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Volume 20 No. 42
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There’s money to be made, but Web video’s still coming into focus

Terry Lefton
As a survivor of the original Internet bubble, we’re wary any time the latest digital widget promises to save, change, transform, enrich or otherwise permanently alter or improve our life.

We aren’t a card-carrying Luddite. What we are carrying at all times is a smartphone (if a BlackBerry still qualifies as that) and an iPad. This chair just makes us hypersensitive.

Still, the battle for a standard video platform on the Web strikes as intriguing and potentially galactic in size. Whichever company develops a standard allowing consumers to transfer video to social media sites as easily as they post photos will be a big winner, and there is potential everywhere in Web video.

The established Web powers have already made their wagers in the form of Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion, Twitter buying Vine, and Google buying YouTube for $1.65 billion back in 2006. The big guys are making money off Web video now. However, many publishers would like a lower-cost alternative.

“Google/YouTube continues to be everyone’s ‘frenemy’ as the market looks for other solutions,” said former NHL marketer Bryant McBride, CEO of Burst, which provides the likes of Competitor Group and a platform for easy video posting from iPhones and Android devices, along with what they say is immediate advertising integration.

Burst’s platform is a business-to-business play, attracting interest from old-line media companies as it is streaming events ranging from high school sports to the Tour de France, which it did for the Competitor Group. (Full disclosure: American City Business Journals, parent company to SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, has a minority stake investment in Burst.)

There are a number of old-line media companies looking for the video solution that will allow easy user-generated content and keep viewers and their eyeballs on their sites.

The macros of video growth created for and consumed on the Web are scary in their enormity.

Investor Ronnie Lott (left) and founder and CEO Paul Shen hold the TVU system, designed to capture HD-quality video and transmit it via satellite.
Photo by: TVU
“You’re talking about eight- to 10-times growth in Web video over the next 36 months,” McBride said. “So there’s lots of VC and other money out there, and some sharks in the water.”

Another company mining the b-to-b play is TVU Networks, which makes a backpack-sized system it says can capture HD quality video and transmit it via satellite. The company has been successful in the news business and now is pitching to sports properties and broadcast rights holders, with recent purchases by the NHL, MLS, SNY and ESPN, who are all looking to fill the burgeoning need for video for their in-house sites and networks.

Former NFLer Ronnie Lott holds equity in TVU.

“With digital distribution and so many more cable sports networks, there’s more demand for content than ever,” said TVU founder and CEO Paul Shen. “Anyone that makes that easier and less expensive wins, and that’s what we do.”

There is market potential in so many areas of Web video. Consumer-targeted Magisto, which claims 11 million downloads of its app since its 2010 launch, uses artificial intelligence to automatically edit consumers’ raw video into a Web film, which can last as long as three minutes. Compare that to Vine, which allows users to post six-second video clips, or Instagram’s video time limit of 15 seconds.

James Robinson, whose Alliance Marketing Partners is also the company’s agency, counts 8 billion smartphones worldwide producing an average of eight movies a month. Currently, less than 1 percent of those make it to the Web.

Hear the virtual cash registers ringing?

Since advertising normally follows eyeballs, the implications for marketers are just as enormous.
“Allowing all those people with smartphone video capabilities to easily create and post Web video is the key to a big treasure chest. That’s what Magisto has,” Robinson said.

Of course, the Web video gold rush isn’t all about user-generated video. This all presages a time when broadband rivals and exceeds TV as the de facto consumer choice for video. That could facilitate cable cord cutting, the only apparent Achilles’ heel for ESPN.

And what could happen if accessing video of your children’s Little League or AYSO games gets as easy as clicking on ESPN?

“If it’s as accessible as clicking your remote, we might get to a time when high school and ancillary sports really matter in the live sports universe,” said former NFL new media chief Chris Russo.

As we see more sports marketers departing for the Web video gold rush, it looks kind of familiar.
“2013 is a lot like 1995 around here,” tweeted Geoff Reiss, the new head of sports partnerships for Twitter, who was an original Starwave/ marketer.

“It’s amazing how many years we’ve been talking about how important Web video will be to this businesses,” acknowledged media sales vet Keith Cutler, now senior vice president, strategic partnerships, at social sports site LockerDome, which allows content partners to embed the video player of their choice. “I still believe all that, but the waters are still pretty murky.”

> MIXING IT UP: Just when we thought we’d heard every sponsorship designation possible, including official fish taco and official custard, St. Louis Rams CMO Bob Reif informs us that the team now has what we believe to be the first official blender of any NFL franchise. Blendtec, which claims that its machines, priced at $450 and up, can blend anything from hockey pucks to marbles, has 20 blenders set up in the team’s player lounge for mixing smoothies. Blendtec also will demo its products at Rams tailgates by mixing smoothies.
Its deal includes an, ahem, mix of ads in Rams-controlled media, both traditional and digital, along with a branded smoothie bar in the Rams’ players lounge.

> THE LATEST SPIN: Peter Farnsworth’s TopSpin charity table tennis event will celebrate its fifth year with a tournament among sports and entertainment marketing types set for Nov. 6 at Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. Money raised benefits various educational charities: Fayetteville-Manlius A Better Chance; Change for Kids; Horizons-Brooklyn Friends School; Children’s Aid Society; and Wishbone. Sponsors include Coke, Turner, NBA Cares, MLS, NFL, GroupM, ANC Sports and the NHL.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: ANC Sports Marketing President Dave Bialek is leaving the firm after seven years to hang his own shingle as Skylark Marketing, which he described as a sports marketing and technology firm. Bialek, a member of the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 class of 2009, said Skylark will have “a core competency in team sponsorships and an ongoing consulting relationship with ANC.” Charter clients are LogoPaint, the 3-D Signs patent holder; NuCalm Performance, a neuropsychobiology “all natural restorative curative” for athletes; and SmartSports, an athletic performance reporting system that promises to combine technology with scouting.

Terry Lefton can be reached at