Friday, March 20, 2009

Monetizing Video Content on the Social Grid...Overlay.TV

I had an opportunity to catch up with Ben Watson, VP of Marketing for Ottawa based, Overlay.TV to get an update on the company’s development and direction.

I wrote a piece about the company’s launch about a year ago and from my discussion with Ben today, it was clear that the company was not only maintaining its course by allowing users to create hot spots on their videos and photos (a scalable affiliate network model), but that it was also starting to see a greater demand from developers to create rich media experiences using the technology.

With over 750 affiliate partnerships, the company provides its users with thousands of products to promote within their content. As the adoption rises and the product skews increase, Overlay.TV continues to gain valuable insight into best practices for video monetization. "We're starting to get a clear picture of what is working and what is not...some content creators generate click through rates at 6% and engagement rates in the 16% range and some fall at the very low end of the spectrum" said Watson.

There has been a lot of product development going on an Overlay.TV over the past year. Most recently, Overlay.TV announced that it would open its API to software developers so that they could build engaging video experiences. The tools offered include applications, widgets and other customized solutions to enhance the interactive features of online video. Overlay.TV’s new Labs website features the SDK download, registration for a developer key, sample projects and more.

Following are some product offerings that are starting to make waves for the company:

Product Endorsement Videos - As an example, Overlay.TV has partnered with famous vlogger and social media expert iJustine to produce various product endorsement videos, with a tongue-in-cheek tone, where creators have the power to literally put products in iJustine’s hand.

Karaoke - Kids can use this application as they do on Kidz Bop to sing along to their favorite songs using lyrics Overlayed in the music video and their sing along appears right inside the video itself.

In Game Video - One thing that is currently missing from in-game videos like World of Warcraft is player stats, and serious gamers always check out stats. This widget combines data and video so gamer stats are integrated with the video.

iXLd – A tool for creating free band websites which includes integration with XLSuite to provide a fan club-building platform along with the video benefits of Overlay.TV’s technology. Bands have five free design options to choose from.

Ben talked about a case study that really brought the power of these tools to life. Disney implemented a sing along feature to their Jonas Brothers site allowing fans of all ages to record their voices into the sound tracks and submit their masterpieces to be posted on the Jonas Brothers’ wall of fame.

What I found fascinating is the level of engagement that Ben described:
  • 54% of the users that visited the Jonas Brothers site hit record and created content.
  • 10% of those users went on to create two or more recording after the first one. Fans started to invite their friends and use the tool as a new type of video game.
  • 8% of the users ended up submitting content to the Jonas Brothers site in hopes that it would be posted.
From a media efficiency standpoint, Disney’s investment was minimal as the content was re-purposed footage from a previous recording.

I think this case study is somewhat the groundbreaking because to date, advertisers have largely viewed video as a media that could be distributed online. Slap it on to YouTube, promote it through search and hope it grows wings. The Disney application of Overlay.TV tools changes the distribution content to an interactive one. The social aspect is brilliant because user generated content will significantly increase the chances that wings will grow once it hits the social grid.

(Check out this fresh British ComScore release showing Facebook's growth as a video content property from 2008 - 2009 140%!)

Ben was in Austin at the SXSW show as we were having our chat and expressed that bands were showing a keen interest in the Overlay.TV platform. It occurred to me that bands also need a form of CRM and this is a great example of the tools that might be made available to “pwomote band awareness” ;)

This and a number of other social media examples are starting to create an urgency for new media valuation models. There is no question that agencies and publishers are adapting and delivering against the possibilities offered through social media, but the value of delivery is not in line with what the advertisers are paying. We're starting to reach the point where these initiatives can no longer be sold as "tests".

More on this over the next few days...

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