Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Making money from online video

This is a thorny issue that has vexed professional producers of moving image content, whether it be TV or film, for some time.

On the one hand, video sharing sites like You Tube offer fantastic viral marketing opportunities. On the other, video sharing sites like You Tube offer fantastic video piracy opportunities.

So, the billion dollar question has been for the last 3-5 years, how do you make money out of online video, when the majority of your audience think file sharing is fine ('we'll be paying to go to the cinema the first time round' and other excuses), content appears freely no sooner than it receives a theatrical release, and tracking content round the world wide web is so hard?

A new company is aiming to offer a solution to institutions whose bread and butter work is the production of moving image content. The premise is simple: take copyrighted content, embed metadata (the information about information, or tags as they're known to most of us), turn it into any number of streaming formats, host it, syndicate it to other sites, like presumably, You Tube et al, generate reports about whose using it, then make a charge for providing (a) the means of tracking and (b) the means of somehow stopping pirates.

The company in question is called My Video Rights and I'm interested in it because it's attracted two heavyweights of the British media: Kelvin MacKenzie was the controversial editor of the Sun newspaper, one of the founders of influential if barmy cable TV station L!ve TV (the one with the Person of Restricted Growth, bouncing on a trampoline while reading the weather), and a man who tends to become involved in edgy media projects. The other is Peter Bazalgette, whose TV company Bazal I worked for happily for several years (Groundforce, Changing Rooms etc). Neither man is likely to have put their name to a venture they think has a small chance of success.

However, will it work, is the question I keep asking myself? Certainly, there needs to be some way for media institutions to monetize their online video assets. However, I can't help but think of small drops and large oceans when I try to imagine how this will actually work to the point of reaching a critical mass. 

At a time when advertising revenues have gone through the floor, the uptake of online video by audiences continues to grow, even if it does so at a reduced rate. Trying to square the need to raise revenue from someone, even if it's not the audiences themselves, but perhaps advertisers keen to see embedded links in video, or at the least some sort of metric data that proves eyeballs are eyeing content, is one heck of a challenge.

I wish the creators of My Video Rights all the very best. I am certain they will not be the last institution to attempt to crack this elusive media nut, but it would be great to see a British company leading the way.


Don said...

Creators of marketing data (name and address files) sometimes implanted "fake" data (seeds)into their files to help trace pirates. Sounds similar, but more sophisticated.

Sacha van Straten said...

Hi Don,

It's easy to see why content creators are anxious not to lose revenue in online delivery.

The problem is that technology tends to get cracked as fast as new encryption systems come on stream, as I'm sure you know.

Coupled with an increasing cultural view that content delivered online is freeware for all, it makes it hard to see a solution working anytime soon.

Still, river drops turn into mighty oceans one day, so let's see where this takes us!

Don said...

I heard today the the US screen writers' guild is taking up arms because producers are reneging on their contractual promise to pay when the distribution media changes. The war rages on!

PS: You should collect your one minute poems as an added bonus feature. Congrats on winning a few days ago. Loved your poem on silence. I like how you create a unique vignette and write from there.