This morning Digitalsmiths, a leading video platform company, is launching VideoSense 2.0, a suite of content management, publishing, presentation and search products. In particular, the new release includes an innovative "free form" video search box that leverages Digitalsmiths' metadata creation capability. Last week I spoke to Ben Weinberger, Digitalsmiths' CEO to learn more.
A key Digitalsmiths' strength has always been its metadata tools, which use a broader, proprietary set of algorithms such as facial recognition, scene classification and object identification. With this release the metadata tags are being organized into what Digitalsmiths' calls a "MetaFrame" - a frame-by--frame analysis of the video file(s) that are all based on time stamps. A MetaFrame in turn enables more accurate video search, content organization and monetization both within a video and across a library of videos.
With respect to video search specifically, Ben explained that VideoSense's search technology matches the submitted term against a video library to return results based on criteria like names, locations, dialogue, objects within a scene or other criteria the content owner specifies. The content owner can also tweak the rules so that specific criteria receive higher weighting. Results are typically returned in half a second or less, providing a video search experience close to what we've come to expect in web search. There's also a "Did you mean?" prompt for more refined results. The free form search box can be integrated onto any web page via an API.
The below example shows the results of a search Ben ran in the demo against a customer's library (unfortunately blurriness is added here due to customer confidentiality).
Of course the more valuable the experience is, the more video is likely to be consumed, generating more streams and ad inventory. Ads too can gain better targeting through MetaFrame processing (and VideoSense is integrated with all the major video ad servers and networks). Deeper, richer search can also power B2B use of video clips, such as when a specific scene from one video is to be incorporated into another (think of a movie like "Forest Gump" that has myriad historical scenes interspersed).
From my perspective metadata is going to become more and more important as the sheer number of videos available explodes with both long-form and derivative short clips. Content owners' key challenge will be to manage these ever-larger libraries (Ben uses the notion of "metadata as the glue" holding libraries together; I think that's an apt description). Others like EveryZing, Grab Networks and Gotuit have also recognized the importance of metadata and have their own approaches. For Digitalsmiths, a differentiator is its focus on extremely large files and its focus on studio customers. It aims to function as a full-blown video platform provider for all forms of digital distribution.
Ben said Digitalsmiths has a slew of customers it will be unveiling in the coming weeks that are using MetaFrame and the VideoSense 2.0 suite.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
(Note Digitalsmiths is a VideoNuze sponsor)
I got a tip yesterday about "Game Rewind," a feature that NFL.com has apparently launched in the last week or so. For a mere $20/season, you can now watch full, commercial-free replays of all the season's games. The video is delivered in terrific quality by Move Networks, and as seen below, also offers a side window that shows a synopsis of the game's scoring. I'm not a huge football fan, but since I missed the exciting end of last week's Patriots-Seahawks game, I simply dragged to the fourth quarter and sat back and enjoyed (btw, how nice is it to watch commercial-free?!).
One suggestion for the NFL team: introduce EveryZing's MetaPlayer, Gotuit VideoMarkerPro or Digitalsmiths (or someone else's metadata-based search technology) so that fans can quickly retrieve only the highlights they care about (especially for the fantasy crowd). If I just want to see Matt Cassel's touchdown passes, it would sure be nice to enter that phrase and be shown those specific highlights only. Still, Game Rewind is a very cool new feature, of course only possible courtesy of broadband delivery.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
EveryZing, a company I wrote about last February, is announcing the launch of its MetaPlayer today and that DallasCowboys.com is the first customer to implement it. My initial take is that MetaPlayer should have strong appeal in the market, and could well shake things up for other broadband technology companies and for content providers. Last week I spoke to EveryZing's CEO Tom Wilde to learn more about the product.
MetaPlayer is interesting for at least three reasons: (1) it drives EveryZing's video search and SEO capabilities inside the videos themselves, (2) it provides deeper engagement opportunities than typically found in other video player environments and (3) it enables content providers to dramatically expand their video catalogs, while maintaining branding and editorial integrity.
To date EveryZing's customers have used its speech-to-text engine to create metadata for their sites' videos, which are then grouped into SEO-friendly "topical pages" that users are directed to when entering terms into the sites' search box. Speech-to-text and other automated metadata generating techniques from companies like Digitalsmiths are becoming increasingly popular as content providers continue to recognize the value of robust metadata.
MetaPlayer takes metadata usage a step further by creating virtual clips based on specified terms, which are exposed to the user. A user's search produces an index of these virtual clips, which can be navigated through time-stamped cue points, transcript review, and thumbnail scenes (see below for example). The virtual clip approach is comparable in some ways to what Gotuit has been doing and is pretty powerful stuff, as it lets the user jump to desired points, thus avoiding wasted viewing time (e.g. just showing the moments when "Tony Romo" is spoken)
Next, MetaPlayer enables deeper engagement with available video. Yesterday, in "Broadband Video Needs to Become More Engaging," I talked about how the importance of engagement to both consumers and content providers. MetaPlayer is a move in this direction as it allows intuitive clipping, sharing and commenting of a specific video clip within MetaPlayer. Example: you can easily send friends just the clips of Romo's touchdown passes along with your comments on each.
Last, and possibly most interesting from a syndication perspective, MetaPlayer allows content providers to dramatically expand their video offerings through the use of what's known as "chromeless" video players. I was first introduced to the chromeless approach by Metacafe's Eyal Hertzog last summer. It basically allows the content provider to maintain elements of the underlying video player, such as its ability to enforce a video's business policies (ad tags, syndication rules, etc.), while allowing new features to be overlayed (customized look-and-feel, consistent player controls, etc.).
MetaPlayer takes advantage of chromeless APIs available now from companies like Brightcove, and also importantly YouTube. For example, the Cowboys could harvest select Cowboys-related YouTube videos and incorporate them into their site (this is similar to what Magnify.net also enables). With the chromeless approach, the Cowboys's user experience and their video player's branding is maintained while YouTube's rules, such as no pre-roll ads are also enforced.
To the extent that chromeless APIs become more widely available, it means that syndication can really flourish. The underlying content provider's model is protected while simultaneously enabling widespread distribution. All of this obviously leads to more monetization opportunities through highly targeted ads.
Bottom line: EveryZing's new MetaPlayer addresses at least three real hot buttons of the broadband video landscape: improved navigation, enhanced engagement and expanding content selection/monetization. All of this should give MetaPlayer strong appeal in the market.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Notwithstanding the countless times I've received emails with links to video clips or visited social networking pages where video is embedded, I've often had the sense that true social engagement around premium quality video has been lacking.
"Engagement" is one of those nebulous Internet words that can mean many things to different people. To me, the most appropriate online engagement opportunities should be modeled on how we have traditionally engaged with offline media. Some relevant offline examples that come to mind include recommending a movie to a friend, clipping a newspaper article to send to a colleague, chatting informally with friends and family during a TV show or sharing opinions about favorite actors and actresses over drinks.
As consumers shift their viewing to broadband, the key to engagement is to enable users to effortlessly and intuitively emulate some or all of these behaviors. I concede that's easier said than done. Yet in addition to existing efforts, I see new signs that premium video sites are starting to understand how strategic it is for them to incent user engagement. New steps are being taken to make deeper, more consistent engagement a reality, not just a goal.
For example, just yesterday CBS announced its "Social Viewing Rooms" which allow users to view programs together while commenting, interacting and finding each other (note this is something that Paltalk and others have pursued for a while). It wasn't clear from the announcement, but I think a critical success factor for CBS will be allowing users to bring existing friends (from Facebook, MySpace, etc.) into the rooms, rather than requiring new relationships to be built.
I found another example in a presentation I recently attended by Ian Blaine, thePlatform's CEO. In it, he made clear that his company is planning a big push into engagement-oriented features ranging from recommendations to ratings to social networking via sister company Plaxo. Still another initiative is "MediaFriends" a clever application that's coming soon from Integra5 which converges text messaging and social networking with viewing across multiple screens. Finally, another is from Volo Media, which is today announcing a plug-in for iTunes that allows one-touch sharing, bookmarking and more, helping open up a window from iTunes into the larger web environment.
All of these activities are in addition to other social media capabilities being brought to premium video from companies like KickApps, PermissionTV, Brightcove, Gotuit and Magnify.net. Then of course there's the steady migration of premium video into YouTube, which is the granddaddy of video sharing and social engagement.
Broadband is much more than an exciting new distribution outlet for video providers, it's also a whole new platform for extending social behaviors that are deeply valued and highly ingrained in all of us into the virtual world. Embracing opportunities for deeper engagement with and around premium video means thinking of viewers more as participants and less as passive audiences. When done right the payoffs in engagement, loyalty, viewing time and monetization will be substantial.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Categories: Video Sharing
I continue to be surprised that more long-form premium content providers have not pursued initiatives to slice and dice their programs into a non-linear user presentation. This is what "The Daily Show" has done at its site, deconstructing every episode into searchable clips. I think it's a big opportunity to drive more fan engagement, new ad inventory and provide insight about new programming ideas.
While this idea is a natural for archived sports and news programming, I think the model applies to scripted programs as well. Here's an example:
As I've written before, my wife and I were huge fans of "The West Wing" during its seven-year run on NBC. While we now own the full DVD collection, periodically I'll talk to someone about the show and reminisce about a specific moment from years back. (In fact, TWW seems cosmically related to the current election cycle, given the show's last narrative around 2 candidates - one younger and one older - battling to succeed Bartlet.) This spurs many of those, "boy, I'd love to see that scene right now!" moments.
So wouldn't it be awesome if NBC or Warner Bros. (its producer), or whoever has the rights, were to create a site where all the episodes were archived and fully indexed for searching? This would go far beyond the show's current lame-o web site. I could type in "Bartlet speeches," "Josh meltdowns" or even "C.J.-Danny fights" and instantly see collections of relevant clips.
Before you accuse me of being geeky, stop and consider that we all have our favorite programs and love to relive memorable lines and moments. I'd argue that a really vibrant community could be built at these sites, attracting traditional advertisers eager to continue their audience relationships. Then of course there's the opportunity to embed clips into Facebook and MySpace pages, extending the community further. And think about what this ongoing loyalty would do to drive up the value of broadcast syndication rights.
The big challenge here is indexing the archive. The process must rely heavily on accurate metadata generation, but in a highly scalable, cost-effective manner. That's a mouthful of requirements, so clearly this isn't easy stuff. Various players are trying to crack this nut; two which I've previously written about are Gotuit (which is announcing a partnership with Move Networks today) and EveryZing, but there are others too. Recently I've had briefings with 2 companies that are investing in this area and will have news in the coming months.
Long-from premium providers are facing an onslaught of competition from short-form alternatives while also commonly experiencing a shortage of available inventory. Non-linear presentations of their content addresses both these issues, while delighting loyal fans. I see this as an emerging and sizable opportunity.
Am I missing something here? Post a comment now!
Gotuit, whose technology allows for indexing longer-form content into individual scenes based on their metadata, is today announcing "VideoMarker Pro." This gives content providers the choice of indexing their video themselves, rather than relying on a service relationship with Gotuit, as customers like SI, Major League Soccer, Fox Reality and others traditionally have.
As I wrote last November, I've been very bullish about broadband's ability to create searchable segments carved out of longer-form programming. A perfect example of this is what TheDailyShow.com has done, offering 19,000+ clips from all of the show's episodes. Searchable clips create a powerful new user experience leading to more video consumed. This in turn means more ad inventory which is also ripe for contextual targeting.
The big problem with creating searchable clips has been that without the proper tools it would be painfully time-consuming. Worse is that a large library would spawn thousands of clips that would need to be managed. While TheDailyShow.com took the plunge, others have been reluctant, thereby leaving a lot of highly monetizable longer-form video locked in its original state.
Enter VideoMarker Pro. Last week, Patrick Donovan, Gotuit's VP of Product Management, demonstrated for me how a show such as "Lost" would be indexed.
The starting point is for a producer to set up the show's "Attributes" or key descriptors, based on how users might be expected to search (e.g. by character, plot line, topic, funniest lines, etc.) for specific clips. Once done, the show plays in a side panel while the editor uses the tools to mark "Time-In" and "Time-Out" points, and to assign attributes to that scene. Once a scene is marked up, the editor clicks save and quickly moves on to the next one.
The whole process is dead-simple, enabling an intern or offshore partner to crank out clips quickly and accurately. Patrick estimates the whole indexing process takes 25-30% of real time (e.g. a typical 1 hour show running 44 minutes would take less than 15 minutes to index.) When you do the math, you realize it would be ridiculously cheap to index an entire season or even multiple seasons. (This is particularly relevant given the recent emphasis on offering classic TV content online - see yesterday's Warner Bros post as an example.)
There are multiple ways to present the index, using thumbnails, playlists and search. In fact VideoMarker Pro is actually creating "virtual" clips by sending an XML message to the CDN with instructions to play the video at its specified time points. This creates a lot of flexibility, especially for syndicating clips to partners. There's no clip inventory to manage, transfer and update.
VideoMarker Pro is another example of how the technologies sprouting up around broadband video allow content providers to extract ever-growing value from their original investments.
What do you think? Post a comment and let everyone know!
(Disclaimer - I have a very minor advisory role with Gotuit)
If you're sitting on a video archive and looking to monetize it more fully with an immersive broadband user experience, it's well worth checking out.
I have been very bullish on broadband's ability to create libraries of searchable segments carved out of longer-form programming. That's one of the reasons I was excited about Comedy Central's recent launch of TheDailyShow.com, which is packed with 19,000 clips from all of the show's episodes. However, Comedy Central 'fessed up that it took a team of 16 working double shifts over many months to create the site's clip library. This labor intensity shows that monetizing an archive has been a non-trivial pursuit.
And that's where Gotuit's solution comes in. Yesterday I got an update from Patrick Donovan, their VP of Marketing, about the XONtv deal.
First, to understand Gotuit (to which I am a minor advisor), the company has created an indexing work flow platform that allows entry-level staffers to quickly churn out clips using metadata guidelines developed by the specific content provider. Each segment has a title, a text description, a series of customizable preset attributes (or tags), thumbnails and time-code start/stop points.
One thing that's critical to understand is that Gotuit-powered clips are really "virtual clips." When a user accesses a clip, the Gotuit platform is making an XML call to the CDN to begin streaming from the original video file at the time-code starting point. So no new tangible clip asset has actually been created in the Gotuit workflow. That means that unlike TheDailyShow.com, which now has 19,000 new assets to manage (likely created using standard video editing software), with Gotuit, there are new no "assets", just files with metadata descriptors. Needless to say, this approach drastically simplifies ongoing management, especially for content providers with vast libraries. By following the metadata guidelines, playlists can be created which allow multiple entry points into each video segment.
XOXtv partnered with Gotuit as a service provider, shipping Gotuit 300+ hours of XONtv's video programming. Gotuit took about 1 1/2 weeks to crank out all the clips. At the XONtv site you'll see 13 "channels", each of which is then sub-divided into programs, "episodes" and the segments themselves. All content is in the clear right now, soon XONtv will be pursuing a subscription-based business model.
Other benefits of the Gotuit approach include no buffering, full-screen option, embedding, bandwidth detection and sequential play-out. All of this means a more immersive experience, driving more viewership and value. On the monetization side, Gotuit has integrated with a number of broadband ad management/servers, and obviously offers rich targeting against specific segments otherwise unavailable. Alternatively, as XONtv intends, paid models are also supported.
Gotuit can work as a service bureau for the content provider or license the platform and let the content provider use their own resources to index their video. (I happen to believe this would be a perfect off-shore project, with the right training). In either service bureau or license model Gouit charges an ongoing platform fee plus usage fees tied usually tied to video consumption. Beyond XONtv, Gotuit has announced deals with Fox Reality, SI.com, NHL.com and others.
The XONtv implementation is a great reminder of how broadband enables deeper user engagement, business model flexibility and re-use opportunities never before possible. Wrap a robust social/community-building suite around this and the value proposition for content providers becomes even stronger.