Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 9:17 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Scripps Networks, owner of the powerhouse cable brands HGTV and Food Network plus niche brands DIY, Fine Living and GAC, is joining the syndication fray, today announcing a deal with AOL Video for distribution of clips from at least 25 of its programs. The deal stops short of full program syndication along the lines of last week's Comedy Central-Hulu deal and others, but is still a meaningful step in extending these brands beyond the borders of their respective web sites.
I've been following Scripps Networks for a long while and recently got a briefing from Deanna Brown, who serves as president of the Interactive Group which handles all Internet-related activities at Scripps Networks. Brown joined the company a little over a year ago and is an online veteran, having served as an executive at both Yahoo and AOL previously.
Scripps was one of the early adopters of broadband video, initially seeding its site with program clips from HGTV and Food and more recently creating standalone broadband properties (e.g. HGTV KitchenDesign, HGTV BathDesign, others). Brown explained that Scripps views video as part of the overall user experience, not to be positioned as standalone. Contextualization drives more video consumption and page views. For the most recent 3 months Scripps averaged almost 10 million video views/month, up about 36% from the prior year's period. HGTV was a big part of that, doubling its video views year over year.
I've long thought that broadband is a huge win for Scripps because its lifestyle brands and programs are part information, part entertainment and presented in short segments. This is about as good a fit for online consumption as possible. In fact, over the years when content startups have sought my input, I've often referred to Scripps as an example of content having a highly actionable content model and a "natural base" of advertisers, a model for others to emulate in further product categories.
With Scripps, advertisers reach an audience that is both targeted and action-oriented. Given the massive size of the home and kitchen-related products markets, Scripps is in an enviable position. Yet once again reflecting the early state of the broadband video ad market, Brown explained that they're continuing to test what works in video advertising, particularly mid-rolls and overlays recently. Brown cited monetization flexibility as a key part of Scripps' recent decision to standardize on Maven Networks' platform. Note that in the AOL deal, Scripps will sell ads against its inventory.
Though Brown described herself as partnership-driven, most of Scripps broadband efforts have centered on building out its sites. She explained that they haven't felt pressure to do a lot of deals quickly, instead tending to be methodical about which distributors offer the best ROI potential. A key goal of its distribution deals is to reach younger audiences and video is seen as a way to speak to this audience. A slew of social networking initiatives are underway as well to tap this demo's online behavior.
With Scripps Networks poised to be separated on July 1st from the larger newspaper and broadcast businesses at E.W. Scripps, online will be a critical growth driver. That suggests we can expect plenty more video activity going forward.
Categories: Cable Networks
Monday, February 11, 2008, 10:27 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
The Internet's low entry barriers are again at work, this time in the video-based "how-to" category, which has recently attracted a rush of well-funded new competitors. It's no surprise: how many of us would rather watch a video of someone explaining how to do something vs. reading a lengthy and often poorly-written guide?
Like many things in the broadband video world, the players' strategies, content approaches and business models are all over the board. In the ad-supported category, the earliest entrants (and their funding) are ExpertVillage (now owned by Demand Media) and VideoJug ($30M from last May), with HowCast ($8M from Tudor/others), 5Min.com ($5M from Spark Capital) and WonderHowTo.com (undisclosed amount from General Catalyst) launching more recently. Of course there's also YouTube and DIYNetwork from Scripps, with its sister cable channel, and scores of other sites that offer free instructional video. Then in the paid download category there is Zipidee (angel round), which recently acquired TotalVid and iAmplify ($6M from Kodiak). plus countless other video download sites.
One of the lines of demarcation for the ad-supported sites is how they acquire content. Does the video come solely from "experts" or also from the community? For now, it appears that ExpertVillage and VideoJug rely on experts while the other ad-supported upstarts rely on the community as well. I spoke with Ran Harnevo, CEO of 5Min.com, who believes its highly community-oriented focus is a real differentiator. In fact, 5Min bills itself as a "Life Videopedia", a spin on the hugely popular Wikipedia, which demonstrates the power of user contributions.
The whole notion that a top-down editorially-driven approach will ever be sufficiently comprehensive seems unlikely, so my guess is that some UGC augment eventually will be required by all players. That means these sites will compete with each other for the best contributors, in the same way that video sharing sites like Metacafe, Veoh, Revver and others compete with each other in general video.
To succeed in this horse race, 5Min's focus is to offer the best overall platform, including a focus on technology. So 5Min provides strong branding opportunities, a revenue share, tools and features and of course, traffic. On the technology side, one differentiator is its "SmartPlayer", which allows zooming, super slow-motion, frame-by-frame and storyboard playback.
One of the main reasons there's so much activity on the ad-supported side is that how-to videos provide highly-targeted and engaged audiences that sponsors crave. At a minimum, marrying these how-to videos to Google AdSense provides a baseline revenue model. But the real opportunity is to aggregate enough traffic in a category to land sponsors who will be prominently featured. So for example, while 5Min already does an impressive 5M views/mo, it will likely need to be in that range per category to appeal to big-name sponsors. The company will begin running ads in Q2, and is focused on display ads and overlays, not pre-rolls, which Ran thinks are too disruptive. To build its traffic it will pursue widgetization, 3rd party distribution and SEO.
All of this how-to activity is clearly going to be a boon for users. Just as the Internet has provided an explosion of information, these video how-to sites will now make doing things a whole lot easier. How to break out of the growing pack will continue to be each how-to site's challenge for the foreseeable future.
Posts for 'DIY'