Soon after blogging about Hollyood’s potential to have a strong, profitable relationship with web video, I came across Beet TV, a video blog by Andy Plesser. Plesser posts interviews with media executives and clips from various conferences, focusing on the “rapid emergence of online video and its impact on industry and society.” As I browsed through the site, I found many videos which related to my previous arguments.
In the post “Creative Producers will Grab Advertisers with Original Sponsored Videos“, Saul Berman, strategy partner of IBM, discusses a few of the issues surrounding web video monetization. At one point he mentions IBM’s global CEO study, which found that outperforming CEOs have a knack for “disrupting the market before someone else disrupts it for them.” Now, a growing trend in the digital age is that consumers are expecting higher quality content on the web, in terms of production value and level of engagement. That is exactly why I argue Hollywood needs to be more aggressive in the web video marketplace. While the studios have begun experimenting with digital media creatively and economically, in general, they have yet to effectively distinguish their content as superior online entertainment. Here’s the interview:
Berman also talks about a product placement business model, which has become increasingly viable. I’m going to take a look at this in more detail as Gemini Division unfolds, but it seems like a popular approach for producers, advertisers, and consumers, as long as the brand is subtly integrated within the story as a realistic element, not a distraction. Jigar Thakarar of CBS Interactive sees this brand integration as a much more profitable business strategy than offering pre and post roll ads. Here’s his interview from “CBS Sees Sponsored Web Video Programming as Viable Model“:
Because viral videos don’t carry advertisements as they travel through YouTube and other video hosting sites, I can see why product integration would be a practical solution. But it will be interesting to monitor exactly how producers handle a brand’s identity within the context of a story. Will the narrative, mise en scene, and characters always be faithful to the integrity of the show, or will they be heavily adjusted and obscured to land sponsorship? Ultimately, it comes down to finding a balance, but I still wonder if both parties will always be open enough to compromise.
As far as the consumers go, on the one hand nobody wants to feel as though a studio’s production is an excuse to advertise. That perception ruins all credibility. But on the other hand, young adults (ages 18-34) have become trained to avoid and ignore brand messages. So often the best way to reach them is through highly innovative, seamless product placements, allowing a brand to be more easily absorbed. It’s just another example of convergence – branded content and unbranded content merging together. And hopefully, when done correctly, everyone involved will win.
Another interview comes from the Dmitry Shapiro, co-founder of the Internet TV site, veoh.com. Shapiro argues that the future of television is in fact Internet TV. Using veoh as a “virtual digital video recorder,” viewers can consume Internet TV as they do broadcast TV, sitting back on the couch eating potato chips. Take a look:
Shapiro contends that users can get the same experience from Internet TV as they do with broadcast TV. However, unlike TV programs, web shows typically do not enable viewers to sit back, relax, and watch. They are designed to be seen on the fly, as a daily installment. But what if they were both? If there is one complaint I had with Afterworld, it’s that I was not able to plow through the episodes quickly and easily, since every 3 minutes I had to select the next video. Given the show’s twists and turns, I wanted the option of getting comfortable and sinking into the story. It may sound ridiculously lazy, but returning to my computer so often detracted from my suspension of disbelief and the overall immersive experience. (Not to mention the annoyance of hearing, “My name is Russel Shoemaker, I sold technology to the world..” for 130 episodes.)
Web shows do need to be short in length, no doubt about that. For many people, after about four minutes, streaming quality diminishes and their attention dwindles. But I’m a viewer who wants to watch the story as a “couch potato.” That’s why I think it’d be useful to fuse 10 episodes or so together in a half an hour format so that I can have more options: watch it on the go or on the couch. In this way, web shows could function as a medium independent of TV (in terms of style, format, and distribution) but also function, courtesy of Shapiro’s veoh application, as an extension of TV, as Internet TV.
To date, there has not been a breakout mega hit in original web programming. Web content still only appeals to fragmented audiences and studio executives still worry web content will cannibalize their audiences and revenue. Perhaps those problems will be mitigated when more consumers watch Internet video on their 42 inch flat screen TV in addition to their iPods. The bottom line is this though: Hollywood should not be complacent and wait for the future – they must disrupt it before someone else disrupts it for them.