Fast-forward as video evolves
Online video has been touted as the commercial saviour for digital media for some time. So much so, that a number of outlets have pivoted to video - and in so doing almost pivoted out of existence. In recent years, BuzzFeed, Mic, Vocativ, Mashable and others have all found video more challenging than expected.
And yet digital video is still the next big thing. This week, online video was being lauded thanks to the NewFronts, a US showcase for digital video. Twitter announced deals with NBCUniversal, Disney/ESPN, Viacom and Vice Media. The New York Times announced a revamped business section, an expansion into TV and film productions, and touted its podcast The Daily, which garners around a million listens per day. Disney unveiled a suite of programmes designed to promote its franchises, and new programming around food (Disney Eats), and a documentary series around Star Wars superfans. It also hammered home its diverse and brand-safe ability to reach audiences at scale.
While media companies were flogging their upcoming programmes, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) was flogging digital video overall. It released research that found that original digital video will reach 86 million Americans this year. Original digital video is, of course, given its own three- letter acronym - ODV - and defined as ad-supported, professionally produced and digitally distributed audio visual content. It encompasses short clips and longer original series. Commercial-free series from Netflix and Amazon Prime and traditional TV shows streamed online don't count.
The IAB has found that ODV viewership among American adults has been steadily rising; from 45 million in 2013 to 72 million in 2018. It also found that these audiences skew younger. Some 60pc of ODV viewership is 34 years or under.
Shock horror! This mostly young audience likes smartphones - 44pc use smartphones, 20pc use tablets as their device of choice for ODV content and 46pc use over-the-top or connected TV sets to consume ODV programming. There is a strong affinity between ODV viewers and newer direct-to-consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox and Bonobos.
And the IAB also classifies nearly half of ODV viewers as 'Brand Seekers'. What's a Brand Seeker? The IAB says they're a category of consumer that's likely to seek out and be open to new brands, and be receptive to direct communications with them. "They are also more optimistic about advertisements, believing they can be beneficial and fun," according to the IAB. So there you have it, brand seekers are morons.
According to the IAB, the research shows ODV allows advertisers to access an audience that is hard to reach and more engaged with brands than other digital video viewer groups. But there's a problem, regardless of the ODV audience's openness to advertising. While TV consumption is increasingly moving to online channels, the most popular video content is still almost analogue in nature.
Some of this is due to the changing nature of online video. Facebook is no longer subsidising publishers to create videos. Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers now block autoplay videos with sound.
Increasingly digital content creators are looking to work with Netflix and traditional TV networks to distribute their content. The medium matters, it seems. And the open web isn't a medium that allows video to maximise its commercial potential. So, the New York Times' medical column 'Diagnosis' is set to become a Netflix series. Netflix will also run a documentary series called Follow This about BuzzFeed reporters. Vice has a deal with HBO. Conde Nast has a deal with the Discovery Channel.
Ultimately, it's all about content. And good content costs. Take the platforms: Facebook reportedly spent $1bn last year on non-sports original video content for its revamped video tab Watch; Amazon spent $4.5bn on content; and Netflix spent a whopping $6.3bn on original and acquired programming last year. But the biggest spenders are still the traditional TV companies. Disney spent $13.6bn on programming (including sports), and Fox spent almost $13bn.
The powers that be in TV are protecting themselves from the digital upstarts better than other media entities - like newspapers - ever did. Disney, for example, is pulling its animated movies from Netflix and launching its own direct-to-consumer streaming service.
The video giants of the future may be the TV and movie giants of the past.
Sunday Indo Business