Posts for 'WorldNow'

  • Hearst-Argyle Stations Launch "u local" to Include User-Generated Content

    Hearst-Argyle Television will use KickApps' social media/video platform to power its stations' new "u local" initiative according to an announcement this morning.

    Hearst-Argyle's goal is to allow local residents to discuss news topics important to their community and to upload their own photos and videos. The first u local area was launched in Dec '08 by WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire and according to Hearst-Argyle generated tens of thousands of submissions in the first week alone. The other stations in Hearst-Argyle's portfolio will roll out u local in the coming months. For KickApps, the deal follows one with WorldNow, announced last year to drive social media into WorldNow-powered sites.

    The question begs: can a local TV station become a social media hub for its local residents? In the Facebook-MySpace-Twitter-YouTube age, we seem to be on the cusp of social media saturation. Yet despite all these engagement opportunities, focused local social media initiatives could well find a place. People are extremely passionate about their local communities and the social bonds are very tight. Sharing common experiences, concerns and passions online with local neighbors seems like an updated version of what's been happening over backyard fences since the beginning of time.

    The key is execution, not just in the user experience, but in the positioning of what the local broadcaster's brand will stand for. Striving to be a social media hub is a new positioning, and to incent viewer behavior, Hearst-Argyle will need to embrace the capability, heavily promote it and then manage it so it's a safe, well-lit area of its sites.

    It's no surprise that local broadcasters have been slammed by the economic downturn. They were already hit hard by free classified services like Craigslist, fragmenting audience behavior, the shift of network programs to online and more recently the decline of the auto industry which is a key advertiser category. Now there are numerous entrants trying to grab their traditional local video advertisers. Not a day goes by without multiple stations announcing cutbacks. In short, local broadcasters need a total reinvention of their business models if they're to survive. u local is not the complete answer, but it is certainly a move in the right direction.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • 1Cast: A Legit Redlasso Successor Has Tall Mountain to Climb

    Personalized online news is as old as the web itself. But personalized online video news is a nut that has yet to be fully cracked - although by all rights it should be. This was Redlasso's goal, until broadcasters, which hadn't given permission for their content to be ingested and shared, put an end to the young company last month.

    Now comes 1Cast, a company seeking to be a legitimate Redlasso successor. Today it is announcing first round funding from wireless king Craig McCaw's Eagle River Holdings. Yesterday I got more details from 1Cast CEO Anthony Bontrager.

    Anthony has correctly realized that gaining deals with video news partners is an absolute prerequisite to success. To that end he says the company will have "no shortage" of content, and also has a particular focus on "repatriating international content." Though for now he's not disclosing any details, based on conversations I've had with broadcasters, my sense is that credible companies, even when early stage, can get deals done.

    Yet there are other key success factors for a personalized news aggregator like 1Cast to succeed. Three that are high on my list are user experience, audience growth and revenue generation. Miss on any of these three and I think the model fails.

    From a user experience standpoint, Anthony says creating a new personalized "micro-cast" is a simple three step process. That sounds promising, though since the beta won't open till later month (with full launch late in '08), I can't judge the specifics yet. And the wildcard is how content providers will ultimately react to having their videos mashed together with competitors' videos in a single micro-cast.

    Growing an audience is a more daunting. As we all know, the web is incredibly noisy, and users have well-entrenched news-gathering habits. Yet there is white space in personalized video news. Anthony said that while 1Cast will be a central hub, he's focused on "channel partners" as well, and portals in particular, to grow traffic. Deals with majors like Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and others would be a huge win, but are notoriously hard to clinch for startups.

    Last, but not least is revenue. Even assuming an audience can be built, optimally monetizing it is a challenge. Anthony said they're working with an undisclosed ad network and will also build their own sales team. Direct sales are important as living primarily off an ad network's splits will not produce sufficient revenue for 1Cast.

    Yet even a direct sales team isn't a panacea; Anthony mentioned that some content providers want to sell any new impressions 1Cast generates. That's consistent with how I understand other Syndicated Video Economy deals like these work as well. But like other aggregators, that leaves 1Cast with a swiss cheese inventory situation that is complex to sell. Then factor in that some inventory will be essentially local in nature (i.e. generated from local video news) - which really requires a local sales orientation to fully monetize - and complexity grows still further.

    Add it all up and 1Cast has a tall mountain to climb to succeed. Not insurmountable, but definitely challenging. From a consumer standpoint, personalized video news is very compelling; I just wonder whether a 6-person startup has the necessary mojo or if it requires a larger player with deep resources and content relationships. Meanwhile broadcasters are pursuing their own video initiatives and others like Voxant, WorldNow and Critical Media have been circling these waters for a while. 1Cast has an ambitious story; how it unfolds will be worth watching.

    What do you think? Post a comment!

  • Citysearch Offering Local Merchants Video Enhancement

    Citysearch, the big online local information company, is making an aggressive push into video. The company is currently running a new promotion which allows its merchants to have a complimentary video made for them, which enhances their Citysearch listing, and can also be used on their own web site and on YouTube.

    I'm always on the lookout for ways video can drive more revenue, and Citysearch's effort (originally begun in early '07) qualifies on at least two levels. First, it's a valuable enhancement to Citysearch's pay-for-performance ad model, increasing the ARPU the company derives from its merchants. Second, it appears to be a bona fide differentiator for merchants in helping them attract new business. And of course it helps deliver on users' growing expectations for video experiences.

    Last week I spoke with Brian McCarthy, Citysearch's VP of Merchant Product to learn more about how the program works. I also spoke to Marc Edward, who runs Marc Edward Skincare in West Hollywood, CA, which is a merchant that's been offering video in its Citysearch listing for over a year.

    Under the current promotion, Citysearch will make a 60-90 second video for its merchants for no cost to them. Citysearch has partnered with 3 production firms, TurnHere, StudioNow and GeoBeats to produce the video, which Brian said cost under $1,000 apiece. The merchant is involved in the editing process and then the video is added to the merchant's listing. When a user watches the video for at least 10 seconds, the merchant is charged a fee ranging from $.40 to $2.00, as part of Citysearch's "multimedia package."

    Marc was one of the early users of Citysearch video and is quite enthusiastic about the results. He feels that nothing can convey what his business is about better than prospects actually seeing him talk about it, and explaining what they can expect. While he hasn't tracked new business directly to the video he offers, anecdotally he said new clients mention and cite the video as a major reason why they chose his shop over others.


    While it's still early days for video enhancements in local listings/search results, it seems like a natural way to extend the model. Other local players like WorldNow, CBS and other broadcasters are on to this as well. The key is getting the financial model right for all parties: who pays to get the video made and how it generates a return over time. Citysearch seems to be making progress proving how the model can work.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • Anystream Lands Hearst-Argyle and Brings New Competition in Video Management Space

    Anystream, a long-time player in video transcoding, is announcing that its Media Lifecycle Platform has been implemented by 11 of Hearst-Argyle's 29 owned and operated TV stations.

    The move suggests even more vigorous competition is coming to the video management/publishing space where players like thePlatform, Brightcove, Maven, ExtendMedia, PermissionTV, Akamai (StreamOS), WorldNow and others have focused.

    I sat down with Anystream (note, a periodic VideoNuze sponsor) president Bill Holding and founder/chairman Geoff Allen recently to learn more about their expansion strategy.

    Anystream is well-known in the digital media space as it Agility transcoding platform is deployed in over 700 companies. Leveraging this base of relationships and its knowledge of customers' work flows, Anystream is now "moving north" by focusing on the video management layer. The core technology comes from Anystream's 2007 acquisition of Cauldron Solutions, which has been built out, renamed as Velocity and integrated with Agility.

    Anystream's new, broader positioning rests on its belief that the video "Produce-Manage-Monetize" lifecycle elements are deeply linked, and that ultimately a comprehensive, integrated solution will be prized by media companies serious about scaling their broadband video businesses. At the manage layer specifically, Velocity focuses on rights, scheduling, packaging, syndication and asset tracking.

    Anystream believes metadata it gains access to, at the start of the video lifecycle through its transcoding role, is a unifying value driver in the video management and monetization phases.

    Hearst-Argyle clearly saw the benefits of this approach, citing Anystream's metadata management as opening up new content re-use opportunities and creating competitive advantage. In the press release, Joe Addalia, H-A's director of technology projects, said H-A has cut its production and distribution to online channels "from 30 minutes to 3 1/2 minutes."

    I continue to be impressed with how many companies are staking a claim in the broadband video management/publishing space. I'm constantly trying to discern the real competitive differentiators that separate industry players. Like many of you, I often find the landscape quite blurry, with overlapping capabilities. Each player tends to cite its traditional competencies as being the best building blocks from which to build a full scale management/publishing platform.

    While it's tempting to say "they can't all be right," the fact that so many players are finding market success today indicates that content owners are not monolithic in their specific requirements and that a giant game of matchmaking seems to be occurring between content owners and video management providers. One day there may be a consensus on who truly has the "best" management platform, but for now that day seems to be far off.

    What do you think? Post a comment and let us all know!

  • CBS Launches Local Ad Network; Local Space Heats Up

    This morning CBS TV Stations is announcing the CBS Local Ad Network with a goal of widely syndicating CBS TV Stations' content into the maze of locally-focused web sites and blogs. A ground-breaking effort, it is the latest evidence that the local broadcast formula is being re-written by broadband's potential. I got an exclusive briefing on the CBS initiative last Friday from Jonathan Leess, President/GM of CBS TV Stations Digital Media and Aaron Radin, SVP, Ad Sales and Biz Dev.

    As I wrote early last week in "CBS TV Stations Get Broadband," syndication is a key driver of video streaming growth for the company. Recognizing changing consumer behavior, the new Local Ad Network enables news "widgets" - small information badges carrying local headlines from CBS's 29 stations which can be easily selected and embedded by local sites and bloggers. When users click on a link in the widget they are carried back to the local CBS station site. See the right column in the below example:


    Each widget carries ads which are sold by CBS, with a revenue share back to the local site. Radin is excited about the ad network because it has the potential for vastly expanded and targeted ad inventory, which can be sold to many different types of advertisers depending on their goals. For example for AT&T, a charter advertiser, the network provides a national player with enhanced local access. Additionally, the ad network can provide the local CBS station's digital sales team with more in-depth coverage for a local advertisers.

    The significance of the CBS initiative is that it continues to show that broadband is opening up new opportunities for local stations to go well beyond their traditional broadcast models. The concept of local newscasts in the morning, evening and late night is increasingly irrelevant. Also gone is the concept of finite air-time. The CBS deal shows that the "shelf space" on which CBS local content sits doesn't even have to be owned by the station any longer. Now the shelf space could just as easily be a 15 year-old local kid's popular blog on local sports who wants to provide a customized feed of high-quality local video to his visitors. Think about how that expands a local station's business model.

    The whole area of local content syndication is really heating up. In this deal, CBS has partnered with SyndiGo, a new unit of Seevast to build out the ad network's local web site and blog distribution network. For other local broadcasters seeking to pursue syndication there are other choices. For example, WorldNow (note: a VideoNuze sponsor), which now supports 260+ stations around the U.S. has also stepped up its syndication activity, in addition to technology provisioning. It recently launched Supernanny-related content into its lifestyle channel, enabling more choice and ad inventory.

    WorldNow, like other 3rd parties, believe that, in these tumultuous times, local broadcasters should be focused on content, ad sales and distribution, not technology development. With technology and the market moving so fast, that logic makes a lot of sense. WorldNow and others present the classic "buy" vs. "build" option for stations. While CBS and others may "build," there's no question for many other who want to syndicate and drive new ad sales, they'll prefer to do it in a "buy" scenario. All of this activity will have the effect of spurring continued innovation in the space.

    One thing's for certain, there are myriad new technology choices and go-to-market options facing local TV broadcasters in the "syndicated video economy." Broadband presents unprecedented challenges and opportunities to an industry that has long operated under a highly formulaic approach.

    What do you think of the changes happening in the local broadcast business? Post a comment!

  • Welcome to the "Syndicated Video Economy"

    I am ever mindful of the old adage about "missing the forest for the trees" as I try daily to understand the often minor feature differences between competing vendors or the nuances of startups' market positioning. As we all know, when you get too close to something, it's quite easy to lose the larger perspective. So periodically I think it's essential to take a huge step back to try to identify the larger patterns or trends that crystallize from the daily frenzy of deals and announcements.

    As a result, I've come to believe that recent industry activity points to an emerging and significant trend: the early formation of what I would term the "syndicated video economy." By this I mean to suggest that I'm seeing more and more industry participants' strategies - in both media and technology - start from the proposition that the broadband video industry will only succeed if video assets are widely dispersed and revenue creatively apportioned.

    For content providers the notion of widespread video syndication big change in their business approach. In the past year I think we've observed content providers of all stripes transition from "aggregating eyeballs", to "accessing eyeballs," wherever they may live now or in the future: portals, social networks, portable devices, game consoles, etc. Underlying this shift is the realization that advertising-based revenues are going to fuel the broadband video industry for the foreseeable future. The ad model requires scale and syndication is the best way to deliver it.

    This shift by content providers has been accompanied by a loosening of traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution strategies, an acknowledgement that fighting newly-empowered consumers is a futile exercise. The evidence of this shift abounds. Consider the broadcasters like CBS, NBC and Fox, which through their affiliates (Hulu, CBS Audience Network) are syndicating programming to many portals/aggregators (e.g. Yahoo, MSN, AOL, YouTube), social networks (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo) and others. And Disney's Stage 9 digital studio, which premiered with YouTube and explicitly plans to tap into broadband video hubs. And cable networks like MTV Networks, which is pursuing a plethora of distribution deals. And traditional news-gatherers like local TV stations, newspapers and news services (e.g. Reuters, AP) which have stepped up their activity to scatter their video clips to the Internet's nooks and crannies. And the list goes on and on.

    Taking their cue from the media companies' strategy shift, technology entrepreneurs and investors have ramped up their focus on this market opportunity. The prospect of the syndicated video economy blossoming drives news/information distributors such as Voxant, ClipSyndicate, Mochilla, TheNewsMarket and RedLasso, an ad manager such as FreeWheel, and a content accelerator such as Signiant, plus many others. Then there are more established companies guiding areas of their product development process by the prospect of the syndicated video economy's growth: Google, WorldNow, Akamai, thePlatform, Anystream, Maven Networks, Brightcove, PermissionTV and plenty of others (apologies to those I've left out!)

    All of this suggests that the eventual "value chain" of the broadband video industry will look quite different than the traditional one (for more on this, I've posted some my slides from late '07 here.) As with all economies, in the nascent syndicated video economy there is vast interdependence among the various players, not to mention shifting market positions and degrees of pricing power and negotiating leverage. It is far too early to gauge who will emerge as the syndicated video economy's winners and losers. But make no mistake, lots of energy and investment will be expended trying to nurture its growth and exploit its opportunities.

    Do you see the syndicated video economy forming as well? Post a comment and let us all know!

  • Back from NAB - Super Session was Standing Room Only

    I'm back in Boston after a short, but grueling (tip: don't fly through 2 East Coast airports during a Nor'easter!) trip out to NAB. Our Super Session ("The Revolutionizing Impact of Broadband Video") was SRO, overflowing the room that seated 700. David Eun led us off with a great keynote with my key takeaways:
    • "Market for content is much larger than anyone has every imagined"
    • "We see ourselves as a conduit, connecting users, advertisers and content providers"
    • "Broadband provides an infinite # of at-bats, the traditonal scarcity is gone"
    • "Content identification isn't easy. If it were, we'd have it by now."
    • "We are in a clip-driven culture. YouTube now delivering well over 100M clips per day."
    After Dave's talk, our panel (George Kliavkoff from NBCU, Dan Scheinman from Cisco, Blake Krikorian from Sling, Shawn Gold from MySpace and Gary Gannaway from WorldNow) got down to business. George, who's the acting head of the JV with NBCU and News Corp, filled in some details for how the venture will work, and that affiliates will be a key part of it going forward.
    The panelists all agreed that community is going to be a big part of the equation moving forward and that broadcasters will be embracing in a big way. Gary articulated well that local broadcasters have a huge opportunity to excel in local content in a way that big portals will never be able to match, and that if they sell their inventory the right way, they'll be able to avoid being commoditized.
    I tried to get Dan to take the bait on whether the era of broadband-delivered TV programming spells concern for cable TV operators. But given Cisco's ownership of Scientific Atlanta, he deftly deflected my attempt to stir the pot....Lastly, Blake encouraged broadcasters to see his Slingbox as an opportunity for them to build loyalty with their viewers, both for viewership while on the road, and also for deepening viewership, through non-TV displays. All-in-all, despite the fact that the first attendee question during a brief Q&A session labeled us as "dying dinosaurs", it was a spirited and lively session!
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