Count Fox News as the latest TV network planning to launch a streaming service catering to its most loyal viewers, or super-fans as they’ve come to be known. According to a NY Times report this morning, later this year Fox News will launch Fox Nation, a standalone streaming service including hours of new daily programming with new anchors and commentators. The direct to consumer service would exist outside the traditional pay-TV world. No monthly price was revealed for the new Fox News service.
Topics: Fox News
This past Saturday night's "Rumble 2012," a half-serious, half-comedic live-streaming debate between Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was another great example of online video's potential, but also its peril. Here was a situation where the bustling online video medium provided two of TV's biggest stars an unfettered creative and business opportunity, only to be undermined by technical snafus.
In case you weren't following this closely, Rumble 2012 was an online-only live-streaming event staged at George Washington University. Even though many viewers registered in advance, paying the $4.95 fee to watch the live-stream - and therefore indicating to the organizers how much server capacity would be required - a last minute server crash left many viewers unable to watch. I don't quite understand why this occurred, as any high-quality CDN would likely have been able to avoid such a problem. Be that as it may, organizers haven't shared any further details.
Categories: Indie Video
Over the past couple months I've noticed a trend toward cable TV networks producing short webisode series solely for broadband distribution. It's still quite early, but the trend offers some insights into these networks' programming strategies.
To date most cable networks have put a lot of promotional clips online and a few have even put some full length programs up as well. But for the most part cable networks have been constrained in how much original content they distribute online due to their lucrative monthly affiliate deals with cable/telco/satellite operators (though this too may change with Comcast and TWC pursuing online distribution plans).
I've noticed these webisodes announced just in the last couple of months:
(No doubt there are others as well, so apologies to those I may have missed)
The webisode format breaks the traditional limitation of having a finite 24 hours/day of "shelf space" for networks to program. I think what's happening here is that cable networks are experimenting with the low-cost webisode format both to reach online users and also to see what might graduate to on-air. The webisodes allow them to bridge their brands between traditional TV and broadband to see what sticks. And some webisodes may even making money for their networks already. "Off Track" for example is showcased in an Armor All "Owner Center" sponsored environment.
CNN's Freshman Year is a good example of how one network is pushing the envelope. In the series, CNN has given Flip video cameras to 2 new congressmen, who use them to show what life is really like on and off Capitol Hill (it's not glamorous that's for sure). The concept is a natural extension for CNN's politically-interested audience, and capitalizes on the tailwind of the '08 election cycle. While the production values are well below what's typically seen on-air, there's something compellingly authentic (and yes voyeuristic) about the wobbly, poorly framed footage offered up by the congressmen. For sure you come away with a far better sense of what these guys' lives are like than you would from a slickly-produced 1 hour special.
All of the 7-13 minute episodes have pre and post rolls, from brands like IBM and Sprint. I've noticed CNN starting to promote the series through on-air spots as well, which is a key webisode audience-building all the networks have. However, CNN really needs to make the series more visible on the web site. Aside from a periodic ad, a site visitor wouldn't know the series existed or how to find it. This is a common problem with the other networks' sites as well.
It's way too early to know how sticky the webisode concept will be for cable TV networks, but on the surface I think it offers a lot of opportunity. Cable networks are not immune from audience fragmentation and consumers' changing expectations. Finding ways to reinforce viewer loyalty and generate additional revenues is a must.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Categories: Cable Networks
Maven Networks got a lot of ink today with 2 announcements, first the launch of a new broadband ad platform and the second, the launch of a new industry collaboration dubbed the "Internet TV Advertising Forum." These have been in the works for a while and Maven gave me a heads up on both over the summer.
The Ad Forum is noteworthy, as it appears to be a genuine "good guy" effort to move the whole industry forward in optimizing the ad model. Ten companies signed on for launch, including heavies like Scripps, Fox News, Oglivy, TV Guide, Microsoft, DoubleClick and 24/7.
I caught up by phone with Kristen Fergason, Maven's VP of Marketing to learn more. First, the Forum is completely open to everyone. Though initially underwritten by Maven, over time it will probably take on more of a "dues-paying" model. And to show that "open" really does mean open, I asked what happens if competitors like Brightcove for example, wanted in? Her reply: "we'd happily accept them".
The forum is mean to bring together agencies, content providers and vendors to build consensus about how to move past the market's current reliance on pre-rolls. Kristen said industry players have been "chomping at the bit" to get involved and Maven received 40 applications today alone. Importantly, the Forum is meant to augment IAB initiatives, not compete with them. The Forum will run focus groups and collect research based on ideas generated by Forum members to see what works and what doesn't. Results will be available to everyone.
Maven believes that a "rising tide lifts all ships", but because its ad platform is ready now, it will benefit disproportionately. That's where today's other announcement comes in. The demo I saw shows how new ad units (videos, overlays, banners, etc.) can be dynamically inserted, not just at the beginning of the video, but throughout. The result is that a lot of new inventory is available. The below graphic shows "cue points" for manual insertion, but an algorithm can also be used to insert based on what the system knows about things like clip length, average user session time, click-thru, etc. Note I didn't see this feature in action, so I can't say for sure how well it actually works.