Machinima’s popular YouTube channel targeting young males has shaken up the OTT market, but the company has also worked with traditional TV players to drive linear tune-in and drive multiplatform engagement. We sat down with chmn, CEO and co-founder Allen DeBevoise to find out how cable networks might use OTT to their advantage. DeBevoise will be among an incredible line-up of special guests and panelists joining us at CableFAX’s TV Innovation Summit on Sept 24 in New York City. Sign up now at www.cablefaxtvsummit.com.
It seems like OTT video is where cable was during broadcast’s heyday years ago. Do you see any parallels?
The idea of a 24 hour documentary channel was probably ridiculous to the television executives of the era. Or a 24-hour music channel. Or a 24-hour news channel… But those things took off in a way that previous paradigm wouldn’t have embraced… I just don’t think that people would have ever imagined in the broadcast era that an NFL game would end up on a cable network and that there would be an era in which none of the Emmys’ drama nominations went to a broadcaster. Cable networks, which were considered sort of public access weirdness, turned out to be the best programmers in the world. That changed over time. The same kind of thing starts to happen [with OTT].
So are OTT players friends or foes to cable?
I think it’s both. A really growing area of our advertising business is tune-in for television shows. And we’ve been approached recently about—“Hey, this new cable network is launching, can you help us promote it and brand it with our audience?” So if it fits our audience, we’ve done tune-in campaigns, and we think we can really help drive audience to those shows and certain kinds of cable networks… So I think in that sense, it spreads… I think there’s a lot of opportunity to really work together and create win-wins for both sides.
Any tips for the best way to drive linear tune-in? What has worked so far?
One thing we’re really good at is driving video views to content… A lot of times, people say—“Well, hey I’ve made a trailer for my movie or television show, and I put it on every single channel and I throw it on YouTube, and that’s the end of it,” and I think there’s a lot more opportunity than that. We have a program called “Watch with Me” where we get our pop influencers to actually encourage their audience to watch a new show when it launches. They’ll use Twitter to tweet with each other and get people to tune in in real time to that particular premiere or whatever the case might be.
What about advertising? What new opportunities exist online vs. linear?
We can think about programming for a big global audience, some of which is localized and some of which doesn’t have to be. And our ability to reach a global audience is immediate. In that case, cable networks that took decades even to get full distribution in the U.S. and then you try to get it around the world. It was just a big, time consuming process because there are gatekeepers—the MSOs and the satellite players. But on YouTube, you put up a video, and people will watch it in Brazil, they’ll watch it in Germany, they’ll watch it in the United States. And you don’t have to cut any special deal.
How does that affect the brands themselves?
Imagine making a very cinematic, non-verbal type of ad that could be literally played in every single country in the world on YouTube. And the same video would generate millions and millions and millions of views from every single country—instead of 130 different videos, one for each country… These platforms are connecting us more and more globally. And I think marketers realize that this social capital… that’s the global conversation that these platforms like YouTube and Facebook and Twitter can help generate.
How does this change the economics of television production?
A good example might be the show “Fringe.” Now historically when a show like Fringe goes off the air, it’s essentially over for new episodes because all of the international deals dry up and then there’s no more incentive for Warner Brothers to continue to finance it. But Fringe could continue on Machinima because there is a global audience for that show. And whereas maybe in the states they could get 3 to 4 million per week, maybe on a global basis we could get 12 million people. That’s a hell of a show, right? There’s that aspect of it as well where certain types of content may have been able to deliver a global audience, but in a very fragmented way. Fringe might be in Italy or the U.K. at different times and that sort of thing. But imagine that you could have that global conversation about Fringe happening at the same time, the same network, and there’s enough of a global multiplatform audience that could make it work—particularly with a global sponsor like a Samsung or a Coke or a Ford, that has global reach as an advertiser.
But measurement remains dicey. Do you think advertisers will pay more for this?
Yeah, I think that some of this stuff will happen sooner in some categories… I think people are going to start to understand that these big platforms drive a global conversation. And that there’s a real value proposition to say, “Hey, if I’m selling the Samsung Galaxy or I’m introducing the new drink or I’m introducing the new movie, it makes sense to think about putting that product out globally and letting the marketing resonance work for me on a global basis.”