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SMW 17: Bulldog's John Petrocelli Talks Branded User Experiences
Streaming Media's Tim Siglin interviews Bulldog Digital Media CEO John Petrocelli at Live Streaming Summit 2017.
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Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media West 2017. I'm Tim Siglin, contributing editor with Streaming Media Magazine and Media Strategy Principal at Reel Solver Inc. Today I've got with me John Petrocelli from Bulldog Digital Media, a company that’s been around for about. five years? Prior to that, you were in what parts of the industry?

John Petrocelli: I've had a career involved in the delivery aspect of streaming and then in the security components, commerce, DRM, etc. And the better part of last, ten plus years, in live.

Tim Siglin: For you, has live always been streaming and online and OTT, or some broadcast as well?

John Petrocelli: Primarily online. We've been really focused on the major kind of premium content experience. Concerts, festivals, product launches, premieres.

Tim Siglin: And is that where Bulldog Digital Media plays at this point?

John Petrocelli: Yes, we function as a live streaming agency and strategy company. So we're involved in the execution. We get hired by brands: Coca-Cola, Nestle, Snickers, Taco Bell. We also work with the content community. So we represent music festivals or live experiences, and connect them into Madison Ave., especially with now the big shift in focus on live video.

Tim Siglin: I live in Tennessee and I lived in Middleton, working at an Air Force base, and this thing called Bonnaroo that started up, and it was absolutely horrible the first year. They lost a bunch of money, so they stopped it the second year, rejiggered it, brought it back the third year, and by the time I moved from there, of course it had become a thing.

John Petrocelli: It sure has.

Tim Siglin: Yeah, and it's just sort of fascinating, cause it was a local farmer’s field, so it was sort of Woodstock of the South, so to speak.

John Petrocelli: Today it's an iconic music experience. I've had the pleasure of streaming Bonnaroo a few times. It's transformative. Amazing. What happens on that rural farm, that's broadcasted out to the world, is really, incredible.

Tim Siglin: Right, right, right. So out of curiosity you're going to talk about the future of live streaming, and I did a panel today on VR video and 360 video. When we get to the point, concerts and that kind of thing, music festivals are streamed in sort of an immersive environment?

John Petrocelli: For sure. I think live streaming has now got a lot of heat and a lot of light on it and in parallel the world is moving to what we think is an experience economy. Today's individual would love to be at an experience and have a shared experience versus buy a house or a watch or a car. And that's rampant in the millennials sector. Live Nation reported yesterday, massive growth. People are really invested in going to these experiences. The live piece comes in where if you can't physically be there you can now have this collaborative participatory experience. And the next stage clearly, VR, AR. Especially for music.

Tim Siglin: One of the things we were talking about in that panel is, how do you balance the fact that immersive video today is inherently a single-person immersive, and every single person who experiences it, experiences it the same way through the same lens, but they're not experiencing it collaboratively. And I understand VR can sort of play a part in that, but how do we go from everybody whose watching this music festival, immersively, is essentially getting the same row on, you know, the same seat on the third row, looking at the stage form the left. How do we deal with allowing people to sort of have the freedom to move around, quote on quote, even if they can't be there?

John Petrocelli: You know, I think it's a good question. Over time, hopefully innovation will solve a lot of those challenge. If you can attend an experience and you live in Tokyo and it's a beautiful show in Miami, you could A: stream it 2D, but B: eventually attend almost invisibly beyond the stage, or walk or see what the drummer's doing.

Tim Siglin: Maybe you pay a premium for that because you're able to get access to things that you wouldn't be if you physically were there.

John Petrocelli: Absolutely. I think the media and content communities are looking at that technology through that lens and thinking, "Boy, here comes an opportunity." Obviously, the event world is going to go to a media-level layer and then a level of innovation where there'll be e-commerce. To your point, a Spotify model--there'll be free content brought to you by T-Mobile and Pepsi, but immersive content that you would subscribe to.

Tim Siglin: I hadn't thought about putting that on the stage so you're suddenly right in the middle of the band. And hopefully the audio also is, you know, surrounding.

John Petrocelli: Yeah. That's an important part of it for sure. Yeah.

Tim Siglin: So what else in the future of live streaming, when you get ready to do your panel in few minutes here. What other topics are you going to touch on?

John Petrocelli: I'm largely focused on what's happening on Madison Ave, with the advertising community. We came into this year with two big problems and now a third has been added. Most significant is cord cutting. It's a real issue now. Brands are concerned: "How do I reach authentic, reach a consumer whose not consuming media in a traditional manner?"

Secondly we've got our propagation of ad blockers. I think about 615 million devices have ad-blocking technology on them. Historic forms of advertising aren't even making it to the consumer. And now we're seeing the brand safety issue. Brand's don't want to advertise next to content that's dubious, fake news, et cetera. So as the tonic there is premium live video, powered by a brand.

Tim Siglin: So almost like the old sponsored live television in the early days? The Lawrence Welk effect, where in the middle of the show, somebody stops and says "Geritol's whatcha need."

John Petrocelli: We looked at ways like a branded user experience. My team has pioneered in the ability to create a multiple-channel viewing experience, multi-angle video player. So that's part of the user experience. In my career for live video I've done a lot of experiences on YouTube. You've seen the comment section off-topic, not related to the video, so we'll aggregate the conversation but more importantly curate it.

So then, rather than pulling away, people are more invested in the conversation. Social stream related to the video, and then we'll turn on things like a polling unit, or trivia widget, photo wall, schedule gadget. Now you've really transformed that viewer into a participant.

Tim Siglin: So essentially you're solving the problem of ad blockers by getting rid of ads, by integrating it like we've done product placement for years in the motion picture industry and on some TV shows.

John Petrocelli: I would agree. It’s kind of like the early days of the soap opera industry meets today's live. You know, the advertising in the TV world is now sports, awards shows, American Idol, that live collaborative tune-in. And online it’s an even more advanced, compelling engagement.

Tim Siglin: So you're trying to solve all three of those problems in live content, brought to you by a brand, that is inexpensive, or free, or because it's so premium people will pay a premium price. What are the pricing models that you work around?

John Petrocelli: The brands will pay. To the consumer it's free. It's brought to you by...

Tim Siglin: So it'll always be free from that standpoint, or almost always?

John Petrocelli: Right, so it becomes a media buy for the brands, just like they're buying commercial time on traditional TV. Our argument is you know the fan you want to reach whose, let's say someone's 26, they're not really watching Law & Order on Thursday night on NBC and sitting through the State Farm ad. They’re probably not consuming media in a traditional way and if they are, they're probably DVR'ing and going through the ad. So here's a far more authentic way to engage. And then there’s the data that comes out of the experience: where people are, how long they're watching, who’s on iOS, who’s on android, what are they talking about…

Tim Siglin: And that brings me to the last question on the fragmentation problem. People aren't watching it all at the same time per se, or all on the same platform. Even sports, which sort of seems to be the last bastion of live must-see TV, besides, say, breaking news. That's fragmented out across platforms. How do you help the companies understand which platforms to go to, or which platforms to stay away from? Getting to the point of your third piece, which is on some platforms it may get juxtaposed up against content that you don't want.

John Petrocelli: It's a great point. We'll guide the brand, the sponsor, the media, the platform, through that equation. So I've worked with Coke for years. Historically, they've said they want the consumer to come to Coca-Cola TV, or Coca-Cola.FM. And we've had about a five-year run with them on empowering a major music festival in Mexico City. This past year they decided, "Let's go a little wider and keep our branded hub experience, but extend to YouTube, Facebook, and to Twitter."

And then a couple weeks ago we announced a partnership with AmpLive, so we want to syndicate that video out for the brand, and they'd say "I want one million, four million, eight million views. I want them to be in a certain region in the world. I want the audience to index at 25 to 59." We can actually get that granular and then we target as well. So it's a combination of all those things. Dedicated hub, syndication, social platforms. Some people want to have their live video purely on YouTube. Now Facebook is a pretty hot option as well.

Tim Siglin: And do the advertisers trust the numbers when you come back and say, "We got four million views of this particular thing." Because we've all had that question throughout the years of over-inflation.

John Petrocelli: Correct. So we stand up a microsite hub for the brands. We're giving them real authentic data. With AmpLive, we measure the viewership on at least a three-second view, so it's not a drive-by, where you're actually tuning into the video. I don't really know how Facebooks and Twitter report. But I imagine now there's a lot of brand investment happening on those platforms. The numbers have to be true and real.

Tim Siglin: And definitely there's more pressure on them to make sure that they're accurate numbers.

John Petrocelli: Without question.

Tim Siglin: John, thank you very much for your time.

John Petrocelli: Tim, thanks for having me.

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