MTV on the future of Web video

Don Dodge · July 9, 2009 · Short URL:

Average video durations are rising every year

 MTV has a vision for video, eight-minute scenes on the Internet, three of them stitched together for a half hour TV show, and a feature length movie based on the TV series. The New York Times has a story The Rise of Web Video, describing the move beyond two-minute clips. David Gale, creator of MTV Films, and EVP of MTV Networks sat down with me to discuss his vision for the evolution of video on the Internet.

Web video is different. David Gale’s MTV division led the development of $5 Cover, a scripted reality show based on the music scene in Memphis, following upstart bands trying to make it in the city. The TV show airs Fridays on MTV.

They have several other shows under development that will use the same formula; eight-minute Web clips, half-hour TV show, and potentially a feature-length movie. This model requires a different approach to screen writing and story development. Mr. Gale said the format works well for comedy, horror, and other forms because the audience expects to laugh every few minutes in a comedy, or see horror every couple minutes. Building the story from the ground up with a couple scenes in an eight-minute sequence works well for the web, and easily transitions to the 30 minute TV format. However, trying to work backwards from a 30 minute show and break it into web length clips doesn’t work so well, for obvious reasons.

The New York Times story says Web video viewing trends are changing slowly;

“While online video is not going to replace television anytime soon, it is now decidedly mainstream. About 150 million Internet users in the United States watch about 14.5 billion videos a month, according to the measurement firm comScore, or an average of 97 videos per viewer. Although the Web lacks a standard for video measurement, comScore says average video durations have risen slowly but surely in the past year, to an average of 3.4 minutes in March.”

Sponsorship for Web video has been a problem for most producers. MTV has a major advantage here with their TV sponsors and other network assets. However, YouTube has been unsuccessful to date with traditional advertising applied to web video. There are major copyright and other “rights” issues with much of the User Generated Content (UGC) on YouTube. Quality of the video is another issue. Web viewers are not very keen on pre-roll or post-roll video ads. The jury is still out on what advertising model will work with short form web video.

Product Placement - Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg of Katalyst Films are experimenting with new approaches to Web video. Rather than use pre-roll or post-roll ads they are using product placement within the video and premium sponsorship for their professionally created web video shows. Check out KatalystHQ, their office based reality show. Cheetos is a sponsor of the show, and Cheetos are integrated into the storyline of each episode. Obviously, to do this you need a sponsor up front before writing and shooting the video. Easy for a film company like Katalyst Films, but usually not the case with garden variety web video.

Jason Calacanis is also experimenting with Web video with his show This Week In Startups, also known as TWiST. Jason built a professional studio at his Mahalo office in Santa Monica. This Week in Startups is an interview style show with viewer call in questions. Jason has three sponsors who have the startup community as their target audience. A perfect match between sponsor, content, and audience.

Sponsor, Content, Audience – The key to making video work on the Internet is good alignment between sponsors, the content of the show, and the audience. To achieve this alignment the content must be very targeted and focused. This is the problem with UGC style content, while it may be funny or topical, it rarely lines up with a sponsor or audience demographic, making advertising sales nearly impossible.

In future posts I will dig deeper into each of these issues and provide other examples of successful Web pioneers.

(Image source: Imgsrv)

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