Analysis for 'Startups'

  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Dec 14th Week (New pre-roll ad data, Paramount movie clips, Thwapr mobile, next week's preview)

    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!

     
  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Oct 5th Week

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Oct 5th week:

    New research shows TV viewing shifting - Mediapost had a good piece this week on Horowitz Associates' new research showing that 2% of all TV programming watched now occurs on non-TV devices. This translates to 2 hours of the 130.2 hours of TV that viewers watch each month shifting. This top line number is a little deceiving though, as the research also shows that for viewers who own a PC or laptop, they watch 9%, or 13 hours of TV programming per month, other than on their TV. I plan to follow up to see if I can get breakout info for young age groups, my guess is that their percentages are even higher.

    I've been very interested in these kinds of numbers because there has been much debate about whether making full-length programs available online augments or cannibalizes traditional TV viewing. The broadcast networks have forcefully asserted that it only augments. I agree online augments, but I've suspected for a while that it is also beginning to cannibalize. If networks generated as much revenue per program from an online view as they do from an on-air view this shifting wouldn't matter. But as I wrote in Mediapost myself this week, the problem is they probably only earn 20-25% as much online. TV viewers' shifting usage is a key area to focus on as broadband video viewership continues to grow.

    PermissionTV becomes VisibleGains, targets B2B selling - PermissionTV, one of the original media-focused online video publishing and management platforms, officially switched gears this week, changing its name to VisibleGains. Cliff Pollan, CEO and Matt Kaplan, VP of Marketing/Chief Strategy Officer briefed me months ago on their plans and I caught up with them again this week. Their new focus is on enabling companies to provide their prospects with informative videos during the information-gathering phase of the sales process.

    Cliff argues persuasively that in the old days the sales rep presented 80% of the information about a product to a prospect; now prospects collect 80% of what they need to know online, and the sales rep then fills in the blanks. Through VisibleGains "ask and respond" branching format, companies better inform their prospects, qualify leads and add personality to their typical text-heavy web sites. It's another great example of how video can be used beyond the media model.

    Unicorn Media demo is impressive - Even as PermissionTV changes its focus, Unicorn Media is entering the crowded video platform space. I mentioned Unicorn, which was founded by Bill Rinehart, founding CEO of Limelight, in my 4 items post a couple months. This week I got a demo from CTO AJ McGowan and Chief Strategy Officer David Rice and I was impressed. Key differentiators AJ focused on were an enterprise-style user rights model for accessing the platform, APIs that allow drag-and-drop content feeds, and an "ad proxy" for configuring ad rules.

    Most interesting though is Unicorn's real-time data warehouse feature, which provides granular performance data up to the minute. Data can be displayed in a number of ways, but most compelling was what AJ termed the "magic Frisbee," a clever format for showing multiple data points (e.g. streaming time, ad completes, # of plays, etc.) all at once, so that decision-makers can hone in on performance issues. AJ says prospects are responding to this feature in particular as assembling this level of information today often requires multiple staffers and data sources. David reports that Unicorn is finding its biggest opportunity is with large media companies that have built their own in-house video solutions, as opposed to competing with other 3rd party platforms. Unicorn doesn't charge a platform fee, instead it bills by hours viewed. Separately, I have a briefing next week with yet another stealthy platform company; there seems to be no shortage of interest in this space.

    Vitamin D shows breakthrough approach to object recognition in video - Speaking of demos, Greg Shirai, VP of Marketing and Rob Haitani, Chief Product Officer from startup Vitamin D showed me their very cool demo this week. Vitamin D is pioneering a completely new approach to recognizing objects in video streams, using "NuPIC", an intelligent computing platform from Numenta, a company founded by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Dileep George. Some of you will recognize Hawkins and Dubinsky as the founders of Palm and Handspring.

    The demo showed how Vitamin D can recognize the presence of moving humans or objects throughout hours of video footage. While the system starts with the assumption that upright humans are tall and thin, it learns over time that their shapes can vary, if for example they are crouching, or carrying a big box, or are partially obscured behind bushes. Once recognized, it's possible to filter for specific actions the humans are taking, such as walking in and out of a door to a room. Vitamin D is first targeting video surveillance in homes or businesses, but as it is further developed, I see very interesting applications for the technology in online video, particularly in sports and advertising. Say you wanted to filter a Yankees game for all of CC Sabathia's strikeouts, or insert a specific hair care ad only when a blond woman was in the last scene. Vitamin D and others are continuing to raise the bar on visual search which is still in its infancy.

    Reminder - VideoSchmooze is coming up on next Tuesday night, Oct. 13th in NYC. We have an awesome panel discussion planned and great networking with over 200 industry colleagues. Hope you can join us!
     
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