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Good morning. It's Monday, April 9, 2012, and this is your first early morning digital briefing. If you would like to read this or any other Cynopsis editions online, click here.
We're in the seventh-inning stretch in the lead-up to the first ever Digital Content NewFronts. With that in mind, we continue our series of Q&A's with those presenting at the event, this week: Janet Balis, SVP and Head of Sales Strategy, Marketing and Partnerships at AOL, another one of the DCNF's six founding partners.
What is the point of the Digital Content NewFronts? Is it meant to mirror the television upfront?
This is an opportunity to create really compelling ideas and capitalize on the power of online video. The television upfronts are characterized by a scarcity of inventory, and that works for them. Digital, however, is less about that kind of scarcity. I would say in digital, it is a scarcity of amazingly creative ideas, at scale. All of the media companies found a common bond in that all of us are pursuing digital content and video in different ways. We are all uniquely positioned to drive scale across vast networks and programs. So for us, this is a unique opportunity to collaborate and build that marketplace together.
What can AOL offer brands and marketers?
I think if you talk to most CMOs and their teams, their language revolves around wanting to be able to tell their brand's story and distribute it across a wide network. That is a fundamental aspect of AOL's approach. We have great content being produced every day, through which a brand can tell a story in a very meaningful and integrated way. We build stories with marketers, and after that, we help them reach consumers that matter, and we do that seamlessly across platforms. AOL can move brands across different distribution points from national to local platforms, as well as a great number of premium digital properties such as the Huffington Post, Engadget and TechCrunch, to name a few. And as we are building these stories with marketers, we create opportunities to get consumers talking about the brands. This speaks to the power of social as not an isolated activity, but an integral part of the storytelling process.
For AOL, what would make this a successful venture?
Obviously, our goal over the long term is to drive advertising revenue by stimulating the marketplace. We also want the market to understand what differentiates AOL.
What differentiates AOL?
We have scale like the other partners, however, what differentiates us is that we have great brands that guide our strategy. We have a differentiated portfolio of influential brands, each of which are deeply invested in creating meaningful content. There is a collective recognition that content matters, and we have consistently focused on that. When you look at Patch, Engadget, The Huffington Post, each are highly relevant within their channel and each present a point of view that people pay attention to. We think this -- the deep range of content experiences that are available for marketers to use -- is a strategic advantage as we work with marketers to tell their stories.
So another win for us would be if the market understands that we have a deep commitment to our partners. And of course, ultimately, to foster partnerships with brands as we continue to grow that landscape.
How would you like to see this event grow in 2013 and beyond?
From an obvious growth standpoint, I would like to see the event continue, at a minimum, on an annual cycle. However, I would like the event to move earlier in the year in order to better align with the decision-making time period. Whereas television has focused on the April and May timeframe, digital does not have to follow that schedule. We continue to optimize the timing of our offering to when it matters most to clients, so I think it's important to align the NewFronts with the customers' buying cycles.
In February, AOL and the Huffington Post announced the Huffington Post Streaming Network, a new live video network that will launch this coming summer. I remember reading that it is designed to integrate broadcast news and social media. Could you explain how that will be the case? And how it is an example of what AOL can provide within the context of the NewFronts?
The best way to describe it is a never-ending talk show that uses the website as a real-time script. The streaming network will be a live experience. Initially we are going to stream live for 12 hours a day, five days a week, with a repeat show overnight, as well as highlights on the weekend. This distribution strategy acknowledges two very important trends with how consumers engage with digital video content. Some prefer to engage live as it airs, while others are more apt to timeshift it and discover it on demand.
Additionally, we are also taking it and breaking it off into literally tens of thousands of clips in order to distribute it across our vast video market, so that we can make this easily shareable content available to a broader audience.
From an advertisers' standpoint, we have structured it to support a handful of category exclusive sponsors, who would partner and integrate content deeply into the live show, as well as pre-roll that we would attach to it. We are encouraged by the brand response.
Can you provide us specifics?
I can say that we have received a broad response from marketers, and that several categories have already been taken. We have seen material demand; brands are excited.
Last October, AOL announced 15 original web series. How have they been doing?
They have generated millions of streams any given month. We have also been able to successfully integrate them with branded advertising. We've been able to work with great partners, such as State Farm, Sony Pictures (for CliffsNotes Films), as well as a wonderful range of partners that have integrated with the Heidi Klum project (Heidi Klum on AOL). I would characterize it as very successful, and indicative of great things to come.
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Time Warner Cable has announced that in the coming weeks ("definitely by Memorial Day"), Android devices running on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) will be able to stream live-TV through its TWC TV app for Google's mobile operating system. Unfortunately: "Not that many devices have Ice Cream Sandwich yet. It's currently the only version of the Android OS that allows us the security and stability necessary to distribute video over our private network," said Jeff Simmermon, Director/Digital Communications at Time Warner Cable. The live-video portion of the TWC TV app is available to Time Warner Cable subscribers inside their home Wi-Fi network.
Comcast has finally announced the launch of an HBO Go app for the Xbox 360, which will be available starting early this week. However, according to Multichannel News, there is a caveat: Content accessed through HBO Go will count toward the user's monthly data-usage limit. This is not the case for those using Comcast's Xfinity TV app on the gaming console because, unlike the HBO Go app, the Xfinity TV VOD app for Xbox uses Comcast's private network. To access HBO Go through Xbox LIVE, Comcast subscribers can use their Xfinity TV on Xbox username and password.
In an effort to enter the same conversation (and presumably market share) as Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Microsoft is reportedly willing to pay developers of popular mobile applications to develop versions for the company's Windows Phone operating system. One of the prominent apps that Microsoft offered such a deal to was Foursquare. "We have very limited resources, and we have to put them toward platforms with the biggest bang for our buck," said Foursquare's Head of Business Development, Holger Luedorf, to The New York Times. "But we are a social network and it is incredibly important for us to be available on every platform." To the app developers that it hasn't offered to fund, Microsoft offers other incentives such as free phones to test out the apps and prime placement within its upcoming app store, as well as advertising on Windows Phones. According to the Times report, developers aren't necessarily refusing to build apps for Windows Phone, many just don't see it as a priority at the moment. Microsoft's app store currently features more than 70K apps, including those from Netflix, YouTube and the Weather Channel.
Instagram may be close to securing a $50 million Series B round of funding led by Sequoia Capital that would value the start-up at $500 million, reports AllThingsD. Over a year ago, Instagram had received a $7 million Series A round of funding led by Benchmark Capital. Boasting 30 million iPhone users, the popular photo-sharing mobile service saw over one million downloads of its app when it launched on the Android operating system last week.
YouTube's recent deal with Paramount, which will make 500 of the movie studio's titles available for rent on the video site, has some potential benefits for Google beyond offering its users a larger selection of premium content, said Mahi de Silva, EVP/Consumer Mobile at Opera Software, to MediaPost. According to de Silva, offering content for streaming, rather than download, enables Google and license holders to potentialy build "tools and systems to create a new economy for streaming video." To explain his theory, de Silva cited what some publishers have done for streaming music. "Streaming enables the platform providers to partner with record labels more effectively to monetize content, though they know many consumers don't pay for the music. But if they subscribe to a channel, the labels can promote other music," de Silva told MediaPost. It allows content owners and providers to generate revenue through ads or premium services, and thus, gives them access to new audiences, he said.
Call for Digital Content/Insights: Cynopsis Media will be producing an E-Special Report: Digital Content NewFronts for delivery on Monday, April 16, three days before the first-ever Digital Content NewFronts (DCNF) kick off in New York City. The E-Special Report will take an in-depth look at the key players and new programming being served up at the DCNF. We'll examine the issues and challenges facing buyers and sellers, as well as highlight the important digital hits going into the event and those that are still yet to come. If you are an exhibitor at the DCNF, or have authored relevant data and insights that inform trends relating to digital video content, and want to be featured in this free and highly-viewed special edition, please contact Sahil Patel at: email@example.com no later than Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
In a letter to investors, dubbed "2012 Update from the CEO," Google's Larry Page has released some interesting statistics regarding several Google products and services: YouTube has over 800 million monthly users who are uploading over an hour of video per second; over 850K Android devices are activated daily through a network of 55 manufacturers and more than 300 carriers; Google's mobile advertising grew to a run rate of over $2.5 billion by the third quarter of 2011, which is 2.5 times more than at the same point in 2010; and since the launch of AdSense over a decade ago, Google has paid out over $30 billion to support content on the web. Other nuggets of data include:
MediaMind, an independent provider of integrated digital advertising solutions, has released a new study that examined 24,000 ad creatives with more than 12 billion impressions in order to gauge how rich media and standard banners affect site traffic. The research found that users who are exposed to rich media ads are nearly three times as likely as those only exposed to standard banner ads to end up on an advertiser's website to seek information about products or to complete a purchase. Additionally, users who were exposed to rich media ads that included video were nearly six times (5.6x) as likely to visit the advertiser's website as those exposed to just standard banners. When it comes to direct response, MediaMind's study found that users are four times more likely to click and visit the advertiser's site after watching rich media ads versus standard banners, and nine times more likely after viewing rich media with video. "By investing in more engaging experiences powered by rich media and video, advertisers increase the chance that consumers will spend valuable time with their brand," said Gal Trifon, GM of MediaMind.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM CABLEFAX
The Associated Press has inked a deal with Bambuser to bring user-generated content from the live-video broadcasting service into the news network's reports. Per the deal, the AP will be able to access and then use any Bambuser user content it vets, verifies and considers newsworthy, as long as that user has opted in to make his or her content available. The arrangement also calls for the AP to explore the use of Bambuser's live-video platform as a newsgathering tool for AP journalists. "User-generated content has become integral to covering breaking news, particularly where access is restricted," said AP Deputy Director of Internatinal Video Mark Davies. In recent months, Bambuser users have provided the AP with live footage of the Syrian conflict. The free service enables users to capture content from multiple devices and share it across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Later - Sahil
Sahil Patel, Associate Reporter for Cynopsis Digital
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