by Samantha Bookman
YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo and other online video providers have enjoyed significant success thanks to a winning combination of audience engagement, differentiation and advertising revenue. But other OTT video players--like Redbox Instant, Justin.tv and others--haven't been so lucky.
But why, in an increasingly all-digital world, did these OTT video providers fail?
Some online video sites weren't able to evolve with the times. Others couldn't change fast enough to keep up with the ways users access and consume online video. Many were great video sites in their day, but bigger entrants and new technologies sealed their fate.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, are the most damning failures: the big players, with millions of dollars to command, that couldn't draw in viewers. Size matters in today's OTT environment, but their demise illustrates starkly that if a company doesn't have a clear handle on its business model from day one, it will stumble and fall quickly.
Here are 10 online video companies either gone before their time, or that are struggling to keep from fading into the Internet ether:
With barely 18 months of operation under its belt, parent company Outerwall pulled the plug on Redbox Instant on Oct. 7. Confused consumers, a model that pitted it against its joint venture partner Verizon, and a credit card fraud issue that damned its entire second quarter doomed the streaming video unit almost from the start. And it had such promise.
Xbox Entertainment Studios
Status: Gone too soon
Despite highly anticipated releases like a Halo live action series, and a spring upfront in which Microsoft bragged it would own the living room, Xbox Entertainment Studios, started in 2012, was unceremoniously shut down by the software giant in mid-July. While industry pundits cited rumors that the unit was disorganized and without a business plan, critics of the move felt Microsoft was short-sighted in dropping the axe so soon. "It's insane given that's where the media business is headed…with one end focusing on programmatic and the other on original high-end content," said Vik Kathuria, chief media officer for global at Razorfish. "Confidence will be hard to earn back after this." Forbes reported rumors that Microsoft is shopping XES around to acquisition-friendly companies like Time Warner Inc., but nothing has come to fruition on that withered tree yet. The only good news out of this: the productions that were on its active slate will go forward, through in different venues. The Halo: Nightfall miniseries is still a go, scheduled for release in November--as is sci-fi series Humans, which will air on the UK's Channel 4 sometime in 2015.
Samsung Video & Media Hub
Status: Crumbling to dust
Giving customers a place to house their purchased videos and music didn't catch on well at Samsung. Launched in 2010, the Video & Media Hub had a depressingly slow growth curve, and on July 1, the manufacturer gave up on its service, informing account holders that they had 30 days to shift their accounts over to M-Go before the Hub shut down for good.
Status: Dearly departed
Launched in 2007, Justin.tv was the first site to offer live-streaming from individual users' computers. But on Aug. 5, the site shut down its streaming operations, giving subscribers one month to transfer their accounts over to its breakaway video game live-streaming site, Twitch. At the time, the move spurred speculation that Justin.tv's negotiations with Google to buy Twitch were wrapping up. However, it was Amazon that swooped in and sealed the deal, buying Twitch Interactive for $970 million, all in cash. "Thank you sincerely for seven years of live video memories," a message atop the company's Web page now reads. While Justin.tv's loyal subscribers--many of whom live-streamed to the service's other non-gaming channels--were miffed, this story has a far happier ending that most of the specters on this list. Justin.tv's founders can probably retire early; Twitch lives on; and ex-subscribers? Well, they're scrambling to find another live-streaming venue that offers the ease and accessibility that Justin.tv had.
Status: Deathly silence
Before shedding its mortal coil on Jan. 31, 2013, Stickam was home to a number of online video firsts and near-firsts. Stickam offered live streaming from users' computers, iPhones or iPads. It also live-streamed a number of events such as VidCon 2012 and hosted the first "webathon" style fundraiser in 2007, eventually raising $100,000 for UNICEF. "In the years since its hey-day, competitors with a more general focus overshadowed Stickam. Services like Ustream, Livestream, Google Hangouts, and YouTube Live all let people stream live video to big audiences," wrote TechCrunch's Josh Constine in an article announcing the service's demise. He added that its aging core user base and a "fractured audience" were also key contributors. An archive of sorts still remains on its Facebook page, giving visitors a glimpse into the emo grandeur of its live-streaming past.
In 2011, popular sharing site vidiLife's website disappeared into the ether, taking all of its users' content with it. Memories of its existence can be found in fragments all over the Web, such as this archived page at TopTenReviews that describes what vidiLife once was. Founded in 2005, vidiLife was very much a product of that heady pre-YouTube era where video sharing tended to complement, rather than dominate, conversations between members. Former Myspace CEO and Intermix Media founder Brad Greenspan helped fund the startup, making vidiLife a part of LiveUniverse. That happened in the middle of a tumultuous antitrust case that Greenspan brought against News Corp., charging that the new owner of MySpace was blocking links to vidiLife from its users' pages. Greenspan lost that case in 2007. But it was YouTube and the changes wrought by social media like Facebook that likely played an even bigger role in vidiLife's demise.
Status: Fading away
Now a part of Maker Studios, blip.tv has a community of more than 2,000 independent creators, according to its website. The company is currently integrating with Maker and closed to new accounts.
Status: Rising from the grave
On this quintessential photo sharing site, members could also upload short, 90-second-maximum videos. But when Flickr was purchased by Yahoo in 2005 and subsequently suffocated, the video service was given up for dead. With Yahoo renewing its focus in the online video space, Flickr Video has since been integrated into Yahoo! Screen. The service is starting to show signs of life, and in April launched an Android app (and later an iOS app) that allows users to shoot and upload video.
Status: Clinging to life
While its website is still operating, Metacafe no longer pulls in the 12 million unique viewers per month it drew before being purchased by the Collective Digital Services in 2012. Metacafe's meticulously curated content--uploads of already-existing content are a no-no--kept users coming back to see more. But it had a hard time maintaining profitability even in its heyday, and it remains to be seen if this site, which now sports a complementary channel on YouTube--will rise again.
Status: Barely a pulse
Absorbed in 2010 by Qlipso, a social media sharing service, Veoh offered a Flash-based video upload service and player. The company struggled for years since its 2005 founding, despite over $70 million in cash infusions, competing directly with fast-rising YouTube as a video aggregator. The site is still operating under the Qlipso banner, but it's a quiet corner of the Internet. With its website-locked inline player, dropdown menus and community forums, Veoh may be the last living example of the online video world before YouTube, Hulu and Netflix slaughtered all before them.