What’s written here is my own personal opinion and not the opinion of my employer, Machinima, Inc.
Two years ago, all anyone could talk about was virtual worlds. I was working so hard on virtual video that I slept through 2008’s major trend. However, 2009 seems to be the year of web video. Given the depth of this topic, I’ll probably break up subject matter into multiple posts. The first subject I’d like to discuss is the absolutely major growth of online video!
We all know that YouTube has been popular for years, but it wasn’t until recently that online TV has been in the spotlight. With online ads tanking, sites are now trying different tactics with their video sharing. For some, like ABC.com, they display roughly 4-5 10-30 second ads during a 40 minute program. Others, like Hulu, sometimes give you the choice of a 30 second ad at the beginning of the show in order to skip the 5 ad circuit. The homegrown directors are taking to YouTube in order to get a piece of the partner program pie. For example, my employer, Machinima.com, is the 7th most-subscribed YouTube channel of all time, amounting to millions of views a week on YouTube alone!
Now I’m in no place to discuss company profit, nor do I know it, but that seems like a pretty interesting business model to me. In addition to site wraps and promotions on their own site, the only reason I can see that they’d touch their 3.85 million in funding would be if they wanted to use it for growth and special talent. I was hired on as the World of Warcraft Community Manager, but now I’m dabbling in Second Life production for them. Other recent hires include dedicated YouTube, Facebook, and soon, Twitter managers. In addition, they have Felicia Day, of The Guild, working on a project, and a whole boatload of writers for known comedies in their Comedy Lab.
The face of video is changing. Video doesn’t just broadcast anymore. It participates. When you comment on a video, they comment back. If you Tweet about a video, they find you and add you to their follow list. When you become a fan of their page on Facebook, you’re invited to the conversation in ways that forums hoped to participate. You’re combining the power of millions of people that already have accounts for existing services. When you view that page on YouTube, you become part of a statistic that tells them that x gender and y age prefer Halo comedies, whereas another group might prefer World of Warcraft. This allows them to deliver videos to you in ways that Neilsen Media Research would die to research so cheaply.
That’s right. It’s a buyer’s market these days, and the seller wants to cater to you. Not just Machinima.com, but video sharing sites in general. Hulu grew a staggering 33% last month, making it the #4 video sharing site on the internet. The public has spoken. We love our small doses of nearly ad-free online TV. ABC and MTV say they’re turning a profit from streaming video. In a time when they’re scaling back, BBC Trust upped their online budget while cutting their film and TV budgets. These are all major developments.
I can’t help but be slightly skeptical, though. I remember when virtual worlds had this wave of popularity. They could do no wrong, until the blinders came off and the backlash came back 100 times harder than the initial praise. That’s saying something, too, because they were very hyped. I’d love for online video, particularly machinima, to live happily ever after, but will it? What do you think?