing up all around the broadband video ecosystem, as companies continue to carve out their specific niches, and seek to benefit from partners' marketing efforts in a resource-constrained environment. I expect we'll continue to see them get rolled out.
In this economic environment, it's always refreshing to see signs of growth and progress. VMIX, a white-label video management and publishing platform is reporting both today. It has added Ted Utz, formerly VP of National Sales for CBS Televisions Stations Digital Media Group to open its New York office along with other new headcount in its main office in San Diego.
Mike Glickenhaus, VMIX's CEO told me the earlier this week that the company is also continuing to expand beyond its original media vertical. It is working with Pure Digital, JVC, Toyota's Scion and will be announcing deals in other verticals soon. This is partly the result of a new reseller program that's beginning to pay dividends.
Mike noted that while he believes VMIX's technology is competitive with that of others, the company has also been able to differentiate itself through its focus on monetization, service and experience with user-generated content. As I've written before, the video platform space is quite crowded, but it looks as though VMIX is continuing to win its share of business.
Competition continues to intensify in the already-crowded video content management/platform space, with additional players continuing to hit my radar. The latest is VMIX, which contacted me after I posted my recent summary of all the companies operating in this space. I got a briefing from CEO Mike Glickenhaus, CTO/founder Greg Kostello and VP Marketing Jennifer Juckett.
VMIX has actually been around since 2005, and has built a healthy roster of customers, mainly, but not exclusively in the local media space. Operating purely as a white-label SaaS provider, its CORE media management platform now powers over 200 sites' video and multimedia offerings, reaching 60 million+ unique visitors/mo. Examples are regional sites such as McClatchy's KansasCity.com, Lee Enterprises' StlToday.com and Landmark's HamptonRoads.com along with others such as American Cancer Society's SharingHope.tv.
Given how crowded the space is, I'm always interested in how video platform companies articulate their points of differentiation. In this case Mike outlined several ways starting with the idea that VMIX's sale focuses on revenue generation for local media companies, rather than technology adoption. Mike has a long executive career in local media, and explained that traditionally revenue generation has been the prism through which technology decisions are made; this is no doubt truer than ever in a difficult economy.
VMIX backs up this positioning with a professional services team that helps structure sponsorship programs for its customers, also helping train them in how to sell video. Note this is a tactic that WorldNow, the leading video platform company in local media space uses as well. This angle makes sense to me - as an industry executive recently said to me, "Revenue generation never gets commoditized."
Beyond revenue, VMIX also emphasizes its UGC capabilities. UGC is scary, unmanaged terrain for most media companies and so VMIX has staffed up a human reviewing process to filter each piece of user-generated content uploaded to its customers' sites. That may seem a bit daunting, but the payoff is that these local media companies are able to broaden their news-gathering nets, at a time when newsroom headcount is shrinking (for one example of UGC is being mixed with professional video, see what CNN is doing with its iReport series). One last differentiator is VMIX's "Marketplace" where it offers third party video to its customers on an ad inventory sharing basis.
Looking beyond VMIX for a moment, there is a lot of excitement yet to come in the overall video management/platform space. In the last 2 weeks I've had briefings with other players in this space who are preparing major new initiatives and customer announcements that will up the ante for everyone.
What do you think? Post a comment now!