TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.
It seems you now have to ask if nearly every viral video is a fake.
I raised this question in a column earlier this month. The topic resurfaced Sunday when the home page of Yahoo featured a story and a link to a video of Washington Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham's alleged 110-yard kick.
What do you think? Is it real? Is it fake? Can we trust any viral videos anymore?
YouTube founder Chad Hurley said the company will make money through display ads and affiliate revenue deals, such as links to iTunes and Amazon for DVDs, CDs and digital downloads. Check out this NewTeeVee story on the topic: http://newteevee.com/2008/06/26/hurley-youtube-looking-for-affiliate-revenue-streams/
And here’s an interesting tidbit for you. I don’t report on non-Web video stuff that often, but I came across an interesting stat related to games on video-on-demand. (You know, that’s the service you get from the cable operator when you have digital cable.)
TAG Networks delivers casual games — think chess, checkers, word games — via a VOD stream to cable homes. In a trial with a Time Warner Cable system in Alabama, the operator found that in the first four months about 40% of digital homes had tried the games. That’s not too shabby. Time Warner even ran some promos for the service where it had extra inventory.
“If you put a compelling games experience on TV, consumers will watch,” said Sangita Verma, CEO of TAG Networks. “There is no loading time. It starts automatically.”
The games are free and ad-supported. Look for TAG to deploy to about seven markets in Texas by next month.
Other data from the trial:
— The average playing time across all digital households increased to one hour and 17 minutes in March compared with 34 minutes when the trial started in December.
— Monthly average playing time among TAG households increased to eight hours and 10 minutes in March from four hours and 46 minutes in December.
Back in the early days of this blog, I spent more time reviewing which video sites worked and which ones didn’t work. I don’t do that as much anymore, since most video usually works. But I still like to give props to Web shows that make it so amazingly and incredibly easy to find the video that it’s almost a sin not to watch.
Enter “The Dog Files.” For starters, the production values of the show are top-notch, especially for the Web, and the video plays smoothly. What’s more, your grandmother could figure out how to play, share or talk about this video. The tabs on the side of the player are big and easy to understand: embed, email, share, comment, etc.
The show is everything you want to know about dogs and is produced by GraphicPlanet Creative in New Jersey. The second episode should be released next week.
It never hurts to have a helping hand. Seems the folks at popular Web video site FunnyorDie.com took a liking to a video from creator Stephanie Scott. TV producer Chris Henchy picked the “Drunk Dial Party” episode from her Web show “The Retributioners” as one of his favorites of the month.
As a result, the video made it to home-page rotation on the site and had hit more than 4,100 views earlier this week, up from 1,800 before it was picked up for the home page.
Sure, small numbers in the big picture. But the video is quite funny and worth watching, and the uptick demonstrates the value of not just a celebrity endorsement, but also home-page placement on this site and, frankly, any popular video site. Plus, it’s a decent number of views for a non-celebrity video on FunnyorDie.com, since the site is run by celebs.
If you want to know more about the show, you can go to http://theretributioners.blogspot.com/. The show is a comic, loosely scripted series in the tradition of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but presented from the perspective of a witty, vindictive woman. The main character, Stephanie Scott, is a happily married, accomplished woman who feels she has not yet proven herself to the world. She decides to contact past boyfriends, former friends, teachers, skinny people, etc., to seek retribution.
Quick! Check this out before JC Penney can pull it. The retailer has already instructed advertising agency Saatchi to remove this ad of two teens timing themselves getting dressed before they go hang out in the basement, with mom upstairs.
The ad was apparently made without the retailer’s approval.
And doing that in online video—despite the insane growth numbers—isn’t always the easiest trick to turn. Sure, advertisers poured $471 million into streaming video ads last year, a number that will grow to $7.2 billion in 2012. But much of that money is going to broadcast networks.
Still, the indie creators are starting to get paid, too, and advertising isn’t always the way.
Take Web comedians the Fine Bros., who are best known for producing parodies of “Lost” using action figures. The brothers have been contracted by gaming magazine The Escapist to produce up to 26 episodes of original videos for The Escapist’s audience.
The Fine Bros. have produced two videos already, which are running under the brand “Kung Fu Grip,” usually on the magazine’s home page.
“The financial details of our agreement are confidential … but I can say without a doubt that The Escapist offers video creators per-video rates and bonuses that are extremely competitive,” Russ Pitts, director of video production for the magazine, said in an e-mail. “Our video content creators are very well cared for.”
The Web site just won two Webby Awards as best game-related Web site, and the magazine is devoting online attention to video. “Since we're a small company, our focus is on quality of content and building relationships with talented, creative people, not grabbing as much content as we can get our hands on and then waiting to see what turns out to be a hit,” said Pitts, formerly a writer and producer with TechTV’s “The Screen Savers.” “We want all of our series to be hits, and we work closely with our content creators to develop the best shows possible.”
But guess what? At 9:15 a.m. Pacific time the ABC shows weren’t on the home page. Wouldn’t you think, if you just did a big deal with a major content provider, you’d want those shows to be front and center?
To find the ABC shows, I had to click on a tab for “TV Shows.” That took me to an alphabetical listing of TV shows. I jumped to “G” to look for “Grey’s Anatomy.”
And in the G section, I noticed something interesting. The shows aren’t alphabetized. Because, you know, “Gossip Girl” should come before “Grey’s Anatomy,” but it doesn’t on the Veoh listing.
Incidentally, ABC said more than 90% of its episode views still come from ABC.com. That means TV network destinations are still the first place viewers go to look for shows from networks.
And based on their placement on Veoh.com, I don’t see that figure changing any time soon.
UPDATE: By mid-morning Monday, Veoh had added a promo box to its home page touting the ABC shows on its site. When I clicked through on the box, I went straight to the ABC page where there are thumbnails and navigational links for the shows. But again, there are still problems. Of the four videos that pop up on that page for ABC shows, two of the videos for "Grey’s Anatomy" were for episodes from the end of 2006. I still think the page needs tweaking.
Want to know how to hammer a nail into your nostril? Or maybe turn your mouth into a candle as you eat fire?
Well, I don’t know how the hell you would do any of those things or why you would even want to. But I dare you to take your eyes off of performer Brian Brushwood as he pulls off these cover-your-face-with-your-fingers-but-still-watch-in-between tricks. I guess you could call him a magician, but that’s sort of like saying both Marilyn Manson and Mariah Carey are singers. Technically accurate, but it doesn’t quite capture the gestalt of what Brushwood does.
During a live performance of his Revision3 show “Scam School” earlier this month, he summed up what he does best: “I specialize in doing bizarre, unusual and often retarded things,” he told the audience.
“Scam School” is one of the newest shows from online TV network Revision3. On his show, Brushwood does execute “retarded” things that you should never try at home. But the premise of the show is educational. His goal is to teach viewers bar tricks they can use to get free drinks. Like how to hold a lit match in your mouth.
I caught up with Brushwood earlier this month in Brooklyn, where he served as the opening act for a live taping of Revision3’s popular series “Diggnation.” During Brushwood’s show he ate fire, hammered a nail into his nose and put another nail in his eye.
He also shared some insights on what it means to work on the Web when I spoke with him backstage before the taping: Just because something flies on the Web doesn’t mean it will work on TV.
“It needs to be different,” he said during our chat. “The big key is interactivity. You can’t get all TV-like without someone calling B.S. If I tried to be Criss Angel, people wouldn’t watch 'Scam School.'”
And with all due respect to Mr. Angel, that means if you’re on the Web you can’t be too big, too self-important, too full of yourself. It sounds trite, but you really do have to be yourself as much as possible.
Get to know Brushwood with this video from the show that night. And no, the Daisy who joins Brushwood on stage is not me.
Since this blog was founded on the premise of kicking the tires on video services, I decided to go back to my roots and do just that today.
The video search service Truveo recently relaunched its site to improve performance and make the site easier to use. I decided to check out the changes last Friday night when I had “Dirty Sexy Money” on my mind. I was looking for the show on iTunes (couldn’t find it), so I figured searching for it would be the perfect test of the new Truveo.
After all, the new site purports to find and load videos faster. So I put “Dirty Sexy Money” into the search box on Truveo. The results returned quickly and linked me up to several ABC videos immediately. I clicked on one. But then I got a “your video is loading” notice in the embedded video window. And “Dirty Sexy Money” never loaded, even the ones from ABC.com. So then I went directly to ABC.com and saw that the show wasn’t available at the moment on the site, which explains why the video didn’t play. Still, I don’t think a search engine should deliver a user to a video that doesn’t exist.
So back on Truveo I clicked on “Tim Russert,” since searches for Tim Russert were clearly top of mind last week. In this case, I clicked on a CNBC tribute video. That video did load quickly and play instantly. So I tried a few more news videos including one from AP Video. All played immediately and one thing I do like about the service is the videos play in the embedded players on the Truveo site.
The fourth season of “Weeds” returns to Showtime tonight and, if iTunes purchases are an indication, viewers are eager for the show.
Showtime said that of the top 10 TV seasons available on iTunes last week, “Weeds” generally occupied the No. 1 slot (for season three), the No. 3 slot (for season one) and the No. 4 slot (for season two).
Showtime said Apple has sold 2.5 million Weeds downloads in total.
I’ll admit I don’t watch a ton of videos on MySpace. Even though it’s the No. 2 destination for video viewing, I guess I just don’t find myself there terribly often. I’m usually either on YouTube or Blip.tv or Revision3.com, or the sites themselves that carry the Web shows I watch.
Nevertheless, MySpaceTV started rolling out a new video player today. The site will introduce more functions in the coming weeks, such as an embed function. So I can’t embed a video in my blog today; instead you can link to this video.
There are some key things to note with the player. It was built in-house, which suggest the video-player business is on a path to becoming a commodity. Also, the MySpace TV player has some cool new features. It has a volume control that maintains the level in between visits, full-screen mode, more syndication tools (those will roll out soon), a new recommendation engine for other videos and other features. Also, MySpace said the new player supports multiple ad formats like pre- and post-roll, tickers and companion banners. It also supports Flash 9. (As an aside, why can’t I get Flash 9 to install on my computer? To me, Flash 9 is not a selling point.)
That being said, the MySpace player is nice and clean. Is it revolutionary? No. It’s not the coolest, slickest thing you have seen. But I like the moves MySpace is making and this upgrade shows MySpace is keeping up with the Joneses. I say that because Hulu, for instance, has been kicking butt with cool new features to its player. It’s good to see others NOT sitting on their laurels.
Can I tell you what was really cool the other day?
I know I should be all jaded and, like, so over this. But it was still a totally rocking moment.
There I am interviewing Tom Green on the phone, and he’s totally normal and businesslike. And we talked about really cool business-y things, like the fact that he uses Bit Gravity for streaming pretty much everyone and their uncle and their uncle’s dog from his living room in Los Angeles for his show at www.tomgreen.com.
And how he does live streaming every day for his Internet variety-style talk show. And even though he’s had a few advertisers, like Budweiser, he’s not focused on the dirty “M” word (Shh…that’s monetization to you), mostly because his live streaming show is syndicated on Canada’s Comedy Network and the license fee he receives from that underwrites everything else. And he’s just started production on the second season. (So that’s how you make money on Web video: Get a TV deal to pay your costs!)
And here’s the cool part. He says, “Hey, we’re live streaming now.” So I go to his site and there he is sitting on his couch talking to me!
But when six tornadoes approached Northern Illinois last weekend, the Fox-owned TV station WFLD-TV broke into programming seven times and also offered a live chat online during the entire time the station tracked the storm. The weather team chatted live with viewers for several hours Saturday afternoon at http://www.myfoxchicago.com/. During that time about 2,500 people were chatting concurrently.
Not too shabby for live chat on a local TV station.
Here’s an example of what a live station chat looks like.
In late January, Showtime announced it was nixing DVD screeners for Emmy voters. The premium network would instead rely on digital distribution via a deal with Brightcove.
Discovery now is joining in this latest nod to being eco-friendly. Discovery said it’s working with software firm xif communications to develop an online portal for Emmy members to view Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC programming for Emmy consideration.
Discovery said it’s saving both paper and DVDs by presenting its shows online.
I register this as another vote against the needless waste of DVD production and shipping. Good for Discovery.
So who’s next? Can we get every network on board with this cool new initiative?
I gotta hand it to Hulu. The NBC-Fox joint venture is quickly becoming the most user-friendly online video service.
Thanks to NewTeeVee for the tipoff on a cool new feature over at Hulu.com. The premium video site now lets you search for additional videos while you are watching Hulu videos embedded on another site, such as a blog. So you don’t even have to be on Hulu.com to do the searching. I’ll demonstrate by embedding a video right here.
You should be able to type your search query in the text field in the top right corner of the embedded player. So check it out.
On another note, I have begun contributing on-air reports on digital media to NBC-owned KNTV in San Francisco. And—isn’t this convenient—the reports also just happen to be carried online. Some of the topics are on issues I have covered here already, but they are now tailored for a consumer audience. Here’s one on how celebrities are using online video.
I’m at a breakfast right now in New York as part of Internet Week. It’s the New York: Media Information Exchange Group and the breakfast session includes a panel of women working in the “convergence” world.
Ah, the C-word.
Just what does convergence mean to a CNET, for instance? Because, as you know, CNET is in the process of being acquired by CBS. Here’s what Natali Del Conte, the host of CNET TV’s Web show “Loaded,” said about the pending merger and its convergence implications.
“This is the convergence of old media and new media coming together,” Ms. Del Conte said. “I tend to think CNET is new media, and we see CBS doing interactive things, like just yesterday launching an embeddable video player…. Taking CNET into their content now we are seeing more and more that old media is new media and it’s coming into the [new-media] space, and it’s shareable and embeddable.”
The rising online star is making the jump to on-air television. Last week, Discovery’s Science Channel flew her to New York to cover the World Science Festival, where she was the reporter on-site for the network. Stay tuned for more details on how the Science Channel will use the footage.
For now, here’s a recent video of Dr. Kiki on Revision3’s “Pop Siren.”