Carson Explains How Advertising, Connected TV Define Vevo's Future

Vevo, which grabbed the music video torch from MTV, is now taking it to all screens. It recently reported that views across mobile, tablet and connected TV increase more than doubled over the prior year before, while viewership on those devices surged 176%. But at the same time, its U.S. desktop traffic has dropped about 25% since September, according to comScore.

Online Video Daily recently caught up with Jonathan Carson, chief revenue officer at Vevo, to discuss the company’s cross-platform strategy and how it affects advertising. Prior to joining Vevo last year, he was at Nielsen, most recently serving as CEO, Digital.
OVD: Since September, Vevo’s U.S. desktop traffic dropped by about a quarter, from 49 million to 37 million between last September and February. Is that result of its expansion to other platforms including connected TV?
JC: Our overall global traffic in 2013 was up 33% across all platforms.
OVD: Do you think Vevo’s launch in September had an impact on desktop traffic?
JC: We launched a bunch of connected platforms in the fall, so Apple TV, Samsung TV, and Chromecast were all right around then. Quarter-by-quarter connected TV views were growing explosively, and we got the really strong connected TV platform popping because of those new platform launches.
OVD: How big is that connected TV audience now?
JC: In January, it was 250 million individual views on connected TV.
OVD: You’re seeing a big shift from desktop to mobile and connected TV?
JC: In general, PC growth industrywide is challenged, just because of the shift to tablets and smartphones. The nice thing we see is whole new use cases emerge that we never anticipated as we release the content and apps on new platforms.
MP: Such as?
JC: If you compare our usage on PC to connected TV, it’s a completely different use case. On PCs, it’s very search driven, and number of videos per session is quite low -- close to one. And it’s on the order of four videos per user per month. So relatively light users.
Now what we see on connected TV is users engaging in much longer individual sessions. It’s people turning us on for parties or kids watching while doing their homework -- much more of these long-form sessions.
OVD: How has that push across platforms affected your ability to monetize views?
JC: We made a switch in the middle of last year to selling the platform, and before that, we’d sold the different distribution channels independently. The majority of our revenue just two quarters later is tied to platform-wide campaigns. The sponsors are buying a campaign across a particular audience or set of content, and then the campaign runs on whatever channels a user happens to be on.
OVD: What’s the standard ad unit?
JC: The primary unit is pre-roll. We’re really happy to see advertisers have made that shift with us gracefully. A lot of our advertisers are users as well, and they understand three-fourths of our users access Vevo content across multiple devices. (Vevo has amassed 900 advertisers since launching in 2009.)
OVD: What about the challenge of unified measurement across platforms? Nielsen and comScore have competing products aimed at solving that problem.
JC: My last gig was at Nielsen, so it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. We work closely with both Nielsen and comScore, and we’re at the front of the train on testing out all their new services. Because of my background, I appreciate the complexity of how hard it is to measure. But now that I’m on the other side of the table, I get to yell at them every day to go faster.
OVD: Is having an online equivalent to the GRP the key to consistent measurement?
JC: It’s an important part of our strategy. We believe our content at Vevo is on par with the highest value content on television, and our advertisers believe that as well. It’s important both to us and to them that they can evaluate our content and the performance of their campaigns directly in comparison to their television campaigns.
OVD: Is YouTube still the largest source of traffic for Vevo?
JC: We have over 200 syndication partners. YouTube is one of them -- they're the biggest. And we’re the biggest content provider to YouTube. We also have a tremendous focus on our own apps and Web site. We’ve had 8 million downloads of our connected TV app and 20 million mobile downloads.
OVD: Vevo will be presenting again at the NewFronts later this month. Do you think it’s still worthwhile to have a separate digital upfront event?
JC: No. 1 -- it’s been a great sort of symbol and galvanizing point around collapsing of the television and online video marketplaces into a single system. It’s really helpful to have a formal cycle and sharing our vision with our clients, and that’s how we look at it. It’s a big milestone every year that we work toward to make sure we’re presenting a big slate of advertising opportunities to our partners.
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