Saturday, March 26, 2011

Polycom's Acquisition of Accordent Brings New Synergy to the Enterprise Video Marketplace

This past week saw another big acquisition within the online video space with the announcement that Polycom had acquired Accordent Technologies for approximately $50 million. Polycom is based in Pleasanton, California and is well known in the enterprise video industry as a leading provider of unified communications solutions in telepresence, videoconferencing, voice and streaming products. Accordent is based in El Segundo, California and is a company of 52 employees which grew to $9 million in revenues in 2010.

Unlike other major companies within the space that have been on buying sprees over the last few years, this was Polycom's first acquisition since 2007.  As Polycom President and CEO Andy Miller noted in a letter to customers the synergy between the two companies is "a perfect fit with Polycom's market-leading Unified Communications (UC) solutions" and will complement Polycom's existing offerings in Telepresence, video and audio conferencing. He noted that within the UC spectrum it's been a challenge for many companies on how to capture, manage, and distribute internal events, training, and corporate communication.

Since 1999, Accordent has specialized in video capture, content management, and delivery solutions more than 1200 organizations in the enterprise, public and government sector, including 150 of Fortune 500 companies. Accordent's Media Management system was named "Best Enterprise Video Platform" by the readers of Streaming Media Magazine, one of the "Hot Online Video Companies to Watch in 2011" by Streaming Media EVP and industry analyst Dan Rayburn and Accordent was named "Best Online Video Company" by FierceOnlineVideo. Accordent's video content management and delivery solutions will now make it easier for Polycom customers easily to integrate meeting, training and event capture into existing and new deployments.

Dan Rayburn noted it's a nice payout for Accordent which was 5 times its revenue for 2010:
"For Polycom to pay 5x revenue in today's market is a clear sign of just how strategic Accordent's technology will be to the company and also an indication of how well Accordent was doing in the industry."
On the Forrester blog, Henry Dewing called the acquisition, "A Marriage Of Real And Archived Video", and that the two companies share, "a common focus on unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), a tight relationship with Microsoft, and a deep understanding of the adoption of video in the market."

Steve Vonder Haar of Interactive Media Strategies commented that the deal "Marks Beginning of 'Business Video M&A Era'" and the term unified communications will become even more widely used as business customers seek one-stop shops for business communications.

Vonder Harr said:
"The deal allows Polycom to tell prospective customers a more comprehensive video communications story than ever before. With $1.2 billion in 2010 revenues, Polycom certainly is no business video shrimp. However, its successful product line was relatively one-dimensional, excelling at enabling live video communications in and between corporate conference rooms. he Accordent deal definitively and decisively helps Polycom build a bridge to other branches of the business video market space. Specifically, Accordent instantly makes Polycom relevant in providing platforms that manage on-demand content and make it possible to distribute content – both live and on-demand – to corporate desktops."
According to data from market research firm Wainhouse Research, the acquisition expands Polycom's total available market by $500 million and, for this video management segment, this market is projected to generate a compounded annual growth rate of 32% through 2014 to $1.2 billion. Polycom's biggest competitor in the space is Cisco, which in October 2009 acquired Olso, Norway-based videoconferencing vendor Tandberg.

Click photo to launch the video
The CEOs of both companies, Andy Miller and Mike Newman recorded a short video in which they discuss the key benefits of the acquisition for their companies, customers and unified communications market. They also created a FAQ document for customers.

I spoke with Mike Newman, co-founder and CEO of Accordent, the day after the acquisition announcement about the synergy between the companies and how Accordent will be integrated into Polycom.

The following is a transcript of our conversation.

Larry Kless: Congratulations on the big news!

Mike Newman: Yesterday was a lot of fun because we got to break the celebratory news to our respective teams. I think from what I've seen the news was very well received in the market and very well received by our customers. So I think yesterday was pretty much very productive, almost in an exclusively communications oriented way and today the rubber's hitting the road. Going out to customers and remembering there is an end of quarter that's approaching quickly.

LK: It's seems like a great fit and a lot of synergy between the two companies. How do you define that?

MN: It was extremely important to us to preserve the strategic value that we see ourselves providing in the marketplace, and I think in our conversations with Polycom from the outset, it was clear they are transforming; they're evolving; they're very aggressive about the unified communications space; they're capable of moving very quickly, and it was exciting to even think about what would be possible if we combined our offerings. I can tell you in every way possible, they have preserved everything good about Accordent. They've put us in a strategic role in the organization, everything from naming the division, "Video Content Management and Delivery", and recognizing that those are really key pillars in a strong unified communications strategy; and then really going to market with what really is an exceptional sales force and allowing our sales, our sales engineering implementations to really supplement and help them in a way that's very productive. So, like I said, today's business. Our sales teams are busy and it's fantastic to see.

LK: So how then does the acquisition change Accordent in terms of workforce, lock stock and barrel, and absorb all technology?

MN: We're really proud with the way that we've been respected through this process, as an organization that had very good chemistry; had a very good sense of the market and the market's requirements, and both executed in product development and sales very well. So, they've taken a hands off approach, in so far as saying, "We don't want to tinker with what is working", and really I have to say in a remarkable way welcomed us into their family with open arms. So again, preserving a role for every person on day one and preserving an important role. It was just fantastic for me to be able to stand in front of my company and say that, and know that – as had been demonstrated in every step of the process – that they valued us as an organization and what contribution we could make jointly going to market.

LK: From a market perspective, it was really refreshing to see this and not just another Cisco acquisition.

MN: I'll tell you and I think people often see the acquirer as having all the leverage, but this was a situation where we had choices. We were accessing the marketplace and as always, you can't pull it out of your DNA if you're committed to execution and we could not be happier. I just think the story is so strong and it's not a story that's just exclusively Polycom buying Accordent, it's a story about going to market as joint entity but also having the open armed approach to partnerships; to relationships with companies like Microsoft and Riverbed, and Bluecoat, very best-of-breed participants in this ecosystem. So it really wasn't just a product synergy, it was philosophical as well.

LK: It really has the makings of a powerhouse in the market with both companies being so strong in your respective spaces.

MN: This comes from neither company over thinking it. I think we were both listening to our customers and listening to what they were demanding and what their vision was for what a unified communications offering should be; and that made it pretty easy. At the end of the day, at least for us we looked at how that mapped to what customers were requesting and whether or not we'd be able to fulfill. Because you never want to go out to the market with any form of bad news and to enable our sales forces to avoid having to do that; to in fact go to market with great news and very focused news and being able to respond to the demands that they've been hearing is just a great feeling.

LK: Accordent's offerings seem to really complement Polycom's offerings in terms of meeting capture and content delivery. Was there any cross-over in the offerings or is this an entirely new division for Polycom?

MN: I learned a word in this process which I should have already known, but the word is rationalize. In Europe, they use the word "made redundant". Nothing had to be rationalized, there was zero overlap and in fact, it was quite remarkable as we mapped our respective products how easy it would be to start to integrate them because they literally were contiguous. They came right up to the edge of overlap but did not, and so what you have is a pretty thorough understanding of what should come next in the story and now we're able to provide it; and that's a reciprocal benefit. Because certainly, I was starting to envision probably 12 months ago that it was going to start to get dangerous to be a boutique unless you had very strong partnerships and/or were absorbed into something broader.

LK: Will the Accordent name and brand be completely absorbed by Polycom?

MN: Absolutely, we're aggressive about rebranding the products under the Polycom umbrella. We're aggressive about rebranding the company and we're a very tight knit group here and as much as we love being Accordent, we're already very very proud of being part of Polycom and that has almost everything to do with not just their achievements to date, but with the class with which they welcomed us into their family. The commitment is genuine, it's intense and literally in a matter of hours our people were at ease and focused on what they should be focused on, which is execution.

LK: How then will it look like for the business itself and how are the leadership roles blending?

MN: You'll start to infer a theme from my responses, and it's a really nice theme, and everything is staying intact. We keep our headquarters in El Segundo, California, in fact we're in the process of renewing the lease on it. Everyone is with the company and our roles are almost identical. I think we're going to obviously migrate over to Polycom's processes. So we'll have a greater deal of efficiencies there, because you know how it is essentially with a start-up where you cut corners. So, I think Mike's engineering operation (Mike Lorenz, Accordent's long-time CTO) is left completely intact and there's a great deal of deference to what they've been able to do; and I can tell you sales are in for the ride of their life. So they are ready and where I see demand coming from already is just remarkable. They just pounced on it and I'm so thankful we're not twiddling our thumbs getting our burdened with assimilation and we're figuring it out on good faith without missing a beat in the market.

LK: Where do you see this initial surge in demand coming from?

MN: I really believe time is of the essence. Now is the time along this paradigm of pent up demand that's being acted upon; demand that's already been executed against and being expanded. Large organizations, in particular regardless of the vertical, regardless of the geography are investing in unified communications. As you know from our traditional space in streaming, demand is just becoming rampant. So, I think we see it in all directions and it's really a process now of prioritizing; being organized and satisfying demand as quickly as possible. Certainly we have a sizable install based but it pales in comparison to to what we're already being exposed to with Polycom; and I do think in a very very short time we are going to be selling at full speed worldwide.

LK: What do you see as obstacles for growth of the unified communications market overall?

MN: This is a great thing for an entrepreneur to say, which is, the potential obstacles are in our control now. The market is maturing rapidly. I think even if the solutions were disconnected and there were loose partnerships; I think the demand is so strong that the investments are going to be made. They advantage we will have is that we will have a seamless story; we will have a single source for everything from the product suite to the support, to the services and so forth. So really, we see and we're thankful for this responsibility for just the burden of executing; and bringing not only the products to market but the messaging and the education; and doing that in a way where we can capture the demand that's out there.

So, I lived through 9 years of where we thought were were executing pretty darn good, but the market wasn't maturing; and you sit there going, "There's not that much you can do", you can't convince a multi-national corporation to do something they just don't want to do but now it's pull and we just have to make sure that we're navigating effectively to the right spots within organizations with the right solutions and the right messaging and i think we've given ourselves a great chance at doing that.

LK: It's great story too, with the acquisition price of $50 million for Accordent, but the opportunities that can come from the synergy between your two companies seems to the bigger story.

MN: I think the message it sends that is so positive I think for everybody involved is, this is strategic. The message it sends is that Polycom is absolutely committed to being the leader in this space and is willing to make the investments on behalf of its customers. I think for the players across the entire streaming landscape, obviously it doesn't relieve them of the burden of execution, but it reinforces that the reason they got into the space in the first place is valid. There is that market out there, there is that demand; no one's going to hand it to you on a silver platter but it's certainly worth getting out of bed for and trying to capture.

I'm so thrilled to not to really be bogged down with internally facing things. I've loved two parts of my job since inception; focusing on strategy and focusing on selling. They are not only freeing me up to focus on those two things, literally exclusively, but really the rest of the organization. As you know, there can be inefficiencies in start-ups and small companies and certainly imperfections in processes, and things that distract you from doing what you love to do and what you should be pretty good at doing. I will tell you, the greatest feeling I've had during this entire process is just being unencumbered and just really being able to focus on execution and that actually is going to magnify, as I get a better sense of the resources that are available to us and a way to leverage those resources. I think next week is going to be incredible and the week after that's going to be better.


About Polycom
Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) is a global leader in unified communications solutions with industry-leading telepresence, video, voice and infrastructure solutions built on open standards. Polycom powers smarter conversations, transforming lives and businesses worldwide. Please visit for more information or connect with Polycom on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

About Accordent Technologies, Inc.
ccordent Technologies provides Enterprise Video Management solutions that enable organizations to inform, train and engage audiences online. The Accordent Enterprise Video Management platform addresses the complete content lifecycle of all video assets regardless of source or format – from the point of Enterprise Video Capture, to viewer Portal Services, to administrative Video Content Management, to Rich Media Delivery and content expiration across disparate networks. Accordent is an award-winning company serving the Fortune 500 and leading educational, government and healthcare organizations. Learn more about Accordent at and follow Accordent (Accordent_Tech) on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Counts as a Video View? - Online Video Conversations: David Burch, Tubemogul - Part 2

So, what constitutes a video view? Is it considered a view just when the stream is called up and served to the viewer, even though only a portion of the video is viewed? Does the entire video need to be viewed to be counted? After several years of inconsistencies, the online video industry has not yet adopted a standard definition for a view. So to get some insight on this subject I spoke with David Burch, Director of Marketing at TubeMogul, Inc. According to Burch, while the industry standard is to count a view once someone clicks play and the streams starts, there still is a lot of misconception among media buyers on constitutes a view.

Burch says the technology is definitely there and Tubemogul has been putting out benchmark data on video completion rates for some time. Back in 2008, Tubemogul put together a study on What Counts as a View? which identified the differences in view counting among popular video sites. Most of the sites counted any interaction with the video player (full view, 1/2 view, refresh, embed, embedded autoplay) a view and as the report states, "The implications are relevant for video advertisers, content publishers, and those that might seek to artificially inflate the popularity of a given video."

Jim Louderback
Jim Louberback, CEO of Revision3 Internet Television, has been very outspoken on the need for standardization and has railed against the industry practice of counting an autoplay-start, as a video view and the growing prevalence of "stream fraud". He cited Tubemogul's updated study from September 2010, which reported that the problem of counting views was getting worse and nearly all video sites, except YouTube, counted anything including embedded autoplays as a view. According to YouTube, "A view occurs when a person watches your video. In order to preserve accuracy in view counts, we identify irregular playbacks such as spam and remove these from the view count."

Burch suggested that for publishers and advertisers it becomes a tradeoff. Another Tubemogul research report looked at drop off rates for pre-roll ads, which found that for many viewers, sitting through a pre-roll just isn't worth it. In fact, the overall number of viewers that clicked away from a video during 10-30 second pre-roll ads was close to 16%, and that number varied with top magazines and newspapers, where 24.85% of viewers click away; large broadcasters, only 10.9% of viewers click away during an ad, and video sharing sites saw 38.4% viewers click away and never actually watch the video content they originally came to see.

For advertisers, it becomes a bit of quandary when it comes traditional CPMs (Cost-Per-Impressions). If an "impression" or "view" is logged at the beginning of the pre-roll, for instance, and not after the ad has been viewed in full, then it's quite possible advertisers could end up paying for viewers that never saw their ad. For publishers, they risk losing a quarter of their audience based if they run pre-roll ads.

Burch concluded that:
"There is consensus around the industry about when to count a view, that's just a stream. But I think there's also consensus that that's obviously not enough. The technology is there to track it but benchmarking is just the beginning."

About Tubemogul
TubeMogul is a video advertising and analytics platform that connects advertisers with highly targeted audiences. TubeMogul's advertising solution is powered by the company's unprecedented data platform that tracks billions of video streams every month from the Internet's top publishers. This unique technology enables TubeMogul to help advertisers find consumers who want to watch their videos - and watch them longer. Advertisers and marketers never again have to choose engagement and accountability over reach if they use TubeMogul's video advertising and analytics platform.

Follow: tubemogul (tubemogul) on Twitter

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cord Cutting Explained: Telcos, MSOs and the Existential Crisis - A Conversation with Roy Peterkofsky, Skytide

What is cord cutting? The term cord cutting is commonly used to describe the trend of consumers who cancel their cable and satellite television subscriptions and "cut the cord" in favor of receiving their television programming from Over-the-Top Television (OTT) solutions available through the Internet. While this is a growing trend fueled in part from the wide availability of content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and millions of other video sites, there is an existential crisis facing the telcos (telephone companies) and cable companies, also known as MSOs (Multiple System Operators), that could threaten the continued growth of the next generation television industry.

I spoke with my friends at Skytide, an Oakland, California-based company specializing in performance analytics for large scale content delivery and digital media providers, to get an inside perspective on the current situation. According to Roy Peterkofsky, Skytide's VP of Product Management, this issue came bubbling to the headlines in the mainstream press with the news that Netflix accounts for 20 percent of network traffic at peak times in the U.S. along with the feud between Comcast and Level 3, which is all about the impact of that amount of traffic on the ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Peterkofsky pointed out that in the Comcast vs. Level 3 feud, Comcast is wearing its ISP hat and not its hat as a cable paid TV operator. Comcast claims that it's being swamped by all the traffic coming from Level 3, the ISP that serves as the backbone of Netfix's content delivery. Level 3 says that Comcast is charging unfair fees for the right to send data to its subscribers. As video consumption continues to grow at astonishing rates that could occupy 90 percent of all Internet traffic by 2014 – that's a lot of traffic getting dumped on the ISPs of the world and is generally uncompensated traffic.

More evidence of this issue was seen even today, as AT&T announced a broadband cap of 150 GB per month for its DSL subscribers and 250 for U-Verse subscribers, which are similar caps made by Comcast and Charter back in 2009.

Telcos, MSOs and the Existential Crisis

Peterkofsky noted that if you look at the historical context of the companies that are ISPs, which tend to be the telephone company and the cable company, you really start to see what a huge existential crisis this may turn out to be. He explained that once upon a time you had only one line that came to the house and that was your telephone line. Back then the telcos once held a monopoly because the telephone was a necessity. Consumers were locked in either through a governmental or regulatory monopoly and the telcos could upsell them on other services like long distance plans, voice mail, call waiting and Internet access.

At some point this other line got hooked up to your house, which was the cable line, but it was no big deal to the telcos because cable was only for video entertainment and never in a million years did the telcos think they would ever have anything to do with video entertainment. Peterkofsky said, that was before deregulation, competitive access, cable companies offering the triple-play which included the Internet and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone services and before mobile phones and people thinking they didn't need a landline anymore. It was obvious that the the core revenue source of telcos was under attack.

Peterkofsky clarified:
"You hear the term cord cutting thrown around a lot lately, but it's generally used in relation to cable companies, and it cant be taken literally. Because it usually talks about people who are going to stop paying the pay TV subscription but they would still keep the cable line typically as their ISP in order to bring in the OTT video services that allow them to no longer want their pay TV service. So it's not literally cutting the cord. But if you look at the situations that the telcos are facing, you could take the term cord cutting quite literally. Because a lot of people just have no need for the telephone company anymore and they could completely sever that relationship; and once the telco loses that customer relationship they lose that ability to upsell you on more and more services – that's their whole growth model completely out the window."
Peterkofsky said that some telcos have started to offer IPTV services over their networks to regain some of that revenue turning the tables on the cable industry that was once the nemesis of the telcos, and now finds itself under fire from two directions – the IPTV services and the OTT video services that lead to what is typically referred to as cord cutting. So, in many ways the telcos and MSOs are in the same boat dealing with loss of revenues from subscribers canceling their services and the uncompensated cost of delivering OTT video content which continues to rise.

"What you have there is a cost-revenue squeeze, and that is why I call it an existential crisis."

A disruptive solution

So, what can they do about it?

Peterkofsky pointed out two options:
  1. find a way to make it compensated 
  2. reduce the impact of it as a cost driver. 

He described that the second option is one that many network operators have figured out that they could through something called, transparent proxy or reverse caching, where an ISP will use caching on its servers to de-duplicate traffic traversing their network.

One example of this could be any popular movie available from Netflix's Instant streaming catalog that may have originally come from a CDN can be stored locally on the near end of the ISP network closer to the end user, and all other requests are served from that same cached file, rather than making another file request or thousands of requests to the CDN serving up the original content.

So buying a few servers to cached with is a great way for ISPs to reduce their network costs and much more cost effective then building out their networks by laying more fiber lines. But if this approach becomes more widespread and on a greater scale, Peterkofsky said, "you might start to see some interesting second order effects."

Effects which Peterkofsky said, can become highly disruptive for the CDN industry. Since the ISPs can use local caching to reduce the amount of traffic traversing over the Akamai, Limelight or other CDN's network, they can disrupt the revenue models between the content owners and CDNs, which are structured primarily on the amount of content delivered over the network. So if you're a content owner, Peterkofsky said, "you're either paying a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing, or you may just not be paying."

A classic case of disintermediation

Peterkofsky maintained that the ISPs decide to get into the CDN business they offer a couple of key advantages over the incumbents in the space. One is a cost advantage because they own the underlying network, not the Akamai and Limelights of the world that lease their bandwidth from network owners and tack on their own margin.

According to Peterkofsky:
"This is classic disintermediation. This is cutting out the middle man. Network owner providing the CDN services themselves."

ISPs also have a serious quality advantage over CDNs because ISPs own the connection or "last mile" all the way to your house and can provide better Quality of Service (QoS) through deeper caching. This becomes more important when you're talking about online video taking the place of conventional cable and satellite TV because QoS directly affects viewer engagement.

Overall, Peterkofsky thinks that the cost and quality advantages that ISPs have over CDNs will drive a lot of these network services providers to running their own CDNs through an invisible CDN through transparent caching, a commercial CDN or internal CDN to support their own IPTV services or if they're a MSO, their own TV Everywhere services.

On the consumer side, Peterkofsky doesn't believe that getting consumers to pay for the added content delivery costs will work either. Comcast is trying to push the cost back in the other direction toward the content owners but at some point it will circle back to consumers, but it won't fly. However, as Peterkofsky pointed out, with the music and video industry consumers will pay for content if it's convenient and inexpensive. But if it becomes too inconvenient or expensive for consumers they will either find ways to get content for free, or cancel their subscription.

Peterkofsky concluded that:
"The real solution is things that take cost out of the system by clever applications of technology."
As cord cutting continues to be a growing trend among consumers, it's likely that more ISPs move into the CDN business in 2011 and big changes in the space are expected in 2012.

About Skytide
Skytide is a privately held, venture-backed company founded in 2004 and headquartered in Oakland, California. Customers include Accenture subsidiary, Origin Digital; British Telecom; Cisco; Clear Channel Communications; Comcast subsidary, thePlaform; MTV Networks and Qwest. Skytide enables leading content delivery and digital media providers, like British Telecom and MTV Networks, to precisely measure and optimize the performance of their streaming video businesses. Its out-of-the-box reporting & analytics applications are built on top of Skytide's patented platform architecture, which devours massive amounts of highly diverse data and quickly turns it into actionable insights.
  • Skytide Insight for Content Delivery Networks uses server-side log data to provide CDNs and IP video networks — and their customers and business partners — with deep insight into streaming media performance.
  • Skytide Insight for Video Players uses client-side log data captured directly from the video player, enabling a detailed understanding of quality of service (QoS) and viewer engagement metrics.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

YouTube's Next New Networks Acquisition and Creator Institute Make Content Creators King

Big Opportunities for Content Partners Open Up with YouTube Next New Networks Deal and YouTube Creator Institute
After months of rumors and speculation Google officially announced on Monday that it has acquired Internet TV platform Next New Networks in its first content deal to strengthen and grow out YouTube's platform to support its Partner Program of over 15,000 partners worldwide. Many YouTube partners are making over $1,000 a month and hundreds of partners making six figures a year, but YouTube says that's not enough so it's taking it to the next level with YouTube Next.
"YouTube Next is a new team tasked with supercharging creator development and accelerating partner growth and success."
This includes spearheading YouTube Next-branded programs, services, grants, store credits at B&H Photo, meet-ups, community events, education and training and audience development. YouTube says that" Next New Networks will be a laboratory for experimentation and innovation" and the team will be working with a wide variety of content partners and emerging talent to help them be more successful.

In his post on AdAge Micheal Learmonth said that the new incentives will help lift the market for small producers and not necessarily turn YouTube into a media company:
"YouTube has known this for years, but is now taking a bigger role in cultivating that industry, acquiring Next New Networks, which has built a track record of building and promoting web series."
Since its launch in 2007, Next New Networks has built its network of original web programming attracting over 2 billion views and 6 million subscribers across its partner networks of channels and shows. It created the shows “Barely Political” and “Indy Mogul” and produces videos for YouTube sensations The Gregory BrothersHot for Words, and Nalts.

As a fundamental part of the advertising business for Google YouTube knows that its own key to success is to have great content that can be monetized. Will Richmond suggested that With its Next New Networks Deal, YouTube Evokes Cable's Early Days and pointed to a recent interview with YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar who talked about future evolution of YouTube into channels.

Kamangar said:
"When you think about the impact cable had, we think we're in a position to have a similar impact for video delivery, like what cable has done with broadcast. In the early '80s, you had three or four networks. Now those three or four networks are responsible for 25 percent of viewership, and the cable networks are responsible for all the rest. Right now, the fraction of traffic that is Web video is small relative to broadcast and cable, but it's growing at a fast rate. What's amazing is that the Web enables you to build a kind of channel that wouldn't have made sense for cable, in the same way cable enabled you to build content that wouldn't have made sense for broadcast."
Keith Richman, CEO of Break Media commented that this deal is
"With this move, YouTube is clearly stating that Hulu and Netflix have won the war for studio content. YouTube is now going for semi-professional and will define that market."
Here's a video from Next New Networks of The Next New Creators Program : In Their Words which they explain how successful the partner program has been.

Next New Networks' entire full-time staff of 17 will join YouTube as part of the deal, with the exception of CEO and co-founder Fred Siebert, who will temporarily act as a consultant. But Next New Networks COO Liam Collins along with Co-founder Tim Shey are joining and Chairman Lance Podell will join YouTube Next Lab global director. Next new Networks raised a total of more than $27 million in venture funding as a company, and as while terms of its deal with YouTube are undisclosed but sources said that deal is close to $50 million.

On the company blog Seibert wrote:
“We’re very excited to share the news that Next New Networks is now part of YouTube. Our company will become a core component of YouTube Next, a new team that will focus on supercharging content creator development on YouTube, driving deeper expertise in partner audience development, and incubating new ideas that can be shared with the broader community.”
Congratulations Next New Networks, and looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Also, in related news, today YouTube also introduced the YouTube Creator Institute which is a new media program in partnership with with the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles and Columbia College Television Department in Chicago to help advance the education and careers of budding filmmakers.  The application process begins March 11 and submission details are here.

Here's the description of the programs and an introductory video:
"YouTube Creator Programs help develop the next generation of leading content creators. Through programs like the YouTube Partner Program and YouTube Creator Institute, YouTube and its partners help education, train, fund and promote promising creators."


Friday, March 4, 2011

CBS Acquires, Names Jim Lanzone President of CBS Interactive

Consolidation within the online video space has been a serious trend in 2011, and that fact was evident today with CBS announcing that it has acquired,  the "Internet TV Guide to What's on Online" and hired Jim Lanzone as its new President of CBS Interactive, who will head up CBS Interactive's worldwide operations and roster of Internet properties, including,,,, and Lanzone replaces outgoing President Neil Ashe, who had led CNET Networks which was sold to CBS in June 2008 for $1.8 Billion. Ashe announced in December 2010 that he would be stepping down and leaving the company once it found a successor and it looks like CBS has found the right man for the job with Lanzone and it has big plans for Clicker.

Lanzone was previously CEO of, where he and most of his team came from and he founded Clicker in January 2009. The Los Angeles-based company was in stealth mode until it's official launched at NewTeeVee Live in November 2009, as the programming guide for this new era of television. Clicker has roughly 2.5 million monthly visitors and catalogs all broadcast programming online, along with TV-quality Web originals and contains more than 1,000,000 episodes, from over 12,000 shows, from over 2,500 networks, 30,000 movies, and 90,000 music videos from 20,000 artists. Just 3 months after it launched in February 2010 Clicker raised $11 million to build out its revenue model for lead generation. Earlier this year Mashable named Clicker one of eight top tech companies to watch in 2011. Terms of the CBS Clicker deal were not disclosed but Techcrunch noted several sources that put the deal somewhere between $50 to $100 million. Other sources cited the deal only in the tens of millions range.

On the Clicker blog Lanzone wrote:
"It’s been an amazing 2+ years, first in stealth as we built the product that would become Clicker, and then the past 15 months or so after we launched to the public.  Clicker has built a peerless navigation and discovery experience for online programming, from core search to our proprietary recommendation engine to our social integration with Facebook. As we look to the future, CBS has the kind of platform that can take Clicker to the next level as we look to create a lasting, meaningful brand and destination."
CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves praised Lanzone a leader and innovator:
"Jim is a dynamic, creative executive who knows the interactive space and its key players. In just over a year, Jim has created one of the leading navigation and discovery tools for video programming on the Internet. Clicker's products and proprietary technologies add firepower to our existing portfolio of entertainment properties, and if we can help grow Clicker to its full potential in the years ahead, the strategic value could be tremendous." 
On David Kaplan noted:
"In making the acquisition, CBS Interactive highlighted Clicker’s recommendation engine, Clicker Predict, and its social integration with Facebook, which claims that it offers 2.5 million monthly users an “instantly personalized guide to what’s worth watching online.” Clearly, CBS will hope to leverage that to get some more views for its online video, which still remains outside of rival broadcaster-backed Hulu’s system."
While on ReadwriteWeb Marshall Kirkpatrick called, a Giant Waste of Time and was both supportive and skeptical of Lanzone:

"I'm sure he's a very capable executive and here's the supportive way to articulate the significance of the news: a respected internet leader will now be charged with helping move into a new, unknown and disruptive technology economy a large, century old institution, rich with accumulated history and talent for creating high-production content that speaks to hundreds of millions of people. A less charitable take on the news: A man who helped bring the cultural sedative of mainstream TV to the glorious frontier of the Internet will now be in charge of extending that winning recipe of shimmering vacuousness made web-friendly to a much larger audience."

I spoke with Lanzone last year to hear about how Clicker got started cataloging what's on online, how the website works, what actually is Clicker's revenue model and, his general thoughts on the online video and Internet television space. I've republished my interview with him from Streaming Media East 2010 below.

Also, in related news, earlier this week Rovi acquired Slidereel and launched, a YouTube-like video and music site now in beta that uses a search and recommendation technology in a similar way as Clicker. Based on their activity on users can receive customized recommendations, find favorites, review ratings and make new discoveries based on their entertainment preferences. Read more on: - Executive brief: Battle for the online remote.

About CBS Interactive
CBS Interactive is the premier online content network for information and entertainment.  Its brands dive deep into the things people care most about across news, sports, entertainment, technology and business.  Leading properties include CNET,,,, BNet,, and much more.  With hundreds of millions of unique visitors from around the world each month, CBS Interactive is a global top 10 web property and the largest premium content network online.

About Clicker
Clicker is the ultimate guide to Internet television. As massive amounts of programming move online, consumers are entering a world of infinite choices, all on-demand. Great! Finding the show you want to watch? Painful. Thousands of episodes from thousands of shows are housed on thousands of different sites, mixed amongst billions of random videos. Clicker culls all broadcast programming, and TV-quality Web originals, from these silos and delivers them in one seamless, organized experience so you can easily find, save, share and even contribute content for any show or episode online. Check out Clicker on Facebook or Clicker on Twitter.

Updated 3/5/2011: A few corrections and additional quote by Marshall Kirkpatrick.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Future of Television will be an Immersive, Collaborative Experience: Cisco's Scott Puopolo at OTTCON 2011

This week in a keynote address at the OTTCON Over-the-Top TV Conference 2011 in San Jose, Scott Puopolo, Vice President and Global Head of Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), presented Cisco's predictions on what the future of television might look like in 20 years. Puopolo and his team developed the predictions based on interviews with more than 50 television industry and academic thought leaders who all agreed that almost every aspect of TV will be transformed – from how we interact with the TV; how channels will go away; how the remote control will disappear; how screens will do anything, anywhere and will become the nexus for all our connected, interactive and social video experiences – and move us away from the traditional linear "lean-back" TV viewing experience towards an immersive, collaborative experience in the future that goes beyond the Jetsons cartoon.

Many of the predictions are already evolving today with the explosion of connected devices, 3D viewing experiences, augmented reality, transmedia storytelling, advanced technology of touch screen and gesture driven control of screens that we've seen in futuristic sci-fi thrillers like Minority Report. As an example of what's in store for the future, Cisco says that TV will become a broader and more immersive sensory experience that will go beyond the visual and auditory senses to include the sense of smell and touch. But by far the biggest driver that propels innovation is the growth of online social communities and our need to be connected to them. Social interaction is embedded in many of the predictions of which could likely come to pass in the not-too-distant future.

I caught up with Puopolo following his keynote, where he presented 5 of the 10 predictions from the study, The Future of Television: Sweeping Change at Breakneck Speed, which he said, "offers the first holistic vision of the future across all key dimensions of the television industry and sheds new light on the likelihood and timing of innovation."

On the Cisco blog, Puopolo summarized the 5 predictions he presented to the OTTCON audience:
  • Is It Real or Is It TV? Sensory technology will enable new creative tools for producers and new experiences for consumers. So we’ll not only see Rachael Ray’s brownies -- we’ll smell them, and eventually taste them, too.
  • Screens Do Anything, Anywhere: Instead of buying TV sets per se, viewers will buy multipurpose screens. A screen in a bedroom could display your favorite painting or change into a teleconference monitor when you’re not watching TV.
  • Don’t Just Watch, Get Involved: Viewers will break the confines of the TV episode and interact with their favorite characters in everyday life. They could, for instance, collaborate with other fans to help key characters solve a crime or mystery.
  • Channels Go Away: Soon TV will be customized to your tastes. No more searching through menus to find a show -- the best streaming and on-demand TV will find you.
  • Viewers Kiss the Remote Goodbye: Consumers will use words, gestures, and devices such as smartphones and iPads to control their TVs. You might raise the volume or choose a different show with a simple flick of your wrist.
The 5 others predictions in the study are:
  • Ads Get Personal - you can interact with - In the future the majority of ads will be contextual, highly interactive, and laser-targeted to each viewer.
  • Watch Together, Virtually - TV will be an enabler of social interaction, encouraging group participation at home with remote friends and family. Viewers will experience a sense of community for the duration of the program.
  • Your TV Follows You - Content will be ubiquitous and available to you on any device wherever you are. Consumers will no longer be tethered to a particular device or network, and there will be limited ties to time itself.
  •  “Regular Joes” Go Hollywood - Semiprofessional and amateur film and TV-making will flourish, and decentralized methods to create, fund, and deliver content to the mass market will thrive.
  •  Creation Goes Viral - Content creators will invite consumers directly into the process.
CiscoIBSG produced this video to describe the 10 predictions for the future of television:

While the views among the experts varied on adoption rates of technology most did agreed that pay TV models will evolve and that consumers will have more control of their content experiences. Cisco IBSG believes that the combination of three key drivers—technology, consumer behavior, and business models – will accelerate our vision of the future and bring about enormous changes within the next 5-10 years that will permanently and dramatically alter our television experience.

For the evolving industry of PayTV operators, content producers, consumer electronics manufacturers, media aggregators and service providers, Puopolo said that competition for the consumer will also intensify dramatically.

So, what's the big message in all of this?

Puopolo summed it up in this way:
"The concept of consumer, controlled, increased, immersive, interactive experience is going to be the future of television and the consumption of our content is going to be ubiquitous. We'll be able to access it anywhere, anytime, from any device in any format."
OTTCON coverage: