Yesterday YouTube got a lot of coverage of its new licensing deal for hundreds of movies from Paramount because separately, the studio's parent company, Viacom, has been involved in a bitter copyright litigation with YouTube for years. While it's noteworthy that the parties are able to do business despite suing each other, the bigger questions here are whether YouTube's initiative to rent Hollywood movies makes sense and can succeed?
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Dec 14th week:
1. New pre-roll data shows format's strength - Though many in the industry still scorn the pre-roll ad, this week 2 ad networks, ScanScout and YuMe, released data showing its continued prevalence as well as innovation that's improving its performance. ScanScout said its "Super Pre-roll" unit, which allows for integrating overlay graphics on the video that viewers can engage with, is driving 350% higher click-through rates compared with typical pre-rolls. In this example for Unilever's Vaseline, note how the creative nicely reinforces the messaging. The enhanced interactivity feels like the start of a new trend; another pre-roll that offers something similar is Innovid's iRoll unit. ScanScout separately announced this week a host of new premium publishers have joined its network.
Meanwhile YuMe released its Video Advertising Metrics Report for Jan-Nov '09, which showed that, at least within YuMe's network, 90%+ of all ads served were pre-rolls, with 30 second spots generating a 1.8% overall click-through rate, a 50% higher rate than the 1.2% that 15 second spots achieved. The volume of 30 second ads also grew 50% faster than 15 second volume in Q3 '09. Kids age 6-14 achieved a 3.7% click-through rate, the highest of any group, which YuMe's Jayant Kadambi told me could be explained by the more engaging nature of child-focused ads (e.g. click to play games, etc.). Jayant believes the sizable amount of existing creative for TV ads that can be easily repurposed for online is a key reason pre-rolls continue to dominate.
2. Paramount clipping site powered by Digitalsmiths is slick - I was impressed with a demo of Paramount Pictures' newly launched ParamountClips.com site that I got this week. The site is only open to Paramount's business partners, allowing them to either choose from an existing stock of clips from over 80 different Paramount movies, or to easily create their own. Desired clips are moved into a shopping cart and released for download, per previously determined licensing terms.
The site is powered by Digitalsmiths, which indexed all of the scenes from the movies using their proprietary recognition process, and then generated meta-data for each, which makes searching a snap. The new self-service site replaces the laborious previous process of a Paramount staffer working with each partner to extract jus the scene they want. As a result, a new highly-scalable licensing opportunity has been created. Paramount is taking advantage of Digitalsmiths VideoSense 2.5 release announced last week that is focused on clip generation, for both on demand and live streams, improved asset management and more integrated reporting.
3. Thwapr launches beta of mobile-to-mobile video sharing - Continuing the buildout of the mobile video ecosystem, Thwapr, a new mobile-to-mobile content sharing platform, launched its beta this week. Duncan Kennedy, Thwapr's COO told me that although there's been a proliferation of video capable smartphones, there's currently no easy, fool-proof way of sharing videos from one device to another (e.g. from an iPhone to a BlackBerry). Enter Thwapr, which lets the user upload videos to Thwapr and then have them shared with their contacts. Thwapr identifies the receiving phone's "user agent" so that it can dynamically decide the optimal format the video should be viewed in. The user simply clicks on a link and the video plays. I can attest that it worked beautifully on my BlackBerry Pearl.
Thwapr's raised about $3 million from angels and has a very strong team, including Duncan and others who worked on Apple's QuickTime. I'm a fan of how video, social/sharing and mobile intersect to create new opportunities, though there are business model unknowns. For now Thwapr is focused on a free ad-supported model, with a particular emphasis on geo-tagging videos to make advertising especially appealing for local merchants. Still, YouTube has illustrated how difficult it is to monetize user-generated content. Thwapr also envisions a business-grade option for real estate, travel, dating type applications which sound promising. I wonder too about whether a freemium model should be explored, though Duncan said Thwapr's analysis suggested this would be a relatively small opportunity. We'll see how things shape up.
4. Next week is 2009 wrap-up week on VideoNuze - Keep an eye on VideoNuze next week, as I'll be summarizing Q4 '09 venture capital investments and deals in the broadband/mobile video space, reviewing my 2009 predictions and looking ahead to what to expect in 2010. It's been an incredibly active year and based on the pre-CES briefings I've been doing, there's lots more to look forward to next year.
Enjoy your weekend!
Looking back over two dozen posts in May and countless industry news items, I have synthesized 3 key topics below. I'll have more on all of these in the coming months.
1. Broadband-delivered movies inch forward - breakthroughs still far out
In May there was incremental progress in the holy grail-like pursuit of broadband-delivered movies. Apple established day-and-date deals with the major studios for iTunes. Netlix and Roku announced a new lightweight box for delivering Netlix's "Watch Now" catalog of 10,000 titles to TVs. Bell Canada launched its Bell Video Store, complete with day-and-date Paramount releases, with others to come soon. And Starz announced a deal with Verizon to market "Starz Play" a newly branded version of its Vongo broadband subscription and video-on-demand service.
Taken together, these deals suggest that studios are warming to the broadband opportunity. This is certainly influenced by slowing DVD sales. Yet as I explained in "iTunes Film Deals Not a Game Changer" and "Online Move Delivery Advances, Big Hurdles Still Loom" broadband movies are still bedeviled by a lack of mass PC-TV connectivity, no real portability, well-defined consumer behavior around DVDs and the studios' well-entrenched, window-driven business model. Despite May's progress, major breakthroughs in the broadband movie business are still way out on the horizon.
2. Broadcast TV networks are embracing broadband delivery - but leading to what?
Unlike the film studios, the broadcast TV networks are plowing headlong into broadband delivery, yet it's not at all clear where this leads. In "Does Broadband Video Help or Hurt Broadcast TV Networks" and "Fox's 'Remote-Free TV': Broadband's First Adverse Impact on Networks?" I laid out an initial analysis about broadband's pluses and minuses for networks. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks, including more in-depth financial analysis.
On the plus side, in "2009 Super Bowl Ads to Hit $3 Million, Broadband's Role Must Grow," "Sunday Morning Talk Shows Need Broadband Refresh" and "Today Show Interview with McClellan Showcases Broadband's Power," I illustrated some opportunities broadband is creating. On the other hand, "Bebo Pursues Distinctive Original Programming Model" and "More Questions than Answers at Digital Hollywood" explained how exciting new programming approaches are taking hold, challenging traditional TV production models. Broadcasters are in the eye of the broadband storm.
3. Advertising's evolution fueled by innovation and resources
Last, but hardly least, I continued on one of my favorite topics: the impact broadband video is having on the advertising industry. Over the last 10 years the Internet, with its targetability, interactivity and measurability has caused major shifts in marketers' thinking. With broadband further extending these capabilities to video, the traditional TV ad business is now ripe for budget-shifting. We'll be exploring a lot of this at a panel I'm moderating at Advertising 2.0 this Thursday.
In "Tremor, Adap.tv Introduce New Ad Platforms" and "All Eyes on Cable Industry's 'Project Canoe'" (from Mugs Buckley), key players' innovations were described along with how the cable industry plans to compete. Content providers are being presented with more and more options for monetizing their video, a trend which will only accelerate. Yet as I wrote in "Key Themes from My 2 Panel Discussions Last Week," many issues remain, and with so many content start-ups reliant on ads, there may be some disappointment looming when people realize the ad market is not as mature as they had hoped.
That's it for May. Lots more coming in June. Please stay tuned.
Online movie delivery is back in the news, but dramatic change is still well down the road in this space as usability, rights issues and incumbent business models/consumer behaviors pose formidable hurdles.
Yesterday Netflix announced a $99 appliance with Roku, enabling the company's "Watch Instantly" streaming service on TVs. That news follows Apple's deals with a number of big studios in early May obtaining "day-and-date" access to current titles. And today brings news that Bell Canada, that country's largest telco, is formally launching its Bell Video Store, also providing day-and-date delivery, of Paramount titles to start (and soon others), plus portable viewing on Archos devices.
Netflix, which I last wrote about here, took a shot across the bow of Apple TV and Vudu by introducing the Roku box, the lowest-priced broadband movies appliance yet. Apples-to-apples comparisons aren't fair as the stripped-down Netflix/Roku box doesn't have a hard-drive or equivalent processing. That inevitably means lower quality delivery vs. locally-stored content with the others, plus uncertainty about HD-delivery. Netflix/Roku's big advantage is that it's a value-add service for current Netflix subscribers, meaning no new fees as with the Apple TV/Vudu approaches.
However, Watch Instantly has older titles and amounts to less than 10% of Netflix's total catalog. I don't see that changing much; Watch Instantly runs smack into studios' incumbent windowing approach and deals with HBO, Showtime and Starz for premium TV. Netflix's model is built on the home video window, so new online delivery rights must be obtained which will be a tough road. However, with Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate and others splintering from Showtime recently to set up their own premium channel, it's possible that some studios' rights may loosen up, but of course at a price.
Still, I don't see the Netflix/Roku box breaking 10% penetration of Netflix's sub base any time soon, barring a box giveaway. Enlarging the value proposition by licensing the Roku technology for inclusion in other devices (e.g. Blu-ray) could also help drive adoption.
Meanwhile, today Bell Canada is announcing the formal launch of its Bell Video Store. In beta since late '07, it offers 1,500 titles, now including day-and-date delivery from Paramount (and others soon according to Michael Freeman, Bell's director of product management who I spoke to yesterday). This is noteworthy, as it appears to be the first time a service provider has received day-and-date online access from any studio. If other providers follow suit we may finally witness some internal competition with sacrosanct-to-date Video on Demand initiatives.
By using ExtendMedia's platform, Bell is also enabling downloads-to-own directly to Archos portable devices. With a couple million satellite homes and fiber IPTV fiber-based deployments continuing, there are multiple three screen options looming for Bell. Yet for now these are limited. Michael confirmed Bell has no plans to offer a branded movie appliance a la Netflix/Roku, meaning it will dependent on XBoxes and other PC-TV bridge devices.
Renewed progress and experimentation are welcome in this space, but lots of hard work remains for online movie delivery to become mainstream.
What do you think of the online movie delivery space? Post a comment now!
In the last few days there's been a lot of attention paid to Apple's deals with Disney, Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, Sony, Lionsgate, Imagine and First Look Studios giving iTunes day-and-date access to these studios' current films.
As an advocate of the broadband medium, naturally I'm delighted to see studios put broadband distribution on a par with DVD release. The deals should rightly be interpreted as another step in the maturation of the broadband medium.
However, these deals, in and of themselves, do not constitute a game-changing event for paid downloads of feature films. That's because until there's mass connectivity between PCs and TVs and much-improved portability, consumers' willingness to buy is going to be significantly muted. Consumers' inability to easily watch a feature film on their widescreen TV or easily grab-these- movies-to-go (as with DVDs) are a huge drag on the download value proposition, easily swamping its new convenience benefits.
I believe that lack of mass connectivity between PCs and TVs is the last major hurdle to unlocking broadband video's ultimate potential. It is also the firewall that's preserving a lot of incumbents' business models (cable operators, broadcasters, etc.). No question, Apple and iTunes are powerful marketing partners for the studios, and their download revenue will certainly increase from its current modest base. But not even Apple's mighty brand (and certainly not its anemic AppleTV device) is enough to compensate for broadband's current deficiency.
The good news is that there's a frenzy of energy directed at solving the PC-to-TV connectivity issue. Though no approach has yet broken through, I'm still betting it's only a matter of time until one does. When that happens, studios will reap the major benefits. Until then, these deals represent progress, but not game-changing events.