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Up-and-Comers: Bulldog Digital Media Fetches Live Video Events

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From the start, it’s been clear that 2013 will be the year of live video events. We’re not talking about a live stream of the CEO’s yearly address. We’re certainly not talking about a live cam in the owl cage at the zoo. No, in 2013 major concerts, awards shows, and more were streamed to huge numbers of viewers, who would be able to watch and participate in the experience thanks to social networking features.
Signaling the big business that live has become is Bulldog Digital Media, a newly launched Los Angeles-based consultancy focused on helping companies do live streamed events right. While Bulldog has a staff of only two -- co-founders John Petrocelli and Joshua Lennox -- that hasn’t stopped it from steering some huge online events. Bulldog’s goal is to create broadcast-quality events that provide value to all the participants.

The Way of the Bulldog

Petrocelli and Lennox decided to form Bulldog after they’d worked in the space for many years, watching it mature and grow. Petrocelli joined AEG Digital Media in 2009 when it purchased Incited Media, in which he was a co-owner. Lennox consulted on branded entertainment and led a 60-person team at Universal Sports before becoming a senior director of products at AEG. Their time at AEG gave both men the experience and knowledge to pull off large events (such as Coachella, the Grammys, and the Royal Wedding), as well as the contacts to drive business. They could see that major brands were turning their ad budgets to live events, and that the rise in mobile viewing was delivering impressive audience numbers.
“Those shifts in the market got us thinking there’s an entire ecosystem that we can advise and strategize with, rather than just supplying the back-end technical services,” Petrocelli says. “We are now poised to advise the content owner, which could be a music festival, a concert series, or a product launch; the distribution platform, whether that’s Ustream, YouTube, Vevo, whomever; and also the brand that’s participating in that experience.”
The two started organizing Bulldog Digital Media in the summer of 2012; they formally launched the company in January 2013. They’ve been working with clients since September, though, including Ustream and Verizon Digital Media Services. Bulldog’s services include helping companies drive awareness through a series of live events and keeping an eye on costs.
“We’ve sold so much technology around these live engagements, we understand what the price points are and what they should be,” Petrocelli says. “To us the challenge in live has been you’re going event from event; you’re not making a commitment. We help our clients navigate that market in how to buy services and how to allocate costs and budgets around events.
"Clearly we do understand that the more manageable the event costs are, the more events can be facilitated. We're very cognizant about that."

Live Video Finds its Moment

Live online video isn’t a new development, but it feels like it’s making a major push in 2013. Concerts, especially major outdoor festivals such as the Global Citizen Festival, which took place in New York City’s Central Park in September 2012, are regularly streamed live. In February, the Super Bowl was streamed live for the second time. Live online coverage of the major award shows, such as the Grammys and the Academy Awards, is now expected. Some see the rise of the connected living room as driving live video, since people can create an immersive “you-are-there” experience from the couch. The men of Bulldog, however, say mobile devices are equally important, as is the mainstreaming of social networking.
“You’ve got the ability to consume content on really almost any connected device, from iPhones and Androids to tablets, gaming consoles, to connected TV sets,” Petrocelli says. “If you want to enjoy an experience, you’re not really precluded, you’re not tethered; you can really enjoy it from anywhere. So that’s a big factor. But also the ability to communicate about that event -- message, tweet, text, et cetera -- adds a whole level of interactivity where now the viewers are kind of transformed into participants.”
The other major factor is the money. Live video events wouldn’t be nearly as big if advertisers didn’t see them as an ideal opportunity to connect with customers.
“Brands want to find ways to connect to that very savvy user base, but also hold their attention,” Petrocelli says. “A live concert, a live festival -- anything live is something that they’re going to consume throughout the engagement rather than, ‘Hey, I’m going to record my show and then zap through the commercials.’ That branding opportunity is very significant.”
In our time-shifted culture, where the DVR now plays a central role in many people’s television viewing, the rise of live is a curiosity. People enjoy the group experience, Petrocelli says, including the ability to tweet and follow other people’s tweets about the stream, and to take part in live polls. Of course, live video events aren’t only experienced live. Most are offered as video-on-demand files, sometimes gaining more viewers for the recorded event than the live event. It’s an approach that Bulldog recommends.

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