Commentary

Opportunities And Challenges In Online Video Delivery

In the last decade online video has grown from an esoteric hobbyist activity into a multi-million dollar business built around a thriving ecosystem of content creators, publishing and monetization platforms, and various enabling technologies, services and devices. Like many industries born out of the mass consumer embrace of the Internet, online video continues to evolve rapidly. It was only five years ago that the first video was uploaded and shared on YouTube, yet a scan of industry news today reflects a growing conversation around the myriad devices and endpoints from which audiences consume video.

Advances in broadband, computer technology and consumer electronics have ushered in a new era of Internet connected, video-capable devices (PCs, smart phones, gaming consoles, tablets, set-top boxes, etc.). Digital technology has also greatly reduced the cost and complexity of creating video content, resulting in the emergence of not only user generated video, but a greater output of professional and semi-professional video content from publishers for whom video was once cost prohibitive.

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These two trends combined (increased distribution channels and low production costs) have resulted in an explosion of Internet-based video.

Media companies and marketers evaluating their video strategy need only to look to the news media to witness an industry that failed to innovate fast enough to meet consumer demand for digital content. As new online news and information delivery models (HuffingtonPost, CNN.com, ESPN.com, Craigslist.org) emerged, the ad dollar pool for local and regional print news outlets shrunk to a fraction of its previous size. Many smaller outlets have gone entirely out of business, and even larger news organizations (Gannett, AP, etc.) have begun to feel the pain. Publishers that fail to innovate and embrace online, mobile and social delivery mechanisms will surely experience the same fate.

Digital has evolved beyond the PC. Online audiences are spending increasing amounts of time consuming media from multiple platforms. The introduction of the iPhone and now the iPad have established entirely new markets for the delivery and sharing of live and on-demand video content. According to Nielsen, mobile is now the fastest growing segment of video consumption. And connected devices like Boxee and Roku are meeting pent-up demand from consumers frustrated by the lack of freedom and control over how and when they consume professional broadcast and internet programming.

Digital is social. The days of centralized, one-way broadcasting are over. In today's world of social media and transparency, video publishers need to create an authentic experience supported by the social dynamic of friends and like-minded individuals. Facebook and Twitter have become integral to today's media consumption habits, with Facebook poised to revolutionize online advertising (in much the same way Google did with search) through "earned impressions" based on intricate social connections and behavioral history. To be relevant today and engage audiences, publishers need to create video experiences that integrate the social graph and provide a rich interactive experience.

These trends are amplified when video content is separated from static digital content. Video is commanding a much higher CPM than traditional display advertising, and advertisers are finding TV less effective as they shift dollars online. Combined with an avalanche of statistics that show more and more people are watching video programming online or on their mobile devices, media companies and marketers are faced with several compelling reasons to quickly determine how they are going to reach and engage with these audiences.

While consumer choice and emerging platforms have created new opportunities for publishers, and in some cases entirely new industries, these trends are also the key contributors to growing audience fragmentation, resulting in increased technical challenges for publishers looking to deliver rich video experiences to multi-platform audiences.

Adding to this, competing technologies and devices (and the companies who back them) are creating additional technical hurdles for publishers (the Flash vs. HTML5 war being the prime example).

For any organization evaluating how to best publish, monetize and scale video in what is becoming an increasingly complex landscape, hare some decision criteria to help you get started:

· Evaluate your video strategy through the lens of your broader marketing objectives. Are you already reaching core audiences across social platforms? How about mobile? How can you converge these efforts under a single point of control?

· If you're considering working with an online video platform (OVP) provider, examine how different vendors provide mobile, social and connected device capabilities. Can they provide these services natively, or do they work with third parties to provide this functionality? How deep are their roots in mobile and social technology?

· How quickly do you need to move? Do you need a partner with built-in native functionality across multiple consumption platforms, or can you handle longer development cycles?

· What are your content creation needs? Do you plan to leverage live and on-demand video? How about UGC? Do you have a means of easily moderating this content?

3 comments about "Opportunities And Challenges In Online Video Delivery".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., June 24, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.

    (Ok, I know this is rare for me) Brilliant article, dead on target from a man who clearly understands the journey ahead. "Publishers that fail to innovate and embrace online, mobile and social delivery mechanisms will surely experience the same fate." Couldn't have said it better myself. Huzzah! Buy this man a beer.

  2. Mark Burrell from Tongal, June 25, 2010 at 7:28 p.m.

    Very Insightful man, thank you.

  3. James Wood from HD Productions, June 28, 2010 at 6:07 p.m.

    Great article and really hits key points.

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