Commentary

How Can Independent Video Producers Compete In The Super-Premium Era?

There's a great amount of buzz about "TV Everywhere" -- everywhere!  And while many consumers will be thrilled to have access to the video content they pay to see at home -- everywhere -- independent content producers have good reason to worry about the "big boys" moving in on their turf. After all, wasn't the vacuum created by the lack of legal super-premium content the reason for the greatsuccessofindependentvideooverthe last four years?

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Not completely.

It's true that independent video filled an important void for those looking to watch something interesting during their lunch hour (or "other" time), but who weren't interested in (insert-clichéd viral -video reference here). Yes, the fact that quality independent video took off was due in large part to a lack of serious competition, but also because it was engaging, well-produced and often compelling.

Now, those independent producers face an uphill battle in holding onto and growing their audience. They'll be battling with some of the very best content in existence for very limited consumer attention spans. Because lunch hours (and even "other" time) are only so long, even compelling content isn't enough anymore.  To stay in the game, independent producers must assign equal importance to the editorial and business sides of their ventures:

1)     Compete on quality. There's simply no excuse for anything other than professional-looking video. Consumers will offer no forgiveness for something that looks like my school play, circa 1986. And of course, the content itself needs to be special. Use real talent and scout real locations -- or better yet, just make it look as if you did.

2)     Compete on price. Although nothing's been made official yet, it sure is starting to sound as though there will be a consumer cost element to super-premium content, either out-of-pocket or as part of a home subscription. My guess is the cost will be reasonable and worth it. But free outweighs reasonable, or at least competes with it. If you do decide to give the content away, your venture needs to be paid for it somehow. Which brings us to...

3)     Compete on advertiser-friendliness. To generate ad revenue, it's no longer enough to offer work-friendly content, or even aggregate a reasonable amount of eyeballs. There is so much video inventory available today that agencies are now bringing traditional targeting criteria online -- including psychographics. Yes, there will continue to be reach or "run of site" buys, but an increasing number of RFPs are looking for a specific market segment: be it early adopters, Luddites, environmentalists, skeptics -- the list goes on. When planning your content, keep in mind that you'll need to attract a unique audience -- not just "views."

Lastly, if you plan to charge a higher ad CPM than the average for your category, be prepared with a strong rationale for why. Agencies are increasingly exerting price pressure, so producers will want to make a strong case for why their content and audience mix commands a premium price.

 It is exciting to see the Internet become a distribution point for independent, premium and, increasingly, super-premium content. To stay relevant, producers will need to ensure that their offering is compelling from both a content and business standpoint.

4 comments about "How Can Independent Video Producers Compete In The Super-Premium Era?".
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  1. Colin Donald from Futurescape, April 23, 2009 at 3:42 p.m.

    Lewis,

    Our research at Futurescape.TV indicates that the really savvy indie video producers are already pre-empting the RFPs for “early adopters, Luddites, environmentalists, skeptics.”

    They’re following what we call the WeVision paradigm of creating Web shows for specific Web communities via a 4-step process:

    1. Match advertisers with the show and its community

    2. Engage with an enthusiastic community

    3. Inspire engagement via charismatic figures

    4. Co-create the show with the community

    Shows such as The Guild and Diggnation are way ahead of the game in genuinely communicating with – not broadcasting at – online communities of interest, not artificial consumer segments.

  2. Ned Canty from New York Television Festival, April 23, 2009 at 4:27 p.m.

    I also think that the boundaries of "independence" are being tested. As happened with independent film, the artists who emerge from the incredibly talented pool of creators might opt to do "studio" work as well as create their own properties. And as those artists make "Premium Independent" content, there will always be the next wave of "Independent Independents" coming up through the ranks. In the end a more permeable curtain for entry into telling stories for a living helps everyone.

  3. Vincent Vandeputte from You View.tv, April 24, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.

    You need to make a clear distinction between TV content brought to the internet and Online Video which is Web Native.
    Both have different dynamics, timing is different, typically the attention span for an instructional Video is 3 minutes. Same for Video Snacking, which users 'stumble' upon.
    The way users watch depends largely on what they expect. If they have a technical problem ("how do I change a setting on my PC?") the benchmark is You Tube video quality. If they are interested in seeing the trailer for Ron Howard's latest 'Angels and Demons', then the benchmark is Cinema with surround sound. If they want to know about Jay Leno's health, then the benchmark becomes TV. Matching expectations with the quality of the content is important. That is what we do in our 'How To Online Video Sites' (i.e. www.LetsCookit.tv). Txs, You View TV

  4. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., April 28, 2009 at 2:57 p.m.

    I guess it all comes down to (i) How good is the story telling (ii) How good is the production (iii) and How well is the property permeated through different distribution channels. When it comes to competing with super-premium content, the two evaluators that will decide monetization are ability to engage viewers with the content or/and its surrounding real estate and the magnitude of being shared or forwarded through different nodes.

    However, the two above are kind of chicken-n-the egg. You can't scale alone with any one of them and none of them explode without the other one. If the Indie producer can manage the two with a good story telling, I believe he/she can compete well with primetime content.

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