Pixsy, a white label video search provider made an interesting announcement yesterday about the launch of its new "Premium Feed" service, which I think is another example of the Syndicated Video Economy that I've been talking about for a while now. I talked to Pixsy CEO Chase Norlin about Premium Feed to learn more.
For those of you not familiar with Pixsy, it has been quietly building one of the largest video indexes since its founding in 2005. To date it has mainly focused on licensing the index to partner sites which wanted to offer easy video discovery to their users. As more content providers have offered embedding, Pixsy also enabled found videos to be played right on its partners' sites. Even though activity has grown well, Chase is pretty candid about monetization to date being difficult.
Premium Feed takes embedding to the next level by creating a subset of Pixsy's video index that is both higher-than-average quality and has accompanying pre-roll and overlay ads. Then Pixsy is developing an economic relationship between the content provider and its publisher network by signing redistribution and revenue-sharing deals with both. Chase says that to date the publisher network has 45 million unique visitors/mo and that 1-2 million videos are in the Premium Feed.
One of those publishers is EgoTV, and I chatted with founder/president Jimmy Hutcheson to find out how they're implementing Premium Feed. If you look in the lower right corner of their home page you'll see 3 new "channels," Ego Cars, Ego Comedy and Ego Travel. Each of these are constructed solely of Pixsy Premium Feed videos that are curated by an EgoTV editor. In another example at Ego People, the 300x250 ad in the right column is now populated with the Premium Feed. This is a simple "highest-and-best-use" real estate decision: Jimmy explained that Premium Feed is yielding 2-4x as much net revenue for EgoTV as it would receive if it sold rich media ads in this position.
The concept of bundling content with ads (or vice versa?) and distributing them to sites seeking video and extra monetization is of course at the heart of the syndicated video economy. Much of what Pixsy is doing with Premium Feed is conceptually familiar to Google Content Network, Adconion TV, Voxant (now Grab Networks), Syndicaster, Jambo, Magnify.net, 1Cast and others.
Yet each of these initiatives has its own somewhat differentiated value proposition and underlying technology approach. As syndication grows in importance, sites with strong traffic and an interest in incorporating video will have many choices. As to how they'll decide, Chase makes a good point: simplicity and one-stop shopping are always valued by resource-constrained sites. Providers that can address as many of these sites' potential needs will be in a strong position.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
I've been very intrigued by two recent announcements from Adconion, which bills itself as the largest independent online advertising network.
First, in early October, it announced "AMG-TV," a video content syndication network now called "Adconion.TV" as well as its first deal, to distribute Vuguru's "Back on Topps." Then last week it acquired KTV Digital Media, a production studio and syndicator, to become a wholly-owned subsidiary called RedLever. Late last week I got a briefing from Adconion CEO/founder Tyler Moebius and Reeve Collins, CEO RedLever to learn more.
My take is that Adconion.TV/RedLever is emulating the same model as Google Content Network, except with a couple of interesting twists (for more on GCN, see "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications"). Nevertheless, both are classic Syndicated Video Economy plays, which could have a huge impact on the fundamentals of broadband video's future business model.
For those not familiar with Adconion, it says it reaches 260M unique visitors/month, second only to Google. Traffic is about evenly split between the U.S. and the rest of the world. It has 800+ publishers in its network, including 60-70 that it represents exclusively, primarily for international sales. The company made a big splash earlier this year when it raised a monster $80M round led by Index Ventures (the lead investor in Skype among others). It has grown from 30 employees in '06 to 285 in '08.
The similarities between Adconion.TV and GCN are as follows: both believe their vast network of publisher web sites - which were initially built to serve ads - can now be modified to also accept high-quality syndicated video content. Each leverages the same algorithms it used to optimize which ads to insert, so that video too will only be served to the most appropriate sites. One might think of both these companies as being in the real estate business. Each has colonized vast tracts of web property and is now trying to identify, as real estate pros would say, the "highest and best use" of its inventory: ads, video or some combination of the two.
At the core of both Adconion.TV and GCN is the conviction that content should be brought to users wherever they may live, as opposed to attempting to drive them to a destination site, a la the "must-see TV" model of old. This has been a key tenet of the Syndicated Video Economy concept I've been fleshing out in '08. With the fragmentation of users over the web, social networks, mobile devices, gaming consoles, etc. the way to build a franchise is to propagate video into all of the web's nooks and crannies. Note others like Grab Networks, Syndicaster, 1Cast, Jambo and others are also heavily pursuing the syndication opportunity, each with their own competitive angle.
In both initiatives content-distribution-brand advertising are the three legs of the business model stool. Consider: in Adconion.TV's launch deal it was a package of Vuguru/Back On Topps (content) - Adconion.TV (distribution) and Skype (brand), while GCN's was Seth MacFarlane/Cavalcade of Comedy (content) - GCN (distribution) - Burger King (brand). I asked Tyler whether this three-legged stool is the model for independent broadband content (whose nascent studios have been slammed by the down economy) to be funded in the future, he emphatically replied "yes."
This highlights one key difference between GCN and Adconion.TV. Google of course has been very clear in steering away from content creation, consistently declaring it's "not a content company." Adconion, on the other hand, specifically intends to custom produce brand-infused broadband video programming. That's where the KTV acquisition comes in. Tyler explained that it is deep into talks with numerous agencies and brands about creating programs that showcase the brand sponsors. Two deals are expected to be announced soon.
Another difference is that GCN tried to drive traffic back to YouTube to incent users to subscribe to ongoing program updates and get exposed to other related programs. In my GCN post, I wrote enthusiastically that the marriage of AdSense-powered video distribution as the "spokes" with YouTube as the "hub" was formidable because it gives GCN a mechanism to build ongoing viewership beyond the first exposure at the publisher site.
Today Adconion lacks a comparable destination site. Tyler doesn't think that's important since it offers ways to subscribe, get email alerts and share within the player itself. Plus he's not hearing demand for it from brands. Still I think as this story unfolds and Adconion.TV finds itself competing with GCN for the highest-potential content, a destination site compliment will become essential. Should it agree, an acquisition would make sense to fill this hole (Metacafe? DailyMotion?).
For now though, Adconion has an aggressive plan to build Adconion.TV as an exciting new entry on the Syndicated Video Economy landscape. With its resources, reach and new production capabilities, this is clearly one to keep an eye on.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
In the two years since Google acquired YouTube, I've often wondered about two things: (1) was there really a strategic rationale behind the deal? and, (2) if there was indeed a strategic rationale, when might we see it borne out in actual business initiatives?
For sure YouTube's organic growth has continued unabated during these two years and from a traffic perspective, it is more dominant now than ever. Yet the dearth of initiatives that are tangibly strategic (or meaningfully revenue-producing for that matter) to Google, or that even minimally strengthen either company's underlying value proposition, has led me to conclude that the deal had more to do with the Google guys wanting to acquire YouTube for its "coolness" factor - simply because they could - than anything else.
I don't mean to sound unfair to the YouTubers who work diligently to make YouTube an incredible experience, which of course it truly is. Yet it is hard to deny the obvious: exactly what has YouTube done differently during the last two years that it couldn't have done had it remained independent (and saying "afforded its monthly CDN bills" doesn't count!), and how exactly have either YouTube or Google benefited from being together during this time?
However, I think things are finally changing. In fact, with little fanfare or proactive PR, Google at last seems to be strategically flexing YouTube's muscles. While some of what they're doing is experimental, other moves have significant market potential and could be highly disruptive to other broadband oriented media and technology companies.
At the top of my "highest potential" list is Google Content Network, especially as it's envisioned as "spokes" tied to YouTube's "hub." I wrote at length about GCN a month ago in "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications" so I won't rehash my arguments here. But note yesterday's news about "Poptub" as the second video series to get the GCN/YouTube treatment; I expect a steady drumbeat of these types of deals in the months to come. GCN has the potential to become a key driver of the Syndicated Video Economy.
Another high-potential activity is YouTube's plan to start streaming full episodes. The first deal with CBS is no doubt a signal of many more to come. Full episode streaming is strategic on a number of levels. It enhances YouTube's and Google's access to big brands' ad dollars. While Google has thrived in the self-service, "long tail of advertising" world, it needs more cred among big brands, especially as it pursues its Google TV initiative (see latest deal with NBCU) and other eventual broadband-to-the-TV activities. Full episodes are also a winner from a user standpoint: a unified video experience across premium, indie, long tail and UGC video is very compelling and also squeezes competitors with narrower offerings.
Yet another high-potential activity is the implementation of search ads on YouTube. When the deal was originally done, my first reaction was to think it was a no-brainer to simply start displaying ads against every YouTube search (example - you search for "West Wing" in YouTube and the results page shows an ad to buy the DVD set). If there's one thing Google knows cold, it's the search ad business. YouTube searches represent billions of incremental opportunities each year to extend its core franchise.
Lastly - and this is admittedly more of a "Will Richmond thing" than anything Google or YouTube are yet pursuing: I think it's practically inevitable that the company will start investing in independent broadband video companies at some point. I touched on this in yesterday's piece about NBCU-60Frames and MSN-Stage 9. As time marches on and some of the above activities bear fruit, it's going to become very tempting for Google/YouTube to lever its strengths more directly into content ownership. I know what Google's always maintained about being a technology company, committed to neutrality in way that even Switzerland would appreciate. But as Google's ad business matures and it inevitably is pressured for growth, content is going to be a very alluring opportunity.
Regardless of what happens on this last point, YouTube now seems to have a full plate of strategic activities underway. It's great to finally see this happening.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Many of you know that Google has recently begun distributing short animated videos from Seth MacFarlane (creator of TV's "Family Guy") to a wide network of sites that previously only received ads from Google, through their participation in AdSense. The company dubs this the "Google Content Network" (GCN for short), and from my vantage point, it has a lot of potential and implications for other players in the video distribution value chain. Yesterday, I spoke to Alexandra Levy, Google's Director of Branded Entertainment, and the point person for driving this initiative.
The first thing that resonates for me about GCN is that Google's vision for it harmonizes perfectly with my concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy." VideoNuze readers know that last March I introduced the SVE concept to capture a trend that I was noticing: an ecosystem was forming to distribute broadband video widely across the Internet, in contrast to the traditional, narrower distribution model.
Alex echoed the SVE, saying that in her many conversations with content producers, finding an audience is their top challenge. Great content, unwatched, is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest when nobody is around to hear it.
So enter GCN, which Google rightly sees as a "media distribution platform." To understand its implications fully, you have to evaluate its potential to all relevant constituencies: Users get great updated content served to them at the sites they already visit. Those sites benefit from offering premium content, while also receiving a revenue share on the accompanying ads. The content provider benefits from leveraging Google's vast AdSense network to have video "pushed" to relevant audiences, increasing viewership and engagement. And advertisers' brands benefit from adjacency to premium content that is sought after and compelling.
Of course, last but not least, Google benefits from being the intermediary in this whole process. We all know from Google's massive success in web search that being the intermediary in a model where all constituent interests are neatly aligned creates near-infinite economic value. While Alex concedes the MacFarlane video (which is sponsored by Burger King and was brokered by Media Rights Capital) is still an "experiment," GCN sure does seem to bear a lot of resemblance to Google's traditional search model in the alignment of constituent interests.
Another twist here is that users who click for more video are driven back to MacFarlane's YouTube channel (already the 69th most subscribed channel, with almost 70K subscribers), which drives habituation, a key lever for ongoing video success as any network TV executive will admit. In this light, GCN gives Google a way of finally tying its powerful AdSense engine to YouTube. I'm not suggesting that Google is sweating the ROI on its $1.6 billion YouTube acquisition, but GCN surely looks like a way to move YouTube far beyond its roots as everyone's favorite UGC aggregator.
Alex is quick to point out that GCN does not budge Google from its often-stated position that it is not a content creator. Rather, it's using GCN to connect brands, content producers and users. If that connecting process drives audiences and generates revenues for content producers - and admittedly the proof is not yet in - that would give Google a lot of disruptive capital to help shape the video landscape. Just so nobody gets carried away, Google announced a similar experiment 2 years ago with MTV that fizzled out. So the company has yet to prove its experiment works and that it is fully committed to the GCN model.
Still, I continue to believe that video syndication - and the accompanying benefits to all - is a key, key driver of how the broadband video landscape is going to unfold. As a small teaser, there will be more interesting news on the syndication front early next week. Stay tuned.
(And note that the syndicated video economy will be one of the main topics of discussion at the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast "How to Profit from Broadband Video's Disruptive Impact" with our A-list group of panelists, including Google's David Eun, on November 10th. Click here to learn more and register for special early bird rate.)
What do you think? Post a comment now.