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Differing Views of VOD, Broadband

Oct 28, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Digital health information network HealthiNation found in a study it commissioned last month that women comprise 54 percent of its video-on-demand viewers, but as many as 76 percent of its broadband viewers.
The disparity in numbers underscores a core tenet for digital networks that deliver their programming both on VOD and online: The two mediums are not the same.
In fact, smart digital networks are finding that, to succeed across platforms, they need to cater to the different viewing needs, habits and demographics of VOD, broadband and even mobile video, as the latter emerges as a new viewing venue.
Ripe Digital Entertainment, HealthiNation and FearNet are three digital networks that have eschewed linear distribution on television, instead carving out their niches by inking VOD distribution deals with cable operators, telcos and broadband portals such as YouTube and Joost.
They are not digital networks in the traditional sense of the term. In the last several years the cable industry has defined a digital network as one that primarily secures linear distribution on digital tiers, such as DIY or Fine Living.
But in this new context, a digital network refers to a programmer that chooses to offer its content primarily on new-media venues, such as broadband, VOD and mobile phones.
This is becoming the more common route, given bandwidth constraints that cable operators face in adding new networks and because launch costs are less for a programmer on digital venues than on an around-the-clock channel.
Though they go hand in hand, broadband and VOD must be programmed individually to succeed, said Raj Amin, CEO of HealthiNation. “You can’t just assume the audiences are the same. You have to think about each medium on its own first and then you have to think about how they will interact together,” he said.
For instance, the videos on HealthiNation’s Web site, and those of its online partners such as Yahoo! and Prevention.com, run about three to four minutes, while the videos on VOD run about 12 minutes. That’s because consumers are more willing to lean back and watch long-form content on VOD.
That strategy also seems to work well because about 70 percent to 80 percent of each title is viewed all the way through across both mediums, Mr. Amin said.
Broadband video skews older for HealthiNation, with 60 percent of the online audience age 50-plus. On VOD, the audience is more middle-aged adults, with 61 percent 35 or older.
Viewers don’t overlap much for HealthiNation, which inked a deal last month to integrate its health education videos into Answers. com. The lack of crossover gives HealthiNation an opportunity to reach more eyeballs, Mr. Amin said.
That’s also why each medium must stand on its own and cater to the particular needs of the viewers where they are consuming the content, Mr. Amin said.
Marketing tactics are different, too. Blogs and search engine optimization play a huge role in broadband, whereas cross-channel spots are the dominant marketing tool for VOD.
Viewers who found HealthiNation’s green-centric reality series “Project Greenhouse” from related blogs stayed about three times longer than average to view programs. The blog community is enthusiastic, so marketing to those consumers can attract an audience that is excited about the content, Mr. Amin said.
The advantage of VOD is that advertisers still view TV as a more trusted medium, a safer environment for their messages. “There is a level of trust people have on TV that they don’t have yet on the Internet,” Mr. Amin said. “If your objective as an advertiser is high-impact awareness, VOD is a fantastic place for that. We are hitting with an uncluttered spot.”
Networks are wise to bear in mind the differences between the two mediums, said Kaan Yigit, analyst with Solutions Research Group. “The broadband and TV intersection and what that can generate as user experience is very different than a VOD experience. You can integrate on broadband in a way that is simply not possible via the digital cable platform.”
That’s why Ripe also programs specifically for each medium. Ripe Digital Entertainment offers Ripe TV, Octane and Flow as both broadband sites and VOD networks. Ripe Digital Entertainment’s networks generate about 4.8 million views per month on VOD and 10.3 million unique visitors on broadband, said Ryan Magnussen, CEO of Ripe.
Mediums Done Well
The company’s strategy has been to link the programming, but to fine-tune the content for each medium. For instance, Ripe plans to launch an around-the-clock reality show in the vein of “Big Brother” starting in February; it likely will air the show live online and produce weekly recaps for VOD.
Ripe’s audience, however, does appear to cross over. Mr. Magnussen said 80 percent to 90 percent of the online audience who watch Ripe’s networks also tune in to the VOD channels when they are available on their cable systems.
A broadband network needs to carve a niche out of a niche, while a VOD network can survive on hits, said Diane Robina, president of emerging networks for Comcast, a co-owner of FearNet.
FearNet primarily offers horror movies on its VOD service, also a fitting choice given the interest VOD consumers express in watching movies. FearNet expects to reach 9 million total views on VOD during October, representing its highest monthly traffic to date. That’s a 58 percent increase since January.
On its broadband site, the network focuses on short-form and original content, offering behind-the-scenes clips from horror films, original Web series and some full-length movies.
But broadband is the place where FearNet talks to its fans, Ms. Robina said. “It’s where we need to make our connection to the fans. Even if you are watching a trailer for ‘30 Days of Night,’ you can talk to other fans watching that video,” she said. On the Web site, fans can interact via chats and message boards.
Exclusive clips from movies create a big online traffic spike, about 300 percent on average, she said. “VOD and broadband differ sharply in the manner in which they are used,” said Paul Rule, president of VOD research firm Marquest Media & Entertainment.
“VOD is a convenient extension of regular television viewing—same easy chair and same remote control,” he continued. “Online offerings represent a shift in viewing venue, a computer monitor for most devotees.
“To the extent that it’s possible given a network’s content, longer-form material could be emphasized on the VOD menu, while shorter items were featured on broadband. Often these will be the same viewers for both platforms, which can lead to cross-promotional synergies.
These nets must grasp every opportunity to remind viewers on each platform of content availability on the other platform.”
Ad Recall Strong for Both Broadband, VOD
Ripe Digital Entertainment conducted a study with MindClick on the effectiveness of advertising on broadband and VOD.
The study found that:

  • About 63 percent of its audience recalled ads on VOD during an episode, while 30 percent could recall the advertiser’s brand specifically.
  • On broadband, about 59 percent of the audience recalled ads during an episode, while about 26 percent could recall the specific brand.
  • Ripe’s digital networks average 4.8 million views per month on VOD and 10.3 million uniques per month on broadband.
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