Archived content providers battle broadcasters for share of OTT market

AMSTERDAM--The online video explosion appears, on the surface, to be a great environment for content owners to redistribute older television shows and movies. After all, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) built a huge business on licensing existing content, long before it moved into original series. However, it's not easy being an archive in today's market, according to panelists at an IBC session here.

"New Money, Old Content: Monetizing the Video Archive" explored some of the online video strategies being used to mine previously-aired video content for additional dollars. And while it would seem that pulling more dollars out of content is a simple matter, for some companies, especially traditional broadcasters, it's a little more complicated.

History Television International's Andy Goodsir, managing director and executive producer, said that rights issues are impacting how the documentary-focused channel can reuse its 20-year trove of content.

The UK-based company is exploring several different ways to attract online viewers, such as creating short-form videos aimed at younger viewers that use re-cut archive content.

But at least one strategy for broadcast is translating just fine to the OTT world: hooks, a.k.a. promotional or stock footage used to draw in viewers. "Hooks are critical for archives," Goodsir said. For example, the death of Nelson Mandela resulted in calls for archive footage of the South African leader from broadcasters. Likewise, when Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their marriage, History International was asked to repackage archived footage of the royal family for an online wedding channel on iTunes.

Even as HTI repackages its archives for online video distribution, "it's been really important that we continue to sell our content to broadcasters," Goodsir said. "But today when you do a deal with a broadcaster, they're not just asking for traditional analog and digital television rights. They're now demanding free video-on-demand rights, subscription video-on-demand rights, mobile rights, Internet rights--they even want holdbacks on downloads to own and downloads for rent rights," he said. Such concessions could block HTI from placing content on other online outlets, such as its royal wedding iTunes channel.

Goodsir added that it was "inevitable that television and the Internet would collide in this way, and it's a head-on collision." Archive rights for multiple viewing platforms are already expensive to clear, he said. "… and then to find the broadcasters are actually warehousing these rights is particularly frustrating. I suppose it reflects the state of paranoia between these two different industries."

That hasn't been the experience of online video-focused companies. Matt Heiman, CEO and founder of Diagonal View, has found success in two simple mantras: Content must have a hook that keeps the audience coming back; and content creates the audience.

"Chances are one in 10 that you've watched our videos," Heiman said during his presentation. Diagonal View is perhaps better known for its All Time Top 10 lists and similar short, punchy online video presentations such as Football Daily. The company manages content from clients like ESPN, Comedy Central and the International Olympic Committee, and "super syndicates" it through online video outlets like YouTube, AOL, MSN and Buzzfeed. It also boasts more than 8,500 of its own archived video clips.

Heiman said that user feedback is a big component of the 40-person company's decision-making process when developing its short clips. "Commenting (on its Top 10 lists, for example) is the best way to quickly get feedback on what types of video to run," he said.

Turnaround for the startup is also fast, when it needs to be. A typical video list takes about seven to 10 days to create. But it's possible to have a repurposed clip up within a few minutes. And in some cases, Diagonal View plans certain lists weeks or months in advance, such as World Series stats videos.

Diagonal View isn't as hampered by broadcast rights as History International. "We have 'all digital' rights for our content," Heiman said, explaining that since most broadcasters use some form of digital distribution, holding onto content rights makes things simpler for his company.

HTI's Goodsir pointed out that even if a company holds onto more rights, it still must navigate a complicated licensing landscape.

"A year ago, when they were doing licensing deals (broadcasters) always included catch up rights. The problem is as each year goes by … there are more and more verticals," he said.

Delineation of rights, he added, are one of online video's biggest challenges. "It's a hell of a tough time to be an archive."

Show Coverage: IBC Live 2014

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