April 28, 2007
The Future and Promise of VOD: Looking at two TelevisionWeek Special Reports

I wanted to point toward a couple of interesting pieces that appeared on TelevisionWeek this past week by reporter Daisy Whitney, a two-part "special report" looking at video-on-demand.

The first of these articles, entitled "VOD: Getting Bigger, But Not Better Yet," Whitney explains that, while VOD is growing substantially as a market, that many cable and broadcast networks have not been putting significant energy into video-on-demand at this point and are instead concentrating on other platforms like Web and mobile. Whitney finds issues including the lack of "virality," to coin a word for the purposes of making it work in this sentence, as compared to Web video, which is embedded in a technology that has social connection built in at every turn.

Another major issue is the power of service providers in VOD, including such giants as Comcast, whereas digital video can be distributed through the Web sites of companies, such as with CBS innertube.

Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leicthtman Research Group, was quoted as saying, "Comcast alone had 1.9 billion on-demand sessions in 2006, but Apple's 51.3 million [TV shows] and movies sold [on iPods] in 2006 get much more hype and attention."

The second piece from Whitney focuses on creating stronger economic models for VOD, particularly in trying to figure out how to form an advertising model for this content. She recommends, in particular, integrated sponsor placement. She writes particularly about the skateboard videos available on demand from Sportskool, writing that "the network's current action sports block, which includes the skateboard videos, is sponsored by Jeep Patriot in a first-of-its-kind integrated sponsorship for the on-demand network."

Back last August, I wrote about a particular video-on-demand product with a subscription model that I thought might revolutionize how to use "Long Tail" content, as World Wrestling Entertainment brought in VOD visionary Tom Barreca to create WWE 24/7 On Demand, which is increasingly getting clearance on new cable platforms. The branded VOD channel provides 20 hours of content or so to fans a month, contextualized and grouped by certain themes, and the work done to produce content for VOD has subsequently fueled Web video, DVD releases, and other uses of this content. The WWE's plan is to use this VOD platform to draw in "lapsed fans," and the project has been far more successful than the company trying to launch a traditional linear cable channel for a niche product like this.

Might this be a model that other deep content archives should look toward? Might VOD be the answer of how to marry a lot of archive mining and cross-platform distribution in a way that has a much lower technological barrier than some online models?

See my writing about how Comcast is positioning itself through its creative uses of DVD, as well as VOD channels like Music Choice and The Gospel Music Channel.