The OVP space and the nature of change

Jim O'Neil

Hey,  I’m not going to lie to you, so far, my favorite part about the online video marketspace has been the energy and innovation that seems to be its driving force. Every day, virtually without fail, there’s an announcement that comes from somebody that they’ve got something new and exciting to tell me about. And, it’s almost always true; it really is new and exciting.

Right now, perhaps my favorite space, is that occupied by online video platforms, which may be the foundation of the industry. And it's just boiling with news.

Consider that in the past week alone:

  • Brightcove -- which lists among its clients some of the biggest media companies and consumer businesses in the United States -- introduced a new product designed to make those clients happy customers; at the same time, it introduced a $99-a-month Express version of the Brightcove 4 software aimed at the little guys in the marketplace. While the downmarket move probably is a major headache for several of its competitors that already serve that market, it’s an interesting -- and potentially lucrative -- move for Brightcove.
  • One of its competitors, Fliqz, wasn’t sitting on its hands while Brightcove was planning its strategy. Fliqz also introduced a new product, SearchSuccess, designed to help its customers optimize their video for search. This set of tools in the app simplifies the process of SEO and does it as a $250 per month add-on to Fliqz’s top-of-the-line product, which costs $499 per month.
  • Another big player, Ooyala, teamed with YuMe on an ad placement play that will help bring new metrics to the industry that are in line with the metrics ad execs expect to see from more mainstream media. That should make it more likely they'll be comfortable enough with online video buys to invest more heavily in the space.
  • And, there are more deals and big news yet to be announced that will hit during this week's Streaming Media West conference. Today's breaking news? A trio from thePlatform that came out just after midnight: 1) thePlatform has made it easier for programmers to launch a TV Everywhere play; 2) Canadian cable company Rogers Communications is working on a video initiative with thePlatform; and, 3) more than 20 programming networks have migrated to thePlatform as TV Everywhere heats up.

I've been exchanging emails with Kris Drey, founder of VidCompare.com, a search tool used to simplify the process of finding online video platform services for business owners, about the OVP space. He feels the OVP industry is at a crossroads: there are plenty of platforms out there (somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 or so) but few of them are making much money.

Part of that, obviously, is due to the economy. But some of it, said another veteran of the OVP wars, is due to the incestuous nature of the space, with companies tending to poach customers from each other in a market where -- like a fly fisherman on a catch-and-release stream -- the big fish constantly are in play, and everybody wants a shot at them.

But 2010 could be a year of change as the market expands and online video becomes even more mainstream. Drey notes, for example, that not only did YouTube bust the “Golden Arches” of 1 billion videos served each day this year, but that video views in general were continuing to grow at a breakneck pace. And again, so much of that growth, so much of that expansion, is being driven because the product keeps getting better, and the offerings continue to get more interesting.

“What’s been the most exciting thing about OV in 2009 is the competitive spirit driving innovation in this space with monetization tools, interactive video, deep analytics, video SEO, and video ecommerce,” said Drey. “On the whole, it’s been a phenomenal year  for OVPs.”

And, he said, while venture capital has gone into virtual hibernation, spring might be just around the corner. If so, look for more expansion, and possibly some consolidation through acquisition, and -- inevitably -- some reduction in the amount of flyfishermen working the stream. After all, innovation almost always produces some casualties. And if there’s one thing that’s certain in this space, it’s that “new” is going to be “old” pretty darn quickly. -Jim

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