In this season of annual
quarter product releases,
it’s easy to get lost
in the endless flow of
and ebullient announcements.
for attention and generate increasing confusion
about what to do with “new media.”
The glut of upbeat outlooks and the
gush of promotional promises thundered
with particular intensity on a couple of
overwhelming days recently. Studies and
forecasts surfaced, offering divergent views
about viewing migration to multiplatform
systems. Simultaneously, a gushing torrent
of product introductions offered updated
digital devices and software intended to
pave the path for the delivery and reception
of such multiplatform services.
Since our job around here is to interpret
these promises, the deluge made for a hectic
week. And it required some rumination
about how business planners will handle
this range of information.
Do you design your tactics based on
broad forecasts and spot-check studies?
Or should you absorb product information
and start building digital platform options
based on new product availability?
Not to be overly skeptical, but the field
studies and predictions are inevitably optimistic,
often created to reassure investors
and technology providers.
Similarly, product announcements
are opportunistic and
don’t necessarily assure market
|Fig. 1: Sources used to watch movies at home
Source: Parks Associates: “Video-on-Demand: The Road to Revenue,” September 2013
Yet plan you must. Inevitably,
it’s a combination of broad
market outlooks mixed with
specific tools and processes
that suit your role in the
emerging digital marketplace.
Nonetheless, the glut of
forecasts and the gush of
product promises tend to
daze as well as dazzle. For
example, in its new “Video-on-
Demand: The Road to Revenues” report,
research firm Parks Associates found that in
the first quarter of this year, 44 percent of
U.S. broadband homes subscribed to some
kind of online “over-the-top” (OTT) service
such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime,
(Fig. 1). That level of paid online VOD was
just slightly lower than simultaneous viewing
of TV and second-screen content.
Parks’ Senior Analyst Heather Way points
out that, “Online video is now a common
source of video viewing in U.S. households,
while Transactional VOD [“TVOD”: TV-set-based
VOD viewing] is near the bottom.”
Not surprisingly, the Parks study found
that young viewers (ages 18–24 years old)
are the most likely to subscribe
to OTT video services.
Viewers are far more likely
to watch such programs on a
mobile device or tablet, Way
told TV Technology when
we sought amplification of
her report. “More and more,
consumers are using a smartphone
or tablet to view video
content when the primary
screen [the TV set] is not
Separately and simultaneously,
Services’ “Video Monetization
Report, 2Q2013” provided
another upbeat outlook on Americans’ broadband video viewing patterns.
It, too, focuses on the dramatically
fast uptake of mobile viewing and especially
the increased acceptance of online
advertising by both viewers and marketers.
Online video usage increased 38 percent
from the second quarter 2012 to the
same period this year, says FreeWheel, a San
Mateo, Calif.-based marketing research and
support agency. It emphasizes that online
video advertising “increasingly [resembles]
the linear TV experience.”
Again, the impact of tablet viewing is
clear: tablets accounted for 13.27 percent
of video viewing in the second quarter of
2013 compared to 7 percent during the
same period last year and 7.5 percent in
the fourth quarter of 2012. Watching video
on smartphones or other mobile devices
also doubled during the year: 2.2 percent in
2Q2012 and 4.3 percent in 2Q2013.
While the FreeWheel analysis confirms
other researchers’ upbeat predictions for
“non-traditional” viewing, its core message
stresses the migration of advertising to these
addressable platforms. But the migration will
not be simple, the company observes.
Yet another report came up with similar
trend data about the movement of digital
video advertising. An eMarketer study, sponsored
by Adap.TV, concluded that “more
digital viewers means more marketers
jumping on the video advertising bandwagon,
trying to take advantage of the branding
opportunities afforded by video.”
This study’s data deck includes the high
hopes that marketers bring to digital platforms:
47 percent of marketing professionals
expect higher product awareness, 58
percent anticipate greater engagement. It
also lists reasons why advertisers will move
toward broadband video platforms: 73
percent cite “better targeting;” 67 percent
mention “measurement;” 54 percent cite
“scale and reach” as rationales to increase
their digital video spending.
And, according to another report, young
viewers are not the only ones embracing
online video. Ericsson’s Consumer Lab
found that 41 percent of people in the 65–
69 age bracket watch more than one piece
of streaming content per week; Hulu and
Netflix topped their choices. Analysts took
this factoid to mean that even traditional
TV’s “most adamant supporters” are being
tempted by the new digital alternatives.
Finally, VEVO issued its viewership report
for the first half of 2013, revealing
that 50 percent of its U.S. video views now
come from mobile and connected TV devices.
That’s even higher than the Parks
and FreeWheel reports, although as is usually
the case with such studies, the data
sources—the audience universes for each
study—are not identical. VEVO CEO Rio
Caraeff said that non-desktop viewing is
the fastest growing part of VEVO’s business.
VEVO’s experience, of course, is skewed
by its core content: mostly short music videos
that are a mainstay of mobile viewing.
The connected TV factor is noteworthy,
though, especially when Caraeff told CNET
that 80 percent of his company product development
now focuses on such at-home
devices. VEVO has deals with Roku, Xbox
and Apple TV, and analysts expect that
Google Chromecast and Samsung smart TV
deals are in the works.
Indeed, that’s where this collection of bullish forecasts tips into the world of product evaluation.
In September, Roku unveiled plans to expand its video
streaming service by adding an Android App. Barely
a month after updating its mobile iOS app, Roku introduced
v2.3, which lets users of Roku set-top boxes
stream videos between their Android smartphones, tablets
or other devices via the STB to their big-screen TV
Aside from sharing family videos, such technology
opens the door to more “user-generated content” if and
when that opportunity resurfaces for commercial media
|In a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival in September, actor Kevin
Spacey warned that traditional television program producers and broadcasters
could be left behind if they fear the risk-taking and “warp speed”
technological changes that are part of the new video era.
Roku also revised its interface (an augmented grid system)
for cross-platform remote control of online viewing.
And Facebook, which has quietly been upgrading its
video offerings, acknowledged that it is testing a system
that allows videos to play automatically on mobile versions
of its service.
Reuters described this capability as “setting the stage to
turn the 1.15 billion-member social network into an attractive
venue for lucrative, television-like video ads.”
According to reports, only videos posted to Facebook
by individual users, especially “celebrities or musicians,”
will have the auto-play function. The inclusion of professional
performers suggests that Facebook will increasingly
rely on video as a revenue-generator, with some
analysts expecting that the social network will charge
brand marketers $1 million to $2.4 million for a 15-second
auto-play video ad.
Meanwhile, Samsung is accelerating its TV apps agenda.
At the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) consumer electronics
trade show in Berlin, Samsung introduced two new
applications for its SmartTVs, expanding the pool of upscale
content available to its customers. The “Opera” app
features about 100 performances from Austria’s Wien National
Opera House; the “Gallery” app allows users to see
high-definition photos taken by popular photographers.
Both free apps can be downloaded from Samsung’s proprietary
TV app platform.
The concentrated flurry of new media forecasts and
product upgrades came barely a fortnight after the celebrated
Kevin Spacey speech at the Edinburgh Television
Festival. The iconic actor/director espoused the
“third golden age” of television, citing the high-quality
content of made-for-video programs,
including the Netflix “House of Cards” series
in which he stars. In his MacTaggart Lecture,
Spacey warned that traditional program producers
and broadcasters could be left behind
if they fear the risk-taking and “warp speed”
technological changes that are part of this new
Dazed by the options and choices? Of course,
everyone is. Does the data and product deluge
prompt inertia or statis? It better not.
Nonetheless, the forecasts are generally not issued
with a warning that past performance does
not guarantee future successes, at least not at the
same growth rate. And the products, which provide
just a glimpse of tools coming into the market,
are similarly not guaranteed to succeed in a
No wonder these multiplatform decisions are
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications
LLC, a media/telcom research firm. He can be reached at