Rovi is acquiring Veveo, a search and recommendations technology provider for video and mobile/connected devices, for $62 million cash plus $7 million in incentive payments. In a briefing, John Moakley, Rovi's EVP of Data Solutions, explained that Veveo's search and recommendations are attractive as a compliment to Rovi's core metadata and analytics solutions. Rovi has been working on its own search and recommendations capabilities which Veveo will now augment. John sees the combined end-to-end product as leapfrogging other solutions in the market.
New research released today by Veveo reveals that nearly 2/3 of pay-TV viewers know what they want to watch "almost always" or "most of the time." In addition, almost 75% of them said they'd like better search capabilities from their pay-TV operator, a preference that dwarfed recommendations as an option, which was cited by less than 5% of respondents. Heavier TV viewers' preference for search was even stronger.
According to Sam Vasisht, Veveo's CMO, whom I spoke to last week, the findings underscore the extent to which search has become an integral part of everyday life for many consumers. The fact that search has become a positive online experience for many means that sub-optimal search tools provided by pay-TV operators becomes more glaringly obvious, leading to viewer frustration and lost revenue opportunities.
Veveo, a provider of search solutions for connected devices, has debuted a new voice and natural language-based, "conversational interface" technology for video search. Available for trial currently and for release in Q1 '13 in its Reveal 3.0 product, the new voice capability is targeted to pay-TV operators, connected device manufacturers and set-top box providers eager to give users more flexibility in how they navigate the ever-increasing array of video choices.
As the proliferation of broadband video continues apace, the task of finding what you're looking for is only intensifying. That's set off a scramble by many to solve this problem, trying to become in effect, the "Google of video search."
I've previously written about players such as blinkx, Truveo, ClipBlast, Veveo and EveryZing. The latest video search company to hit my radar is Pixsy, which has its own distinctive approach for capturing its share of the growing video search market. I recently spoke with Chase Norlin, Pixsy's CEO to learn more.
Pixsy has three key differentiators:
First, it's purely focused on the B2B white-label opportunity, eschewing the destination site route. Pixsy only wants to power other sites' search capabilities as a white-label provider.
Second, in addition to video search, Pixsy also does image search, which Chase believes is actually the fastest growing part of the search market. Being able to offer image search broadens Pixsy's value proposition to partners, driving enhanced monetization opportunities.
Third, Pixsy doesn't seek to have the broadest index, rather it seeks to balance the breadth of its index with having the most current results. It uses RSS feeds, not web crawlers, to build its index and focuses mainly on current events categories like news, sports and entertainment. Clearly having the most up-to-date results in these kinds of categories is a real plus.
Pixsy's approach seems to be paying off, as it is now powering video and/or image search at sites including Veoh, Lycos, PureVideo, National Lampoon and others. This morning it's also announcing a deal with MMORPRG.com, the web's largest massive multiplayer online role playing site.
Pixsy works with a number of business models. Sites generating anything under 10K search queries per month can freely use Pixsy's API. Above that volume, Pixsy licenses its index with about a third of partners selling their own ads, and the other two-thirds relying on Pixsy to sell the ads alongside the search results. As Google and others have shown, search results are extremely monetizable.
Based in Seattle and San Francisco, much of Pixsy's team comes from Microsoft and ValueClick. Considering it has been around for about 2 years, has only 15 employees and has raised just an angel round, Pixsy seems to show that the barriers to entry for savvy video search startups can be relatively low. With so many other video search players, I anticipate the category is going to remain fragmented and chaotic for some time to come.
Categories: Video Search
Last week I moderated 2 panel discussions, one for Streaming Media East in New York, and the other for MITX, the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange, in Boston. In the former, "Reinventing the Ad Model Through Discovery and Targeting" and the latter, "Driving Audiences to Your Online Video Content: Strategies for Success in a Crowded Market" panelists discussed many of the key themes I continue observing in the broadband video market.
These were four of the key themes from these two sessions. There was plenty more information exchanged, if you're interested, drop me a line and I'll be happy to discuss.
If you're in the Boston area next Thursday, May 22nd, please join me for a great panel I'll be moderating, "Driving Audiences to Your Online Video Content: Strategies for Success in a Crowded Market." The session is being presented by MITX, the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange and includes a terrific group of panelists from Boston-area video companies:
Session details are here. Hope you can make it!
At the end of each month I plan to step back and recap a few key themes from recent VideoNuze posts. Here are three from February '08:
Brand marketers embrace broadband video
One clear theme from the past 4 weeks has been brand marketers' accelerating moves into the broadband video space. This was on full display by select Super Bowl and Oscar advertisers. We are witnessing an unprecedented commitment by brands to create their own entertainment/information video content and also to induce consumers to create brand-related video through user-generated contests. As I detailed in yesterday's webinar, examples in the former category include Kraft/Tassimo, J&J, CIT Financial and GoDaddy.com, while examples in the latter category include TideToGo/MyTalkingStain.com, Heinz/Top This, Dove Cream Oil Body Wash and T-Mobile/Current TV.
Through VideoNuze I track all brands' broadband video initiatives, and it is clear that their involvement in this new medium is intensifying. Faced with splintering audiences, ad-skipping DVRs and changing media consumption habits - particularly by younger demos - brands have no choice but to get into broadband video. This results in an entirely different awareness/engagement paradigm than we're accustomed to from the world of interruptive TV advertising. Brands today increasingly recognize that a key way to create loyalty (and generate sales!) is by engaging the audience on its terms, using broadband and other technologies to accomplish this.
Monetization is the #1 challenge
Another key theme of the past month was the ongoing quest for broadband video monetization. As I also mentioned in yesterday's webinar, this is the number 1 business challenge for all broadband video industry participants - both content and technology providers. Two companies I wrote about this month, EveryZing and Veveo, are focused on improving content discovery, which leads to more consumption and revenue-generating opportunities. I also wrote about Jake Sasseville, a young entertainer who is pioneering multi-platform initiatives to forge a new revenue model.
Innovation is key in this space. Next week I'll be writing about Freewheel, an innovative startup that's just surfaced, which is providing a new approach to managing broadband video advertising. And yesterday, Magnify.net, one of my favorite early-stage companies, which focuses on enabling video content distribution, announced that it has raised an additional $1 of financing.
In addition, the big dogs of the technology and media landscape are in hot pursuit of improved video monetization as well. This month alone brought news of Yahoo's acquisition of Maven Networks, an ad-centric video platform, Google's beta rollout of AdSense for video, and the hostile bid by Microsoft for Yahoo, a deal that has vast longer-term implications for online and broadband video advertising. In short, monetization is a key focus for all large and small industry participants - cracking this nut is crucial to the long-term health of the industry.
Net neutrality re-surfaces
Lastly, this month also brought a lot of news on the regulatory front. Twice I wrote about "net neutrality," a regulatory concept its proponents believe will keep the Internet free from discrimination by broadband ISPs. While I don't agree with their viewpoint, what is clearly true is that net neutrality is being spurred by the massive adoption of broadband video, which places an unprecedented load on broadband ISPs' networks.
So that's it for this leap year month. Three themes you'll be hearing much more about going forward: brand marketers' broadband video initiatives, video monetization and net neutrality. See you on Monday for the start of a new month!
Innovation in video search continues apace. A new entrant is Veveo, which, upon my first review, looks poised to raise the bar of innovation in this still-evolving space. I spent a couple of hours with CEO/co-founder Murali Aravamudan to learn more about their approach.
I continue to be fascinated with video search and have previously written about current players such as Truveo, blinkx, ClipBlast, Nexidia and TV Guide. I believe video search is the most intellectually challenging part of the broadband video value chain as well as the one with the greatest potential upside for those who ultimately crack this highly complex nut. Video search presents many of the same issues as web search, but layers on additional challenges around relevancy, metadata, user navigation and monetization. Because of the explosion of video choices, users will increasingly rely on video search providers who can expedite retrieval of desired results.
Veveo approaches the key problem of relevancy by trying to emulate some of what's behind Google's vaunted PageRank. As many of you know, PageRank prioritizes relevancy by relying heavily on the number of referring links to a given page. To try to proxy this referral process in the nascent video world, Veveo has developed its algorithms to account for # of people subscribing to a video channel (at say YouTube), user ratings, viewcount, session length and other factors.
Returning relevant results requires a complete index of available video, which has led Veveo to index approximately 125M videos currently. Murali believes is on a par with the established players. The index spans professional video to UGC and short clips to full-length programs.
Though Murali obviously wasn't going to provide too much detail on Veveo's algorithms (not that I'd understand them anyway), their capabilities are on display when running queries at Veveo's beta site located here. Veveo does something I haven't seen elsewhere - notice as you slowly type your query, the search box not only begins autofilling, but new results are also dynamically served up. Even at Google, while the search box will autofill based on Google's anticipation of your intended query, no results are shown until you're done and click enter. For Veveo to be able to do this means its algorithms are both anticipating your query AND simultaneously matching them against its index. Because there are so many videos, Veveo has had to organize them semantically to accelerate the matching process. And don't forget: because there's no client download, the retrieval process is all happening virtually in real time. Admittedly, this process is not being done at scale yet, but Murali is confident that it will perform similarly even when there are millions of concurrent users.
To see what I mean, slowly type "Barack Obama South Carolina Victory Speech" into the search box. By the time you've typed the "t" in South, the most accurate clip (from YouTube) is the 2nd result. When you type "v" in victory it becomes the first. Try the same query elsewhere. You'll get the same results when done, but notice how different the experience is. It's critical to understand that in the search business, the provider's algorithms - which drive accuracy and speed of results - are the two defining competitive advantages. That's how Google blew past all the incumbents, though it was very late to the web search game. Users noticed its supremacy and dramatically drove its awareness and traffic.
Lastly, Murali shared with me a draft of a white paper he's written which provides insights from Veveo's video index. It's filled with fascinating statistics (I needed to dust off my old stats textbook to fully understand) about today's video landscape and usage across key sites. I'll have the final paper available for download at VideoNuze when it's ready in a few weeks. Veveo has done two rounds with Matrix, North Bridge, Norwest and OmniCapital, many of the same investors who backed Winphoria Networks, Murali's last company, which was sold to Motorola for $175M in 2004. Veveo is definitely a company worth keeping an eye on.