12/28/07

MONETIZATION CHALLENGES IN DIGITAL VIDEO MEDIA

The real challenges facing media companies today are not technology or opportunities, but how to monetize activities in digital video media. The popularity of video downloads and streaming video on internet and mobile devices is growing exponentially and motion picture and television production companies are rushing to create deals to participate in the phenomenon.

The biggest challenge is finding workable business models. A combination of technology and capricious consumers are altering existing media business models and making success with new models difficult. The traditional business models of media are eroding as audiences and advertisers respond to changing media markets and today both legacy and new media are struggling to find effective new business models for their existing operations and new products and services.

It is complicated because a fundamental shift in financing media is underway and many companies are finding it difficult to adjust their business perspective. During the period of industrial society consumers made relatively few direct payments for media and business models worldwide were based primarily on advertising expenditures, license fees, and tax payments. In post-industrial society, the rise of new social and economic arrangements and the proliferation of types of media and media content, business models are shifting toward a consumer model. Today, for every dollar spent in the U.S. on media by advertisers, consumers now spend 7 dollars. Media have shifted from a supply driven market to a demand driven market.

This means that companies must spend a good deal of effort ensuring they are creating value for customers. However, it is not enough to create value for customers. At the end of the day, economic value must be created for the company or it is not running a business.

Although media firms are rapidly entering digital video provision, there are significant business problems with contemporary deals involving new forms of digital video media. Companies are not buying return on investment, but are buying market share in hopes that income will follow. The trend is especially evident in social media, where companies are pinning their hopes on Internet advertising growth and increased abilities to better target advertising. It is a big gamble because social media users have been ad averse and click through rates are less than one-tenth of those on other internet sites.

You Tube was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion but has advertising revenues of about $250 million and My Space, which was acquired by News Corp. for $580 million, receives about $450 million in advertising revenue. On the face of those numbers these do not appear to be rationale business investments, but what the firms are actually doing is buying large audiences in hopes of positioning themselves as leaders in online advertising.

They are doing so because Internet advertising expenditures are heavily concentrated and the top 10 sites in the U.S. account for 70 percent of the total advertising expenditures. The high prices for social media are part of a fight for the top because of the ad revenue concentration. The companies are taking a business risk that may or may not pay off depending on the willingness of the users of those social media to accept advertising and monitoring of their activities.

Across digital video media we are now seeing a variety of company strategies. Some firms are pursuing ad-supported free media business models, whereas other firms are taking the road toward conditional access as part of subscriptions to Internet and mobile services. Still others are mixing income streams from both conditional access and advertising. The industry is not yet mature enough and consumer preferences are not yet clear enough to determine which will be the most successful revenue model. As a result, firms need to be agile, flexible, and able to change rapidly in their approach to digital video media.

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