For online video to move from its current, largely experimental phase to a commercially meaningful business, several critical things need to happen, panelists at the Digital Media Conference agreed here Thursday.
We need standardization around three things, Blip.tv co-founder Dina Kaplan said. First, we need to agree on what is [an ad] view.' We've all gone to Web sites where some ad starts playing automatically until you can figure out how to mute the sound. There are companies that pump out 40 million impressions that way, but is that a view the same way click-to-play is a view?
Second, she added, we need appropriate ad-format standards [for video]. Is 30 seconds, or even 15 seconds really the best format for pre-rolls? Why not seven seconds, or 10?
Third, Kaplan continued, we need a Nielsen for the Web, some third party advertisers could trust to provide real data.
Lin Dai, VP of interactive business development for Alloy Media and Marketing added another.
We need standardization in ad servicing, he said. Right now, there are so many different networks, using so many different platforms, it's very difficult to coordinate campaigns.
The urgency around getting the business model right, meanwhile, is growing as online viewing of TV content creeps up traditional delivery channels.
In a keynote presentation at the conference, Fox Digital Media chief product officer Bill Bradford noted that, while streaming video accounts for less than 1% of total TV viewing, it accounts for 3% to 5% of primetime programming.
It's getting to be material, he said.
The reason it remains low overall, he added, is because you don't stream the local news, or Tyra Banks, and that makes up a lot of total TV viewing.
Panelists were divided, however, on whether online video viewing will ultimately coalesce around destination sites owned by network programmers, or aggregation sites such as Hulu and YouTube.
As a consumer, I love aggregators. But I'm not sure if they have a great business model, PBS' senior VP of interactive Jason Seiken said. The problem for aggregators is that someone else can come along and do it a little better, and everyone goes over to them. There's no exclusivity.
For a brand like PBS, Seiken added, I think the core audience will still come to a destination site because PBS means something to them.
Blip.tv's Kaplan offered a different view.
I think there will eventually be one big, huge [video] aggregator, like iTunes is for music, where it has everything. Then people become their own, individual aggregators by creating customized [RSS] feeds or curating their own collections, like they do with their iPods.
Seiken was skeptical, however.
In all our research, people just don't really have the patience for personalization or for setting up their own RSS feeds, he said. I think what you could see is a kind of vertical aggregation around certain topics or genres. If you're interested in knitting, what you want is a Huffington Post of knitting.
Hulu, Seiken added by way of comparison, is shovel-ware. And over time, he said, I don't think that's very compelling.