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Analysis for 'ExtendMedia'

  • Cisco's "LOL" Ad Campaign Showcases Video's Potential

    Cisco is further personalizing its "Human Network" tag line with new "LOL" online ads (that's "Laugh Out Loud" for those of you not attuned to texting/tweeting/IM'ing shorthand), that demonstrate the power of video in our lives. I've seen the Cisco LOL banner ad in a number of web sites recently.

    The ad links to a video wall that features 10 videos ranging from 15 seconds to a few minutes, with all showcasing new ways that video enriches people's lives and makes work more productive. Specific Cisco products/services highlighted include distance learning, telepresence, Webex, digital signage, Flip videocameras and Show and Share. The only celebrities featured are Magic Johnson and Ellen Page, with the latter's video a replay of her TV ad. While it's tempting to think of online video as being all about media, the Cisco wall shows there are many other uses.

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  • Cisco's Kip Compton Explains ExtendMedia Acquisition

    This morning Cisco announced it intends to acquire ExtendMedia, whose OpenCASE software is used by multiple pay-TV operators and content providers for video content management and three screen delivery. I've been following Extend for years, and it was a portfolio company of Atlas Venture, where my former consulting partner Ahmet Ozalp (who's now the CEO of Telenity, a mobile services provider) led its investment. For more on Extend, see this VideoNuze interview with Extend's CEO Tom MacIsaac, who was brought in 18 months ago and was previously CEO of Lightningcast, an early online video ad network that was acquired by AOL.

    This morning I asked Kip Compton, Cisco's GM, Video and Content Platform about the deal and its implications, and Extend's founder Keith Kocho what it means for the company. Following is an edited transcript.

    VideoNuze: Why is Cisco acquiring ExtendMedia?

    Kip Compton:  We're seeing a market transition to IP video with our service provider customers which is driven by their desire to reach consumers on all different devices and wherever consumers are. We believe Extend's technology and team are one of the leaders in the industry and will fit well with our efforts to deliver IP architectures to our customers.

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  • Brightcove Makes Its First Move Into TV Everywhere

    This morning Brightcove is making its first TV Everywhere ("TVE") related announcement, introducing its "TV Everywhere Solution Pack" (TVE-SP), which is the Brightcove 4 enterprise edition augmented with new components and services to support TVE rollouts. It is also unveiling a strategic alliance with Ping Identity to integrate its PingFederate security software with TVE-SP, to enable user authentication and authorization. Lastly, Brightcove has promoted Eric Elia from VP of Professional Services to VP of TV Solutions, charged with leading the company's TVE initiatives. Brightcove's CEO and founder Jeremy Allaire briefed me last week.

    To understand how TVE-SP fits in, it is important to quickly review the TVE model. To date, most discussion of TVE has focused on multichannel video programming distributors ("MVPDs") providing their subscribers with online access to TV programming through their own portals or services, for no extra charge (e.g. Comcast's Fancast Xfinity TV). Receiving less attention so far is that the programmers who agree to participate in MVPD portals will likely require they are also able to offer their same programs on their own sites, which are an increasingly important part of their brand identity and direct-to-consumer focus.

    Something else that hasn't received a lot of attention to date is that not all MVPDs will follow Comcast's model of managing, hosting and delivering the online programs themselves. Rather, some MVPDs will prefer to provide just the barebones online navigation, with TV programmers providing an embeddable video player and also delivering all the programming. Less-resourced MVPDs could end of relying heavily on programmers to power their TVE offerings. Where programmers already have online video platforms such as Brightcove in place, these OVPs are in a position to influence how TVE operates. (As a sidenote, I've heard multiple times that Comcast itself is also offering a white labeled version of its FXTV portal to other MVPDs).

    All of this means there's likely to be plenty of heterogeneity in TV Everywhere rollouts. Recognizing this, a key part of Brightcove's product strategy is aligning with Ping to use PingFederate and the SAML 2.0 standard for user authentication and authorization. SMAL is used to exchange data between domains (e.g. between a TV programmer, whose web site visitor is trying to access a certain program and an MVPD which holds that user's subscription profile). This type of secure exchange will be essential for TV programmers to offer their own programs on their own sites in a TVE world.

    SAML has been widely used in the SaaS business applications and Ping itself lists Comcast, Cox, Bell Canada and Discovery, among others, as customers. However, I suspect these are likely on the enterprise side, not the consumer-facing side. As a result, Brightcove's approach will require significant testing before it will be deemed acceptable by MVPDs. In fact, Brightcove's new white paper indicates that additional standards are required and that some of this is underway at CableLabs, the cable industry's development lab.

    It's also worth noting that thePlatform (owned by Comcast) has 4 of the top 5 U.S. cable operators, plus Rogers in Canada, as customers, and ExtendMedia has the major U.S. telcos, plus Bell Canada, as customers. With Brightcove powering video at 60+ TV programmer websites, there are no doubt some interesting dynamics ahead as these OVPs' customers negotiate their TVE relationships and influence the interoperability of their respective technology providers. For its part, thePlatform, which also supports many content providers' video, introduced last November an "Authentication Adaptor" as part of its media publishing system to smooth the authentication and authorization process for programmers offering TVE shows on their own sites.

    Confused yet? This is pretty dense stuff, and illustrates some of the hurdles ahead for TVE's widespread rollout. Meanwhile, lurking over TVE's shoulder are the raft of over-the-top alternatives (e.g. Netflix, Boxee, Apple, Xbox, YouTube, etc.) that are sure to gain additional traction with consumers (as a sidenote, yesterday's Best Buy Sunday circular promoted no fewer than 5 Blu-ray players as Netflix compatible, with each showcasing the Netflix logo).

    As the TVE story unfolds, Brightcove is sure to be in the middle of the action given its market presence and technical capabilities. But how it all shakes out remains to be seen.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

    (Note - Brightcove, thePlatform and ExtendMedia are VideoNuze sponsors)

     
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  • As Episodic Launches, How to Make Sense of the Crowded Video Platform Space?

    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.

     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Oct 12th Week (Bell's TMN, BlackArrow-Comcast, Net neutrality opposition, hockey's wunderkind)

    Following are 4 items worth noting from the week of Oct 12th week:

    1. Bell Canada is first to offer "TV Everywhere" type service - While U.S. operators have been busy with their TV Everywhere trials, Bell Canada, which has 1.8 million linear video subscribers, has jumped into the lead, announcing this week the launch of "TMN Online." The service, available through the Bell TV Online portal, allows subscribers to The Movie Network premium channel to gain online access to about 130 hours of content.

    I spoke briefly with Peter Wilcox, Bell TV's director of product strategy, who explained that ExtendMedia's OpenCASE is being used for content management, in conjunction with Microsoft's Silverlight and PlayReady DRM. Users login with their Bell user name and password and are authenticated against the billing database as valid TMN subs. Only 1 simultaneous log-in is allowed, and Bell is also geo-blocking, so for example, there's no accessing TMN Online from outside Canada. The launch is part of what Bell calls "TV Anywhere" - a broader context for eventual distribution to its mobile subscribers, and further content being added. The deployment is the first milestone in what promises to be a busy 2010 on the TV Everywhere news front.

    2. BlackArrow launches ad insertion for Comcast video-on-demand - BlackArrow, the multiplatform ad technology provider, announced its first customer deployment this week, with Comcast's Jacksonville, FL operation. I talked to company CEO Dean Denhart and President Nick Troiano, who gave me an update on how the company dynamically inserts ads in long-form premium content across TV, broadband and mobile. As I wrote 2 years ago, BlackArrow has bitten off the hardest challenge first: working with cable operators to get its system into their headends/data centers. Dean and Nick believe that if the company can succeed in this goal then it will have created formidable differentiation that can be leveraged for the other two platforms.

    The key risk is that cable operators are famous for grinding down promising technology startups with their endless testing and brutal negotiating tactics (I say this from personal experience with a promising technology startup earlier this decade, Narad Networks). Robust VOD ad insertion is plenty strategic for the industry, but years since cable operators launched free VOD, the fact that it still isn't widely deployed is a telling sign, particularly while ad insertion technology in broadband is now fully mature. Comcast's role as an investor in BlackArrow should help its odds of success. I'm rooting for BlackArrow; their holistic approach to multiplatform advertising is right on. Whether they have the juice to fully succeed remains the big question.

    3. Political battle over net neutrality is heating up - This week brought fresh complaints from Republican Senators who are coalescing to fend off new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to introduce net neutrality regulations for both broadband ISPs and wireless carriers. B&C reported that 18 Republican senators wrote to Mr. Genachowski concerned that the FCC's process is "outcome driven" and unsupported by data.

    I rarely find my views aligning with Republicans, but net neutrality is an exception. As I wrote last month in "Why the FCC's Net Neutrality Plans Should Go Nowhere," Mr. Genachowski's plan is deeply flawed and completely illogical. The core premise of the new regulations - that they're needed to ensure continued broadband investment and innovation - misses the reality that the market is already functioning well. As one example, investment in broadband-related technology is continuing apace. By my calculations, over $180 million was raised in Q3 '09 by video-related companies whose very viability depends on open broadband and wireless networks. The sector's potential is amplified by the fact that venture capital fundraising itself is at its lowest level since 2003, with new capital raised by the industry in 2009 down 58% from 2008. Despite the VC industry's troubles, it continues to bet big on video. Why do we need new Internet regulations to sustain innovation?

    4. Have you seen the 9 year-old hockey player's trick goal? On a lighter note, you have to love the serendipity of online video sharing. For example, though I don't consider myself a hockey fan, when a friend sent me this video clip of a 9 year-old hockey player pulling off this incredible trick shot, I was reminded just how much fun online video is and promptly passed the clip on to my circle (it's also now all over YouTube). See for yourself, it's just amazing. And nothing fake about it either.

    Enjoy the weekend!

     
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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #26 - August 7, 2009

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 26th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for August 7, 2009.

    In this week's podcast, Daisy discusses her article on ExtendMedia's new OpenCase Publisher product targeted to support TV Everywhere-type initiatives, which I also wrote about this week. Daisy is observing a trend toward vendors organizing themselves for TV Everywhere, recognizing that while Comcast appears to be the first to market in testing TV Everywhere, other service providers are moving ahead as well. It's a complex new area and we both expect to see a number of vendors throw their hat in the ring to become preferred solutions.

    Separate, I add further detail to my post, "Despite Hurdles, Made-for-Broadband Video Projects Proliferate," which describes many examples of new independent web series that have been announced over the past couple of months. It turns out to be a pretty lengthy list, helping to debunk some of the doom and gloom that's hung over this market, created by the ongoing recession in general plus the failure of some high-profile independents like 60Frames, Ripe, ManiaTV and others. When you review the list, you realize there's still a lot of experimentation going on and plenty of people trying to capitalize on the broadband medium. We expect this to continue.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (12 minutes, 58 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

    The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
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  • ExtendMedia Looks to Support TV Everywhere Initiatives with OpenCase Publisher Launch

    With momentum growing for "TV Everywhere" type services, it's to be expected that technology vendors will begin offering products that meet the evolving range of requirements video service providers will encounter. One example is ExtendMedia, which today is introducing OpenCase "Publisher." With TV Everywhere type services still so new, even labeling the various capabilities video service providers will require to succeed is still a work in process. In a meeting last week, Extend's executives helped me understand what will be needed and what the Publisher product provides.

    To date, much attention around TV Everywhere has focused on "authentication" - how a service provider would implement credentials (e.g. logins and passwords) so only authorized users could access its online video catalog. This gatekeeping step has rightly received a lot of focus, because leakage of any premium video must be prevented. Authentication is tricky though, as users must be verified as being who they say they (e.g. passwords haven't been improperly shared). But assuming for a moment that tight authentication processes are implemented, other challenges and opportunities remain.

    For example, once authenticated, service providers need to be able to expose only those parts of their overall catalog each specific user is entitled to view (e.g. if I'm not an HBO subscriber, I shouldn't get access to HBO programs online). This notion of "service management and provisioning" means service providers need to create different bundles online, just as they have done offline. And the bundles need to be easy to change: a service provider may want to change a channel lineup and/or a subscriber may want to add a new channel.

    Service management and provisioning itself requires that there's a scalable content management system in place. The service provider will need to be able to ingest lots of premium video from many different sources while also and accepting and assigning specific rules to each program as needed (e.g. one program may be available immediately and indefinitely, while another will be available just for a week, but starting at a specified future time). In addition, metadata must be assigned so programs can be tracked, and searched by users.

    The above requirements are further complicated because TV Everywhere services are envisioned to work across multiple devices as well. That means that authentication must also work on smartphones, gaming consoles, portable media players, etc. The devices themselves must be registered and recognized so they can be linked to users' accounts. In some cases license terms will further restrict how specific parts of services are accessible, and under what addition terms (in turn possibly requiring DRM).

    Last but not least is monetization. Given current plans not to charge extra for TV Everywhere, advertising from online viewing is the main new revenue-generating opportunity. So integrations with ad servers already used by content providers, along with the ability to measure and report on usage, is another crucial capability. Separate, a totally new monetization opportunity will be trying to upsell online subscribers on new services. For instance, HBO might run a promotion offering a sneak peek of a "True Blood" premiere to all TV Everywhere users. The service provider needs to not only support the promotion, but also offer one-click upsell subscription to HBO, and dynamic provisioning of the whole HBO catalog to the new subscriber.

    As I've written previously, TV Everywhere is an exciting step forward for both the broadband industry and video service providers. Yet it is a very new world where things get complicated very fast. Vendors like Extend - and other leaders like thePlatform and Irdeto to name two - which have traditionally focused on cross-platform support for video service providers are increasingly going to be called on to turn executives' visions into reality.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

    (Note - ExtendMedia and thePlatform are VideoNuze sponsors)

     
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  • Interview with Tom MacIsaac, New CEO, ExtendMedia

    This morning ExtendMedia is announcing that one of its board members, Tom MacIsaac has been named CEO. Tom is a long-time technology executive and venture capitalist. He and I got to know each other when he was running Lightningcast, one of the earliest broadband video advertising companies, which was sold to AOL in 2006. Tom went on to run strategy and M&A at AOL, where he led a $1B in acquisitions and more recently has been a venture partner at BlueRun Ventures and run Cove Street Partners, his own investment and advisory firm.

    Tom's addition is a big step forward for the company, which has established a strong, yet relatively low-key position in the market. In my view that's been for two reasons: first, because Extend has emphasized pay media models, whereas a lot of the attention has been on ad-supported ones, and second, because while Extend has had a very strong team, the CEO role itself has been vacant for some time. For better or worse, one of the lessons I've learned over the years is that a high-profile, well-known CEO, who spends a significant portion of his/her time on externally-oriented visibility-building activities is a key success factor for young companies. I'm not a fan of the "rock star" CEO model, but I do believe in the "CEO as #1 company salesman" approach. Without such a person in place, a young company's whole team has to work that much harder to succeed.

    Tom and I talked about his new role, ExtendMedia's opportunities and the broadband market in general. An edited transcript follows:

    VN: Congratulations on joining ExtendMedia. What attracted you to the role?

    TM: Extend is in an extremely exciting space as IP video changes the entire media and communications landscape. It has a great team with deep domain expertise, is very well-funded with great investors in Atlas Venture, Venrock and TVM Capital and has an enviable competitive position being the leading independent carrier-grade multi-screen video platform.

    VN: Describe ExtendMedia's key product and technology differentiators and who its primary competitors are.

    TM: We provide an enterprise class, multi-screen video platform that content owners and distributors use as a foundational asset in building video services. We manage video content across the lifecycle from ingest to monetization and across IPTV, web and mobile services in both ad-supported and pay media business models.

    Our primary competitor is thePlatform, a division of Comcast. We don't really run into the Flash-based web video publishing companies like Brightcove, Ooyala, PermissionTV, etc. because we are usually deeper in the our customers' infrastructure trying to solve more complex problems that span the set-top box, PC and/or mobile devices, using multiple business models.

    VN: ExtendMedia has always been strong with pay media business models, but has focused less on ad-supported ones. Given your background at Lightningcast, do you think that will change?

    TM: Extend has always supported both ad-based streaming business models as well as pay media, but you're certainly right that we have been particularly strong in pay media. That said, we have new additional capabilities to help our customers in their ad-supported streaming media businesses in our next release and later this year will have yet another set of interesting enhancements targeted on maximizing video CPMs for our customers. We aren't going to get into the ad serving business but we are going to extend the boundaries of our product in that direction so that we can help the ad monetization engines we partner with leverage everything at our customers' and our disposal to maximize CPMs. We have some specific ideas on how we can really add value here.

    VN: What kind of company is an ideal ExtendMedia customer?

    TM: A telco, cable MSO or mobile carrier that is building a multi-screen video platform or a large diversified media company that has built several stove-piped digital video services over the last few years and is now trying to pull everything together on a single infrastructure.

    VN: What areas of your background and experience do you think will be most valuable to the company?

    TM: I've been in the technology business for 20 years, as a lawyer to tech companies, as a venture capitalist, as a board member, as a founder/entrepreneur and as an executive in large technology companies. I've sold three companies that I've run to public companies and acquired five venture-backed companies as an executive at AOL. That's a pretty good array of perspectives to bring to the table.

    But my video advertising expertise in particular will definitely come into play at Extend. At Lightningcast we built the first advertising technology platform designed to monetize IP video and were at the table at the inception of some of the most successful video services out there - Comcast's Fancast and Hulu, for example. Despite all the activity and investment in the area, with possibly one or two exceptions, in the three years since I left Lightningcast no one's doing anything we didn't think of and do first.

    VN: What do you think your top 2-3 priorities will be?

    TM: We're on the right track, so it's all about execution.

    VN: What's your perspective on the broadband video market today? And what would you say about incumbent service providers' evolving role in delivering broadband video services?

    TM: I think the incumbent service providers are getting much smarter about IP video. They are leveraging their advantages much more effectively. When the web video phenomenon took off it was initially about user-generated content and giving the little guy content creator a direct-to-consumer path. The problem is that that hasn't paid off - the business model doesn't work yet - the dollars just aren't there.

    The trend today is back to professional content and that plays to service providers' strengths. Initially it was all about advertising, and now the trend is toward dual offerings of both ad-supported and pay media business models, which is also good for incumbents. Many service providers, like our customers AT&T and Bell Canada for example, have set-top box, web and mobile sand boxes to play with and if folks like Extend can help them deliver video across and between those platforms and help manage the environments and entitlements from a single platform that will provide real value to their consumers and will drive loyalty. Comcast's On-Demand Online and Time Warner's TV Anywhere initiatives are good examples of service providers figuring out how to leverage their strengths in ways that benefit them, their content partners and consumers.

    VN: You've been a venture capitalist, have raised venture financing and have successfully sold companies. What advice do you have for broadband video entrepreneurs given the state of the economy?

    TM: The space is clearly overbuilt in many segments. There will be a lot of fallout. Investors are gun-shy. So do your research and make sure you have something unique. That said, it is going to be one of the most interesting and lucrative areas in all of technology over the next decade. So if you've got something truly innovative - go for it.

    VN: Thanks Tom, and good luck.

    (note: ExtendMedia is a VideoNuze sponsor)

     
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  • 7 Broadband/Mobile CEOs Explain How to Raise Money in the Down Economy

    Amidst all the gloomy economic news, there are actually still some earlier stage companies that are raising new money. To learn more about their how they're doing it, I emailed the CEOs of seven broadband/mobile video companies which have collectively raised nearly $80M in the last 3 months. I asked 3 basic questions:

    1. What are the key success factors for raising money given the difficult economic climate?
    2. What are the biggest challenges?
    3. Is there any specific advice you'd offer to those trying to raise money these days?

    While there were some common themes in their answers (many of which echoed the usual fundraising maxims), there was plenty of variety and a few outliers. Space constraints don't allow for me to share all of their specific answers, so I've tried my best to summarize the common themes and highlight key nuggets of wisdom below. If you have any questions, drop me an email.

    The seven CEOs who graciously took time out of their busy days to contribute their thoughts (along with the recent rounds they've raised) are:

    1. What are the key success factors for raising money given the difficult economic climate?

    The answers that dominated were all around revenue, profitability and cash flow. All the CEOs mentioned, in one way or another, that being able to demonstrate real revenue growth and momentum is essential. Some noted that in the past traffic or usage may have been sufficient, but now the "premium is on paying customers," and how get to profitability and cash flow breakeven using reasonable assumptions. Several mentioned that investors are as risk averse as ever, which of course comes as no surprise. They want to see concrete, well thought-out plans.

    Investors have also become more sophisticated about the whole broadband video sector and expect entrepreneurs to be able to explain where they fit into the ecosystem and what their points of differentiation are. Importantly, they are looking for proven models (unfortunately an oxymoron for a pure startup), or at least some minimal history of success that goes "beyond PPT slideware."

    A couple of CEOs noted that investors have shifted from asking "how fast can you scale?" to "how will you get through this crisis?" They no longer expect a quick exit. They are looking for a real plan which includes contingency tactics if for example, competitors do something desperate like cut their prices in half.

    2. What are the biggest challenges?

    The prevailing theme here was uncertainty, starting with investors' own business models. They're focused on how much of their funds to hold in reserve to shore up existing portfolio companies. They're trying to gauge their own limited partners' appetite for venture investing given the credit squeeze. Then of course they're trying to understand the impact of broadband market drivers like ad spending and user adoption. One CEO lamented the difficulty of persuading people to put new money to work on the very day the stock market's dropping by 500 points. Still another noted that all of this can lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy" where everything freezes and missed opportunities abound.

    With respect to the broadband market specifically, one CEO said the key challenge is showing how "you monetize video for your clients." Absent that, "it will not only be hard to raise money, but harder still for your client to spend money with you."

    Another said that the level of scrutiny has gotten so high that it's not even worth talking to any investor which doesn't have its own track record of investing in the broadband video sector. It's just too hard to educated people in this environment. Another CEO added that your model needs to be "brilliant and bulletproof, with an A-level management team already in place." Boy, there's a steep hurdle to clear.

    3. Is there any specific advice you'd offer to those trying to raise money these days?

    Many of the answers to this question reflected fundraising basics: understand your business thoroughly, put a balanced team in place, seek out investors you know first, have a solid plan, and bootstrap as much as possible first.

    With respect to the raising money in the current lousy market, there was a broad range of sentiment. One CEO said "Don't...the terms are going to suck..." while another said to be "incredibly realistic about how much to raise, your burn rate and valuation." On the more optimistic end of the spectrum, one said "The market's poor performance means that investors are looking for new opportunities. Ignore all the negative energy and naysayers." And another remarked that "Even during the tech disaster of 2001-2003, angel investors, VCs and tech behemoths were still putting money to work in promising sectors." Another heavily emphasized the value of loyal and supportive existing investors (if there are any) in helping making the case to new investors.

    More tactically, one CEO said that the more you "minimize uncertainty that surrounds your business specifically, the better off you'll be." Another said to make the transaction as simple as possible, and to "get the big items off the table first." Still another said to demonstrate "you're indispensable to customers, helping them weather the downturn." Finally one cautioned to be ready to take a lot more meetings than usual and expect a lot deeper follow up..."it may require you to go well beyond investors in your backyard to find the right fit."

    Hopefully some of this is helpful to those of you trying to raise money right now, or thinking about doing so in the near future. Broadband video remains one of the hottest sectors out there; even still, if you're not getting a lot of love right now, you're not alone...

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • Join Me for a Three Screen Webinar on Sept. 11th

    Please join me next Thursday, Sept. 11th for a webinar entitled, "Don't Get Screened Out: How to Make Video Profitable Across Multiple Screens." I'll be sharing thoughts on how the video landscape is changing to incorporate not just broadband, but also mobile devices. With the recent introduction of the iPhone and a slew of smartphones, mobile video is starting to gain steam. The webinar is sponsored by ExtendMedia, and Chris Gardner, the company's Chief Marketing Officer will share details of how their customers are already succeeding with three screen initiatives.

    Click here to register

     
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  • 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!

     
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  • ExtendMedia Powers SanDisk Broadband Video Initiatives

    I recently caught up with Keith Kocho, founder of ExtendMedia to discuss how Extend is supporting SanDisk's recently announced Sansa TakeTV player and companion Fanfare application. In a recent review, I was impressed with SanDisk's approach, which is somewhat akin to the iPod-iTunes pairing. Extend (disclaimer, a VideoNuze sponsor) is playing a key behind-the-scenes role, which will become especially important as FanFare transitions from its current trial model to a hybrid ad-supported and paid download approach.

    Keith explained that Extend's OpenCASE product is providing the ability for SanDisk to manage Fanfare's content catalog, create the business rules for each piece of content and deliver encryption depending on the rules. OpenCASE also allows SanDisk to bake ads into the video file as its currently doing, or dynamically insert them as SanDisk intends to do in the next phase.

    The screen grab below illustrates how a piece of content uploaded to OpenCASE can be delivered into Fanfare with appropriate rules.

     

    Kate Purmal, SanDisk's SVP/GM for Digital Content offered this perspective, "OpenCASE is seamless and flexible and has proven to be truly 'plug and play; with our encryption and DRM software with Extend's business rules layered on top. As we expand into our next phase with more content and commerce options, OpenCASE is going to be able to easily scale up with Fanfare."

    I think Kate's latter point hits the nail on the head: in the future, for any of these digital video stores to succeed - whether they are tied to a device, as Take TV is to Fanfare, or they aren't - the digital video stores of the future are going to all offer hybrid approaches for consumer to access content.

    The concept of an iTunes, which only offers an a la carte purchase/download model is going to quickly become antiquated. Instead consumers will be offered choices including a la carte downloads, ad-supported downloads, ad-supported streaming, ad-supported and paid subscriptions and more. This is one of the hallmarks of broadband - that it offers content providers and aggregators unlimited monetization flexibility depending on the circumstances and rights. As such, I think that platforms such as OpenCASE and others that can support flexible models are going to become increasingly valuable.

     
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  • VideoNuze Goes Live

     
    It's official - after months of intense development, VideoNuze went live today. I'm very excited about this first version of the site, and am deeply indebted to many of you who have provided me tremendous feedback, insight and support on the way to today's launch.

    VideoNuze 1.0 accomplishes what I set out to do at launch - provide a high-value, user-friendly online publication and community for busy video executives seeking to keep up-to-date with the industry's vast array of news and better understand what it means to their businesses. The two primary components of the site, "Analysis" and "News Roundup", are already well-stocked with content and will grow rapidly over time. In addition, I have a full roadmap of features which will also be introduced in the coming months.

    As with all online initiatives, VideoNuze is a work in progress and I welcome your feedback. Please have a good look around and let me know what you think. What works well? What's missing? What's broken? No comment or observation is too small, I invite them all.

    Today's launch wouldn't be possible without the support of an incredible group of charter sponsors, so I want to acknowledge and thank them again. Each signed on when there was not so much as an official name for the effort. They made a bet on my concept - that an online publication that relentlessly focuses on informing and educating broadband video decision-makers would add real value to the market. I greatly appreciate their confidence.

    These companies are all leaders in the fast-evolving video industry and I encourage you to take time to learn about how they can contribute to your company's success:

     
    If you are interested in learning about VideoNuze sponsorships, please click here for more information or contact me.
     
    And if you'd like to know more about Broadband Video Focus, my firm's subscription market intelligence service, please click here.
     
    I look forward to hearing from you!
     
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  • My Cable IPTV Panel Today: Is Cable Bypass for Real?

    I was in NYC today moderating the opening session at Cable IPTV, which is a new and very timely conference organized by Fred Dawson, editor of ScreenPlays magazine (kudos to Fred and his team for a very well run event).
     

    The panel was entitled, “The Cable Perspective on Trends in “Over-the-Top” and User-Generated Video” and the panelists were Sean Doherty, CEO, Channels.com, Keith Kocho, Founder, ExtendMedia,Jim Turner, VP, Interactive, A&E Networks and Bill Wheaton, VP, Digital Media, Akamai Technologies, Inc.
     

    We had a wide-ranging conversation, mostly focused around the theme of whether broadband video is going to shape up as a real “cable bypass” or “over-the-top” medium, or whether cable operators are going to maintain their dominant role as video packagers.
     

    I’ve said for a while that the broadband video aggregation role is cable’s to lose. With tens of millions of traditional video and broadband Internet access subscribers, cable is extremely well-positioned to bring together the best of broadband video with the best of traditional broadcast and cable programming. Yet I’ve been disappointed that cable operators have been slow on the uptake while other aggregators have aggressively ramped up (e.g. Apple, Google, Joost, Yahoo, etc.). Aided by new bypass devices like AppleTV, Xbox, Netgear, etc, these companies are all aiming to eventually steal cable’s video customers.
     

    Today’s panelists reinforced my thinking that these would-be bypassers are in for a tough fight. Bill pointed out that since operators own their own networks, they can deliver quality-of-service (QOS) that others can’t. This is especially important when it comes to delivering really big Blue-Ray or HD-DVD files. Meanwhile, Jim reminded all of us that “most favored nations” clauses in most cable networks’ carriage agreements with operators will be keeping plenty of lawyers busy just determining if networks can even make deals with the upstart broadband video aggregators.

     
    And then of course our panel followed Andrew Olson’s opening keynote (who is co-founder of thePlatform, and now SVP, Strategy and Development for Comcast Interactive Media), during which he highlighted all of Comcast’s new broadband video initiatives (Fancast, Ziddio, etc.). Plenty of messages that Comcast is hip to broadband video and is now moving fast to defend its turf.

    Lastly, cable operators are now being offered some interesting new technology that will bridge broadband video over to existing digital set-top boxes inexpensively and without truck rolls.
     
    I saw a demo of ICTV’s ActiveVideo platform at the Cable Show last week and it was pretty compelling. It is at least one viable alternative for operators to accelerate their own convergence initiatives.

    The broadband video aggregation area is going to be very interesting to watch…..

     
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