Digital Content Guide

Digital Pros Answer Web Video's Big Questions

Four Industry Execs Weigh in on the Performance -- and Prospect -- of Media's Game-Changing Platform

Published on .

KEITH RICHMAN, CEO, BREAK MEDIA

Is it possible that web video is overhyped?
Five or six years ago it was. Today you have users watching online video, mobile video and even over-the-top video in record numbers, and watching much broader types of content than they were before. We are coupling that with advertiser interest in associating with these content types. The most important thing is that publishers and creators have learned to package and sell this content more effectively so that it meets the needs of clients as well as viewers.

What's a common misconception marketers have about web video?
There are three big misconceptions. First is that it's not measurable. You still have a large subset of the ad-buying population that is either overwhelmed by the data itself or don't think it's measurable. People do not have [video] built into their media-mix models, and I think some still don't believe there is a [gross rating point]-equivalent number they can get to. A number of different providers have been pushing GRPs, but most of the media-buying population has not been educated yet on how to plan around them.

The second-biggest misconception is there aren't audiences large enough to make it worthwhile to invest. Again, that might be true if you are comparing it to a large hit on CBS, but there are plenty of shows across a number of different properties that can achieve the numbers you see in digital cable. If your bar is CBS Thursday night, it's going to be tough. If your bar is anything on AMC, it's going to be a lot easier to achieve the audience equivalent.

The last thing is the continued belief that there is no quality content. People assume TV programming is going to be good, and they know that if it isn't, then the networks will make it up to you through make-goods. Online publishers would do the same if we knew advertisers were going to spend. The content is there; it's their appetite to buy that isn't there.

Does the web need a TV-style hit to get the attention of TV advertisers?
It does have the attention of TV advertisers. Getting the money is a different question. It doesn't need one hit -- it needs multiple, consistent, broadly known hits [as well as] vertical hits that are known by more targeted audience segments.

BETH LE MANACH, VP-PROGRAMMING, DECA

Is it possible that web video is overhyped?
In some situations, when you're trying to move an industry forward, you have to swing the pendulum farther than you want to because you need to get attention. It's a huge industry that we're trying to change its attention, so in some ways it takes a lot of hype and tap dancing. It feels like a lot of hype with all NewFronts, but I feel like we've had a lot of internal hype for year -- now it's just on a bigger stage.

Now that the technology and consumer behavior have finally caught up with the hype , it makes it more [of a] reality. When people were just sitting at desktops, outsiders would say, "I don't get it. People are going to watch video at their computers, and this is what's going to compete with TV?" But now with the curl-up iPad experience, it's sometimes more comfortable to watch Netflix on an iPad than ... on a TV 10 feet away. This has been brewing for the last five years.

What's a common misconception marketers have about web video?
They think it's an opportunity to create a less expensive commercial in some way. When it comes to branded content, even though they've been given a primer and know they need to be authentic, they can't break the habit. So in some ways, it's better if a brand can wrap itself around content that is quality and, by association, users will think highly of the brand instead of the brand hammering in a message in such a heavy-handed way. Brands are used to either buying media or producing commercials, so the idea of sponsoring or subtly integrating can be new.

Does the web need a TV-style hit to get the attention of TV advertisers?
We talk about lot this a lot internally. My personal feeling is that a hit in the traditional sense is really more of a broadcast model. An online hit is about having a loyal, engaged audience. And you've got to be loyal before being big. Online video does a good job of connecting niche audiences with whatever passion they have. I'd rather reach 50,000 engaged beauty enthusiasts than 5 million people who may or may not be interested in beauty.

I started producing during the early stages of cable TV, and one of the first was for Home & Garden. We would get people saying, "There's a network just for Home & Garden?" It was only in 6 million homes, and they couldn't grasp it.

BRIAN BEDOL, CEO, BEDROCKET MEDIA VENTURES Is it possible that web video is overhyped?
I'm not sure that it's overhyped, but I think it's a bit misunderstood. There's a perception that web video is going to somehow replace traditional TV. But I don't think it's a replacement, per se; I think it's a different sort of consumer experience.

People need to recognize that web video is used as an all-encompassing term: There's original web video, and then there's web video as a distribution platform for existing video. We lump Netflix, iTunes and Hulu in with YouTube, and they are entirely different platforms with entirely different purposes. ITunes or Amazon or Netflix is basically a disruptive technology that has displaced DVD sales and rentals. That's on one side of the equation. YouTube, on the other hand, with what they're creating, has basically expanded prime time by 20 hours a day.

What's a common misconception marketers have about web video?
Some marketers are doing a great job with it -- Nike , GoPro, Red Bull are great examples -- where they basically don't look at it as a substitute for TV. Others marketers that were late to cable are probably going to be late to web video. What the web offers is a direct relationship with potential customers that you just can't get through traditional one-way advertising. And I think great marketers understand that you need to maintain a relationship with customers between purchases. It's not all about buy, buy, buy, but about reinforcing decisions a consumer made. It's about an emotional connection, and video is by far the best way to maintain that connection. In my mind, web video is not a replacement for the 30-second or banner ad; it's forging a different kind of relationship.

Does the web need a TV-style hit to get the attention of TV advertisers?
My response would be no, because it's a different platform. There are a lot of examples of marketers using video in very successful and effective ways, and sometimes having that sort of big spike or big hit is dangerous because it creates unrealistic expectations. Smart, forward-thinking marketers are using it more and more in their mix; others will wait for a hit, but by then they'll have missed out on a learning curve that 's taking place right now.

JIM LOUDERBACK, CEO, REVISION3 Is it possible that web video is overhyped?
I think it's actually underhyped. Look, there is a lot of money sloshing around. YouTube, for example, is putting a lot into the space. What's underhyped is the big, active, engaged community that is forming around these new [online] personalities, brands, shows and channels. Yes, there's a lot of hype , but what's not well understood is that [web video] isn't traditional TV. It's a great environment for brands to reach groups of customers that they're not reaching or not doing a good job of reaching. From a macro level, there might be a little bit of hype there. But individually, there's still not a great understanding of what we already have.

What's a common misconception marketers have about web video?
One common misconception is that smartphones and tablets are the same. So when people talk about mobile video, they tend to lump tablets and smartphones together, but they have very different usage models. Smartphones are very much on-the-go, dip [in] and dip out kind of viewing.

Whereas tablets are emerging a lot more like tiny little personal TVs that you curl up with like [you'd do with a] good book, mostly at home. With that , there's another misconception that people will only watch short form on mobile devices. While you're not going to see people curling up with a smartphone to watch five episodes of "Parks and Recreation," you will find that with a tablet. I see people curling up with a tablet to watch longer-form Revision3 shows that are in the 15- to 30-minute range. The iPad may look like a big iPhone, but it's a very different device.

Knowing that difference, you want to take a different approach in talking to the audience. If I shove a 30-second preroll in there on a smartphone, users on the go may be less inclined to stick around for that , especially if they are paying for bits.

Does the web need a TV-style hit to get the attention of TV advertisers?
In aggregate it needs a hit, to have a hit personality or hit channel. But I don't think it needs a "Game of Thrones" or "Modern Family" hit to be successful. What you need are personalities or channels that can attract huge communities and huge numbers of eyeballs.

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