#ETIA14: What is the ‘Premium’ Video Experience?

STANFORD, CALIF.— Online viewing of video clips fell between 2012 and 2013. Demand for live content is outpacing VOD. Content costs for pure over-the-top is becoming an issue. Netflix is spending a tremendous amount on content, very near revenues. This is all according to Cisco’s Leszek Izdebski, who led a discussion about the meaning of “premium” video at the second annual Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age conference at Stanford University.

Leszek asked his panelist what consumers think of the “premium experience.”

Anand Banwasi of Google said it was meaningless.

“If you look at two, three, four years from now, I don’t even know if the phrase ‘premium content’ will exist. Creators can emerge from anywhere. How do you say it’s premium or not premium? If audiences are joining and responding to it, that’s content.”

Jeffrey Thompson of RNN TV said, hey, not so fast. RNN is a regional network with 7 million homes in New York City carried by Comcast and FiOS. RNN produces just under 300 hours of content a week, he said.

Thompson said the premium experience amounted to “broadcast quality, linear quality, across the creative landscape—whether its live or scripted.”

Anthony Citrano of Verizon Edgecast said speed of delivery is also a factor.

“Does it start when I want it to start?,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean 4K, because you don’t need 4K on an iPad.”

Thompson said his biggest headache as a traditional TV provider is what to do about multiscreen delivery. He talked about his young daughter swiping at the TV screen as if it were an iPad.

Mark Young of NBCU’s Fandango added that younger viewers are using two or three screens at a time and not doing the same thing on each of them.

Izdebski asked about the shattering of traditional release windows.

Young said the studios are doing pre-releases along with released the soundtrack and the companion game in a bundle.

Banwasi said Disney leveraged highjacked “Frozen” clips as a marketing mechanism.

“Disney could have easily blocked everything on the Internet, but it didn’t. The movie peaked at the box office in the third or fourth week,” he said.

Izdebski asked if OTT is cannibalizing TV.

“Where’s the money going to come from for OTT. Consumers and advertisers have a finite amount of money for entertainment?”

Banwasi said it is indeed coming out of non-online avenues, including print and TV.

Citrano said part of the problem there is that too many media outlets are taking what they did in print and putting it online.

Izdebski asked what can be done for advertisers trying to develop multiplatform strategies.

There are no simple answers, Citrano said.

“Research indicates the vast majority of actions are accidental, so it’s hard to measure the intent of a viewer,” he said.

For decades, advertising has been a function of reach, Google’s Banwasi said, “but they haven’t been able to measure what they get from reach. That’s where online can close the gap from being reach with premium content to something more engaging with fans.”

Online still has a ways to go in terms of engaging fans, Citrano said. “It boils down cookies: If I buy an air-conditioner, I don’t need another one tomorrow.”

Izdebski shared an anecdote about producer at South-by-Southwest who was asked how to get a movie noticed. He said start the film title with the letter “A.”

Young agreed that breaking through the noise was a challenge. He said NBCU was trying with social media. It cut deal with Twitter to have buy buttons on Fandango movie cards.

Banwasi said consumers would use a combination of recommendation and discovery.

Influencers. That was Citrano’s take. What friends say.

One area where traditional media still has it over OTT is live, RNN’s Thompson said.

“When you ask what’s missing in an OTT environment, you start looking at live news, live sports... Disney will put 20 channels of live streaming together, and this has been a gap.”

Live is a huge challenge, Citrano agreed, “because you never know what’s out there.”

Izdebski noted that the first World Cup game broke the Internet.

When 10 million people hit the stream… it is a massive infrastructure challenge,” Verizon’s Citrano said. “Consumers have increasing expectations for speed, quality and mobility; to pick up an iPad anywhere in the world and watch a live stream 5,000 miles away.”

Challenges remain, he said.