Vevo Turns Up The Mobile Volume

by , May 4, 2012, 5:33 PM
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Vevo last month held a splashy NewFront event, featuring a sizzle real previewing a half dozen original new shows, an advertising panel discussion, and a live performance by the singer John Legend. Along with new programming and a recently revamped site featuring Facebook integration, the music video hub is building out its mobile presence to meet rising demand from users and marketers alike. 

The company, a joint venture of Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media, said its streams grew more than tenfold across its mobile properties spanning iPhone, iPad and Android apps as well as those on other platforms including Windows Phone and BlackBerry. 

The Vevo apps have been downloaded 15.5 million times globally to date and have attracted 5 million monthly users, according to the company. That figure is equal to just under 10% of the site’s traditional Web audience of 58 million unique visitors in March, according to comScore data. Nevertheless, mobile has been the rapidly growing part of Vevo’s usage, noted Michael Cerda, SVP, product at Vevo. 

Helping to boost interaction both online and in mobile has been the relaunch of Vevo’s main site in early March, emphasizing personalization and social features. A key aspect was integration with Facebook through the social network’s Open Graph platform. The site now requires users to log into Vevo via Facebook to create and save playlists from its catalog of more than 45,000 videos.

Through iTunes Match, Vevo now can also scan a user’s iTunes library to automatically generate a playlist of music videos based on artists in their collection. And instead of searching and watching videos on a one-off basis, the site’s upgraded media player now also provides continuous play of videos from a user’s playlist. 

Cerda said the site changes have been incorporated fully into its iPhone app, with personalization and social features to be rolled out across its other apps in the near future. Even so, “we’ve had more usage than we’ve ever seen and most of it is coming out of the iTunes Match feature,” said Cerda. 

Because of the increased uptake, video streams per session on mobile now exceed what they were on Vevo’s desktop site before the overhaul two months ago. “We’re helping you stick around, not turning out the lights and closing the door,” he said, referring to features like continuous play.

That doesn’t mean the mobile transition has been without some bumps. As one measure, Vevo’s iPhone app has earned a respectable three-out-of-five star rating in the App Store, based on input from more than 31,000 users. Cerda noted that the rating has fluctuated between three and five stars, based on glitches like a recent bug that caused the app to crash when searching videos, and a backlash against the move to requiring login through Facebook.

He said some users had the mistaken impression that Facebook registration was needed just to access the app, rather than just for using the playlist feature. Cerda explained that recent updates to the iPhone app made it more clear that users could opt not to log in via Facebook, and fixed the bug leading to crashes. The company recently has also begun working with a second content delivery network in addition to Akamai to help optimize streaming quality in mobile. 

While Vevo’s mobile efforts so far have been focused on apps, it plans to launch a new mobile Web site, as soon as later this month. (Anyone going to Vevo.com on a mobile device is now directed to download one of its apps.) “The world as we know it today would ultimately suggest it’s going to be a mobile Web world, and apps are more on the temporary side,” said Cerda. He added that this wasn’t as clear when it began expanding into mobile a couple of years ago, when apps were the best option for offering mobile video.

In either case -- mobile Web or apps -- Vevo wants to extend ad opportunities beyond the desktop. Hal Trencher -- hired by the company from AOL in March as SVP, national sales -- said mobile ad revenue is already growing at a double-digit rate, although he declined to provide specific figures. The Interactive Advertising Board estimates that mobile ad spending in the U.S. last year increased 149% to $1.6 billion. 

“What we are seeing is top-tier brand advertisers playing in this space, and that’s a very important signal,” said Trencher, noting that entertainment and CPG brands have been especially active in embracing mobile. McDonald’s, Starburst, Reebok and the new “Avengers” movie are among brands currently running display or pre-roll ads with Vevo in mobile.

Trencher noted that some brands are even requesting mobile-only advertising as they experiment with the medium and compare results to online campaigns. For the most part, however, any mobile buys are typically packaged with buys on Vevo.com and the company’s affiliated properties online. Trencher said he expects double-digit gains on the mobile side again in 2012. 

While the mobile video ad market is still emerging, video ad network BrightRoll recently told VidBlog that 40% of its ad requests globally were for mobile, up from 5% a year ago. Separate data from mobile ad network Rhythm New Media in March showed a 22% quarterly increase in the number of advertisers using in-stream video in mobile campaigns.

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