Analysis for 'Aggregators'

  • YouTube Surges to Almost 15 Billion Views in May

    comScore has released its May online video rankings and at the top of the list, as usual, is YouTube. In May it racked up a record 14.6 billion video views, up 11.5% from April. YouTube's market share actually dipped slightly in May, to 43..1%, still its 3rd-highest monthly share since comScore began releasing this data in Jan '07. Total video views were also at a record high of 33.9 billion views in May.

    The chart below shows how remarkable YouTube's growth has been since Jan '09. YouTube has more than doubled its monthly views from 6.3 billion. Meanwhile, YouTube's market share has hovered right around 40% each month, with its lowest level at 37.7% in Oct '09 and its highest of 43.5% in April '10. YouTube is generating more than 10 times the monthly views it was when Google acquired it.

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  • Total Video Viewership Down Slightly in April; YouTube Share Jumps

    comScore has released its new online video rankings for April '10 which show total videos viewed of 30.3 billion, down almost 3% from the prior month's 31.2 billion. As a result, YouTube, which was roughly flat in April at 13.1 billion videos, saw its market share increase to 43.5%, its highest level since July '08. It was also YouTube's second highest share since I started tracking the comScore numbers in Jan '07 (when YouTube had a relatively paltry 16.2% market).

    The 3% decrease in total videos from March '10 to April '10, compares with a 5% decrease from March '08 to April '08 and a 16% increase from March '09 to April '10. While it's hard to discern any trends around these 3 year numbers, one thing worth noting is that over the last 6 months, with the exception of blips up in Dec '09 and Jan '10, total video views have stayed relatively stable right around 30 billion. I'm not sure exactly what to conclude from that, but I'll certainly be watching the coming months to see if viewership is flat-lining or just taking a breather.

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  • Why Did Online Video Consumption Spike in 2009?

    If you want to get a sense of how significant an inflection year 2009 was for online video, have a look at the chart below.


    As you can see, according to comScore data, while Jan-Dec growth in 2007 (up 2.8 billion views or 39%) and 2008 (up 4.5 billion views or 46%) were impressive by any standard, the Jan-Dec 2009 growth of 18.4 billion views, up 124%, completely blows them away. Growth was so significant in 2009 that I think years down the road it will be pointed to as the year that online video really turned the corner.

    But if that's the case, the question begs, "Why did growth accelerate so much in 2009 vs. prior years?" That's what I've been asked several times by industry colleagues since posting "comScore Data Shows 2009 Was a Blistering Year for Online Video" 2 weeks ago. It's a great question and though I don't have a really precise answer, here's my best sense of what happened.

    No surprise, the most important contributor to the year's growth was YouTube. It zoomed from 6.3 billion views in Jan '09 to 13.2 billion in Dec. '09. That increase of 6.9 views accounts for 38% of the 18.4 billion delta between Jan and Dec. So what did YouTube do to generate such significant growth? Part of the reason is surely organic; more people uploading, sharing and viewing YouTube videos. But in 2009 YouTube also made strides in professionalizing the content on YouTube, broadening its value proposition to users. For example, its "Content ID" program, which lets media companies manage and monetize user-uploaded videos, has largely addressed the copyright infringement concerns from past years (the Viacom suit is a notable exception).

    In 2009, among other things, YouTube also signed up Disney/ESPN, Univision and others as content partners, began implementing FreeWheel's ad system so 3rd party content providers could better monetize their views, engaged a number of leading brands to use it as a promotional platform, and with "YouTube Direct" engaged news organizations as partners. In short, YouTube continues to immerse itself into the fabric of the Internet. Whether users are viewing videos at its site or through its wildly popular embeds, YouTube has become omnipresent. YouTube now also claims to be the 2nd largest search site.

    A second, but distant contributor to 2009's growth was Hulu, which saw its views increase by over 763 million from Jan to Dec, accounting for about 4% of the 18.4 billion increase in total views during that period. Hulu's mindshare leaped following its 2009 "Evil Plot" Super Bowl ad featuring Alec Baldwin and the subsequent ones. No doubt the addition of ABC programs throughout the year, plus other new content partners, also helped generate more viewership, along with the hugely popular SNL clips.

    Once you get beyond these top 2 sites, the individual contributions to 2009's growth are more dispersed. The comScore data shows that across all video sites, usage intensified significantly during the year. For example, the number of videos viewed per viewer increased from 101 in Jan to 187 in Dec. The number of minutes watched jumped from 356 in Jan (almost 6 hours) to 762 in Dec (more than 12 1/2). There were also 31 million more U.S. Internet users watching video in Dec vs. Jan (178 million vs 147 million).

    Looking beyond the numbers and thinking more qualitatively, it's also fair to conclude than in '09 online video reached a certain level of awareness that made it almost ubiquitous. There is just so much video online, and it is shared so widely, and highlighted so frequently by mainstream media, that it is unavoidable, even for the least technically-savvy among us. People are increasingly entertaining themselves with online video, but they're also finding new uses for it in their daily personal and professional lives.

    I think it's unlikely we'll see the same level of growth in 2010 as in 2009, but I do believe the growth curve over the next 5 years will be very steep. The primary contributor will be convergence devices (e.g. game consoles, Blu-ray players, Roku, etc.) that are bridging online video to the TV where longer-form consumption will be the norm. Another key contributor will be TV Everywhere services, which are just now getting off the starting blocks. Lastly, I think growth in mobile consumption will be another important contributor. Add them all up and the 33.2 billion videos viewed in Dec. '09 will look relatively small 5 years from now.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

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  • comScore Data Shows 2009 Was a Blistering Year for Online Video (Slides Available)

    Last Friday, comScore released its Dec. '09 data for online video usage. I've been tracking comScore's data for the last 3 years and Dec put an exclamation mark on what many of us already knew: 2009 was a blistering year of growth in online video consumption. Below are graphs of the most important data (Click here if you'd like a complimentary PDF download of all of the slides.)

    The first graph shows total online video views more than doubled from 14.8 billion in Jan '09 to 33.2 billion in Dec '09. The historical growth is even more impressive. Just two years ago, in Dec '07, comScore reported 10 billion video views.


    Online video usage is now nearly ubiquitous in the U.S. According to comScore, in Dec '09, 86.5% of all U.S. Internet users watched online video, up nearly 10 percentage points from the 76.8% in Jan '09. That translates to 178 million people watching video in Dec '09, up from 147 million in Jan '09. Back in Jan '07, there were 123 million viewers.


    Those users are watching a whole lot more videos as well. For Dec '09, comScore reported that 187 videos were watched per average viewer, up 85% from 101 in Jan '09, and more than triple the 59 watched in Jan '07.


    As well, those viewers spent a lot more time watching online video. In Dec '09 comScore said that the average online viewer watched 762.6 minutes or 12.7 hours, more than double the 356 minutes viewed on average in Jan '09. Here's the really incredible stat: back in Jan '07, comScore pegged this number at just 151 minutes or about 2 1/2 hours, meaning average viewing time has more than quintupled in the last 3 years.


    I've talked many times about how YouTube is the 800 pound gorilla of the online video market, and 2009 only further cemented this. Videos viewed at YouTube surged from 6.3 billion in Jan '09 to 13.2 billion in Dec '09. To put this in perspective, Google closed its acquisition in Nov '06. In Jan '07 (the first month comScore publicly released online video data), YouTube notched 1.2 billion views. That means that in the 3+ years that Google has owned YouTube, it has grown more than 10x in size. More amazing is that even with all the growth by other sites (particularly Hulu), YouTube has kept up its approximate 40% share of the overall online video market, starting the year at 42.9% and ending at 39.8%.


    Speaking of Hulu, in its first full year of operation, the site surged from 250 million views in Jan '09 to 1,013 billion views in Dec '09. Unique viewers increased from 24.4 million in Jan '09 to 44.1 million in Dec '09. But if you look at the red line in the graph below, you'll see that uniques jumped to 41.6 million by Mar '09 which I believe must be due, at least in part, to a likely measurement change by comScore. Since Mar you'll notice that uniques hovered right around 40 million each month, dipping below during the summer and then bouncing back in Q4.


    A few months ago I speculated that Hulu's relatively flat pattern in uniques could suggest that, in its current configuration, Hulu may have saturated the market for its content and user experience (for example, contrast Hulu with YouTube, which grew its uniques by 33% in '09 to 135.8 million by Dec '09). I'll be looking to see if Hulu can notch more noteworthy increases in uniques during '10; if not, then I think my thesis will be proven correct.

    Nonetheless, Hulu's viewers clearly love the site, with average number of videos per viewer more than doubling to 22.9 in Dec '09, up from 9.8 in Dec '08. Users are spending more time on Hulu, increasing the amount of total minutes on the site from 58 in Mar '09 to 132 in Dec '09. What's remarkable though is that the average minutes watched per video (the yellow line below), has stayed virtually constant at around 6 minutes each month. That shows that while there's plenty of long-form consumption happening at Hulu, clips are still very popular too.


    comScore is a great source of month in and month out online video data, but as always my caveat is that no third party can ever track usage as closely as the sites themselves, so take these numbers with a small grain of salt!

    Click here if you'd like a complimentary PDF download of all of the slides.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Jan 25th Week (Netflix Q4, Nielsen ratings, AOL-StudioNow, Net Neutrality Webinar)

    With the new Apple iPad receiving wall-to-wall coverage this week, it was easy to overlook other significant news. Here are 4 items worth noting for the January 25th week:

    1. Netflix Q4 earnings increase my bullishness - On Wednesday, Netflix reported blowout results for Q4 '09, adding almost 3 million subscribers during the year (and a million just in Q4), bringing their YE '09 subscriber count to 12.3 million. Netflix also forecasted to end this year with between 15.5 million and 16.3 million subscribers, implying subscriber growth will be in the range of 26% to 33%. Importantly, Netflix also said that 48% of its subscribers used the company's streaming feature to watch a movie or TV show in Q4, up from 41% in Q3 and 28% a year ago. Wall Street reacted with glee, sending the stock up $12 yesterday to a new high of $63.04.

    VideoNuze readers know I've been bullish on Netflix for some time now, and the Q4 results make me more so. A key concern I've had has been around their ability to gain further premium content for streaming. On the earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Barry McCarthy addressed this issue, offering up additional details of their content strategy and how the recent Warner Bros. 28-day DVD window deal will work. On Monday I'm planning a deep dive post based on what I heard. As a preview, I'm now convinced that Netflix is the #1 cord-cutting threat. Cable, satellite and telco operators need to be watching Netflix very closely.

    2. Nielsen announces combined TV/online ratings plan, but still falls short - This week brought news that Nielsen intends to unveil a "combined national television rating" in September that merges traditional Nielsen TV ratings with certain online viewing data. This is data that TV networks have been hungering for as online viewing has surged, potentially siphoning off TV audiences. I pointed out recently that the lack of such a measurement could seriously retard the growth of TV Everywhere, as cable networks hesitate to risk shifting TV audiences to unmeasurable online viewing.

    Nielsen's move is welcome, but still doesn't go far enough. As reported, it seems the new merged ratings will only count online views that had the same ads and ad load as on-air. That immediately rules out Hulu, which of course carries far fewer ads than on-air, and sometimes uses custom creative as well. Obviously if the new Nielsen ratings don't truly capture online viewership they'll be worth little in the market. Ratings are a story with many future chapters to come.

    3. AOL acquires StudioNow in bid for to ramp up video content - Also not to be overlooked this week was AOL's acquisition of StudioNow for $36.5 million in cash. StudioNow operates a distributed network of 3,000 video producers, creating cost-effective video for small and large companies alike. I'm very familiar with StudioNow, having spoken with their CEO and founder David Mason a number of times.

    AOL is clearly looking to leverage the StudioNow network to generate a mountain of new video content, complementing its "content farm." In addition, AOL picks up StudioNow's recently-launched Video Asset Management & Syndication Platform (AMS) which gives it video management capabilities as well. For AOL the deal suggests the company is finally waking up to video's vast potential. But with the rise of online video syndication, it's still a question mark whether creating a whole lot of new video is the right strategy, or whether AOL would have been better served by just partnering with a syndicator like 5Min.

    Meanwhile, AOL isn't the only portal realizing video is the place to be. In Yahoo's earnings call this week, CEO Carol Bartz said "Frankly, our competition is television" and as Liz wrote, Bartz also said "that makes video really important." Yahoo just partnered with Ben Silverman's new Electus indie video shop, and it sounds like more action is coming. Geez, the prospect of AOL and Yahoo competing on acquisitions? It would be like the old days again.

    4. Net Neutrality webinar next Thursday is going to be awesome - A reminder that next Thurs, Feb. 4th at 11am PT/2pm ET The Diffusion Group and VideoNuze will present a complimentary webinar "Demystifying Net Neutrality." The webinar is the first in a series of 6 throughout 2010, exclusively sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks. Colin Dixon from TDG and I will be hosting and we have 2 fabulous guests, who are on opposing sides of the net neutrality debate: Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at the Progress and Freedom Foundation and Chris Riley, Policy Counsel for Free Press.

    Net neutrality is a critically important part of the landscape for over-the-top video services, and yet it is widely misunderstood. Join us for this one-hour session which promises to be educational and impactful.


    Enjoy your weekend!

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  • Top Rental Data from Netflix is More Evidence that Warner Bros. Deal is a Win

    Following my 2 posts late last week (here and here) about how Netflix's new deal with Warner Bros is win for everyone, the NYTimes has posted a terrific interactive map showing the top rentals in 12 geographic areas of the U.S., sorted by zip code. The map is based on data that Netflix provided to the NYTimes. Playing around with the map, you'll quickly hunger for more details, but you'll also get a sense of the mountain of viewership data Netflix maintains on its 11 million+ subscribers. This data, when combined with the Netflix's algorithms for predicting its users' preferences, further demonstrates how valuable a deal like the one with WB could be for Netflix as it emphasizes streaming.

    In the digital era, data is king because when used properly, it can dramatically improve the quality of the product delivered, in turn driving user satisfaction and profitability. Netflix has always used data very effectively; examples include how it has chosen sites for its distribution centers so that most Americans are within 1 day's delivery, or how it has recommended other titles based on yours and others' preferences, or how much inventory of newly-released DVDs it decides to build. Now, as Netflix shifts its business from physical to digital delivery, it has another big opportunity to leverage the data it has collected from its users.

    While a lot of attention was focused last week on the new 28-day "DVD window" which precludes Netflix from renting recently-released WB titles, I believe more attention should be paid instead to how effectively Netflix will be able to use its trove of data to selectively tap into WB's catalog of titles to boost its streaming selection. Using the data it has collected on physical rentals and search queries, for example, Netflix should be able to literally request title-by-title streaming rights from WB. That's not to say Netflix will necessarily receive access to those particular titles, but by being able to focus its requests, Netflix avoids wasting energy asking for things that are unlikely to have much appeal to its users.

    It's interesting to talk to friends who are Netflix users, including those who don't work in technology-related industries. They have an amazingly high awareness and usage of Netflix's streaming and recognize that it represents the company's future. It's also obvious to them how meager the options are in Watch Instantly as compared with DVD and desperately want more choice. Netflix knows all this, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said last week, "our number one objective now is expanding the digital catalog." But Netflix is in a tight position to get new releases due to existing output deals that Hollywood studios maintain with HBO and other premium channels for electronic delivery. So, as with the WB deal, and others likely to follow, Netflix is trying to be clever about how it builds its streaming catalog by tapping into older, but still valuable titles.

    It's unclear whether Netflix will conclude similar deals with other Hollywood studios. If it can't then the above-described benefits will be limited. In fact, as a couple of people pointed out to me last week, with Hollywood also highly dependent on cable, it's not readily apparent that helping Netflix build its streaming selection is actually in their interest as TV Everywhere services continue to roll out. WB is actually an interesting example; on the one hand, Time Warner's CEO Jeff Bewkes has been the strongest proponent of TV Everywhere, but on the other hand, WB's deal with Netflix creates more competition for it. In short, Hollywood will have its hands full trying to recast its distribution strategy in the digital era.

    DVDs are not going away overnight, but the user data Netflix has will be an enormously valuable tool in helping transition its business to digital delivery and add more value to its subscribers. As long as Netflix complies with its users' privacy expectations, that gives it a big strategic advantage.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Jan 4th Week (Netflix-WB Continued, comScore Nov. '09 stats, TV Everywhere, 3D at CES)

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Jan 4th week:

    1. TechCrunch disagrees with my Netflix-Warner Bros. deal analysis - In "Netflix Stabs Us In The Heart So Hollywood Can Drink Our Blood," (great title btw) MG Siegler at the influential blog TechCrunch excerpts part of my post from yesterday, and takes the consumer's point of view, decrying the new 28 day "DVD window" that Netflix has agreed to in its Warner Bros deal. Siegler's main objection is that "Hollywood thinks that with this new 28-day DVD window deal, the masses are going to rush out and buy DVDs in droves again." Instead, Siegler believes the deal hurts consumers and is going to touch off new, widespread piracy.

    I think Siegler is wrong on both counts, and many of TechCrunch's readers commenting on the post do as well. First, nobody in Hollywood believes DVD sales are going to spike because of deals like this. However, they do believe that any little bit that can be done to preserve the appeal of DVD's initial sale window can only help DVD sales which are critical to Hollywood's economics. Everyone knows DVD is a dying business; the new window is intended to help it die more gracefully. And because new releases are not that critical to many Netflix users anyway, Netflix has in reality given up little, but presumably gotten a lot, with improved access for streaming and lower DVD purchase prices.

    The argument about new, widespread piracy by Netflix users is specious. With or without the 28 day window, there will always be some people who don't respect copyright and think stealing is acceptable. But Netflix isn't running its business with pirates as their top priority. With 11 million subscribers and growing, Netflix is a mainstream-oriented business, and the vast majority of its users are not going to pirate movies - both because they don't know how to (and don't want to learn) and because they think it's wrong. Netflix knows this and is making a calculated long-term bet (correctly in my opinion) that enhancing its streaming catalog is priority #1.

    2. comScore's November numbers show continued video growth - Not to be overlooked in all the CES-related news this week was comScore's report of November '09 online video usage, which set new records. Key highlights: total video viewed were almost 31 billion (double Jan '09's total of 14.8 billion), number of videos viewed/average viewer was 182 (up 80% from Jan '09's 101) and minutes watched/mo were approximately 740 (more than double Jan '09's total of 356).

    Notably, with 12.2 billion views, YouTube's Nov '09 market share of 39.4% grew vs. its October share of 37.7%. As I've previously pointed out, YouTube has demonstrated amazingly consistent market dominance, with its share hovering around 40% since March '08. Hulu also notched another record month, with 924 million streams, putting it in 2nd place (albeit distantly) to YouTube. Still, Hulu had a blowout year, nearly quadrupling its viewership (up from Jan '09's 250 million views). But with 44 million visitors, Hulu's traffic was pretty close to March '09's 41.6 million. In '10 I'm looking to see what Hulu's going to do to break out of the 40-45 million users/mo band it was in for much of '09.

    3. Consumer groups protest TV Everywhere, but their arguments ring hollow - I was intrigued by a joint letter that 4 consumer advocacy groups sent to the Justice Department on Monday, urging it to investigate "potentially unlawful conduct by MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors) offering TV Everywhere services." The letter asserts that MVPDs may have colluded in violation of antitrust laws.

    I'm not a lawyer and so I'm in no position to judge whether any actions alleged to have taken place by MVPDs violated any antitrust laws. Regardless though, the letter from these groups demonstrates that they are missing a fundamental benefit of TV Everywhere - to provide online access to cable TV programming that has not been available to date because there hasn't been an economical model for doing so. In the eyes of people who think that making money is evil, the TV Everywhere model of requiring consumers to first subscribe to a multichannel video service seems anti-consumer and anti-competitive. But to people trying to make a living creating quality TV programming, the preservation of a highly functional business model is essential.

    These advocacy groups need to remember that consumers have a choice; if they don't value cable's programming enough to pay for it, then they can instead just watch free broadcast programs.

    4. 3D is the rage at CES - I'll be doing a CES recap on Monday, but one of the key themes of the show has been 3D. There were two big announcements of new 3D channels, from ESPN and Discovery/Sony/IMAX. LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony announced new 3D TVs. And DirecTV announced that it would launch 3 new 3D channels by June 2010, with Panasonic as the presenting sponsor. 3D sets will be an expensive proposition for consumers for some time, but prices will of course come down over time.

    Something that I wonder about is what impact will 3D have on online and mobile video? Will this spur innovation in computer monitors so that the 3D experience can be experienced online as well? And how about mobile - will we soon be slipping on 3D glasses while looking at our iPhones and Android phones? It may seem like a ridiculous idea, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  • Parsing Hulu's 856 Million Streams Yields Valuable Insights

    Just before the Thanksgiving buzzer went off for many last Wednesday, comScore released its October 2009 Video Metrix data under the banner headline "Hulu Delivers Record 856 Million U.S. Video Views in October During Height of Fall TV Season." Hulu's 856 million views (which are 47% higher than its September total of 583 million) are indeed eye-grabbing. When viewed in the context of Hulu's performance to date, as tracked by comScore since May, 2008 shortly after the site's launch, it's possible to glean a number of valuable insights.

    Below is a chart with comScore's data for Hulu's total monthly video views and unique visitors since May '08. The blue bars would make any online content CEO swoon; in the 18 months since it launched, Hulu has increased its monthly views nearly 10-fold, from 88.2 million in May '08 to this past October's 856 million.


    Two clear viewership spikes are noticeable - from July '08 to Oct '08 there was a 97% increase in views (from 119.3 million to 235 million) and from July '09 to Oct '09 there was an 87% increase (from 457 million to 856 million). It should be noted that the Nov '08 total of 226.5 million was down nearly 4% vs. Oct '08, potentially foreshadowing a decrease to come in Nov '09 as well. Other than this dip, there has been only 1 other sequential monthly drop in Hulu's views, a 6% drop from April '09 to June '09. Taken together, Hulu's steady, yet dramatic increase in viewership is remarkable.

    On the other hand, I believe the red line in the chart, showing unique monthly visitors, raises some concerns. You'll notice that after a solid 20% jump in uniques from Feb '09 (34.7 million) to March '09 (41.6 million), unique visitors have stayed in a fairly level range through Oct '09 (42.5 million), with uniques actually below the 40 million mark for Jun-Sept. This contributes to a theory I've been developing about Hulu for some time now: in its current configuration, I think it's quite possible that Hulu has saturated the market for its content and user experience. This isn't a hard-and-fast conclusion, but it's worth noting that even with the addition of the ABC programs, Hulu's uniques are scarcely better than they were 6 months ago. Unless the unique number jumps in the coming months (and I doubt it will), Hulu will have to meaningfully enhance its value proposition to grow its audience (can you say "Hulu-to-the-TV-via-Xbox/Roku/Apple TV/etc?").

    As the blue bars in the chart below show, usage of Hulu by its users is growing nicely. According to comScore, the average Hulu viewer viewed 20.1 videos on the site in October, up 33% from September's 15.1 videos, and nearly double July's 10.1 videos. In October Hulu drove almost double the number of videos/viewer as the Microsoft (11.1 videos) and Viacom (10.3 videos) sites, though it still lags the Google sites, which are primarily YouTube (83.5 videos) by an enormous margin. As I've said many times, YouTube is the month-in-and-month-out 800 pound gorilla of the online video market.


    As shown by the red line in the chart, the 120 total minutes viewed per Hulu viewer is roughly even with Nov '08. However, it's possible that comScore was measuring this differently a year ago, as Hulu's minutes per viewer drop dramatically and oddly, from Nov '08 to Mar 09 (58 minutes). Since that time though Hulu's minutes per viewer have steadily increased.

    That said, as the yellow line shows, the minutes watched per video have stayed remarkably constant, hovering in a very narrow range around 6 minutes since Mar '09. Hulu's users are spending more time on the site watching more total videos, but it seems they watch a very consistent mix of short clips and longer programs each month. In fact, while Hulu is commonly thought of as a site for full-length TV programs, only 1 of its top 10 most popular videos of all time is a full program and not a short clip, and only 6 out of its top 20 videos are full programs (though the mix may be changing as this month 8 out of the top 10 and 16 out of the top 20 most popular are full programs). To the extent that Hulu viewers stick with a program to its end, the current month's usage would suggest that minutes watched per video is poised to increase, along with it revenue per user session, which is an important barometer of the site's success.

    With its exclusive access to 3 of the 4 broadcast networks' hit programs, Hulu has significant competitive advantages, which it has further capitalized on with its superb user experience. Despite positive and encouraging reports about its ad sales efforts, Hulu still has a long way to go to prove it can monetize its audience as effectively as its parent companies can do with programs viewed on-air. As a result speculation about a Hulu subscription service (which I consider inevitable) will continue to loom.

    Other variables affecting Hulu's future also swirl: what will Comcast do if/when it acquires NBCU and therefore becomes a Hulu owner? What happens to Fox's programs on Hulu should Rupert Murdoch expand his focus beyond his newspapers' online content going premium? What if Disney decides to launch its own subscription services? What if Google or Microsoft or Netflix (or someone else) decides to open their wallet and make a bigger play in premium online video?

    Hulu is still a relatively young site and the insights above are not fully conclusive, especially because they're based on 3rd party data. Hulu has clearly built a solid brand and user experience. Its monthly performance is well worth following.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Nov 16th Week (FCC's Open Access, Broadcast woes, Droid sales, AOL cuts)

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 16th week:

    1. FCC raises "Open Access" possibility, would further government's control of the Internet - As reported by the WSJ this week, the FCC is now considering an "Open Access" policy that would require broadband Internet providers to open up their networks for use by competitors. The move comes on top of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's recent proposal for formalizing net neutrality, a plan that I vigorously oppose. Open Access gained steam recently due to a report released by Harvard's Berkman Center that characterized the U.S. as a "middle-of-the-pack" country along various broadband metrics. The report has been roundly dismissed by service providers as drawing incorrect conclusions due to reliance on incomplete data.

    The FCC is in the midst of crafting a National Broadband Plan, as required by Congress, aimed at providing universal broadband service throughout the U.S. as well as faster broadband speeds. Improving broadband Internet access in rural areas of the U.S. is a worthy goal, but the FCC should be pursuing surgical approaches for accomplishing this, rather than turning the whole broadband industry upside down. As for increasing speeds, major ISPs are already pushing 50 and 100 mbps services, more than most consumers need right now anyway. Broadband connectivity is the lifeblood for online video providers and any government initiative that risks unintended consequences of slowing network infrastructure investments is unwise.

    2. Broadcast TV executives waking up to online video's challenges - Reading the coverage of B&C/Multichannel News's panel earlier this week, "Free Streaming: Killing or Saving the Television Business" featuring Marc Graboff (NBCU), Bruce Rosenblum (Warner Bros.), Nancy Tellem (CBS) and John Wells (WGA), I kept wondering where were these sentiments when the Hulu business plan was being crafted?

    Hulu is of course the poster child for providing free access to the networks' programs, with just a fraction of the ad load as on-air. While the panelists agreed that the industry should be dissuading consumers from cord-cutting, Hulu is (purposefully or not) the chief reason some people consider dropping cable/satellite/telco service. For VideoNuze readers, it's old news already that broadcast networks have been hurting themselves with their current online model. What was amazing to me in reading about the panel is that what now seems obvious should have been very apparent to industry executives from the start.

    3. Motorola Droid sales off to a strong start - The mobile analytics firm Flurry released data suggesting that first week Verizon sales of the Motorola Droid smartphone were an estimated 250,000. Flurry tracks applications on smartphones to estimate sales volume of devices. While the Droid results are lower than the 1.6 million iPhone 3GS units sold in that device's first week, Flurry notes that the iPhone 3GS was available in 8 countries and also had an installed base of 25 million 1st generation iPhones to draft on.

    The Droid's success is important for lots of reasons, but from my perspective the key is how it expands the universe of mobile video users. As I noted in "Mobile Video Continues to Gain Traction," a robust mobile ecosystem is developing, and getting more smartphones into users' hands is crucial. I was in my local Verizon store this week and saw the Droid for the first time - though it lacks some of the iPhone's sleekness, the video quality is even better.

    4. AOL's downsizing suggests further pain ahead - AOL was back in the news this week, planning to cut one-third of its employees ahead of its spin-off from Time Warner on Dec. 9th. The cuts will bring the company's headcount to 4,500-5,000, down from its peak of 18,000 in 2001. As I explained recently, no company has been hurt more by the rise of broadband than AOL, whose dial-up subscribers have fled en masse to broadband ISPs. Now AOL is going all-in on the ad model, even as the ad business itself is getting hurt by the ongoing recession. New AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is clearly a guy who loves a challenge; righting the AOL ship is a real long shot bet. I once thought of AOL as being a real leader in online video. Now I'm hard-pressed to see how the AOL story is going to have a happy ending.

    Enjoy your weekends!

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Nov 9th Week (Flip ads, YouTube ad-skipping, NY Times video, Nielsen data)

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 9th week:

    1. Will Cisco's new Flip Video camera ad campaign fly? - Cisco deserves credit for its new "Do You Flip" ad campaign for its Flip Video camera, a real out-of-the-box effort comprised entirely of user-generated video clips shot by ordinary folks and celebrities alike. As the campaign was described in this Online Media Daily article, finding the clips and then editing them together sounds like heavy lifting, but the results perfectly reinforce the value proposition of the camera itself. The ads are being shown on TV and the web; there's an outdoor piece to the campaign as well.

    Cisco acquired Flip for nearly $600 million earlier this year in a somewhat incongruous deal that thrust the router powerhouse into the intensely competitive consumer electronics fray. Cisco will have to spend aggressively to maintain market share as other pocket video cameras have gained steam, like the Creative Vado HD, Samsung HMX and Kodak Z series. There's also emerging competition from smartphones (led by the iPhone of course) that have built-in video recording capabilities. I've been somewhat skeptical of the Cisco-Flip deal, but with the new campaign, Cisco looks committed to making it a success.

    2. YouTube brings ad-skipping to the web - Speaking of out-of-the-box thinking, YouTube triggered a minor stir in the online video advertising space this week by announcing a trial of "skippable pre-roll" ads. On the surface, it feels unsettling that DVR-style ad-skipping - a growing and bedeviling trend on TV - is now coming to the web. Yet as YouTube explained, there's actually ample reason and some initial data to suggest that by empowering viewers, the ads that are watched could be even more valuable.

    One thing pre-roll skipping would surely do is up the stakes for producing engaging ads that immediately capture the viewer's attention. And it would also increase the urgency for solid targeting. Done right though, I think pre-roll skipping could work quite well. At a minimum I give YouTube points for trying it out. Incidentally, others in the industry are doing other interesting things improve the engagement and effectiveness of the pre-roll. I'll have more on this in the next week or two.

    3. Watching the NY Times at 30,000 feet - Flipping channels on my seat-back video screen on a JetBlue flight from Florida earlier this week, I happened on a series of highly engaging NY Times videos: a black and white interview with Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, then a David Pogue demo of the Yoostar Home Greenscreen Kit and then an expose of Floyd Bennett Field, the first municipal airport in New York City. It turned out that all were running on The Travel Channel.

    Good for the NY Times. Over the past couple of years I've written often about the opportunities that broadband video opens up for newspapers and magazines to leverage their brands, advertising relationships and editorial skills into the new medium. By also running their videos on planes, the NY Times is exposing many prospective online viewers to its video content, thereby broadening what the NY Times brand stands for and likely generating subsequent traffic to its web site. That's exactly what it and other print pubs should be doing to avoid the fate of the recently-shuttered Gourmet magazine, which never fully mined the web's potential. I know I'm a broken record on this, but video producers must learn that syndicating their video as widely as possible is imperative.

    4. Nielsen forecast underscores smartphones' mobile video potential - A couple of readers pointed out that in yesterday's post, "Mobile Video Continues to Gain Traction" I missed relevant Nielsen data from just the day before. Nielsen forecasts that smartphones will be carried by more than 50% of cell phone users by 2011, totaling over 150 million people. Nielsen assumes that 60% of these smartphone owners will be watching video translating to an audience size of 90 million people. Its research also shows that 47% of users of the new Motorola Droid smartphone are watching video, vs. 40% of iPhone users. Not a huge distinction, but more evidence that the Droid and other newer smartphones are likely to increase mobile video consumption still further.

    Enjoy your weekends!

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #39 - November 6, 2009

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 39th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for November 6, 2009.

    This week Daisy and I first dig into the research I shared about Netflix's Watch Instantly users that I wrote about earlier this week. The research, by One Touch Intelligence and The Praxi Group, indicated that 62% of respondents have used the Watch Instantly streaming feature, with 54% saying they use it to watch at least 1 movie or TV show per month. Daisy and I discuss the significance of these and other data from the research. As a reminder the research is available as a complimentary download from VideoNuze.

    Daisy is in NY this week attending Ad:Tech, and she then shares observations from a couple of sessions she's attended. In particular she passes on the advice that Sir Martin Sorrell, head of large agency holding company WPP, about where the advertising business is heading and how he's preparing WPP for the future.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (14 minutes, 45 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

    The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!

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  • New Research on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" Shows Surging Usage

    Netflix's "Watch Instantly" streaming video usage is surging, according to new research by One Touch Intelligence, in association with The Praxi Group. The firms surveyed a qualified online panel of 1,000 Netflix subscribers in October. I've been eagerly following the Netflix's streaming initiative and this is the first research I've seen which reveals Netflix subscribers' Watch Instantly usage patterns. I'm pleased to offer the top-line results and analysis as a complimentary download.

    Click here to download the research

    The research confirms that Watch Instantly ("WI") enjoys broad support, with 62% of respondents (extrapolated to approximately 6.9 million of Netflix's 11.1 million subscribers) reporting that they have used WI since it was introduced and 54% (extrapolated to approximately 6 million subs) saying that they use it to watch at least 1 movie or TV show per month. Netflix itself has only disclosed (on its recent Q3 '09 earnings call) that 42% of its subscribers streamed at least 15 minutes of a TV show or movie during the 3rd quarter.

    Netflix subscribers also appear to be using WI intensively, watching an average 6 titles per month. The following chart shows the distribution of usage from zero to 8+ titles per month.


    WI usage is heavily tilted toward movie watching, with 92% saying they've used WI to stream a movie vs. 55% for a TV show. For each monthly usage level, more movies were watched than TV shows, likely reflecting the fact that movies are the majority of the 17,000 title WI catalog.

    Though Netflix has made huge strides in embedding the WI client software in CE devices (e.g. Xbox, Roku, Blu-ray DVD players, PS3, etc.), over 60% of WI viewing still happens on the computer. Coming in second, with 13.4% is computers connected to a TV. Only then do the CE devices start showing up in the research: video game console (11.1%), DVD player (5.7%) and Roku (3.6%). Clearly we're still in the very early days of the "convergence era" where broadband is widely connected to the TV. The research does highlight that the 3.6% Roku figure could be extrapolated to suggest that about 400,000 Roku devices are being used by Netflix subscribers, a relatively strong showing by the company.

    Meanwhile, if you thought Netflix WI would be leading to rampant "cord-cutting" of current video services (cable/satellite/telco), think again. Only 2% of the respondents said they've cancelled their incumbent video service, and it should be noted that the question asked if the disconnect was due to Netflix in general, not just WI in particular.

    Further encouraging to current video service providers is that 67% of respondents say they prefer to have both a Netflix and a cable/satellite subscription. Asked if they had to give up one, 20% said they'd give up Netflix first vs. 13% who said they'd give up cable/satellite first. None of this is reason for incumbent for relax - especially as WI and other streaming video services are poised to improve - but it does suggest that at least for now, Netflix isn't an either/or proposition for most people.

    This is just a quick summary of the findings; there's more available in the report. My view is that Netflix has made enormous progress with WI in a very short period of time. The decision to make it a value add to subscribers, rather than charging for it, has no doubt been key. In fact, TV Everywhere providers have wisely taken a cue from WI by also planning to offer TVE as a value add. Netflix has also made WI extremely easy to use, with only 15% of survey respondents saying it is "too complicated to use regularly." This too is a lesson for others to follow.

    With WI offering the prospect of Netflix lowering its massive postage bill, reducing its DVD inventory, and providing greater convenience to its subscribers, we can expect the company to continue investing heavily in WI. The big challenge for Netflix, as I've noted many times before, is beefing up their content selection. With WI the company is running into the thicket of prevailing Hollywood release windows which are not going to dramatically change any time soon. Still, I continue to consider Netflix the best-positioned emerging player in broadband-only premium video delivery. This story is still in its earliest days.

    (Thanks to One Touch's Stewart Schley for providing the research)

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Oct 19th Week (FCC/Net neutrality, Cisco research, Netflix earnings, Yahoo-GroupM)

    Following are 4 items worth noting from the Oct 19th week:

    1. FCC kicks off net neutrality rulemaking process among flurry of input - As expected, the FCC kicked off its net neutrality rulemaking process yesterday, with all commissioners voting to explore how to set rules regulating the Internet for the first time, though Republican appointees dissented on whether new rules were in fact needed.

    Leading up to the vote there was a flurry of input by stakeholders and Congress. Everyone agrees on the "motherhood and apple pie" goal that the Internet must remain open and free. The disagreement is over whether new rules are required to accomplish this, and if there are to be new rules what specifically should they be. As I argued here, the FCC is treading into very tricky waters, and law of unintended consequences looms. Already telco executives are talking about curtailing investments in network infrastructure, the opposite of what the FCC is trying to foster. The FCC will be seeking input from stakeholders as part of the process. Even though chairman Genachowski's bias to regulate is very clear, let's hope that as the data and facts are presented, the FCC is able to come to right decision, which is to leave the well-functioning Internet alone.

    2. New Cisco research substantiates video, social networking usage - Speaking of the well-functioning Internet, Cisco released its Visual Networking Index study this week based on research gathered from 20 leading service providers. Cisco found that the average broadband connection consumes 4.3 gigabytes of "visual networking applications" (video, social networking and collaboration) per month, or the equivalent of 20 short videos. (Note that comScore's Aug data said of the 161 million viewers in the U.S. alone, the average number of videos viewed per month was 157.) I'm not sure what the difference is other than Cisco is measuring global traffic and comScore data is at U.S. only. Regardless, the Cisco research continues to demonstrate that users are shifting to more bandwidth-intensive applications, and the Internet is scaling up to meet their demands.

    3. Netflix reports strong Q3 '09 earnings, streaming usage surges - Netflix continues to stand out as unaffected by the economy's woes, reporting its Q3 results late yesterday that included adding 510,000 net new subscribers, almost double the 261,000 from Q3 '08. The company finished the quarter with 11.1 million subs and projects to end the year with 12 to 12.3 million subs. If Netflix were a cable operator it would be the 3rd largest, just behind Time Warner Cable, which has approximately 13 million video subscribers.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also disclosed that 42% of Netflix's subscribers watched a TV episode or movie using the "Watch Instantly" streaming feature during the quarter, up from 22% in Q3 '08. Hastings also said in 2010 the company will begin streaming internationally, even though it has no plans to ship DVDs outside the U.S. He added that in Q4 Netflix will announce yet another CE device on which Watch Instantly will be available (just this week it also announced a partnership with Best Buy to integrate Watch Instantly with Insignia Blu-ray players). Net, net, Watch Instantly looks like it's getting great traction for Netflix and will continue to be a bigger part of the company's mix. Yet as I've mentioned in the past, a key challenge for Netflix is making more content available for streaming.

    4. Yahoo's pact with GroupM for original branded entertainment raises more questions - Shifting gears, Yahoo and GroupM, the media buying powerhouse announced a deal this week to begin co-producing original branded entertainment for advertisers. The idea is to then distribute the video throughout Yahoo's News, Sports, Finance and Entertainment sections. GroupM has had some success in the past, as its "In the Motherhood" series, created for Sprint and Unilever, was picked up by ABC, though it was quickly canceled. As I pointed out in my recent post about Break Media, branded entertainment initiatives continue to grow.

    Less clear to me is Yahoo's approach to video. CEO Carol Bartz said last month that "video is so crucial to our users and our advertisers..." that "there's a big emphasis inside Yahoo on our video platforms" and that "a big cornerstone of our strategy is video." OK, but these comments came just months after Yahoo closed down its Maven Networks platform, which it had only acquired in Feb '08. Having spent time at Maven, I can attest that its technology would have been well-suited to supporting the engagement and interactivity requirements of these new Yahoo-GroupM branded entertainment projects. Yahoo's video strategy, such as it is, remains very confusing to me.

    Note there will be no VideoNuze email on Monday as I'll be in Denver moderating the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast at the CTAM Summit...enjoy your weekend!

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  • Lots of News Yesterday - Adobe, Hulu, IAB, Yahoo, AEG, KIT Digital, VBrick, Limelight, Kaltura

    Yesterday was one of those days when meaningful broadband video-related news and announcements just kept spilling out. While I was writing up the 5Min-Scripps Networks deal, there was a lot of other stuff happening. Here's what hit my radar, in case you missed any of it:

    Adobe launches Flash 10.1 with numerous video enhancements - Adobe kicked off its MAX developer conference with news that Flash 10.1 will be available for virtually all smartphones, in connection with the Open Screen Project initiative, will support HTTP streaming for the first time, and with Flash Professional CS5, will enable developers to build Flash-based apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. All of this is part of the battle Adobe is waging to maintain Flash's lead position on the desktop and extend it to mobile devices. The HTTP streaming piece means CDNs will be able to leverage their HTTP infrastructure as an alternative to buying Flash Media Server 3.5. Meanwhile Apple is showing no hints yet of supporting Flash streaming on the iPhone, making it the lone smartphone holdout.

    Hulu gets Mediavest multi-million dollar buy - Hulu got a shot in the arm as Mediaweek reported that the Publicis agency Mediavest has committed several million dollars from 6 clients to Hulu in an upfront buy. Hulu has been flogged recently by other media executives for its lightweight ad model, so the deal is a well-timed confidence booster, though it is still just a drop in the bucket in overall ad spending.

    IAB ad spending research reports mixed results - Speaking of ad spending, the IAB and PriceWaterhouseCoopers released data yesterday showing overall Internet ad spending declined by 5.3% to $10.9B in 1H '09 vs. 1H '08. Some categories were actually up though, and online video advertising turned in a solid performance, up 38% from $345M in 1H '08 to $477M in 1H '09. Though still a small part of the overall pie, online video advertising's resiliency in the face of the recession is a real positive.

    Yahoo ups its commitment to original video - Yahoo is one of the players relying on advertising to support its online video initiatives, and so Variety's report that Yahoo may as much as double its proportion of originally-produced video demonstrates how strategic video is becoming for the company. Yahoo has of course been all over the map with video in recent years including the short tenure of Lloyd Braun and then the Maven acquisition, which was closed down in short order. Now though, by focusing on short-form video that augments its core content areas, Yahoo seems to have hit on a winning formula. New CEO Carol Bartz is reported to be a big proponent of video.

    AEG Acquires Incited Media, KIT Digital Acquires The FeedRoom and Nunet - AEG, the sports/venue operator, ramped up its production capabilities by creating AEG Digital Media and acquiring webcasting expert Incited Media. Company executives told me late last week that when combined with AEG's venues and live production expertise, the company will be able to offer the most comprehensive event management and broadcasting services. Elsewhere, KIT Digital, the acquisitive digital media technology provider picked up two of its competitors, Nunet, a German company focused on mobile devices, and The FeedRoom, an early player in video publishing/management solutions which has recently been focused on the enterprise. KIT has made a slew of deals recently and it will be interesting to watch how they knit all the pieces together.

    Product news around video delivery from VBrick, Limelight and Kaltura - Last but not least, there were 3 noteworthy product announcements yesterday. Enterprise video provider VBrick launched "VEMS" - VBrick Enterprise Media System - a hardware/software system for distributing live and on-demand video throughout the enterprise. VEMS is targeted to companies with highly distributed operations looking to use video as a core part of their internal and external communications practices.

    Separate, Limelight unveiled "XD" its updated network platform that emphasizes "Adaptive Intelligence," which I interpret as its implementation of adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming (see Limelight comment below, my bad) that is becoming increasing popular for optimizing video delivery (Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Apple, Akamai, Move Networks and others are all active in ABR too). And Kaltura, the open source video delivery company I wrote about here, launched a new offering to support diverse video use cases by educational institutions. Education has vast potential for video, yet I'm not aware of many dedicated services. I expect this will change.

    I may have missed other important news; if so please post a comment.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting (comScore, Viral videos' formula, Netflix, VideoSchmooze) for Sept 26th Week

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of Sept. 26th:

    1. Summer '09 was a blockbuster for online video - comScore released U.S. online video viewership data early this week, providing evidence of how big a blockbuster the summer months were for each metric comScore tracks. The 3 metrics that I watch most closely each month showed the healthiest gains vs. April, the last pre-summer month comScore reported. Total videos viewed in August were 25.4 billion, a 51% increase over April's 16.8 billion. The average number of videos watched per viewer was 157, up 41% from April's 111. And the average online video viewer watched 582 minutes (9.7 hours), a 51% increase from April's 385 (6.4 hours).

    Also worth noting was YouTube crossing the 10 billion videos viewed in a single month mark for the first time, maintaining a 39.6% share of the market. According to comScore's stats I've collected, YouTube has been in the 39% to 44% market share range since May '08, having increased from 16.2% in Jan '07 when comScore first started reporting. Hulu also notched a winning month. While its unique viewers fell slightly to 38.5M from 40.1M in April, its total video views increased from 396M to 488.2M, with its average viewer watching 12.7 videos for a total of 1 hour and 17 minutes. It will be very interesting to see if September's numbers hold these trends or dip back to pre-summer levels.

    2. So this is how to make funny viral branded videos - I was intrigued by a piece in ClickZ this week, "There's a Serious Business Behind Funny Viral Videos" which provided three points of view - from, The Onion and Mekanism (a S.F.-based creative production agency) - about how to make branded content funny and then how to make it go viral. The article points out that a whole new sub-specialty has emerged to service brands looking to get noticed online with their own humorous content.

    Humor works so well because the time to hook someone into a video is no more than 2-3 seconds according to Mekanism's Tommy Means. Beyond humor, successful videos most often include stunts or cool special effects or shock value. Once produced the real trick is leveraging the right distribution network to drive viral reach. For example, Means describes a network of 100 influencers with YouTube channels who can make a video stand out. After reading the article you get the impression that there's nothing random about which funny videos get circulated; there's a lot of strategy and discipline involved behind the scenes.

    3. Wired magazine's article on Netflix is too optimistic - I've had several people forward me a link to Wired magazine's article, "Netflix Everywhere: Sorry Cable You're History" in which author Daniel Roth makes the case that by Netflix embedding its streaming video software in multiple consumer electronics devices, the company has laid the groundwork for a rash of cable cord-cutting by consumers.

    I've been bullish for sometime on Netflix's potential as an "over-the-top" video alternative. But despite all of Netflix's great progress, particularly on the device side, its Achilles' heel remains content selection for its Watch Instantly streaming feature (as an example, my wife and I have repeatedly tried to find appealing recent movies to stream, but still often end up settling for classic, but older movies like "The English Patient").

    Roth touches on this conundrum too, but in my opinion takes a far too optimistic point of view about what a deal like the one Netflix did with Starz will do to eventually give Netflix access to Hollywood's biggest and most current hits. The Hollywood windowing system is so rigid and well-protected that I've long-since concluded the only way Netflix is going to crack the system is by being willing to write big checks to Hollywood, a move that Netflix CEO is unlikely to make. The impending launch of TV Everywhere is going to create whole new issues for budding OTT players.

    Although I'm a big Netflix fan, and in fact just ordered another Roku, I'm challenged to understand how Netflix is going to solve its content selection dilemma. This is one of the topics we'll discuss at VideoNuze's CTAM Summit breakfast on Oct. 26th in Denver, which includes Roku's VP of Consumer Products Tim Twerdahl.

    4. VideoSchmooze is just 1 1/2 weeks away - Time is running out to register for the "VideoSchmooze" Broadband Video Leadership Evening, coming up on Tues, Oct 13th from 6-9pm at the Hudson Theater in NYC. We have an amazing discussion panel I'll be moderating with Dina Kaplan (, George Kliavkoff (Hearst), Perkins Miller (NBC Sports) and Matt Strauss (Comcast). We'll be digging into all the hottest broadband and mobile video questions, with plenty of time for audience Q&A.

    Following the panel we'll have cocktails and networking with industry colleagues you'll want to meet. Registration is running very strong, with companies like Sprint, Google/YouTube, Cox, MTV, Cox, PBS, NY Times, Morgan Stanley, Hearst, Showtime, Hulu, Telemundo, Cisco, HBO, Motorola and many others all represented. Register now!

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting (Hulu, TiVo-Emmys, GAP-VMIX, Long Tail) for Sept 21st Week

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of Sept. 21st:

    1. Bashing Hulu gains steam - what's going on here? - These days everyone seems to want bash Hulu and its pure ad-supported business model for premium content. Last week it was Soleil Securities releasing a report that Hulu costs its owners $920 per viewer in advertising when they shift their viewership. This week, it was a panel of industry executives turn. Then a leaked email from CBS's Quincy Smith showed his dissatisfaction with Hulu, and interest in trying to prove it is the cause of its parent networks' ratings declines.

    What's happening here is that the world is waking up to the fact that although Hulu's user experience is world-class, its ad model implementation is simply too light to be sustainable. I wrote about this a year ago in "Broadcast Networks' Use of Broadband Video is Accelerating Demise of their Business Model," following up in May with "OK, Hulu Now Has ABC. But When Will it Prove Its Business Model?" Content executives are finally realizing that it is still too early to put long form premium quality video online for free. Doing so spoils viewers and reinforces their expectation that the Internet is a free-only medium. When TV Everywhere soon reasserts the superiority of hybrid pay/ad models, ad-only long-form sites are going to get squeezed. At VideoSchmooze on Oct 13th, we have Hulu's first CEO George Kliavkoff on our panel; it's going to be a great opportunity to understand Hulu's model and dig further into this whole issue.

    2. TiVo data on ad-skipping for Emmy-winning programs should have TV industry alarmed - As if ad-skipping in general wasn't already a "hair-on-fire" problem for TV executives, research TiVo released this week on ad-skipping behavior specifically for Emmy-winning programs should have the industry on DEFCON 1 alert. Using data from its "Stop | Watch" ratings service, TiVo found that audiences for the winning programs in the 5 top Emmy categories - Outstanding Comedy Series, Drama Series, Animated Program, Reality-Competition and Variety/Music/Comedy Series - all show heavier than average (for their genre) time-shifting. The same pattern is true for ad-skipping; the only exception is "30 Rock" (winner of Outstanding Comedy Series) which performs slightly better than its genre average.

    The numbers for AMC's "Mad Men" (winner of Outstanding Drama Series), are particularly eye-opening: 85% of the TiVo research panel's viewers time-shifted, and of those, 83% ad-skipped. (Note as an avid Mad Men viewer, I've been doing both since the show's premiere episode. It's unimaginable to me to watch the show at its appointed time, and with the ads.) The data means that even when TV execs produce a critical winner, their ability to effectively monetize it is under siege. How long will BMW sign up to be Mad Men's premier sponsor with research like this? TiVo's time-shifting data shows why network executives have to get the online ad model right. When TV Everywhere launches it will cater to massive latent interest in on-demand access by viewers; it is essential these views be better monetized than Hulu, for example, is doing today.

    3. Radio stations push into online video as GAP Broadcasting launches with VMIX - Lacking its own video, the radio industry has been a little bit of the odd man out in the online video revolution. Some of the industry's bigger players like Clear Channel have jumped in, but there hasn't been a lot of momentum, especially with the ad downturn. But this week GAP Broadcasting, owner of 116 stations in mostly smaller markets announced a partnership with video platform and content provider VMIX. I talked to VMIX CEO Mike Glickenhaus who reported that radio stations are starting to get on board. For GAP, VMIX is providing an online video platform, premium content from hundreds of licensed partners, user-generated video tools and sales training, among other things. GAP's goal is to be a "total audience engagement platform" not just a radio station. Sounds right, but there's lots of hard work ahead.

    4. So is there a "Long Tail" or isn't there? Ever since Chris Anderson's book "The Long Tail" appeared in 2006 there have been researchers challenging his theory which asserts that infinite shelf space drives customer demand into the niches. The latest attempt is by 2 Wharton professors, who, using Netflix data, observe that the Long Tail effect is not ironclad. Sometimes it's present, sometimes it's not. Anderson disputes their findings. The argument boils down to the definitions of the "head" and "tail" of the markets being studied. Anderson defines them in absolute terms (say the top 100 products), whereas the Wharton team defines them in terms of percentages (the top 1 %).

    I've been fascinated with the Long Tail concept since the beginning, as it potentially represents a continued evolution of video choice; over-the-air broadcasting allowed for 3 channels originally, cable then allowed for 30, 50, 500, now broadband creates infinite shelf space. Independent online video producers and their investors have bet on the Long Tail effect working for them to drive viewership beyond broadcast and cable. With Nielsen reporting hours of TV viewership holding steady, we haven't yet seen cannibalization. However, with Nielsen, comScore and others reporting online video consumption surging, audiences may be carving out time from other activities to go online and watch.

    Enjoy your weekends! There will be no VideoNuze on Monday as I'll be observing Yom Kippur.

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting from the Week of September 14th

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of Sept. 14th:

    1. Ad spending slowdown continues - TNS Media Intelligence reported that 1st half '09 U.S. ad spending declined 14.3% vs. a year ago, to $60.87 billion. Spending in Q2 '09 alone was down 13.9% vs. a year ago, the 5th straight declining quarter. The only bright spots TNS reported were Internet display ads (up 6.5%) and Free Standing Inserts (up 4.6%).

    Rupert Murdoch and others in the industry have lately been suggesting that advertising is starting to improve and that the worst is behind us. But TNS SVP Research Jon Swallen was less sanguine, saying only that "Early data from third quarter hint at possible improvements for some media due to easy comparisons against distressed levels of year ago expenditures." While the online video ad sector has held up far better than most, the ad spending crash has caused many in the industry to re-evaluate whether ad-only models are viable, particularly for long-form premium content online. Subscription-oriented initiatives will only intensify the longer the ad slowdown lasts.

    2. Veoh's court victory is important for all in the industry - I'd be remiss not to note the significance of U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz's granting of Veoh's motion for summary judgment, effectively throwing out Universal Music's suit alleging Veoh had infringed UMG's copyrights. Judge Matz articulated the specific reasons he believed Veoh operated within the "safe harbor" provisions of the DMCA.

    As a content producer myself (albeit at a completely different level than a music publisher or film studio!), I've generally been a huge advocate of copyright protection. But the fact is that DMCA - for better or worse - set out the rules for digital copyright use and they must be enforced clearly and forcefully. Anything less leaves the market in a state of confusion, with industry participants wary of inviting costly, time-consuming legal action (Veoh has said the UMG suit cost it millions of dollars in legal fees). For online video to thrive the rules of the road need to be well-understood; Judge Matz's ruling made an important contribution toward that goal.

    3. Digitalsmiths announces new senior level hires - This week Digitalsmiths announced that it has brought on board Josh Wiggins as its new VP, Business Development, West Coast and two others, who will collectively be the company's first L.A.-based presence. They'll report in to Bob Bryson, SVP of Sales and Business Development.

    I caught up with Digitalsmiths' CEO Ben Weinberger briefly, who explained that with tier 1 film/TV studios and other content owners (news, sports, etc.) the company's major focus, it was essential to have a full-time presence there staffed with people who know the industry cold. Ben reported that the company has honed in on target customers who have very large files, have video as their core business/revenue center, require sophisticated metadata management and often need a rapid video capture, processing and playout workflow. Digitalsmiths is proving a solid example of how to effectively differentiate through product and customer focus in a very crowded space. Announced customers include Warner Bros., Telepictures and, others are in the hopper (note Digitalsmiths is a VideoNuze sponsor).

    4. New site is a worth its weight in gold - On a somewhat lighter note, this week the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation unveiled, which offers thoughtful, introspective video interviews with a wide range of TV's most influential personalities. If you have nostalgia for the classic TV shows from your youth, or just appreciate the amazing talent that has made the medium what it is, this site is for you. It is remarkably well-organized and accessible and brilliant proof of online video's power in presenting invaluable material that was previously available only to a lucky few.

    I happily got lost in the site listening to Alan Alda talk about the fabulous writers of M*A*S*H and Steven Bochco describing the magic of "Hill Street Blues." I searched by "Happy Days" and quickly found the exact clips of Ron Howard talking about the role of his "Richie Cunningham" character in the show's arc and Henry Winkler revealing the influence of Sylvester Stallone on how he developed the voice of "Fonzie." Mary Tyler Moore is irresistible discussing specific scenes of the Mary Tyler Moore show and her poignant memories of Mary Richards navigating the working world. Kudos to the Academy, the site is a gem.

    Enjoy the weekend and L'shanah tova (Happy New Year) to those of you, who like me, will be observing Rosh Hashanah this weekend!

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  • 4 Items Worth Noting from the Week of August 31st

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 31st:

    1. Nielsen "Three Screen Report" shows no TV viewing erosion - I was intrigued by Nielsen's new data out this week that showed no erosion in TV viewership year over year. In Q2 '08 TV usage was 139 hours/mo. In Q2 '09 it actually ticked up a bit to 141 hours 3 minutes/mo. Nielsen shows an almost 50% increase in time spent watching video on the Internet, from 2 hours 12 minutes in Q2 '08 to 3 hours 11 minutes in Q2 '09 (it's worth noting that recently comScore pegged online video usage at a far higher level of 8.3 hours/mo raising the question of how to reconcile the two firms' methodologies).

    I find it slightly amazing that we still aren't seeing any drop off in TV viewership. Are people really able to expand their media behavior to accommodate all this? Are they multi-tasking more? Is the data incorrect? Who knows. I for one believe that it's practically inevitable that TV viewership numbers are going to come down at some point. We'll see.

    2. DivX acquires AnySource - Though relatively small at about $15M, this week's acquisition by DivX of AnySource Media is important and further proof of the jostling for position underway in the "broadband video-to-the-TV" convergence battle (see this week's "First Intel-Powered Convergence Device Being Unveiled in Europe" for more). I wrote about AnySource earlier this year, noting that its "Internet Video Navigator" looked like a content-friendly approach that would be highly beneficial to CE companies launching Internet-enabled TVs. I'm guessing that DivX will seek to license IVN to CE companies as part of a DivX bundle, moving AnySource away from its current ad-based model. With the IBC show starting late next week, I'm anticipating a number of convergence-oriented announcements.

    3. iPhone usage swamps AT&T's wireless network - The NY Times carried a great story this week about the frustration some AT&T subscribers are experiencing these days, as data-centric iPhone usage crushes AT&T's network (video is no doubt the biggest culprit). This was entirely predictable and now AT&T is scrambling to upgrade its network to keep up with demand. But with upgrades not planned to be completed until next year, further pain can be expected. I've been enthusiastic about both live and on-demand video applications on the iPhone (and other smartphones as well), but I'm sobered by the reality that these mobile video apps will be for naught if the underlying networks can't handle them.

    4. Another great Netflix streaming experience for me, this time in Quechee VT courtesy of Verizon Wireless - Speaking of taxing the network, I was a prime offender of Verizon's wireless network last weekend. While in Quechee, VT (a pretty remote town about 130 miles from Boston) for a friend's wedding, I tethered my Blackberry during downtime and streamed "The Shawshank Redemption" (the best movie ever made) to my PC using Netflix's Watch Instantly. I'm happy to report that it came through without a single hiccup. Beautiful full-screen video quality, audio and video in synch, and totally responsive fast-forwarding and rewinding. I've been very bullish on Netflix's Watch Instantly, and this experience made me even more so.

    Per the AT&T issue above, it's quite possible that occupants of neighboring rooms in the inn who were trying to make calls on their Verizon phones while I was watching weren't able to do so. But hey, that was their problem, not mine!

    Enjoy the weekend (especially if you're in the U.S. and have Monday off too)!

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  • Google is Being Clumsy in Explaining YouTube's Performance

    Yesterday's "YouTube myth busting" post on its YouTube Biz Blog had the opposite of its intended effect: rather than providing more transparency about YouTube's performance as it hoped to do, it only set off another round of frustrated posts in the blogosphere imploring Google to release actual YouTube numbers.

    The post came on the heels of last week's Q2 '09 earnings call and supplementary briefing call (transcripts here and here) which were full of optimistic, yet confusing comments about YouTube's "trajectory" from a handful of Google's senior executives.

    Here's what CFO Patrick Pichette said on the supplementary call: "I think that it is true that we are pleased with YouTube's trajectory. And in part the reason why we're communicating it to the Street is there's been so much press over the last quarter with all of these documentations of, you know, massive cost and no business models and all kind of negative press that we've read a lot about. And we just wanted to kind of reaffirm to the Street that this is a very credible business model and it's one that's got trajectory. So in that sense it's just to kind of tell everybody that we're on progress on the plan that we had made for it."

    But what plan is he referring to? In almost 3 years of owning YouTube, Google has never publicly disclosed a specific plan for YouTube or laid out its business model, so attempts at reaffirming it fall flat because there's nothing against which progress can be judged. Here are other comments, with my reactions in parentheses.

    Pichette on the earnings call: "We are really pleased both in terms of its (YouTube's) revenue growth, which is really material to YouTube and in the not long, too long distance future, we actually see a very profitable and good business for us, so from that perspective, we are really pleased with the trajectory." (WR: that sounds pretty bullish)

    Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of Product Management on the earnings call: "I think what I said - or what I meant to say was that monetizable views have tripled in the last year and that we are monetizing billions of views every month." (WR: that sounds bullish too, but wouldn't some actual numbers really bolster this point?)

    Rosenberg on the supplementary call: "And that's part of why I think it's taken us time to kind of triangulate toward what works, and I think some of the things that we have now are still in the pretty nascent stages..." (WR: nonetheless, per earlier comment, profitability can already be forecast in the not too distant future?)

    Nikesh Arora, President of Global Sales Operations and Business Development on the earnings call: "So we are seeing significant sell-through in most of our major markets where we have YouTube homepage for sale." (WR: of what ad unit - pre-rolls or display?)

    Arora on the earnings call: "So I think the next phase of YouTube is going to be toward pre-roll video on short clips and long form video (which we are in the process of doing) various deals in, which we've announced in the past." (WR: that's new news, YouTube's spoken primarily of overlays in the past)

    Rosenberg on the supplementary call: "I would not say our overall optimism that we expressed with respect to YouTube is primarily a function of one specific format. We've actually been testing pre-rolls, I think, for quite a while. So if you interpret that one single comment to pre-rolls to imply the broad conclusion with respect to optimism on YouTube, I think that's probably a mistake." (WR: so maybe pre-rolls aren't actually the next big thing?)

    Yesterday's post: "Myth 5 YouTube is only monetizing 3-5% of the site. This oft-cited statistic is old and wrong, and continues to raise much speculation." (WR: what is the percentage then?)

    CEO Eric Schmidt on the earnings call: "The majority of YouTube views are not professional content. They are user generated content because that's the majority of what people are watching." In response to whether YouTube is able to monetize user-generated content: "Has not been our focus." (WR: again, letting us know what percentage is professional and the focus of monetization would be very helpful)

    These comments raise lots of questions about how far along Google actually is in understanding YouTube's traffic and its ability/plan to monetize it. I think Google is being clumsy in explaining YouTube's performance because it got nervous about the eye-popping estimates that have been floating around lately about how much money YouTube is losing and rushed to try to mitigate this perception, but without being ready to present real numbers as backup. Further, I don't think it rehearsed its executives very well about what to say or how to say it, so the improvised comments did not convey a clear consistent message.

    As someone who believes YouTube has enormous long-term value for Google, my advice is that its executives should just stay mum on YouTube until they're ready to make a logical case backed by facts and data. That may take longer than Google or the market hoped, allowing the rumor mill to continue to churn. But continuing to make unsupported statements will only rile YouTube followers further, and eventually sap Google's credibility.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

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  • 4 News Items Worth Noting from the Week of July 13th

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of July 13th:
    TV Everywhere survey should have cable industry clicking their heels - I wasn't at all surprised to read results of a new Solutions Research Group survey fielded to 500 Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers giving the concept of TV Everywhere positive reviews. As Multichannel News reported, in the overall survey 28% of respondents said the idea was "excellent" and 45% said it was "good." Digging in further though, among those 18-49 the "excellent" score surged to 80%, while 87% of Hulu and Fancast users approved of the idea. Unprompted, respondents cited benefits like convenience, remote viewing, getting better value from their cable subscriptions, watching on PCs in rooms without TVs and catching up on missed programs. My take: consumers "get" what TV Everywhere is all about and already have positive initial reactions, meaning there's very significant upside for the cable industry.

    Paid video forecast to surpass free - A Strategy Analytics forecast that got attention this week says that the global paid online video market will be worth $3.8B in 2009, exceeding the global free online video segment which will total $3.5B. I haven't seen the details of the forecast, but I'm very curious what's being included in each of these numbers as both seem way too high to me. The firm forecasts the two segments to grow at comparable rates (37% and 39%), suggesting that their size will remain relatively even. I suspect we're going to be seeing a lot of other research suggesting the paid market is going to be far larger than the ad-supported market as sentiment seems to be shifting toward subscriptions and paid downloads.

    Consumer generated video contests remain popular - VideoNuze readers know I've been intrigued for a while now about contests that brands are regularly running which incent consumers to create and submit their own videos. Just this week I read about two more brands jumping on the bandwagon: Levi's and Daffy's retail stores. NewTeeVee had a good write-up on the subject, citing new research from Forrester which reviewed 102 different contests and found the average prize valued at $4,505. I see no end in sight for these campaigns as the YouTube generation realizes it's more lucrative to pour their time into these contests than training their cats to skateboard. Brands too are recognizing the wealth of amateur (read cheap!) talent out there and are moving to harness it.

    MySpace has lots of work ahead to become a meaningful entertainment portal - The WSJ ran a piece on Monday based on an interview with Rupert Murdoch in which he was quoted as saying MySpace will be refocused "as an entertainment portal." That may be the winning ticket for MySpace, but I'm not totally convinced. MySpace has been in a downward spiral lately, with a 5% decline in audience over the past year, a 30% headcount reduction and an executive suite housecleaning. While always strong in music, according to comScore, its 48 million video viewers in April '09 were less than half YouTube's 108 million, while its 387 million video views were about 5% of YouTube's 6.8 billion. Clearly MySpace has a very long way to go to give YouTube serious competition. It will be interesting to see if the new management team Murdoch has installed at MySpace can pull off this transition.

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