Commentary

The Next Big Thing In Online Video: Syndication

The Museum of Broadcast Communications defines syndication as "the practice of selling rights to the presentation of TV programs, especially to more than one customer such as a TV station, a cable channel, or a programming service such as a national broadcasting system." The Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) notes that "syndicated television represents a $4.2 billion advertising marketplace, with more than 110 weekly shows and dozens of specials and movie packages. Syndication airs more hours of programming each week than the six traditional networks combined."

So why am I telling you all of this? Because the next big thing in syndication is online.

As video consumption on the Web continues to grow and as Web sites move from text/photos to video and rich media, we are going to see a steady growth in the online video syndication market. If you take a long term macro view, one could argue that video will evolve as the Internet's primary communication, information, and entertainment delivery medium.

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Online video syndication can be broken down in two basic categories: paid vs. non-paid. It's really that simple. For example, if you want to do non-paid syndication you would upload your video to all the video sharing sites, do grass roots marketing, virally distribute on social networks, etc. In online video syndication, this was the first wave. The next wave is paid video syndication, which describes the growing practice of paying to distribute video content on a CPM basis to Web sites. Content is syndicated to targeted Web sites whereby the publisher is compensated on a CPM per video view by the advertiser or content owner.

Paid video syndication can be broken down into two buckets: "Network" vs. "Custom". Network video syndication is the practice of utilizing video ad networks to do broad buys across video players that already exist on publisher Web sites. Generally speaking these are pure ad buys, meaning preroll or overlays. Custom video syndication is quite different and the focus is on content and "hand-placement" of videos in the right areas on publisher Web sites. This content focus is what typically separates these two types of syndication and in many cases the syndication company has to work with the publisher's editorial department to educate them on the value of adding monetized third party video content. Thus, custom video syndication is an iterative, high touch, hands-on process designed to ensure optimum value for all parties.

There are generally two types of video content being syndicated online today via the paid model: original Web video and repurposed TV/Cable material. In the original Web video model, advertisers pay to have unique video content created (e.g. a weekly Web video series) and then as part of that budget have it syndicated and placed on the right sites, in the right areas, to reach the right audience at the right time. Alternatively, original content owners also create content on "spec" and then find sponsors for their material. The paid video syndication model works nicely for all parties involved here: content owners get immediate reach, advertisers engage a targeted audience, publishers get unique video content and a new ad revenue stream, and viewers are entertained and informed (hopefully!).

Online video syndication may ultimately surpass the size of the TV syndication market as all media eventually becomes distributed or consumed over the Internet. Imagine a world where TV Networks launch their new shows online and pay to reach their desired audience. Imagine a world where original online video shows become more and more popular with viewership surpassing that of TV. King World built the original TV syndication powerhouse by securing distribution rights to shows like "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy," and "Oprah." These same opportunities are emerging today in online video and there are decades of growth ahead of us, much like television in the early days.

The bottom line: Video content owners and advertisers need to reach a large targeted audience quickly. Video syndication is where it's at and we're just getting warmed up.

6 comments about "The Next Big Thing In Online Video: Syndication".
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  1. Tod Sacerdoti from BrightRoll, April 15, 2009 at 12:16 p.m.

    Chase - I agree with you that video syndication has the potential to the be the next big growth category for online video. However, it is also proving to be the most risky category for advertisers, as many video sites syndicate their content into low quality placements and are essentially "gaming" the advertiser. We must solve the credibility problem (ie, remove the bad actors) in order for syndication to thrive - http://tod.ly/videofraud.

  2. Jaan Janes from Yieldbot, April 15, 2009 at 2:27 p.m.

    "Curated" syndication is essential for marketers...they want to know and understand their audiences, always....that's why they invest their ad dollars....the distributed media networks we build for publishers are always focused on quality distribution and approval of publishers to participate - meeting publisher goals and objectives.

    Will be interesting to see how this shakes out in the marketplace as the big video players build distribution through quality sites and "embedded" players that just about anyone can add to a site......marketers likely won't want to play in both worlds.

  3. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC, April 15, 2009 at 4:57 p.m.

    Who are the leading players in online video syndication today? When one thinks online video, they think YouTube - but YouTube is primarily a destination, with lots of self published, user generated syndication.

    Will the traditional TV content producers win this battle (seems like with Hulu, they are more focused on competing as a destination)?

    Who are the current leaders and who should we all be watching?

  4. Kathy Sharpe from Resonate Networks, April 15, 2009 at 7:08 p.m.

    Chase- as syndication is a way for advertisers to drive content that builds the brand(not necessarily advertising) across the web its very interesting, it also can give publishers ways of monetizing pages with little audience but the right audience for a particular advertiser. Its in an early stage but could fundamentally change the relationships between brands and publishers as content is always in short supply

  5. Geoff Whiting from Rider Research, April 16, 2009 at 6:32 a.m.

    Chase, not a bad summary though I think there's something key that's been left out - international syndication. TV.com is the best example of this, in the US it's got a great amount of content from its owner CBS, and only recently has been knocked out of the ratings run by sites look Hulu. It recently launched over in the UK as well and is full of missing files, blank videos, small clips and shows from the 60s and 70s, but has virtually no new content and no full-length content from the 80s to the present.

    R.J. Lewis - If you're a numbers person, watch Hulu and YouTube, these are the #1 & 2 video streaming sites according to Nielsen in terms of the amount of video they send out. YouTube can now advertise against 9% of its videos (a huge number of videos) with premium ads, and that was before its most recent deals with companies like Disney, ESPN, and Universal Music (though the Universal deal might result in a separate Web site, it would still be built on the 'backs of YouTube'.) Hulu is all professional TV content so it's 100% able to be advertised against. It put out 348.5 million streams last month.
    Again, the problem with these two, in my opinion, is the inability to syndicate this content internationally.

  6. Chris Abbott from Hardline Media, April 16, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    We have been syndicating the video content we produce to UG VoD sites, Podcasting networks, Social Media sites and P2P in 4 languages for over the last 2 years with great success. We can hit our targeted Audience pretty well spot on most of the time.

    Our biggest success has been with the Hanazono Ski Resort in Niseko Japan. We have been producing Daily video reports in English and Japanese for over the last four years.

    As a Brand the Company's sponsors are very happy when they can see how many eyeballs are viewing the content... :)

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