Streaming video used to be free at CNN.com. But now, if you want to watch, you've got to pay. CNN offers two methods to access its video. One is the CNN NewsPass, which for $4.95 a month ($39.95 a year) is the ticket to breaking news, news archives, as well as unedited coverage of lengthy events such as news conferences. Holders of a NewsPass can choose to watch with a RealOne, QuickTime, or Windows Media player.
The second route to CNN's video is by subscribing to a RealOne SuperPass from RealNetworks. The SuperPass ($9.95 a month) uses the RealOne player to provide access to streaming media from a dozen branded sources including ABCNews.com, The Wall Street Journal Online, FoxSports.com, and The Weather Channel (www.weather.com).
According to its spokesperson Edna Johnson, CNN doesn't release specific figures, but has been "pleased with the acceptance of NewsPass."
RealNetworks does talk numbers. The RealOne SuperPass was launched in December and by early May had already signed on some 600,000 subscribers, according to Tom Romary, vice president of Consumer Marketing. The real jump in subscriptions came after March 6, he said, when CNN "put their video behind a subscription wall."
The Atlanta-based, 24-hour news giant clearly has drawing power and now is using its online products to generate revenue. "CNN is making a very calculated bet that their growth online is going to be driven by subscription," said Romary.
CNN is the biggest lure in a slew of other streaming sources that come bundled with a RealOne SuperPass. Major league baseball fans will find audio coverage of games, while NBA addicts can find video news and features. There's fare from NASCAR, plus online radio and archived music.
Individually, each source has something to offer. Bundling the SuperPass partners make a tempting package...even if you have to buy the whole buffet when all you want is the salad bar.
"Content partners is the new wave," Romary said. "That's the whole trend as companies try to monetize their investment in the Internet. If you have a brand, you can pull it off."
Motor Trend In The Stream
Here's an example of how a company outside broadcasting is making use of streaming video to build customer loyalty and reinforce brands. Those in television may want to take note of some of its innovative strategies.
Detroit's North American International Auto show comes to town each January, but publishing deadlines mean that readers have to wait 60 to 90 days to get the story from their favorite car magazine. Last year, Motor Trend found a way to rush breaking Detroit news to car buffs. The solution is online video, now a regular feature at motortrend.com.
"Video brings the pages of the magazine to life," said John Cobb, vice president for Digital Automotive at Motor Trend's parent company, Primedia. Motor Trend knows that its readers care less about transportation than about the look, feel, status, and other hot-button traits associated with vehicles. For conveying that, nothing beats video.
Motor Trend budgets $20,000 a month to support online video, and it's not unusual for the site to generate 300,000 video downloads a month. All the video content is editorial, as magazine staffers visit auto shows, review vehicles, or go "behind the scenes" to expand on major magazine features. Sponsors may add their messages through ad banners, standard video commercials, or a video player wrapper, or skin, with links to additional information about the vehicle and manufacturer.
All of Motor Trend's online video is delivered in Apple's QuickTime format. Jay McCarthy of 3rd Bird Media Group in Los Altos, CA, is Motor Trend's video producer. He shoots on location with Canon DV cameras, frequently capturing directly to a FireWire hard drive via a FireStore device from Focus Enhancements. Capturing direct to a hard drive saves time by allowing him to edit without realtime tape playback.
On the road, McCarthy edits from his hotel room, using a G4 PowerBook and Final Cut Pro. He cranks out one to three videos a day, which he may upload to Motor Trend's website from a Starbucks, Kinko's or other public place offering broadband Internet access.
Jeff Bartlett, Motor Trend's online media director, is pleased with the response to the magazine's streaming video. "Beyond any revenue potential, there's great marketing value in the video," he said.
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