Deals and IPOs in video entertainment and advertising: an inflection point or bubble?

A spate of events this month argues that the industry that revolves around video entertainment and advertising (I no longer call it the "television" industry!) has entered a period where long-delayed change will burst out:

  • Video ad networks/technologies YuMe and TremorVideo both went public. While neither was blockbuster, these IPOs signal that investors have enough confidence in the future of digital video that they'll put some chips on the table. They see advertisers using online video to extend their TV campaigns and this sector growing at rates far higher than the advertising market as a whole. 
  • Two $400 million + deals for cross-device video ad technologies. The much-hyped AOL/Adap.tv deal and the quieter Extreme Reach/DG deal reflect different corporate strategies, but both are rooted in the idea that the distinctions between TV and digital video will continue to diminish. Marketers increasingly realize they must put their sight/sound/motion messages on every device if they hope to achieve the reach that TV alone used to deliver.
  • CBS/Time-Warner dispute. The mutual benefit of carriage fees has made the programmer/distributor relationship cozy for years. Now this relationship is fraying, and outright wars that include blackout of stations like the current CBS/Time-Warner fight have become increasingly common in the past couple of years. The lure to programmers of streaming their programs online increases in direct proportion to how contentious this relationship becomes.  
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Five Trends That Will Disrupt Europe's TV Ad Market

My new report, Convergence Disrupts Europe's TV Ad Market, looks at the fascinating landscape of TV advertising in Europe. The bottom line: disruption is coming that will make established TV buying strategies and practices ineffective. Marketers need to understand this change, and over the next three to five years, adopt new tools and strategies in order to achieve the reach and results they want from their video advertising.

While each country has unique attributes that both drive and hold back this evolution, five trends are unmistakable across the region:

  • On-demand viewing -- While on-demand is a small percentage of viewing time now, consumers are embracing the ability to catch up on missed favorite programs or discover other content on streaming services like LoveFilms. Younger viewers especially flock to these new viewing options and make up an increasing percentage of the classic 18 to 44 age demographic.
  • TV anywhere -- As relates to on-demand viewing, consumers find they're not always in their living room when they want to catch up on their favorite show. Programmers, networks, and distributors are all offering apps and services to make viewing on tablets, smartphones, and computers easy.
  • Original online professional content -- YouTube isn't just cat videos anymore. There is an explosion of high-quality professional content that won't ever be broadcast. I'll be watching these experiments closely to see how well they engage viewers.
  • Addressable advertising -- The dream of delivering different video ads to different viewers to match their interests is a marketer's dream. Long talked about -- and long delayed -- we will see the first broad market implementations this fall.
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AOL and Adap.TV -- Audience, not Content, is King

I talked with several reporters yesterday about AOL's $400 million purchase of online video technology company Adap.TV. A popular question was "Why is a media company buying a technology company?" as if they had no business being combined. The published coverage focused on the value of their technology for programmatic buying and its future application to TV as the digital evolution disrupts today's television advertising industry. Important, but I think misses a more fundamental issue: Content may be king for consumers, but the consumer is king for advertisers. And to deliver consumers to advertisers in the way they want, content companies will need to have strong technology backbones.

AOL has always trumpeted that content is king -- I remember the Bubble 1.0 days (pre AOL Time-Warner, even!) when Ted Leonsis virtually coined this phrase. Even since the Time-Warner split, AOL has continued to pursue the content-centric strategy with the acquisition of The Huffington Post, Tech Crunch, and video syndication firm 5min Media. Until now.

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