Archive for April, 2015

Brands Are Swiftly Taking Automated Digital Ad Buying Operations In-House

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Here are a few excerpts from an interesting article on digital advertising:

Brands are taking their automated digital ad buying operations in-house, and they’re doing so swiftly

  • In-house spend is the fastest growing category in the programmatic ecosystem,
  • The movement of programmatic operations in-house will likely be concerning to ad agencies, the traditional stewards of marketers’ advertising creative and media operations.
  • Every month, 60 billion ad impressions are purchased through Index
  • Since Index services only the sell side, it requires buyers provide more information than usual….which is what allows the categorization.
  • The two main categories driving the in-house movement are financial and CPG advertisers
  • ad buyers are frustrated with ad agencies’ approach to programmatic.

(Editor’s note: What is Programmatic Direct?  One definition: Programmatic direct is a way to automate direct ad buys for set campaigns.)


Netflix Surpasses 62 Million Global Streaming Subscribers in Q1

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Streaming giant hits on revenue, comes in low on earnings per share estimates.

Netflix released its first quarter 2015 financials on Wednesday afternoon just after the U.S. stock markets closed, reporting earnings per share of $0.38 on net income of $23.7 million and $1.57 billion in revenue.

Wall Street had forecast earnings per share of $0.69 on $1.57 billion in revenue, according to numbers compiled by Yahoo Finance. Zacks saw EPS coming in at a penny lower. As such, the media company made its revenue mark, but fell quite shy on shareholder earnings.

In other negative sales-minus-expenses news, profit was down from 2014’s comparable three-month period.

But subscriptions were up, with the streaming giant adding 4.9 million subscribers in the most-recent 90-day period — a record for the company. The U.S. was responsible for 2.3 million of those new members. The total subscriber number rose to 62.27 million; 59.62 million are paid subscribers.

Netflix credited Season 3 of “House of Cards,” as well as new series “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Bloodline,” for its most-recent leap.

During the quarter in question, the company also announced the following coming original films: “PeeWee’s Big Holiday,” from Judd Apatow and Paul Reubens; “Jadotville,” from Irish director Richie Smyth and starring Jamie Dornan; and “Beasts of No Nation” from director Cary Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba. “Beasts” will premiere on Netflix later this year.

On its newfound competition, Netflix execs Reed Hastings and David Wells stated:

“In the U.S., HBO began offering its $15 per month “HBO Now” service last week. As we have said in the past, Netflix and HBO are not substitutes for one another given differing content. We think both will continue to be successful in the marketplace, as illustrated by the fact that HBO has continued to grow globally and domestically as we have rapidly grown over the past five years.”

“We view ‘Internet MVPD’ offerings like the rumored Apple offering, Sony’s Playstation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV as more competitive to the current pay TV bundle than to Netflix, which is lower cost, has exclusive and original content, and is not focused on live television.”

During Wednesday’s U.S. trading day, Netflix fell fairly substantially, dropping $3.25 per share, or 0.68 percent. That said, immediately following the announcement, the stock (NFLX) skyrocketed in after-hours markets to $535.57 per share at the time of this writing, up $60.34 or 12.64 percent.

Netflix bosses said they are working on a stock split to make its high price “more accessible.”

The company renewed hit series “Orange Is the New Black” for a fourth season this morning.

For 2014’s comparable quarter, Netflix added four million total subscribers. Revenue was $1.27 billion; net income was $53.1 million; diluted EPS was $0.86.

Last year, Netflix added 13 million subscribers and saw revenue, income and EPS rise. The consumer total reached 57.4 million at the end of Q4 2014, an increase of 4.33 million during the year’s final three months.

Netflix’s investor call is set for 6 p.m. ET, at which point this post will be updated with any pertinent information.


NAB 2015 Keynote: Google Sends Greetings From ‘Valleywood’

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Our entertainment now comes from “Valleywood,” which, as Rany Ng, Google’s director of product management for video advertising, explained in her NAB keynote address, is the merger of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Valleywood means change: change in how people view content (including new options such as binge watching) and change in how advertisers reach those viewers.

“It’s created this massive explosion of content,” Ng said. “We’ve entered in this golden age of viewers.”

The entertainment industry has shifted from one of scarcity to one of abundance, Ng said.  Multiscreen viewing has grown by over 500 percent in recent years, she noted, and viewers now watch three more hours of online TV per month than they did only last year.

Rany Ng

Advertisers are also trying to deal with the shift to abundance. While 20 years ago they could work with the 4 major networks and know they were reaching their customers, today they have many more choices.

In this new landscape, there are three things programmers and distributors need to think about, Ng said:

Capturing the moments that matter: Brands can’t afford to be on every screen all the time, so they need to be selective and offer relevant messages to viewers.
Discovering new moments: Online TV metrics and ratings have “become this massive logic puzzle,” so advertisers need forecasting that helps them reach a desired audience.
Monetizing those moments: Google is seeing success with its programmatic marketplace for premium buyers and sellers, Partner Select.

Google acquired video advertising company mDialog in June 2014, and Ng announced that Google has now connected mDialog’s inventory with the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. This will help content owners sell programmatic ads on their inventory across multiple screens.

Google is expanding the tools available in DoubleClick for Publishers, Ng announced, to help publishers forecast their available inventory with greater accuracy. DoubleClick for Publishers now shows the impact from patterns in commercial breaks, and will soon let publishers use seasonality in forecasting upfront cycles, and also create models based on offline data.

Shortly before it acquired mDialog, Google created Partner Select, a programmatic marketplace for premium content and brands. Ng offered some stats on its success, noting that it now includes over 30 broadcast and premium content publishers and over 20 brand advertisers. Partner Select ads have a 74 percent completion rate, she said.

Ng concluded the keynote by urging attendees to think about letting advertising create moments, and explore new models of advertising.


The State of Video App Development 2015

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

There’s a digital land grab underway for real estate on mobile phones, set-top boxes, and game consoles.  Here are some excerpts from an interesting article (

Step One: The Audience

There might be a perception you can publish once and run anywhere, but that’s not the case when it comes to user experience, analytics, monetization, authentication, and optimizing the user experience across different platforms. So the first thing to identify is how many platforms you want to deliver to.

“Be realistic about development costs, because the reality of the insane device fragmentation driving the conversation that we’re having is publishers [saying], ‘I need to be on more places than just the desktop,’” Xiques says. “If you want to be on Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Xbox, you’re talking about four environments, and most likely you will need a different developer with a different skill set to get each one done.
“When you develop apps,” Roberts says, “it’s harder for user acquisition in comparison to driving people to a website. Each of the platforms is different. With iOS you can include a banner to the app store. With Roku and Android, it’s really a good idea to work with Roku and Google to try and get promotion within their respective marketing spots. It drives a lot of downloads.”

Step Two: The Technology

“It’s important to get something out early and then iterate,” Dale says. “An example would be getting your app out without ad monetization and then expand from there. Or you could launch with just progressive downloading, but not adaptive.”

So how do you iterate quickly? It starts with deciding on your required features. Do you need to handle advertising, analytics, DRM? Each piece increases the complexity.

A common feature request from many publishers, including Kidoodle TV, is pausing your content on one device and then starting it up later on another device.

“I think the reality is that’s not actually all that hard to do so long as the services are architected with that in mind,” Tapper says. “It certainly is more complex to add this in after the fact if you haven’t considered it from the beginning.”
So iterating, identifying, and mapping out features are the first pieces of advice from the experts. Other advice centered on finding developers you trust and the debate over native or nonnative development.
Most everyone we spoke with said that you need to have a great working relationship with your developers. You want them to be experienced with publishing apps within the streaming space, and you want them to be in business for the long haul when you need major changes. This is true whether you choose to use a developer who will create a native or nonnative app.
With native code, you’ll have to write it separately for each platform you’re on. So iOS, Android/Chromecast, Roku, and gaming devices will each require almost completely different code. Invariably it will perform better, but it will cost more to develop because you’re writing it several times.

“The level of investment, whether it’s internal or with partners, is going to be larger over time than it is for the initial build. You have to be aware of that and go in with your eyes open.”

Step Three: The Content

If you were serving progressive downloads to computers before, then you’ve upped your storage cost by 10 times. Each new platform will need additional files in varying sizes and maybe even format in order to be played on each of the devices. If you have thousands and thousands of videos that you want to offer, you’re going to have to be careful about storage costs at your CDN.

“Adaptive bitrate switching is a have-to-have, especially with mobile,” he says. “Your network conditions are going to vary so greatly that you have to have adaptive bitrate switching in place if you want to have an effective user experience.”

“Video itself is a complicated issue and you need to decide if you’re going to take it on head-on or entrust it to a third party. I think that’s probably a decision you should make early on and that’s got to be an informed decision,” Eichele says. “We encoded for all our content when it came in for the devices that we had on our year long roadmap.”

“If there’s one thing that you actually should know is that you cannot measure all of your analytics in a consistent way across all devices,” Jones says. “You get really rich analytics for desktop, you get fairly rich analytics for dedicated apps on Android and IOS, and you get very limited analytics across other devices.”

Key points for the audience step are to be aware of development costs by platform, be sure your audience is on the devices you’re considering development for, identify what your goal is for each specific platform you want to support, and design for the specific platform user experience.


HBO To Netflix: Bring It On

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Holding court: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler likes to say. With the creation of HBO Now, he’s got both.Photo: Jeff Brown

HBO is releasing its new streaming platform called “HBO Now”. And it’s expected to create a ripple in the online landscape of (as the article describes) “media vehicles like Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and a slew of new online streaming services.”

Here’s an interesting excerpt from the article:

Netflix is the peskiest of these, the only one that could, in the opinion of some pundits, knock HBO off track. Plepler became CEO on January 1, 2013, and later that very month, Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, declared, “The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” Since then, Netflix has launched original series such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, acquired the right to air five new Marvel series and Chelsea Handler’s next project, grown from 33 million to 57.4 million subscribers, and increased revenue from $3.6 billion to $5.5 billion, while boosting its stock price almost 400%. “Two to three years ago, the average user was watching almost 60 minutes of Netflix a day. Today, it’s nearly two hours,” says Liam Boluk, a media strategy consultant at Redef. “Netflix is bigger than every single cable and premium-cable network in the U.S. No matter how well programmed, powerful, or profitable HBO is today, you can’t look at that scale and might and not feel the need to act soon.”

HBO Now, it is a stand-alone version of HBO Go, an app that gives access to just about every episode of every HBO series, as well as tons of movies, documentaries, and sports. Rather than merely being a bonus for people who subscribe to HBO through an existing cable provider (usually paying something like $15 a month), HBO Now will not require a cable subscription. It will be available at launch to anyone with an Apple device.

People are expected to spend $236 billion on subscription television by 2018.


Online TV: Is six minutes the new half hour?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

New rules: the “mid-form”

So, in this brave new world, what story length should new creators be writing to? To illustrate, let’s take one format and see how it is evolving: the sitcom.

All of us brought up in the era of the 30-minute sitcom have suddenly gained new freedom. What are the new rules? Damian Kavanagh, who is pioneering the BBC Three model, refers to “new form” as a way of describing what he is looking for. To make a point to the conference debaters above, I’m calling it mid-form.

We have written a couple of comedies now in this space to some acclaim: Halfords’ The Bike Whisperer and Hyundai’s Under Pressure Salesman for example. The new TV Licensing Excuses campaign, which launched in December 2014, was another where we agonised over optimal durations.

Interestingly, the comedies I have been watching online are starting to congregate around a different duration altogether. Idiotsitter from Comedy Central is a brilliant example of the new rules. A fantastically simple premise, a small tight cast, a high gag count… all within a 6-minute frame, complete with throw-forwards and click-to-subscribe requests in character.

Periods Films’ “Dog CEO”, an improv troupe under Zachary Quinto’s wing, follows suit. A structured sitcom that is 6 minutes long (watch the first episode above). Note how the situation’s premise is in the programme title in both cases too.  As it is with Thundershorts’ new series “Teachers Lounge”.  Teachers Lounge and DOG CEO also show all the hallmarks of learning from their viewing environment, cue bold graphic splashes that work in thumbnails for ease of navigation for example. Clearly, however, most of the guiderails we know about great sitcom storytelling remain in this brave new world.

  1. Nail people at the top.  I defy you to watch the start of UBC’s “Gary saves the Graveyard” and not want to know what happens next.
  2. Create situations where characters are trapped – see Idiotsitter once again.
  3. Focus the eyes of the audience on the bigger characters (The “Tim from The Office” rule) – see Ted in Teachers Lounge. And so forth. Actually, Gary Saves the Graveyard stretches to 10 minutes in length, which seems to perfectly suit its slower pace while remaining totally satisfying as a narrative structure.
  4. Character, character, character as that doyen of writing Barry Cryer would say.

Excerpt from: CMF Trends, a blog by the Canada Media Fund

Apple Asks TV Programmers to Supply Their Own Streams for Apple’s TV Service

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015


April 1, 2015

Apple wants the TV guys to provide their shows for its proposed streaming video service. But that’s not the only thing Apple wants from the TV guys: It wants them to provide the streams, too.

Apple is asking TV networks to handle the responsibility and cost of the streaming infrastructure associated with its Web video service, industry executives say. That issue is one of many unresolved questions about the proposed service, which Apple would like to launch next fall but can’t until it lines up programming deals.

Apple’s proposal isn’t necessarily surprising, since video services that stream via Apple apps today — including some of the networks Apple wants to work with, like Fox, CBS and Disney — all “stand up” their own streams, by working with content delivery networks like EdgeCast.

Streaming video costs aren’t prohibitive: Delivery to your living room runs an average of around five cents per hour per stream, says Tom Morgan, a video industry veteran now running streaming service Net2TV.

That said, outside of Netflix, which streams billions of hours of video every three months, most streaming services haven’t experienced significant demand to date. The notion of paying their own freight for a heavily promoted Apple service has given executives pause, sources say.

TV sources say Apple executive Eddy Cue, who heads up the company’s media efforts and is leading negotiations for the new streaming service, has told them that Apple feels it should concentrate on what it’s best at — creating consumer hardware and software — and leave other tasks, like streaming infrastructure, for people who specialize in it.

An alternative theory, suggested by someone involved in the discussions: Apple thinks that if programmers are responsible for handling their own streams, Internet providers like Comcast* and Verizon, who sell their own bundles of video programming, will be less likely to penalize Apple’s service.

Last year, Netflix complained loudly that it had to sign commercial agreements with Comcast, Verizon and other broadband providers in order to get speedy delivery of its streams.

Apple declined to comment.


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