TV nets face up to growing online competition

25 09 2007

Variety reports on the latest online video forecasts produced by market analysts Screen Digest: the U.K. market for online TV will be worth £181 million (US $362 million) by 2011, but growth of the online movies segment is predicted to be slower.

There’s no doubting that across the Pond, the competitive environment is really gaining traction, as observed by the Financial Times: in the two years since that watershed moment when iTunes first started offering download-to-own TV shows from Disney, all of the major networks have scrambled to not only beef up their own sites, but also to broker those all-important third party syndication deals.

In the last week alone, Walt Disney-owned ABC has agreed a deal to syndicate its shows, for free, via AOL. The net joins CBS, which has been aggressively pursuing its own syndication strategy for the past few months, while Hulu.com, the online video aggregator site JV between NBC Universal and NewsCorp. is due to bow next month.

Hopping back over the Pond to the U.K., the BBC, ITV, Channel Four and five all have online catch-up TV services: the BBC offers the broadest range and volume of hours, while ITV and Channel Four are increasingly bolstering their catch-up offers with back catalogue shows. Satellite broadcaster BSkyB is broadening its Anytime service, with different flavours of the catch-up service available both via broadband and Sky+ DVRs; the company’s recent pact with Sony will also see an extension of the service for Playstation PSPs.

The Screen Digest research referenced at the top of this post acknowledges that established players such as TV networks also face competition from non-traditional market entrants, such as Joost and iTunes. Significantly, it may be players such as Apple and Microsoft, which stand to gain the most if they can finesse their strategies to leverage consumer relationships through ownership of devices, such as iPods, or the world’s most uniquitous operating system.

Four predictions of my own:

  1. The last year or so has merely been about positioning and trying to establish which online video offers work, and which don’t. Note CBS is moving beyond merely offering full-length TV shows online and gradually ramping up 2.0 functionality: conversational content. 2008 will see the space grow up considerably. 
  2. Whether it’s aggregators or TV networks’ own sites, online video offers are principally restricted to ‘walled gardens’ of content, usually from the operating network or a select few content partners. This is wholly alien to the TV viewing experience: consumers don’t watch shows from a single network or producer. The walled garden approach smacks of protectionism and, over the fuller term, it won’t last for all but the smallest handful of players. The creation of Hulu.com is the first acknowledgement by two major players that hybrid partnerships such as thes, which broaden out the available content offer, are the way to go. YouTube is further evidence of a successful broad-brush aggregation model – albeit with some copyright complications.
  3. The market is already overcrowded: come further shocks to the world’s stock markets (an inevitability), watch the venture capital evaporate. Incumbent players looking to second or third round financing, against a backdrop of unproven business models (let alone profit) will shutter or consolidate. Viacom had better be hoping that it can pick up the assets of Joost for a song.
  4. Apple TV and Microsoft Media Center are the first two examples of mainstream PC/TV convergence: but neither has yet created a compelling enough content offer nor low enough price points to give the products a reasonable run at setting the market alight, beyond early adopters. Next gen games consoles from Sony and Microsoft will up the ante by gradually bolstering their IP-delivered VOD offers, but even these may struggle to break through beyond gaming loyalists. Either some boffin will come up with the cheapest and most elegant plug-and-play convergence-enabler – witness what Freeview set-tops did for the U.K. market – or new product categories, such as networked DVD player / recorders or DVRs will hit that magic tipping point of attractive pricing and mainline retail distribution.




Online video lures 73 million Americans during July

16 08 2007

Stats from Nielsen//Netratings for July reveal 73 million unique visits from U.S. internet users to online video sites. 75% of the audience visited YouTube, taking 55 million hits, up from 51 million in June.

MySpace had 18 million hits, Google Video 16 million, AOL Video 15 million and Yahoo! Video 14 million.





AOL’s woes deepen; bring me the head of Richard Parsons

7 08 2007

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away AOL once had 30 million subscribers… today it has 10.9 million.

The company failed to predict consumer appetite for broadband, that the internet and walled gardens don’t go together, and it was as late as last year that AOL finally began the move from subscription to ad-funded access to its content.

At a time when advertising $$$ are pouring into online, AOL’s results are heading south again. Onlookers thought the rot had stopped last quarter, when the company posted a 40% gain in online ad revenues; yet three months later this has more than halved.

On the plus side, the company has reported an increase in page impressions, for the first time since 2005.

CEO Dick Parsons statement reads as more of an apology than a tease of the company’s prospects: “We remain confident we’re on the right track,” he told investors, adding without a tinge of irony, given the latest set of numbers: “AOL is in fact reasserting itself as a leader in the online advertising space.”

Parsons claims the company is playing the long game: “We don’t manage this company for the guidance. We manage this company according to the business imperatives and for the long-term growth and sustainability of our business.”

We’ll see…





Online video performance stats: June 2007

12 07 2007

AOL Video has outperformed MySpace during June, according to Nielsen/NetRatings stats for June, but the competition don’t even hit the halfway mark when it comes to YouTube’s performance.

Rankings:

1. YouTube (51 million unique visits)

2. Google Video (18 million)

3. AOL Video (16 million)

4. (=) Yahoo! Video & MySpace (15 million each)





MSN sets a new online video record

8 07 2007

liveearth.jpg

MSN has disclosed that it had served 10 million video streams by 15oo hrs eastern during yesterday’s Live Earth event, yielding “the most simultaneous viewers of any online concert ever”. I’ll update this post should consolidated figures emerge. This compares with around 5 million unique accessing AOL video streams of Live 8 in 2005, peaking at 175,000 simultaneous video streams; while the BBC’s World Cup streams attracted 1.7 million requests for live games.





AOL rolls out new video portal

3 07 2007

So here it is… Very boxy, but good to see the recognition of tagging. An improvement over what was there before?

AOL video old