Narrowing the Search in Online Video

Sep 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Each year brings a new gold rush in online video, and the quest of late 2007 is to become the leader in matching ads to video content.
In the last few months, more than half a dozen online video firms — some specializing in search, some in content and some in technology — have begun aiming to become the Google of online video by matching ads to search results.
The opportunity is huge. A July study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 57 percent of Americans have watched online video and 19 percent do so each day. Meanwhile, ad dollars flowing into online video should hit $775 million this year and jump to $1.3 billion next year, according to market research firm eMarketer.
That’s why Blinkx, YuMe Networks, Magnify, DigitalSmiths, Adap.TV, Pluggd and others are angling for a leading role as an online video matchmaker.
This latest rush follows the pattern in online video over the last two years. First, there was a race to provide the tools to TV networks to deliver their video, with firms including Brightcove, Maven Networks and thePlatform emerging as leaders.
Then last year, video search engines started jockeying for dominance, a race that is still being run with participants ranging from Google to AOL-owned Truveo to Blinkx.
“Advertisers won’t buy blindly,” said Jayant Kadambi, CEO of YuMe Networks. “They want to know where their ad is going. We can tell them what’s in that video and give them the confidence they are getting something contextual.”
Marketers need a means to separate the wheat from the chaff. “A lot of companies are trying to solve the targeting problem. That’s a reaction to the fact there is a tremendous amount of content but a dearth of good content,” Mr. Kadambi said.
Playing the Game
YuMe Networks strikes deals with both advertisers and publishers. Earlier this year, YuMe partnered with game publisher Eidos Interactive to deliver ads in the programming from cable network G4 running on BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer service. YuMe also recently handled an online campaign for the History Channel show “Digging for Truth” and has struck deals with media agencies Publicis Groupe, Universal McCann and OMD.
Mr. Kadambi said YuMe can deliver ad formats including pre- and post-roll, interactive overlays on the bottom third of a video, interactive watermarks placed at predefined points in a video, interactive menus related to the ad, a branded video player and interactive text ads. YuMe does this by sorting content into material that is “brand-safe” and relevant for advertisers, Mr. Kadambi said.
“You can buy the way you buy TV. It’s targeted at brand advertisers,” he said.
Blinkx is one of the highest-profile sites aiming for a stake in the ad-targeting business. Blinkx is a video search engine that has indexed more than 12 million hours of audio and video content on the Web. Given its expertise in video search, the company launched AdHoc, de-signed to be AdSense for Web video.
AdHoc matches ads to video content by leveraging Blinkx’s existing search technology. Blinkx relies on text and visual analysis to produce its video search results; it uses those same tools to pair ads with video, ranging from pre-rolls to banner and text ads, said Suranga Chandratillake, CEO of Blinkx.
“Pre-roll ads are an attempt to take what works on TV and use it in online video,” he said. “Banner and text ads are an attempt to take what works in search and apply it to online video. Both work OK, but no one has come up with what will work with online video, and that’s where people are trying to figure out a new model.”
Blinkx is testing AdHoc with a small number of media companies and will introduce new features in the next few weeks. If a viewer watches a video on touring wine country, for instance, the system would deliver an ad that’s geographically, demographically or contextually relevant.
Video search service DigitalSmiths also is testing ad targeting. The key is to analyze both audio and video, said Ben Weinberger, the company’s CEO.
“Without [analyzing] the video, you are missing over half of the story,” he said. “Imagine times in the video when there is little to no dialogue. A content owner is missing a large opportunity to monetize their video if they rely on an ad network that only analyzes the audio stream.”
Mr. Weinberger views DigitalSmiths as a provider of the tools needed to match video to ads, rather than an ad network itself. That’s why he is in conversations to provide his technology to Web sites as well as existing online ad networks.
Playing It Safe
“We’re currently working on an initiative to contextualize the Web page as well. This is going hand-in-hand with our AdSafe module we’re now testing that ensures the video is safe content for the advertiser to be shown in. We don’t want an advertiser’s brand to show up somewhere they find inappropriate,” Mr. Weinberger said.
Adap.tv offers a technology that matches video with text ads that appear as overlays from publishers including Amazon, Yahoo and Looksmart. The service launched in May.
“We offer an easy way to get into online video and get exposure with a granular and accurate message,” said Amir Ashkenazi, CEO of Adap.tv. “For example, viewers of a travel video that shows a trip to Italy or China might get ads with flight details or hotel details to those destinations.”
Google-owned YouTube also introduced overlay ads earlier this summer. “People aren’t going to have the tolerance for long online ads,” Mr. Ashkenazi said.
Existing online ad networks are getting into the video targeting business, too. Broadband Enterprises, which has focused on delivering a range of Internet ads from 150 advertisers to the 2,000 sites in its network, extended its technology to include video.
Online video technology firm Magnify.net has focused on creating video-rich sites for niche online communities and now plans to match ads with those videos.
Another new entrant is Pluggd, which is peddling its technology to media companies and video sites. Pluggd is a search service that delivers viewers to a specific point in a video and overlays a targeted ad there.
The rapid influx of players eager for a piece of the ad-targeting pie is not surprising, said Dmitry Shapiro, founder and chief innovation officer for online video site Veoh Networks.
“The opportunity is huge,” he said. “It’s too early to make sense of them all. This is the time innovative companies jump into the fray. Some will fail miserably. Some will succeed moderately. Some will consolidate with others. There is no calling the horses yet. You have to wait.”


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