Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 17th:
CBS's Smith says authentication is a 5 year rollout - I had a number of people forward me the link to PaidContent's in-depth coverage of CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith's comments at the B&C/Multichannel News panel in which he asserted that TV Everywhere/authentication won't gain critical mass until 2014.
I was asked what I thought of that timeline, and my response is that I think Smith is probably in the right ballpark. However, these rollouts will happen on a company by company basis so timing will vary widely. Assuming Comcast's authentication trial works as planned, I think it's likely to expect that Comcast will have its "On Demand Online" version of TV Everywhere rolled out to its full sub base within 12 months or so. Time Warner Cable is likely to be the 2nd most aggressive in pursuing TV Everywhere. For other cable operators, telcos and satellite operators, it will almost certainly be a multi-year exercise.
NFL makes its own broadband moves - While MLB has been getting a lot of press for its recent broadband and mobile initiatives, I was intrigued by 2 NFL-related announcements this week that show the league deepening its interest in broadband distribution. First, as USA Today reported, DirecTV will offer broadband users standalone access to its popular "Sunday Ticket" NFL package. The caveat is that you have to live in an area where satellite coverage is unattainable. The offer, which is being positioned as a trial, runs $349 for the season. With convergence devices like Roku hooking up with MLB.TV, it has to be just a matter of time before the a la carte version of Sunday Ticket comes to TVs via broadband as well.
Following that, yesterday the NFL and NBC announced that for the 2nd season in a row, the full 17 game Sunday night schedule will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Both will use an HD-quality video player and Microsoft's Silverlight. They will also use Microsoft's Smooth Streaming adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology. All of this should combine to deliver a very high-quality streaming experience. But with all these games available for free online, I have to wonder, are NBC and the NFL leaving money on the table here? It sure seems like there must have been some kind of premium they could have charged, but maybe I'm missing something.
Metacafe grows to 12 million unique viewers in July - More evidence that independent video aggregators are hanging in there, as Metacafe announced uniques were up 67% year-over-year and 10% over June (according to comScore). I've been a Metacafe fan for a while, and their recent redesign around premium "entertainment hubs" has made the site cleaner and far easier to use. Metacafe's news follows last week's announcement by Babelgum that it grew to almost 1.7 million uniques in July since its April launch. Combined, these results show that while the big whales like YouTube and Hulu continue to capture a lot of the headlines, the minnows are still making swimming ahead.
Kodak introduces contest to (re)name its new Zi8 video camera - It's not every day (or any day for that matter) that I get to write how a story in a struggling metro newspaper had the mojo to influence a sexy new consumer electronic product being brought to market by an industrial-era goliath, so I couldn't resist seizing this opportunity.
It turns out that a review Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray wrote, praising Kodak's new Zi8 pocket video camera, but panning its dreadful name, prompted Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett to launch an online contest for consumers to submit ideas for a new name for the device, which it intends to be a Flip killer. Good for Hayzlett for his willingness to change course at the last minute, and also try to build some grass roots pre-launch enthusiasm for the product. And good for the Globe for showing it's still relevant. Of course, a new name will not guarantee Kodak success, but it's certainly a good start.
Enjoy your weekend!
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 10th:
Discovery Channel signs onto Comcast On Demand Online trial - Comcast added yet another cable programmer this week to the roster of those participating in its TV Everywhere trial. Discovery will make available episodes of "Man vs. Wild," "Swords," "Stormchasers" and "Verminators" though with some delayed windows that take a little edge off their appeal. Comcast has made a ton of progress corralling networks for its trial, but 4 of the big 5 cable network owners - Disney, Fox, NBCU and Viacom - remain holdouts. No coincidence that the first 3 are Hulu's owners.
Swarmcast powers MLB.TV on Roku, introduces "Autobahn Live for CE" - Following on Roku's announcement this week that it is offering MLB.TV, Swarmcast announced it was powering the service through a new offering called "Autobahn Live for CE." Swarmcast's COO Chad Tippin explained to me that integrating with CE devices that drive broadband/TV convergence is a key company goal. Chad is confident that Swarmcast's high-quality, scalable HTTP streaming service will work on these various CE devices, and that as the number of them deployed swells, a new "long tail of live sports" will flourish. Live sports and events (e.g. concerts) could be a significant contributor to device adoption. For example, picture getting a coupon for $50 off the purchase of a Roku when you buy a pay-per-view of a streaming blockbuster concert.
Babelgum grows to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July, 2009 - I heard from Michael Rosen, EVP and Chief Revenue Officer at Babelgum this week, with news that the site has grown to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July (comScore), following its U.S. launch in April. I profiled Babelgum back in April and was cautiously optimistic about its approach to curate high-quality, independently-produced video into 5 channels (music, film, comedy, Our Earth and Metropolis). The site is fully ad-supported. Babelgum's growth comes on top of a slew of made-for-broadband video initiatives I detailed recently. The NY Times also had a great story this week on how independent filmmakers are taking distribution into their own hands. Despite the recession, this corner of the broadband market seems to be hanging in there.
Zune HD coming Sept 15th - Microsoft at last announced this week that the Zune HD digital media player will be in retail on Sept 15th, with pre-orders now being accepted. Zune HD introduces a touch-screen interface, 720p video playback, HD radio and other goodies. It is sure to raise the visibility of high-quality portable video another notch. But I find myself wondering: as the iPhone and other smartphones incorporate video playback (and recording) into one device, how large is the market for standalone high-end media players like Zune? Related, the iPhone's risk of cannibalizing the iPod has become a hot topic recently. Things to ponder: will users want to carry 2 devices? Or might they appreciate the ability to drain their battery watching video without risking the loss of their cell phone? Lots of different things in play.
Looking over last month's posts with an eye for 2-3 themes to extract for my recap post today, I was instead struck by one overarching theme: innovation is alive and well in the broadband video space. Other sectors of the economy may have ground to a halt in the current recession, but whether it's new technologies, new service models or new approaches by traditional media companies, the pace of innovation in all things related to broadband video seems only to be accelerating.
Here are some of the examples from last month's posts:
New service models
New approaches by traditional media companies
Now granted I have an eye out for broadband innovations so this list is somewhat self-serving. But remember that for every item above I was probably pitched on 2-3 others that I didn't write about due to time limitations. Some of these other items may have been picked up by other news outlets and captured in the news aggregation side of VideoNuze, while plenty of them likely received little attention.
My point is that throughout the whole broadband video ecosystem there is a vibrant sense of entrepreneurialism that is slowly but surely remaking the traditional video landscape. To be sure, not all of this stuff is going to work out; either business models will be faulty, technologies won't deliver as promised or consumers will reject what they're being offered. Nonetheless, from my vantage point, the wheels of innovation continue to spin faster. That makes it a very exciting time to be part of the industry.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Babelgum, the ad-supported broadband/mobile video aggregator and platform has recently embarked on an expansion into the U.S. market. A discussion I had with Karol Martesko-Fenster, the producer of Babelgum's film channel about the company's recent deal for exclusive worldwide Internet and mobile distribution rights for the new documentary film "The Linguists" reveals how Babelgum is seeking to succeed in an already crowded market, and also provides an outline for how independent content creators can tap the broadband medium.
Karol explained that Babelgum is focusing on premium-only content that fits within its half dozen curated channels. Babelgum's focus is the "Internet Free on Demand" (IFOD) window and it always seeks worldwide distribution rights, since it targets a global audience. A window of exclusive distribution is also important. To find new films, Babelgum has an acquisitions team that scouts film festivals and also works closely with digital rights aggregators such as Cinetic Rights Management, Content Republic, CAA and others. In addition it often deals directly with the content creators.
That was the case with The Linguists, a new documentary film from Ironbound Films which Babelgum spotted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Karol noted that the producers had been careful about retaining all of their rights. Babelgum secured a 4 month IFOD exclusive window for The Liguistics in exchange for an advance payment and a 50-50 split of ad/sponsorship revenue. Karol wouldn't specify the size of the advance, but said it's typically in the 4 to 6 figure range and is fully recouped before the splits kick in.
Karol believes Babelgum's willingness to pay advances is a key differentiator relative to competitors who he said are mainly focused on pure revenue-sharing deals. His experience is that for most creators who are even somewhat established, revenue-sharing alone won't be appealing.
Of course to make this model work on ad/sponsorship revenue alone requires Babelgum to be pretty careful about which films it acquires. Karol explained the variables that go into calculating the advance. Among other things, how exposed the film is, the length of exclusivity period and the ad sales team's projections. Then there's the traffic expectations. Babelgum pursues an aggressive online campaign including distributing excerpts to social media sites like Facebook and also distributing the film via an affiliate player to film festival sites and on mobile platforms (iPhone only today).
Karol acknowledges that there's some risk involved here, and that it's still very early days in figuring out the formula for how ad-supported only films will work online. However, Babelgum believes the IFOD window augments other distribution (theatrical, DVD, paid online, TV, etc.) and that the industry has recently begun to understand this. Babelgum's progress will be well worth following.
It's no secret that there's a huge amount of interest among independent content creators to exploit the emerging broadband medium. Karol's advice for independents is to get talks started with online distributors simultaneous with hitting the film festivals, clear all the worldwide rights, and be willing to carve up distribution rights into many different slices (with or without the help of digital rights aggregators).
What do you think? Post a comment now.