nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Linear online video channels combine the best of web and TV worlds

HuffPost Live

The standard for video delivery online is on-demand access: it’s up to the viewer to figure out what to watch next. And therein lies the enduring appeal of traditional linear television. The web is starting to turn its attention to linear programmed delivery, taking full advantage of the Internet as the platform for video delivery.

On-demand services such as Netflix have worked hard to make the decision about to what to watch next as easy as possible, but nothing beats a TV channel for taking the decisions out of what to watch next. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of personalizing the experience. Here are three services looking to combine the ease of viewing linear TV with the personalization expect of online video delivery.

Huff Post Live is a great example of how the simple concept of 24 hour news can take on a whole new meaning online. Starting with the classic format of talking heads discussing current news stories, Huff Post Live explodes the staid format by involving the audience at every level. Commenting on the story through social media is table stakes for this approach. The folks at Huff Post Live know their audience expects more. The channel encourages viewers with an intimate relationship to an issue under discussion to record a comment for possible inclusion in the live segment. In a very real sense, the audience is as much a part of the conversation as the talking heads in the studio.

Portico TV, a service of Net2TV, takes a new spin on the traditional television model. Sticking with the familiar 30 and 60 minute show format retains the couch-potato appeal of television. Portico helps brands take short on-demand assets and stitch them together into the comfortable TV show format. However, when it comes to delivery, Portico takes full advantage of the Internet as a global video platform. The company can aggregate a sizable audience for small niches that traditional TV DMAs couldn’t possibly afford to reach. This combination of traditional TV appeal with micro-niche targeting is attracting some very big names. Time Inc. and Bonnier are bringing their magazine catalogs to the platform to create themed channels tailor-made for their niche audiences.

Finally, Pluto.TV is slicing and dicing the world of on-demand online video into thematic channels that look and feel just like television. There is even a guide that looks just like the POTS (plain old television service) guide. Working with a variety of web content providers, the company seamlessly stitches together a channel from their on-demand assets. However, unlike traditional TV these channels can be created and removed at the drop of hat. For example, the news of Oscar De La Renta’s death broke yesterday; today there is a channel on Pluto.TV for him.

To understand much more about Pluto.TV, and why the UK’s Sky just invested in the company, watch my video interview with Sky’s Hilary Perchard, VP of US Partnerships, which will be available tomorrow.

These three services are taking linear television in new directions driven by the idea that personalization of the experience is key to attracting online viewers. However, co-opting the linear television model delivers something every ad-driven video business desperately desires: increased dwell times. By removing the decision point of “what to watch next”, the length of time people watch increases dramatically. Huffington Post Live reports average dwell times of 22 minutes, far above the average for web video sites.

Why it matters

The typical on-demand mechanism of delivery provides for maximum customization of the experience, but fails to deliver a true couch-potato experience.

Linear television delivers on the couch-potato promise, but fails to provide a personal experience.

Web providers are combining the best of both worlds, and reaping the benefits of increased dwell times linear watching brings.


One Comment

  1. Great article. It’s true that video-on-demand, as easy as it may seem, requires infinitely more effort than traditional cable, because when one show is over, you have to pick what to watch next. We’re all so used to having the next show simply come on, or flipping through channels when nothing we really want to watch is on. On Rabbit TV Plus, we have both as-it-happens streams of some well known TV channels like Bloomberg, as well as live channels that consist of 24/7 playlists of content from our video-on-demand library. It gives our subscribers the best of both worlds, which is essential as web TV becomes the norm.

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