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Streaming Media West 2006 Keynote #2: National Broadband Company’s Brian Buchwald

Speaker after speaker at Streaming Media West has reminded us that this is a very important time in the media industry. Brian Buchwald, General Manager for National Broadband Company (nbbc), has been advocating change in the culture within NBC Universal, and he explained the reasons why he believes this moment in the history of online video is key to the future of media.

BrianBuchwald "You’re not going to amount to jack squat!" Chris Farley screams from the classic Matt Foley motivational speaker skit on Saturday Night Live. Buchwald shares this clip as an opener to how online video has been traditionally viewed by big media and advertisers. With 32% of media consumption happening online, obviously the last few years have proven to the big companies and media buyers that this is the future of media. Pushing content out to users in multiple formats when and how they want it is central to developing the digital media environment, and Buchwald shared how this brave new world will affect the marketplace and business in general.

Consumer trends are constantly changing, and with so many choices and so little time, the ability to deliver what someone wants at the right time and place is critical to the success of online video. "There is so much compelling content out there we have to find new ways for the audience to tell us what they want," Buchwald said. Knowing what the audience is doing online is also a challenge. 45% of the "Gen Y" audience is media multitasking while surfing the internet. Mobile content, time-shifted media, and multitasking have led to audience fragmentation, which presents both a challenge and a new opportunity to connect with end users.

The cost of production versus the return on viewers is an interesting metric that is shifting rapidly in the video space as well. Buchwald shared a case study comparing an episode of Sex and the City with the "Evolution of Dance" clip on YouTube. One episode of Sex and the City costs millions to produce and had 4,500 downloads, while the "Evolution of Dance" clip on YouTube cost nothing to make and had 34 million downloads. Buchwald summed it up by saying, "Content is no longer about what the big companies want to produce but what the customers want to see."

Obviously, all this has to be paid for by someone, and Buchwald shared insight on the new models for ad-supported content. Only 10% of advertising budgets are slated for online production, and large advertising companies are still leery about stepping all the way into the internet as a delivery medium. Also, online portals currently receive 55% of online ad placement dollars. Buchwald believes that more money should flow back to the content creators, whether they are big companies or individuals. As the paid advertisement model continues to grow in popularity, more and more advertisers are looking to get involved online and build their brand awareness.

In conclusion, Buchwald had several clear points that will influence the business of streaming media. First, in order to reach our rapidly changing audience, we have to proactively seek them out and ask them for feedback. How do they want to see their content, what do they want to see, and how will they feel about advertising? Keeping these questions in mind is key for success.

Second, create your content in multiple formats. Viewing devices, delivery methods, and the ways to ingest content will always be changing, so be responsive and ready to add different features.

Third, offer a compelling reason for advertisers to work with you. Great case studies, real-world examples, and short-term, easy-to-start projects are a great way to engage with big companies. Ultimately, their involvement will be crucial to the success of the ad-supported model.

And finally, remember that all media is digital media. "We must embrace the future", Buchwald says. Everything is moving online, and we must be prepared for a whole new way to produce, share, and monetize content. Otherwise, in the words of Chris Farley’s Matt Foley, we might end up living in a van down by the river.

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