OMMA Video Panel: The Format Wars

Moderator: Steve Smith
Philip Braden, ScanScout
Eric Hadley, CEO, Heavy
Rebecca Paoletti, Yahoo
Chris Allen, Starcom

Panel starts with some show-and-tell.

ScanScout Philip Braden shows overlays. Plays in-stream while the video is playing. From that point on, the ad experience is completely user initiated. New example that Philip showed was a video-in-video overlay. Cool demo alert: There was video playing in the overlay. Lots of potential here.

Eric Hadley, CMO,, shows an example from the Husky Media Network. It is a full page takeover that wraps around the video player. They also have a video guide that can load other syndicated content, and then serve an ad against the syndicated content, which has been pre-vetted for ad friendliness. Essentially, their ad covers up all of the content on a website except the video player. It removes the risk of having your ad seen along side questionable content.

Rebecca starts by asking the room how many people would buy those Heavy skins. Not one hand. Then into the Yahoo pitch. Four different formats, but 90% of their revenue comes from only two of those formats. User is prompted to roll over for more info. When the user does, an overlay appears that can be interacted with. Rebecca says they are seeing 6% CTR on them. A whole 6%. Not a “point-six percent.” She also shows a persistent bug that sits on top of the player that will launch an overlay. Clicking on the subsequent overlay can launch a microsite that sits on top of the player. For each clip, the advertiser gets three opportunities to engage.

Steve: What types of content are these formats good for monetizing? How do they map and match against different types of content?

ScanScout: overlays work across all types of content. They also work great for short form content where you can’t show a pre-roll. You can also contextually target the ads. We have a fair number of publishers that have UGC, and we can filter out undesirable content. The technology is flexible, which allows a brand like Disney to have different standards than Budweiser.

Eric, Heavy: We find that the skins are excellent for monetizing longer form content. We can show multiple ads without asking the user to interrupt their experience. The video guide allows the advertiser to know what content their ads will be next to.

Rebecca: We can serve pre-roll against a lot of our professionally produced content, like sports highlights. Some publishers don’t like overlays because their content is their ‘bread and butter’ and they don’t want it covered.

Philip: We can also put the overlay under the player for publishers who don’t want to cover any of their content.

Steve: Are we effectively monetizing short news clips?
Rebecca: Specific content may not be monetized on purpose. Breaking news, for example. We want users to be able to get a hurricane update immediately, without watching an ad.

Steve: Are these formats making video safer for brands?
Chris: We have two buckets. UGC and not UGC. Most of our advertisers believe they can reach their audience without dipping into the UGC pool. But we still see tons of pre-roll, mainly because its easy. They’ve already created it. We advocate for shorter ads. But you can’t get substantial reach without looking to the portals. We also look at the ad-to-content ratio for a publisher. 4:1 content to ad ratio is probably OK. We’re helping our advertisers understand what they can do with video. Most of them don’t know that you can do lead gen with video.

Steve: What about portability? Is there pushback from publishers or brands that don’t want their ads to follow the content as it is hypersyndicated?
Philip: We integrate our technology so that the ads can travel with the video. But we also want to know where the content has gone before we serve an ad.

Rebecca: Portability was a huge push for our latest ad formats. We wanted to make it easy for our publishers to use. We focused on keeping the interactions within the video player.

Chris: We want see where the content goes before we buy ads. Syndicating content out to social networks is still scary for a lot of advertisers. When we first started talking about syndication of content across the web, we knew it would be huge. Previously we had always applied the value to the content. But we’re finding that there is also a lot of value on the publisher that delivers the content. The CBS Audience Network still gets the majority of their views from

Steve: How well do the formats encourage video use?
Eric: We wanted to be able to monetize the video anywhere, and not force people to watch a pre-roll. When you serve an ad in the middle of a video, you’ve already got the user hooked. You need to get them hooked first. If they back out of the video because of a pre-roll, you lose all the potential ad impressions that would have come after it.

Philip: Its hard to say that any form of advertising encourages viewing. But ads need to be configured in a way so that it doesn’t alienate users.

Rebecca: This is an ongoing debate. I always have people saying “kill the pre-roll.” And we’ll test it, but it never affects the levels of video consumption. Our focus is on the number of videos to ads. On the entertainment side, there is no difference in video consumption regardless of the ad format.

Steve: Video ads are becoming more interactive. It is still interruptive, even if it is up to them. Are people really willing to interact with an ad?

Philip: Engagement in general is good. We are 1%+ CTR on the overlays. But more than half of the people that click on the overlay eventually click through to the destination site.

Erik: We put the interactivity in the skin because it is such a large piece of real estate. Our audience multitasks. They want to watch a bunch of goofy videos, not really paying attention.

Steve: Are we getting to the point where there is confusion in the market about what constitutes a video ad?

Erik: You need to try lots of things.

Chris: People expect new things. They want to be entertained and have fresh new things in front of them while they are surfing the web. Part of our job is to be respectful of the user experience.

Steve: What are you charging media buyers for these ad formats?
Philip: Overlays start at $10 CPM.
Erik: We’re looking at $25 CPMs
Rebecca: We’re in the middle of negotiating our upfronts, but generally CPMs start at $25 for ROS because we are able to do a lot of targeting.

Chris: When I compare video CPMs to TV, there is a huge premium online. And we’re willing to pay that premium if we know that it is being effective. I think the “teens” is a good rate for pre-roll.

Pentagon: Insurgents intercepted drone spy videos

Not our usual news, but couldn’t ignore it.

The Associated Press reports Pentagon sources have confirmed that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have hacked into live video feeds from Predator drones.

According to the Wall St. Journal, Shiite fighters in Iraq used off-the-shelf software programs such as SkyGrabber the video feeds from the spy planes.

One of our first posts (on a previous database, so don’t bother looking) showed how easy it was for anyone to tap into an airport camera feed by knowing the common addresses used by individual networked camera manufacturers.

Wowza Releases Award Winning Media Server

Today Wowza Media Systems announced the official release of the Wowza Media Server 2 to the general public (er, general video server buying public, that is).

While normally I’d ignore new version releases, Wowza did win StreamingMedia‘s Readers Choice Award for Best Innovation for WMS2, so its availability to global customers is certainly worth a mention.

Wowza Media Server 2 is the only software on the market to natively implement simultaneous streaming support for RTMP, Apple HTTP Streaming, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, RTSP/RTP delivery, as well as MPEG-TS for IPTV set-top delivery.

WMS2 is also the first with performance benchmarks up to 10Gbps per-server for streaming live and on-demand video using off-the-shelf server hardware.

While certainly an impressive feature set to roll out with, expect other streaming server software providers to offer similar features in the near future. Wowza will just need to stay one step ahead, which is exactly what CEO and co-founder David Stubenvoll, intends to do. In the announcement Stubenvoll stated that they will “strive to create products that enable content to be delivered to wherever customers are, in the most cost-effective fashion. We don’t have any bias toward specific technologies and are not driven by any agenda to sell anything other than the best media server software.”

NY’s Video Start-Up King to be Crowned Tonight

The NY Video Top Startup 2009 competition will crown a winner tonight, decided by us, the online video community.

Livestream will be broadcasting the event live if you can’t make it.

Tonight, the top 5 – as voted on online – will make their case directly to the community at Columbia Business School’s Uris Hall.

Finalist Presenters will include:
Dr. Shay David of Kaltura, Israel Drori from Zixi, Glenn Gutierrez for PopScreen, Ran Harnevo of 5min, Josh Weinstein of KickApps,and Adotube‘s Joshua Winograd.

The festivities begin at 6:30 with some networking. Presentations begin at 7pm, and the all important afterparty at Havana Central kicks off at 8:30.

Columbia Business School
Uris Hall, Room 301
Broadway and 116th Street

See you there!

MyDamnChannel Wins Daisy’s Heart in ’09

In the final New Media Minute of the year, host Daisy Whitney bestowed her first ever New Media Minute Award of Excellence to MyDamnChannel.

MDC is now profitable, landed some huge ad deals, and will be announcing their first TV deal in 2010. The other nominees included Quantcast, Kaltura, 5min, and Boxee. All of them quite worthy nominees in their own right.

Here’s the full minute for you…

A great year for the New Media Minute, Daisy! I’d give you our OVW Video Celebrity of the Year Award….as soon as we have one.

OMMA Global SF: Lets Talk Video (Its Free!)

I’ve been asked by the good folks at Mediapost serve as the Video Track Chair for the OMMA Global: San Fran event. The previous OMMA Global, held in NYC this fall, was a resounding success, and this west coast version should be nothing less.

Speaking proposals are already being accepted, so be sure to suggest the juiciest topics and your favorite industry execs to weigh in. You can also email me directly to discuss potential topics or speakers.

The event will be held March 17-18, 2010 and will feature 45+ track sessions, 16 general sessions, 8 keynotes, 200+ speakers and 75+ exhibitors. At least 5 of those track sessions will be dedicated to video. The best part (other than my participation, ‘natch) is that this year it is F-R-E-E FREE.

Head on over to their site and sign up for updates and upcoming registration information. And don’t forget to say “Thanks” to publisher Ken Fadner and VP of Events, Jon Witfield for making this great event available to everyone. And thank the sponsors, too. Ultimately, they’re paying.

DIRECTV Piloting Sunday Ticket Online for Manhattan Residents

A piece of news I hadn’t seen but which came in handy this weekend for watching my Patriots, DIRECTV somewhat quietly launched a pilot of its Sunday Ticket live streaming service for Manhattan residents at the beginning of this NFL season. For $349, Manhattanites who don’t have access to DIRECT either because their landlords don’t allow it or because of poor sight-lines can subscribe to gain access to Sunday Ticket and watch every out of market NFL game online.

Opening access to the service online without a pay TV subscription is a touchy subject, and at least initially users have to jump through some hoops to show they can’t otherwise get DIRECTV to gain access. On the one hand if viewers willing to pay for out of market games are unable to get them NFL and DIRECTV are leaving money on the table. On the other, NFL games are one of the last bastions of network bargaining power over retransmission rights so anything that could potentially take away from their TV broadcast ratings are a major threat so authentication is a big deal.

The price tag is steep, more than Sunday Ticket on satellite, but the service works. If they role this out on a larger basis next season it could really begin to have an impact. Even more interesting, if DIRECTV were to offer a more advanced broadband package for additional exclusive content (think channel 101) that could really be disruptive to cable operators.

Yahoo Pipes Down in the Northeast

A relatively small pain in the ass, but noticeable for a few of the companies that I work with.

Yahoo Pipes allows you to aggregate and manipulate and customize RSS feeds. For publishers in the Northeast US, Pipes is down, leaving them without many of the content feeds that they use to power their business. Companies using Yahoo Pipes to feed their video content are currently serving up blanks where the players and playlists should be.

Seems like this has been a recurring problem.

I’m sure it will be back up shortly, but in case you bump into a blank video player, now you know why.

Watching the World of Online Video