IPL-YouTube

February 7, 2010

I have been wanting to write about the IPL deal with YouTube for quite a few days. I think it is truly a ground-breaking step. For YouTube, and definitely sets IPL’s image as an innovative organisation.

First reaction from anyone in the industry: What do IPL stand to make out of it? Could they not have made more money by selling it to Murdoch? I am not aware of the financials of the deal, but its not too difficult to imagine that both the companies would have worked it out such that they will stand to benefit as the viewership would grow. Remember, in today’s age of TV, we do not sell projected millions of viewers to advertisers or sponsors, or pay the rights fee on such basis. We pay per view. So there.

From what the information says so far, the interface would allow viewers to chose their own camera angle, play the action replay as they like, have access to instant stats, and even allow them to chat with each other. Finally TV over IP goes web2.0 and social. YouTube=1: iPlayer=0.

My only wish: This interface becomes available on my TV, or anyother DLNA supported device and does not restrict me to my laptop screen. Not too much to ask for.  Somehow, I still have not figured out how to watch TV on a laptop lying on a couch or in bed, and not roast my thighs in the process. Besides, this is something that would really make Sky and Setanta wish they move faster than they are thinking at the moment.

If I am from the old days of calculating reach and frequency and GRPs, and have always had a problem with how accurate they were, this is my heaven. Just the sheer amount of analysis that this arrangement would allow is a media planners’ dream. What cameras were more popular? Where should I maximize my on-ground signage? How many, from where, at what time? Time-shifted or live? What’s the viewership of a bumper before an on-demand replay? Video analytics on steroids. Not just that. the cnsumer engagement ideas of the next generation too. Can I do a user-gen exercise and allow users to cut their own highlights of a game and publish it online courtesy my brand?

This is ground breaking. Mark my words, we will all be doing it sooner than we think we would be. Live broadcast on YouTube started from U2Ube, it’s probably not going to stop now.

It sounds very basic, but Skype just finally announced that they will bring Skype video calls to various HD TVs.

Whilst this is just one of the many TV widgets that we would see in the near future, it is a magnificent example of how TV is set to become the communication hub for your home.

This is also the beginning of TV becoming “social”. I hear BBC are already beta testing the iPlayer3 which is set to incorporate Twitter as well as “video book marks” (to mark a certain portion of a programme) that you can share with the friends on your list. With iPlayer on Freesat, it is likely to be a major innovation for the UK market.

Video sharing would take a completely new meaning if such advances move ahead. YouTube is getting a lot of “long-form” traction from content producers, and their existing social infrastructure would begin to redefine how people engage with that content. Though one really wishes that Google do a good TV widget or even upgrade their AppleTV interface.

Now the question is, when would the TV audience measurement industry get down to doing Social GRPs?

Click here to watch what I am watching right now.

Click here to see that joke in HIGNFY I was talking about last night.

Didn’t work? Sorry. Check back in a few weeks time.

VOD Closer to Reality

July 31, 2009

One more news for Microsoft this week. The launch of their VOD platform in the UK. Their PR department seems to be running their business these days, with one objective in mind: be in the news! (If nothing else, they would show up on top in Google search results!!).

Jokes aside, this is a significant move in the world of VOD. They have toyed with supporting other platforms through XBox consoles, but venturing into a platform of their own is a first.  They also have the scale to take this beyond the Computer screen into living rooms via XBox, and into portable of course. They also seem to have cracked one of the most important elements of this type of venture- a collaboration with GroupM. I am not going to comment on that deal, but having the backing of a major commercial player behind your platform is a critical factor.

The only other critical factor would be their ability to get content. iPlayer, C4OD, and iTV interactive might look at this as competition in short term, but truly they all know their content would be better off on a cross channel platform rather than being on properietary service. But it is going to take some time. Given that Kangaroo is almost dead, and Hulu might come in to the UK in October, they need to hurry up to pile up inventory of programming- both from the UK and perhaps source some from the US (which would be a tough battle given Hulu’s access to programmers at the moment).

One challenge that they world face is: How do they crack and standardise advertising effectiveness measurement on VOD? Good luck with that boys. It is a complicated area. Do not add yet another layer to it I would say trying to invent something of your own. Tap into an existing matrix.

We, the people in the traditional media businesses, are strange creatures. Having been on top of 90% of the media revenues for years and years our beliefs are strong, we are dangerously naive, and our vision increasingly myopic. We still see the development and “digitisation” of media a phenonmenon similar to our young children wanting to hook their play stations to the TV,  while we want to watch our afternoon comedy.  Nothing to pay attention to here, the children will eventually get over it.

This is exactly the same attitude I came across in a recent discussion on IPTV, hosted by Alumni of a prestigious business school in France. This discussion took place last week in London and the panel consisted of speakers from two of the key broadcast organisations in the UK, and of some high energy start-ups in the area of internet video. One member of the panel, from a prestigious TV distribution platform in the UK, dismissed Google TV ads as something “just in the US, and not delivering on core fundamentals”. Crap!

Do we believe it “does not deliver on core fundamentals” because we have become the fundamentalists of the TV world ourselves? Google TV Ads is important, not because Google will take over the world one day, but because they are laying the grounds to change the rules of the game for traditional TV. This is how:

– It redefines the way TV is targetted- hence how it is measured, hence how it is traded. Their approach would deliver in the age of digital TV, and the traditional approach does not.

– It challenges the decades long incestual relationship of the research agencies and media owners. Google’s data is more transparent, more real time, and offers more analytics. If there is one thing you can trust Google to do, it is number crunching.

– It helps media owners maximise revenues and advertisers reach, in the age of fragmented on-demand platforms. Traditional models can not even cope with PVR/DVRs.

– Most of the big players in the media and research industry are likely to term Google’s work as something that has a limited scope but would then go and do something similar to Google TV Ads and use their scale to make it sound better. They will.

And if we still do not get it (and I have a feeling we perhaps would but not in the short-term), we deserve to live in a world where most of people still like to be told when they should watch something that they do not want to watch to begin with. We might as well.

You have probably seen the recent news of NBC agreeing to let Google TV Ads sell some of its inventory through Google TV Ads platform. Seemingly harmless, what really is Google TV Ads and what are the potential implications of such deals? I am assuming that NBC is just a start for Google for such ventures.

To begin with, Google TV Ads is a wonderful application. It is the “TV Optimizer” of the modern day and builds on the Google search advertising schematic. The real basis for this breakthrough for Google is not the NBC deal but in fact their earlier partnership with EchoStar (or Dish Network), and Astound Cables in the US. Their new set top boxes of these two cable/DTH operators have the ability to track viewership second by second. Hence at an aggregate level, you can have the statistics on how many times a commercial was viewed, and whether it was viewed through to the end. Google uses this data to find relevance between certain types of viewers and ads and content, and has created a platform, exactly based on their search model, that makes use of this data to “serve” ads to the viewers.

This is a massive departure from our demographic targetting techniques, into a more “mindset” and relevance led placement of TV ads. Much like the difference between placing a newspaper advert, or placing an ad via Google search. It is going to require an equally big change of mindset within the TV buyers community.

What is so unique about it is that this model of TV advertising breaks away from ratings, and yet is highly measurable. Logically, this system should even work for on-demand content. By virtue of this, it creates an alternate trading currency in the market. The fact that the measurements are highly accurate and relevant, Google is potentially able to trade inventory at higher margins and minimum waste (buys cheap, sells cheapish), or pass on the advantage to the advertisers. What are you media agency giants of the world doing sleeping on your laurels, wake up!?

Once this model picks up popularity, there is no stopping all sorts of advertisers to sign up to such deals, though NBC have optimistically said that this venture would attract “an entirely new group of clients”.

What are the disadvantages of it…? It is just US based at the minute, and that too only on Dish Network/Astound homes. Unless the same set-top box technology is exported to other cable/DTH operators, and markets, it is going to remain a limited venture.

Pricing of Content

July 11, 2008

One thing is for sure, the on-demand, commercials-free nature of broadcast has huge implications for the pricing of TV content, for both consumers and advertisers. Afterall the media owners, or the content producers, have to generate streams of revenue that would continue to justify the ever-increasing costs of production.

In an on-demand world, there is quite a possibility of doing a pricing model where consumers get to decide whether they want to see any advertising at all or not. If they do, one can even push the extent of advertising they would be exposed to. For instance, if a consumer decides to pay 100% of the price for a movie, he or she may watch it without any advertising. But if he or she decides to let advertising subsidize it, the payment might actually be just 50% of the actual price.  On devices like Apple TV or other media centres, this is quite possible to do even today.

Apple have just patented a technology whereby they can “insert” advertising into any audio-visual media file (mpeg4 etc). What this technology does is that it puts “tags” within the file at various intervals, and then when a viewer reaches that point in a programme, the programme is interrupted and a series of ads are streamed-in from a remote location. The movie or programme continues once a number of ads have been watched. This service is much like an ad-server for internet banner or search advertising. This allows for insertion of ads with precise targetting as each and every playback can have different advertising inserted.

Now from the pricing point of view, how would advertisers begin to pay for something like this? Interesting thought, as the waste element of mass TV broadcast advertising can now be down to zero. As in internet advertising you pay for a click, you would in this case be able to pay for a “view”.

Google have also started experimenting with content distribution via their ad-sense server- and are figuring out ways of incorporating advertising into streaming content. It is over the internet on computers for now, but it might well be on the televisions of future. I will write more on the innovations in the TV sets business in the later posts. For now, click on this New York Times link for a read on Google’s initiative:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/business/30google.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1214845383-dD7MC4+qhkFGE45rIjp/gQ&oref=slogin