Posts for 'MSN'

  • MSN News Partners With Newsy To Massively Scale Video Production

    MSN News is the latest high-profile news/information site to partner with Newsy for high-quality, short-form, customized video news clips. In a deal announced today, Newsy's editors will work collaboratively in real time with counterparts at MSN News to create and deliver up to 20 videos/day across categories including world, U.S. politics, science & technology, crime & justice and pop culture. Many videos are already live here and here. They will be distributed across all MSN News platforms.

    For Newsy, the MSN News deal is the latest in a string of partnership wins with big news/information sites. In March, Newsy landed a deal with Mashable to create customized videos, which followed other partnerships with AOL/Huffington Post and National Journal. In total, with the MSN News deal, Newsy is creating 200+ custom videos per week for partners, which is part of the 2,000+ videos it creates each month for its own web site, mobile apps and syndication partners such as 5Min, DBG, blinkx, Grab Networks, ClipSyndicate and others. Newsy videos generate over a billion views per year. Newsy uses multiple partner models including revenue sharing and straightforward fees.

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  • MSN's Joe Michaels: "Our Most Successful Video Series Are in Verticals" [VIDEO]

    At the recent NABShow, MSN's Joe Michaels stopped by the VideoNuze booth and discussed how it is now producing 15-20 original video series on its network. Some are produced by MSN itself, while others are with studio or 3rd-party production partners, or are branded entertainment. Joe said the ones that are most successful are focused on verticals, like TV recap show "Last Night on TV" and auto guide series "Road Raves." Joe also talks about the success MSN is having with "MSN Now," which tracks top social media trends with a companion video series. See the video below (4 minutes, 19 seconds).

    Watch the video

  • FreeWheel is Close to Managing 1 Billion Video Ads Per Month

    In a quick call yesterday with FreeWheel Co-CEO and Co-Founder Doug Knopper, who was on his way to NYC for tonight's VideoSchmooze, he told me that the company is poised to manage 1 billion video ads next month, all against premium video streams.

    In addition, FreeWheel has now been integrated by AOL, MSN and Fancast, among others, with Yahoo testing currently and ready to go live soon. It looks like the major portals are being encouraged to integrate with FreeWheel's Monetization Rights Management system by the company's premium content customers. The benefit to the content providers is better control and monetization of their ad inventory across their portal distribution deals. The portal activity comes on top of FreeWheel's recently-reported implementation with YouTube, allowing the site's premium content partners to sell and insert ads against their YouTube-initiated streams.

    FreeWheel is another great example of the Syndicated Video Economy (SVE) I've frequently talked about. Doug says FreeWheel's progress is proof that the SVE is really "hitting its stride."

    It is hard though to put FreeWheel's 1 billion number into perspective. One way of thinking about it is comparing it to the data that comScore reported for August '09 for the top 10 video sites. Assuming only 5-10% of YouTube's views are from its premium partners and maybe half of Fox Interactive's are (due to MySpace's user-generated videos being included in its 380M streams) the top 10 video providers would account for about 3.5B videos. If each video had an average of 2 ads (which is a decent assumption when averaging short clips vs. full programs), then the top 10 video sites would account for about 7B video ads.

    Relative to the top 10 then, FreeWheel's 1B ads managed look pretty healthy. To get a fuller picture, you'd also have to consider how many premium streams are in the 12B+ video views that fall outside of comScore's top 10 video sites, and how many ads run against those. If anyone has any ideas for how to determine these numbers, I'd love to hear them.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

  • At Last, Google Flexes YouTube's Strategic Muscles

    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.

  • American Political Conventions are Next Up to Get Broadband Video Treatment

    As the first "Broadband Olympics" begin to wind down, the American political conventions are next up to get the broadband video treatment. While certainly not Olympian in their popularity, the conventions still have a rabid following among many, and given the particular dynamics of this year's election cycle, they are attracting far broader interest than usual.

    The conventions have evolved a lot over the years. Traditionally they were a high-stakes drama culminating in a roll call vote whose outcome was often uncertain. They have become a largely drama-free corporate-sponsored schmooze-fest punctuated by a few high-profile keynote and nominee acceptance speeches. Broadcasters have taken note, steadily reducing their coverage and opening the door to cable networks to do the primary convention coverage.

    In '04 the Internet crashed the conventions, primarily in the form of bloggers reporting on every convention utterance made. The bloggers will be out in full force at the '08 conventions too, but this time around broadband coverage is going to be the big story. Here's a partial list of what's on tap:

    Democrats plan to deliver live, gavel-to-gavel HD streaming at their site. Republicans plan live streaming as well and announced as their official partner.

    The Democrats also plan a Spanish language simulcast produced by Comcast, to be available online and also on-demand for Comcast subscribers. The Dems are also producing a 15 minute daily show called "Countdown to America's Future" available through Comcast VOD and online.

    CBS anchor Katie Couric is taking on broadband assignments, delivering web-only specials for the first time. and Yahoo have partnered with the Denver Post and St. Paul Pioneer Press to host a series of eight political forums which will be streamed live.

    Corporate siblings and will deploy a team of journalists providing live streaming via their cell phones using an application from Comet Technologies.

    Meanwhile, in the lead-up to the conventions, the YouTube Convention video contest, asked users to answer the question, "Why are you a Democrat/Republican in 2008?" Winners are here and here.

    For those that don't take their politics too seriously, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and many other comedians will no doubt have viral clips flying around the 'net. Going one comedic step further, Generate and MSN announced just this week the premiere of "Republicrats" a satirical broadband-only series with 24 episodes running though Election Day.

    I'm sure there's more broadband convention coverage I've missed, so please post a comment regarding further coverage.

  • Modern Feed Jumps Into Video Navigation Space

    With the proliferation of available broadband video comes a massive user navigation challenge. Modern Feed is launching today to address this. It is part search engine, part aggregator, with a specific focus on indexing professionally-produced programming, not user-generated video. It's also focused on actual programs, not promotional clips.

    J.D. Heilprin, Modern Feed's founder/CEO told me yesterday that the company is targeting mainstream users providing the easiest way to find available, high-quality video. It employs a team of "Feeders" charged with curating the best videos to include on the site. The result is approximately 550 "networks" and 25,000 pieces of content now indexed, where "networks" is a loose term ranging from traditional broadcasters to indies new entrants like Boston Symphony or Architectural Digest.

    Modern Feed is rights-holder friendly, not indexing any illegal or pirated video, and playing the video from the source's site (though sometimes with a thin Modern Feed navigation frame at the top of the screen). I played around with Modern Feed and found it to be easy-to-use and well-laid out. Modern Feed also offers an iPhone implementation that looks pretty cool, other devices are to follow.

    The big challenge (and opportunity) for Modern Feed is that it's entering a very noisy space where user behavior is very undefined. There are myriad video search engines (Truveo, ClipBlast, blinkx, Veveo), portals (AOL, Yahoo, MSN), navigation sites (TV Guide, recently-launched PrimeTime Rewind) and of course the networks' own sites (and syndication efforts) offering users the ability to quickly find quality content. Then there's YouTube, the first stop for many users when it comes to video. And YouTube is increasingly moving up market by striking partnerships with premium providers.

    Modern Feed's strong user experience, focus on mainstream users and device integrations are differentiators for the company. Whether these are ultimately success factors really depends on how user behavior unfolds in the nascent video navigation space. Modern Feed has raised several million dollars from angels and has 30 full-timers with aggressive growth planned.

    What do you think? Post a comment and let everyone know!

    See prior posts:

    YouTube, C-SPAN Team Up for User-Generated, Multi-Platform Voter Project

    Brightcove Partners for Enhanced Video Syndication

  • MSN Improves Pre-roll Experience

    Kudos to MSN for evolving the pre-roll format by announcing they'll only insert at the beginning of a session and then only every three minutes.  This "capping" policy is yet another effort to make pre-rolls more digestible. 


    Like it or not, pre-rolls are here to stay.  They're an easy re-use of expensive creative.  They're straightforward to see, because they're easily understandable by buyers. And while few viewers will admit they want ads, with better targeting, they're actually a familiar experience for viewers and could be useful.


    Everyone I talk to agrees.  Especially in the broadcast community.  So while overlays and other formats will make inroads on pre-roll's turf, significant attention should be focused on improving the pre-roll experience and effectiveness, because that's where a lot of the ad dollars will remain.


    So moves like MSN's are welcome.  The question of course is, what effect does this capping policy have on their inventory and economics?  The question of fleshing out the ad-based broadband video business model persists.  If MSN can demonstrate viewership and satisfaction increase, and the economics work, I expect other aggregators and providers will experiment with this approach as well.

  • Change is Afoot in the TV Business - April E-Newsletter

    Change is afoot in the TV business. The traditional world of networks’ hit programs being distributed exclusively through local broadcast TV affiliates is being challenged broadband delivery.

    The challenge began modestly about a year and half ago, but more recently it has picked up significant steam. Back in October 2005 Disney/ABC made headlines with a deal to have select programs available for paid download via iTunes. Next up was a trial in the spring of 2006 to test consumer and advertiser interest in streaming full episodes of select programs at When ABC launched this officially in the fall of 2006, the other major networks joined in the action. By my recent count there are now over 40 progams available for ad-supported, free streaming.

    All of this activity surely left broadcast affiliates wondering how they fit into this new direct-to-consumer landscape. Of course ABC allows its owned and operated (O&O) stations to also stream its programs, and FOX has shown a willingness to open up distribution further to all affiliates. Meanwhile, the other networks have not made concrete announcements about how their affiliates fit in.
    If local broadcasters accepted any of these assuagements, news from the past few weeks should have doused any cheery feeling they may have maintained. Recently, NBC and News Corp announced that they were setting up a new joint venture to manage the online distribution of their programs, simultaneously inking deals with four of the Internet’s biggest sites, AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo (adding Comcast shortly thereafter). Next, CBS announced its “CBS Interactive Audience Network”, together with deals to have CBS programs distributed through at least ten large web sites, with more surely to follow.


    Broadband’s Long Arm Reaches into the Broadcast Industry
    If I were a broadcaster keeping score over the past year-and-a-half, I would say things have gone from bad to worse to (as my 5 year-old would say) worser.
    Consider: in less than two years, broadcasters’ competitive position has shifted from a world where all viewers had to tune into their local channels to watch original episodes of “Heroes”, “24”, “CSI” and other hit network programs to a new reality where these programs are going to be dispersed to all the nooks and crannies of the Internet, ready for on-demand consumption by audiences everywhere.
    What does this mean for the broadcasters? For starters it means steadily declining audiences as viewers get siphoned off to these new distribution outlets. It also means rising competition just to maintain a parity “user experience” as these other distributors wrap all kinds of interactive and engaging features around these programs (e.g. online contests, blogs, clips, mashups, etc.). And finally, it suggests falling advertising revenues as marketers recognize not only broadcasters’ shrinking audience size, but also that the most desirable demos have moved on and are consuming and interacting around these programs through other outlets.
    Based on Broadband Directions’ recent market intelligence report, “The Broadcast Industry and Broadband Video: Confronting New Challenges, Embracing New Opportunities”, my conclusion is that these deals all signal the networks’ clear realization that consumers (particularly the younger, most desirable ones) are changing their behaviors and that if the networks don’t keep pace, they will become dinosaurs themselves.
    The networks understand that a broadcast affiliate system established to overcome the geographic limitations of retransmitting analog signals is fast becoming anachronistic in a world of high-quality, boundary-less digital distribution. So, to my mind, their recent initiatives represent nothing short of an attempt by the networks to eventually create a “digital replica” of the analog broadcast model, ensuring that network TV programs reach into the far corners of the Internet, easily accessible to consumers who increasingly live their lives online. The networks’ emphasis on a forward-looking approach, rather than stubborn complacency around the status quo, seems like a smart game plan to me.
     How Broadcasters Can Stay in the Game – A Blueprint for Surviving and Thriving
    As many of you know, I believe strongly that broadband’s open delivery platform challenges all incumbent distributors’ business models. The Internet puts entities that stand between producers and viewers in an increasingly perilous position. Their ability to survive and thrive will rely not on their traditional capabilities, but rather on new ones that add new value to viewers’ and advertisers’ expectations.

    Therefore, I think there are at least 5 key elements in any plan for local broadcasters to prosper in the broadband era:


    1. Become online distributors of networks’ programs
    First, broadcast TV affiliates must aggressively press the networks for equal access in distributing TV programs through their web sites. Access to these programs is “table stakes” for anyone who wants to have equal footing for audience’s attention in the broadband era. I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes dealings between the affiliate boards and the networks, but for the broadcasters’ sake, I hope they are being relentless in their pursuit of these rights.
    2. Invest in creating distinctive local content
    As network programs migrate to other venues, it is imperative that local broadcasters invest in creating content that will appeal to their audiences in their own right. For too long news, weather and traffic have been the broadcasters’ mainstays. Broadband opens up endless possibilities for broadcasters to exercise their creative muscles and boost the appeal of their home-grown programming.
    3. Distribute programming around the Internet
    As the saying goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” As the networks pursue new Internet outlets, so too must broadcasters tap into new ways of distributing their original content. Broadcasters must realize that audiences outside their traditional transmitting range will also have an interest in some of their original content. By using new online syndication tools and partnerships, broadcasters can extend their reach, and their revenue potential. Witness the recent deal between Yahoo and CBS’s O&Os, which has extended these broadcasters’ reach across Yahoo’s vast network.
    4. Harness the enthusiasm of local citizens to contribute video and other content
    Speaking of content, the user-generated variety is no longer a fad monopolized by YouTube. Media companies of all stripes are recognizing that users represent untapped potential as contributors to the creative process. This is particularly true in the local community where broadcasters’ economics cannot allow them to give equal coverage to all local events. The rallying cry should be “go forth carrying your video cameras.” See what the Washington Post, for example, is doing to cultivate local bloggers. Given the right training, incentives and integration, local citizens can make a huge contribution to local broadcasters’ broadband efforts.
     5. Create new value propositions for local advertisers
    Last but not least, it is essential that broadcasters create new value propositions for local advertisers. National advertising is seriously at risk with the Internet’s rise. However, local advertising is somewhat insulated by the big online players’ inability to reach into each and every community with a robust content offering. Broadcasters must develop new video ad formats beyond simple pre-rolls, which should include geo-targeting, interactivity and performance-based rates. None of these are easy -- they will all require creativity, persistence and re-training of local sales teams.
    I believe the networks’ march into broadband distribution will be relentless. Just wait until there’s mass availability of consumer devices or other technical approaches that bridge the PC/broadband world with the TV world. This will allow network programming to be carried all the way into the living room, instead of being limited to wherever the computer currently resides. When this unfettered broadband access to the TV occurs, broadband distribution will take another giant, disruptive step forward.

    Change is afoot in the TV business. Broadband threatens to re-order the industry’s traditional participants into new winners and losers. Broadcasters need to run fast to stay in the first group. Let’s keep an eye on how they do.


  • A World Awash In Video - March E-Newsletter

    Recently I was in Florida and I happened to be in one of those “super-sized” supermarkets – you know the kind with the wide aisles that seem a mile long. To fill the place up, there was a product selection such as I’ve never seen before. What does this have to do with broadband video?


    Well, it seems to me that the same type of vast selection is coming to the world of video. For example, a number of recent broadband video-related announcements have further convinced me that we are on the cusp of experiencing an explosion in the quantity of high-quality video available and choices we’re all offered.


    Consider these recently-announced examples:


    - Next New Networks – founded by a group of ex-Viacom executives, plans to launch 101 “micro-networks, consisting of 3-11 minutes of content refreshed on a schedule, daily, weekly, or bi-weekly.”


    - Michael Eisner, Disney’s former CEO, has launched Vuguru, a studio that will produce and distribute videos. Its first release is a project called "Prom Queen," which is a scripted 80-episode mystery consisting of 90-second episodes.


    - The heavyweight talent agency William Morris and technology provider Narrowstep announced an alliance to “program television channels for the Internet.” WMA is expected to tap deeply into its client pool.


    - Stephen Bochco (creator of “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues”), has partnered with Metacafe, a broadband video destination site initially to produce “Cafe Confidential," 44-clip online series, with others to follow.


    - Revision3 – a new company formed by the co-founders of Digg, the popular user driven content site, launched “an actual TV network for the web, creating, producing its own original entertainment and content.



    - MSN has continued to rollout of its “Originals” series, having now launched half a dozen different programs.


    To this list can be added broadband video initiatives from dozens of cable TV networks, online publishers, magazines, newspapers, broadcast stations, brand marketers and others.


    Add it all up, and indeed, we are on the cusp of a world awash in video.


    How to Succeed?

    With all this video coming online, the question begs: can all of these producers succeed in building their audiences and actually turning a profit? To me, there are 5 key success factors for any of these players:


    Target your audience and incent their participation – In the cable TV business, the smartest business plans identified target audiences and then relentlessly programmed to them. Examples included music aficionados, sports fans and science fiction fanatics. Knowing the audience you’re going after, what their interests are, where gaps exist in current programming, and how to address audiences on their terms are all key. But all that’s not enough. It’s also crucial to incent audience participation in the development, promotion and review process. Like it or not, audiences are now able to be active programming partners. Their talent and passion needs to be harnessed.


    Produce inexpensively – Beyond just programming to the target audiences, it is essential to produce inexpensively. Cable budgets are lower than network budgets. Broadband video budgets must be lower still, at least for now. Audience sizes will be smaller and so for a while to come ad dollars will be scarcer. Plus smaller budgets can result in more edgy, authentic-feeling video which broadband users actually expect anyway. Producing on a shoestring will certainly be an adjustment process for the big-name TV talent now piling into broadband.


    Appeal to advertisers – In the scrappy world of broadband video, understanding what matters to advertisers when developing programming is more important than ever. Since audiences will be far smaller, advertisers aren’t going to be buying reach. Rather, they’re going to being the niches they value. The better your programming appeals to identifiable and valuable audiences (see above), the easier it will be to find advertisers willing to open their wallets.


    Distribute widely and syndicate often – Traditional TV was about driving audiences to specific channels at specific times. The Internet is all about making content available wherever audiences live and whenever they want access. Broadband will follow the same rules. So learning to distribute content widely and leveraging new syndication networks and technologies is key. For now, terms for these types of deals will vary considerably.


    Be flexible – Given its early-stage nature, there are no formulas yet for how any of this will ultimately work. So job # 1 is appealing to your audiences and building their loyalty. Since there are no expensive pilots to shoot, it’s key to “invest a little and learn a lot.” Be willing to change direction on a dime. When it comes to broadband video, a rigid mindset is the enemy.


    The Golden Age is Upon Us I’ve been telling people for a while now that we’re entering a “golden age of video”. Broadband’s open platform removes much of the traditional friction associated with delivering video into target audience’s homes. When combined with new, low cost production equipment and editing software, the result is an exploding array of new video choices. For creative people, this is liberating and exhilarating - truly a golden age. For consumers, it is going to be an era of unprecedented choice. For everyone, it’s going to be a world awash in video.
  • The TV Industry’s New Call Letters: Y-A-H-O-O, M-S-N, A-O-L and M-Y-S-P-A-C-E?

    Today’s announcement from NBC and News Corp, that they have set up a venture to distribute full length programs plus promotional clips through 4 major distributors (with more to come) heralds a potentially new, and radically different era, for the broadcast, and possibly the cable TV industries.

    In one fell swoop, 2 of the major broadcast networks have granted distribution rights to four of the Internet’s most-trafficked sites. If one assumes that it is inevitable that the broadband/PC world will be linked up with consumers’ living room TVs (whether through AppleTVs, Xboxes, Slingcatchers, etc.), then it sure seems to me as though we are on the brink of seeing a full-scale digital replica of the analog broadcast TV affiliate model being born. If that’s the case, what does that mean for existing players, most notably local broadcast TV stations? And how about cable TV and satellite operators, who have long relied on retransmitting high-quality feeds local broadcast feeds of network programming as a staple of their value proposition?

    I’ve been writing about how the video distribution value chain is being impacted by broadband video for a while now. My March 2006 newsletter, “How Broadband is Changing Video Distribution” recapped my firm’s Q1 2006 report, “How Broadband is Creating a New Generation of Video Distributors: The Market Opportunity for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Apple and Others”. In this report we identified these companies as a so-called ‘Group of 5” which were best-positioned to benefit as new broadband-centric distributors and explained our reasons for this conclusion.

    Flash forward one year. Today’s announcement cements the distribution heft of 3 of the 5 (Yahoo, MSN and AOL). Meanwhile, Google’s acquisition of YouTube has strengthened its distribution prowess. If it can build on initial partnerships with the many content providers with which it works, its power will only grow. And of course, Apple now boasts almost 60 TV networks and content producers providing programming to iTunes. Its launch of AppleTV strengthens its hand as the hardware provider-of-choice in linking up the broadband and TV worlds.

    We’re exploring all of this in a report we’re (quite coincidentally) working on right now, which examines broadband’s impact on the video distribution value chain. It both updates the Q1 2006 report, and also expands it to include the roles of emerging players such as Joost, BitTorrent, Wal-Mart and others. We’ve been very fortunate to have access to many of the players in the space to gain unparalleled insights into their plans. The report is due out soon. I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

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