Pushing the Convergence of TV and Web: Q&A With FreeWheel

August 29, 2012 Source:

Already a devotee of FreeWheel's suite of digital video and cross-channel ad management services, BSkyB took the final plunge and signed up to use the company's revenue and payments system for all of its UK pay TV operations. We caught up with VP of Marketing JoAnna Foyle Abel to hear about the allure of FreeWheel's revenue and payments system in offline settings, the tipping point when it comes to online video ad loads and the increasing presence of "entertainment hubs" such as Xbox.

BSkyB already used FreeWheel's suite for its digital video and cross-platform monetization practices – what interested the company in your revenue and payments management system for the entire operation? How did being a digital facing provider prove to be an advantage in winning this business?

We're not so much a digital facing provider, rather we understand what it takes to architect a successful content business. FreeWheel's extensive track record as the technology firm powering revenue decisions for most major television programmers and distributors — 70% of the standard US cable channel line-up and 21 of the top 25 US broadcast & cable networks — is what really sets us apart. Our infrastructure is purpose-built to make the convergence of television and the Web a reality. 

Ever since we started in 2007, FreeWheel has been laser-focused on building the infrastructure needed by enterprise-class companies, like BSkyB, to scale their content business across platforms and devices. We have been very happy to help make that happen for them, first with our MRM ad management technology starting in early  2011, and now with our RPM Advertiser financial operations infrastructure.

FreeWheel has been making some serious inroads in Europe – what elements of your services are in highest demand and why? Where are European video publishers hurting the most and how is FreeWheel relieving their woes?

Yes, we just announced Channel 4 as our latest ad management customer, and BSkyB is the first major television company in the UK to deploy our RPM product. Europe presents an incredibly exciting opportunity because of the rate of adoption of iOS and Android devices and game consoles like Xbox and PS3, which rival and even exceed device adoption in the US. It's still a relatively untapped market.

Many linear and digital companies, both in the US and abroad, are seeing that viewing shift happening before their eyes and are looking to us for guidance, having guided companies to success on these new platforms. To that end, we have deployed a brand new business unit, Advisory Services, which focuses on understanding every aspect of an organization's business, and providing actionable and customized insights to help navigate the ever-changing world of digital video.

Your Q2 2012 report suggested that online video viewers are getting a lot more ads, but consumption is still up – do you think there's a tipping point where the ad load will effect how much media is watched? Will online video viewers accept primetime TV-length commercial breaks… soon?

We think that there is still a lot of experimentation happening when it comes to ad loads, especially in professional video content. Our data suggests that programmers and content distributors have been ever-so-careful with the user experience, making sure to gradually increase video ad loads from three to eight commercials per video view over the past year.

Those levers are going to be continuously pushed and pulled as consumers increasingly become accustomed to ad-supported content, but, of course, there is always a point where too many ads may turn off an audience. With that said, there are still only about a third of the amount of ads during an episode of television program viewed on the Web than viewed on a television; growth will be found in both an increased ad loads, and additional libraries of long-form content finding its way to the Web.

Stepping a little further back, your Q1 2012 report showed that the Xbox led non-PC video ad consumption – have you seen other signals pointing to the growing presence of "entertainment hubs" like X360 as a serious ad platform contender? How could content producers better take advantage of this channel?

One would only have to see the content partnership deals struck by all of the game console developers over the past year to understand how serious of an ad platform these entertainment hubs are becoming. With install bases numbering in the tens of millions, and user experiences that integrate all of the best of digital — music, video, gaming, etc. -- it's no wonder we are seeing incredible growth from these platforms.

Also, these devices are inherently a lean-back experience because of their connection to a television. Publishers who want to take advantage of the channel should look to treat them as another syndication outlet for its episodic and live content.

OPS Macro-level changes are coming, and you can sieze the opportunities that follow at OPS NY. This event will bring together digital advertising leaders and ops professionals to discuss a rapidly evolving landscape and develop strategies for monetization. Register today for OPS NY which will be held Oct. 4, 2012.
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