Online streaming media may be doing to traditional television what TV did to radio in the 1950s. A recent survey commissioned by blip.tv claims that online viewing is moving from lunchtime (at work) to prime time (at home). In simple words, audiences are beginning to add original web series into their nightly viewing habits. In an independent study, Ooyala, a leading video solutions company, noticed that for the first time, long-form content (videos longer than 10 minutes in length) accounted for over half the content consumed between January 1 and March 31, 2012, across Ooyala’s footprint of nearly 200 million monthly viewers worldwide. In simple words, people are spending more time than ever watching full-length TV shows, feature films and sporting events, while time viewed in short bursts is decreasing as a percentage of overall consumption.
Ficci-KPMG data suggests that in India, television viewers spent an average of 77 hours a month watching TV against 7 hours per user per month watching videos online in 2011. A key enabler for online video has been the proliferation of smart phones and tablet devices. As per a Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights study, after activities like social networking, communication and search, video is the most popular activity for smart phone users in India.
Industry data suggests that India will reach 250-350 million internet users by 2015 and video is expected to remain one of the primary drivers of content consumption online. Internet video will be 70 per cent of all internet traffic in 2016 in India, up from 30 per cent in 2011, according to a Cisco Visual Networking Index Forecast.
That’s exactly the kind of news YouTube, which was founded in 2005 and owned by Google since 2007, wants to hear. With nearly 72 hours of content uploaded (globally) onto its platform every minute, YouTube remains the top video site in India with over 25 per cent share of the market (source: Avendus Capital; report titled, Indian Digital Consumer). Quite naturally, it is time for action. Adam Smith, director of product management and head, YouTube, lists that the site redesigned itself in December 2011 to help viewers find videos they like easily and engage them better. YouTube also launched an effort to fund or boost 100 new and existing channels, in the hope of becoming an entertainment destination. “There is a fundamental shift in the way people are viewing television. Consumers now have the power to choose their own prime time,” notes Jay Fulcher, chief executive officer, Ooyala. “The spike in tablet and smart phone viewing during weekend nights and during commutes shows how the living room experience is fragmenting across devices,” he adds.
Attracting advertising moolah remains a big headache for streaming media content producers, particularly from advertisers that are comfortable with the old triumvirate of TV, radio, and print. That’s why at Rs 1,850 crore the online advertising market in India today is about 7 per cent of the overall advertising pie. (Click for table)
Currently, YouTube earns its revenue through non-intrusive advertisements displayed at the bottom of the streaming movie. YouTube is also working hard to offer live streams of few Indian channels including Star News, Aaj Tak, Life Ok and UTV Bindaas at Youtube.com/live. The revenue model is near-identical for other leading video streaming sites like Yahoo, Rediff, MSN, DailyMotion, Metacafe etc.
Despite the growth in online video consumption, many advertisers are struggling to connect with consumers via video ad campaigns, believes Nielsen, a leading consumer analytics firm. The Nielsen Global Multi-Screen Report also found that consumer trust in messages delivered via online video advertisements was low across Asia — at just 33 per cent. Online video ad messages also appeared to be missing the mark in Asia, with just 36 per cent saying the messages delivered via online video ads had relevance only when they are searching for product information.
|KEEPING IT SIMPLE
No one believed Google could mint money from YouTube. First it was “who would ever watch stupid clips online?” Then “they’ll never make money” and finally “they’ll get sued out of business.” Here's how Google did it right.
|Step#1 Create a simple but intuitive user experience
YouTube made it easier to upload videos and added a touch of interactivity. By tagging files with keywords, users could easily search for videos they wanted. Users were also able to rate and review videos, pushing the most popular and relevant ones to the top of the search results.
|Step#2 Give users what they won’t get anywhere else
YouTube’s major advantage was its ability to offer popular classic videos along with user created clips that could be easily uploaded.
|Step#3 Viral marketing is serious business
YouTube’s rapid viral growth was a result of its ability to take advantage of the emerging interests of a growing online generation. By making it easy to embed and host YouTube videos on any webpage or blog, the site simply made it easier for everyone to share videos.
|Step#4 Focus on users before revenues
By focusing on delivering near-accurate video results to users, YouTube began a slow but steady experiment with ad formats without disturbing the viewing experience.
Google has taken note of the findings. Steve Stukenborg and Phil Farhi, product managers wrote on YouTube’s official blog, “Over the past year, TrueView ads (that allow users to skip an ad after 5 seconds) have been one of our fastest growing ad formats on YouTube and now 60 per cent of all in-stream ads are skippable. Our research shows that nine out of 10 consumers prefer ads they can skip.” The duo claims that TrueView in-stream ads reduced audience drop-off by 40 per cent compared to regular in-stream ads. While Google is now advocating skippable ads on its video platform, other video sites like Yahoo, Metacafe, DailyMotion among others still rely on the CPM (cost-per-impression) which they get for showing video ads that are usually shown before actual video gets started.
YouTube is taking its content partnerships to a new level by sharing ad revenues with content owners. YouTube has added more than 30,000 partners (who create and share video content) from 27 countries around the world. In fact, its YouTube Partner Programme (YPP) revenue in India has grown by over 250 per cent in the last one year. YouTube now allows its partners to promote their content via the YPP that automatically turns video into ad units and places them on the Google Display Network where they can reach 92 per cent of the internet population. The site has practically created an economy of its own by paying anyone to produce content for it, with a generous split of the ad revenue.
Social marketers believe that YouTube’s biggest challenge comes from social media site Facebook, which has over 50 million users in country. Ooyala’s report says, Facebook users on average share 10 times more videos than Twitter users.
Facebook reportedly earned about $99 million in advertising revenues from Asia, largely led by India and Southeast Asia in the March 2012 quarter. “We expect that user growth in the future will continue to be higher in those regions where ARPU (average revenue per user) is relatively low, such as Asia,” Facebook said in its IPO filing.
Bangalore-based ODigMa, an online digital marketing, underlines that YouTube advertising comes a close second after Facebook’s premium ads for many B2C clients. “Although the click-through rate or CTR of Facebook ads is about 2 per cent, ads placed on YouTube usually turn in about 5 per cent CTR and that’s mainly because of the wide network of Google platforms on web,” says Advit Sahdev, CEO & founder, ODigMa. (CTR is defined as the number of clicks on an ad divided by the number of times the ad is shown, and is expressed as a percentage.)
There’s no denying that advertisers, brands, media agencies, and broadcasters have become more focused on the promise of internet traffic. “We all know ad dollars will always flow in the direction of better data, more targeting, and higher accountability. And it’s all happening very gradually,” concludes Sahdev of ODigMa. Experts and social analytics firms also agree that as video engagement becomes more sophisticated, emerging and enhanced platforms that measure and allow for clickable videos or hot spotting-where viewers click into the actual footage as a call to action-are becoming more popular. From Yahoo to Google, every site is testing new video formats to maximise their ad revenues.
The road ahead
In India, YouTube sees over 31 million unique users per month and a-fourth of the views come from mobile (300 per cent growth in traffic from mobile phones). But Facebook has spread even faster among the mobile population. A whopping 93 per cent of the smart phone users in country access social networking sites on their mobile handsets, estimates Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights, making it the most visited site, followed by Google+ and Twitter.
Unlike the online space, Google is seeing worthy competitors in the domestic mobile market. Take players like Vuclip, an independent mobile video destination, that reaches 11 million unique users in India every month, clocking 120 million video views. Salman Hussain, Vuclip’s VP (business development) and MD (India & Middle East) points out that unlike YouTube, the company does not rely on in-video ads for revenues. Vuclip has instead tied up with leading telecom operators, offering its services to users on daily or monthly subscription and splits revenues with the operators.
“We deliver optimised videos on more than 5,500 handsets, which includes entry-level Chinese handsets where companies like Google make no effort to reach. And since we use the operator’s bandwidth to deliver results, we chose to partner with them to monetise our content,” says Hussain. With 80 content partners on board, the company is focused on delivering targeted regional content to its users.
For now, YouTube also remains focused on integrating its videos with social networks like Google+. Smith clearly wants to do more with company’s own social platform, Google+. He details, “Just recently we added the ability to create, control, save and share playlists of videos with your friends-all inside a Hangout (group video chat tool on Google+). Or if you like a video that’s playing, you can share the video with your Google+ circles.” And while YouTube figures out its social tie-ins with Google+, Vuclip already clocks about 65 per cent of its existing traffic via social recommendations. “Our users can share their favourite video links over SMS with their friends and that’s been pretty effective for us,” highlights Hussain. Local OEM partnerships means the company is able to place Vuclip app or bookmark the site prominently allowing users to discover the video service conveniently.
The company has also added a dedicated mobile portal, titled Mira, which showcases content from about 30 content providers specifically for women. In a survey conducted by Vuclip, 60 per cent of Indian women respondents admitted using their handsets as a primary source of entertainment. Meera Chopra, Vuclip’s VP (advertising), notes, “Currently, women constitute only 14 per cent of the total 11 million users on Vuclip in India. We hope that by the end of this year, Mira will help Vuclip double its existing 1.54 million women users in India.”