JW Player's Otten: Amazon Video Direct could boost indie publisher revenues, audience base

Independent filmmakers and individual content creators now have access to a huge distribution outlet for their work: Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has launched Video Direct, which will allow creators to make their content available to customers of the online retail giant, in either transactional or subscription format. But while the service appears to challenge other OTT video outlets like Vimeo, it could provide a revenue-generating shot in the arm for the entire independent publisher segment.

Amazon Video Direct will offer content producers and owners several options to distribute their content: they can include it in the Prime Video library, allowing Prime subscribers to stream their video at no extra cost; they can make it available through the recently launched Streaming Partners program as an add-on subscription; they can offer it as ad-supported content; or they can make it available for purchase or rental under a transactional (TVOD) model.

The service launched with several participating partners who made their content available, including Conde Nast Entertainment, Mashable, StyleHaul, Machinima, Baby Einstein, Journeyman Pictures and Pro Guitar Lessons, among others.

The new service directly challenges other online distribution platforms in the space -- not just YouTube but also Vimeo, which just purchased VHX in order to make an affordable SVOD option available to its clients, many of whom are individual creators, and Facebook, which has built a strong position in the user-generated content space.

Perhaps the biggest draw for smaller content creators and owners is the ability for their video to be available to Amazon's SVOD subscribers on Prime Instant Video.

"There are more options for distribution than ever before and with Amazon Video Direct, for the first time, there's a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service," said Jim Freeman, VP of Amazon Video, in a press release.

It's not clear what the quality requirements for such video are, or what the earning percentages will be for publishers. YouTube Red, for example, initially took heat from creators who claimed YouTube was strong-arming them into participating in the SVOD service.

Despite its potential to bring independently produced content to a subscriber base numbering in the tens of millions, Video Direct may not have an impact massive enough to take out other creator platforms, because the market segment has long been one in which the more platforms a content creator publishes through, the more exposure -- and revenue -- that creator brings in.

"We view it as another closed ecosystem," said Dave Otten, CEO and co-founder of JW Player, in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo. He said the enterprise-focused online video platform provider encourages its clients, such as Hearst, to publish not just on their JW Player-based platforms but also to YouTube, Vimeo, and now to Video Direct, "because you get access to a user base that ultimately gives the publisher more access to (a bigger) audience," he said.

For content publishers, using Amazon's service should be part of a bigger strategy.

"We encourage our publishers to go to all sources and use YouTube, use Facebook … and use Amazon to gain more fans to drive some monetization, but more importantly to use those distribution channels to drive viewers to their (own) property," Otten said. Doing that gives content owners more direct control over their audience measurement and the viewer experience, as well as better monetization.

"Only half the consumption (of user-generated video) happens in the YouTube and Facebook environments," said Otten. "The other half is where independent publishers build audiences outside those properties. …They make more money, and have a direct relationship with their audiences."

For more:
- see the release

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