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Analysis & Opinion

Online video: now it’s personal

Dailymotion's Daniel Adams believes personalised viewing will make online video more profitable

Remember the days when there were four channels with fixed schedules? Effectively you were limited to watching what the network decided you were interested in, at the time they decided you would be watching. Broadcast was almost entirely funded by advertisers, who had to pick their programmes then pay large sums to reach a broad audience in the hope a significant chunk would reach the right people. It was far from a precise science for anyone.

The two major trends that have changed viewing have been increased specialisation of programming and increasing user control over what they watch. Growing numbers of channels, followed by the explosion of online viewing, meant people had much more choice over what they watched and when they watched it.

More broadcast time and easy access, combined with lower production costs, meant specialised programmes grew rapidly, from gardening, to religion, to who’s got the most haunted house. Programmes in continuous demand, like the news, became continuously available. Video sharing sites took this to its logical conclusion, making vast amounts of low-budget niche content available to anyone.

The obvious conclusion is that people like a wide variety of content which is easily accessible and over which they have control. The trend is likely to continue, and the internet offers unique opportunities to provide wider access to specialised content without high production costs. Because such content is viewed by people with particular interests, it creates strong targeted advertising opportunities.

However we have reached a point where there is so much content and the barriers to entry are so low, that we have too much available. The good quality content which doesn’t have the marketing budget of the major networks gets easily lost. As a result people end up sticking to the old trusted broadcasters (albeit through new mediums) or wasting their lives trying to find something interesting. In this respect online broadcasting has failed to reach its potential.

Period dramas, talent competitions and FA Cup finals will remain popular and their place for now is rightly on the major broadcast networks and their online counterparts – though eventually these may transition online as reliable distribution channels open up. And there will be a market for videos taken on phones for a while yet. But for the many people in between who want quality content relevant to them, there are plenty of missed opportunities for content producers and broadcasters.

This is the gap Dailymotion think needs filling. Many talented people who don’t have industry contacts, and even many of those who do, use the internet to share their work. Video sites can offer web series, independent films, stream live music and arts performances and sports matches that aren’t covered on major networks. Thanks to internet broadcast, there’s no reason people shouldn’t be able to watch concerts live, or miss their team playing because they’re not top of the Premier League.

We believe there is growing demand for such content. At Dailymotion we have 8,000 accounts from professional broadcasters and 43,000 creative content providers, uploading valuable content every day.

Creating the content is the first challenge, the second is getting it to those who want it but don’t know about it. This process will improve as social media sites become increasingly personalised. People have accounts on video sites as they do on other social media. This allows profile building based on previous views, shares, comments and friends recommendations.

In time this will allow a much more engaging user experience. A video sharing site could, for example, provide a half hour news programme based only on the user’s areas of interest; or a half hour sketch show based on what the viewer finds funny.

It could also recommend suitable programmes, for example when the next match by your team or performance by a band you like is to be broadcast or made available.

Increasing ways to view online media will also contribute to this more personalised approach. The TV is still often the focal point of the room, but internet videos are increasingly available through TVs by using apps on smart TVs or consoles, and computers are increasingly used to consume traditional media.  Content can now be downloaded to a tablet or smartphone and viewed on the move, and even this won’t be necessary for long, as mobile communications become ever faster. Dailymotion, like others, offers apps for easy viewing through Smart TV, Xbox or iPad.

Personalised viewing helps make the model profitable. As with other social media, streaming sites can build up a profile of what the user is interested in and provide targeted advertising. More targeted adverts are more effective – people prefer to view adverts that are relevant to them.

Well placed advertising then creates revenue that can be invested in new content and can be used to support the content provider, be they independent filmmakers, lower division football clubs or struggling artists.

This approach falls somewhere between mass-appeal programming, and a search engine style approach, which offers access to almost infinite content of varying levels of quality. Dailymotion works in both these areas too – access to a wide variety of content is key to being able to personalise it. But we expect an increasing demand for unique high value content which is delivered through a range of devices, and we see few others tapping into this market. We are striving to provide this through media partnerships, intelligent recommendations and new tools for easy viewing.

More flexibility should mean more and better content for everyone, not just those who like the most popular things, or those who have hours to browse.

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