The NYT Becomes a Video Hub, Leads With Chromecast Development

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For anyone who hasn't noticed, the New York Times has quietly become an online video leader, creating some of the most thoughtfully-produced pieces around. Leading that effort is Maxwell Da Silva, a video architect for the Times, who visited the recent Streaming Media West conference to talk about the site's focus on Chromecast development.

"I have been leading the team, the video team that is working to build an OTT application," Da Silva said. "Chromecast was the first one because we looked at the market and the price of the device. It's very compelling. We have a pretty good case study of how many users who use the New York Times video platform have Chromecast. We see that platform as something very easy to develop a new application."

Once the Times is done with its Chromecast development, it will move to other OTT devices, making sure that viewers can enjoy Times video wherever they choose.

"We are planning to go to PS4, Xbox One, Apple TV, and a couple of other major devices," Da Silva noted. "I think the big challenge we are facing right now is understand how our content can be imported into those new device, like PS4, Xbox One, and Apple TV and so on because not every single [piece of] content that we produce is interesting to have on those device. We have some hard news [pieces] that are relevant today, but not tomorrow."

To learn more about the NYT's online video efforts, watch the video below.

 

Troy: Hi, this is Troy Dreier coming to you from the red carpet, Streaming Media West in Huntington Beach, California. We're doing some red carpet interviews with some of the people presenting at our conference. Right now I have Maxwell Da Silva, a video architect for the New York Times. Maxwell has flown in to talk to us and we're very grateful. I'm sure you're glad to be out of the cold weather.

Maxwell: Yes, exactly. That was the most exciting thing to be in California right now, because the weather in New York is crazy.

Troy: People, it is beautiful out here.

Maxwell: Yes, that's true.

Troy: And it's below freezing in New York right now. So you've done a lot of interesting video projects for the New York Times. I know people still don't think of the New York Times as a video destination, but more and more it is. Tell us what kind of things you've been doing for the New York Times.

Maxwell: Yeah. I started at the Times two years ago, so we create that new project called Times Video, which is our video library. We pretty much have a bunch of different channels, who talk about food, documentaries, traveling. I think the Times right now is changing a lot to, "Okay, we want to invest more in video content because that will reach our audience and elevate the state of how young users engage with the Times' story.

Another good example of that was during the Sochi Olympic games. This year we had a great overview about all the sport that we had, and we had some very engaging video experience there. During my experience at the New York Times we have been changing quite a lot of stuff. Now we are launch a new player, which before was using a third party vendor; now we've built our own player. We also are working in provide more live events for the Times, where we have Times casts. The strategy for next year, we have some very interesting things in terms of live and OTT device.

Troy: Yeah, I look at them all the time. I know the Times has done some really beautiful video stories on the site. They have a great flow to them. I really like them more than other news sites.

Maxwell: Yeah, I think that's one thing that the Times is quite good. We are not a broadcast company so we are not produce that much content, but everything that we produce that is a very fundamental concern, to keep the Times' quality like we do with our articles and our videos, and could that afford to make things in a beautiful way, to tell this story in a very engaging system. We have some very interesting channels there. The Op-Docs is one which we have amazing story from so many people with different backgrounds.

Troy: How much video does the Times make every day or week or month?

Maxwell: Right now we are producing around thirty to fifty videos per day. Some of them is produced internally, some of them is from other digital agency who sell content to us, but it's pretty much around that.

Troy: That's terrific. That's a lot more than I thought.

Maxwell: Yeah.

Troy: So you're here specifically to talk about the Times effort with Chromecast.

Maxwell: Yeah.

Troy: Chromecast, a fairly new set-top device. I was kind of surprised that the great, old newspaper wanted to jump on and be one of the first on Chromecast. What have you been doing with Chromecast?

Maxwell: I have been leading the team, the video team that is working to build a OTT device, OTT application. Chromecast was the first one because we looked for the market and the price of the device, it's very compelling. We have a pretty good study case of how many users who use the New York Times video platform have Chromecast. We see that platform as something very easy to develop a new application.

I think the Chromecast application, that was one of the main business goals when we decide to take Chromecast as the first OTT device, is because the development cost of that application is a way lower and it's a really low cost application. We are right now building the first phase where pretty much everything is based on Chrome. We only need to build an HTML5 JavaScript application. The level of results that we can get from that is creating second screen experience and give to our articles and even the Times Video page a way of, the user can watch the video and also see extra information related to that time, where they are watching.

Which makes things very interesting because how the Chromecast works put you in a position where you're device is the remote control and the video that you are watching that has something important, but you also have to care about your experience and the device that you are using apps. It could be a mobile or a desktop so it's quite a challenge to create a really good user interface with second screen, where you keep the user focused on the video but also getting more insights about that content that he is watching. That's one of the big efforts that the video design team is working on to create new strategies for those experience.

Troy: When did you launch Chromecast access?

Maxwell: We are pretty soon.

Troy: Oh, you haven't done it yet?

Maxwell: Yeah, yeah.

Troy: Okay. So you can't say about specs yet.

Maxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we are pretty soon. We are in the test phases right now. I think the beginning of next year.

Troy: Excellent. This is part of a larger OTT initiative for the Times, right?

Maxwell: Yes, yes.

Troy: So what do you guys have planned for 2015? What other platforms do you want to be on?

Maxwell: Yeah. We are planning to go to PS4, Xbox One, Apple TV, and a couple of other major device. I think the big challenge right now, we are facing, is understand how our content can be imported into those new device, like PS4, Xbox One, and Apple TV and so on because not every single content that we produce is interesting to have on those device. We have some hard news things which is relevant for today, but not tomorrow. When you go to those device you should be able to watch something who is not related to this specific date, in terms of that content.

We are trying to figure out strategies to create more seasonal shows and explore Times documentary, Op-Docs, travel with a new show that we have called 36 Hours, and the cooking channel. I think that will be the major approach when we talk about the New York Times providing content in OTT device, is the first challenge is not even technical, it's understand how our content can be there and relevant for the user.

Troy: Can you say what's performed the best so far when bringing Times content to new media?

Maxwell: Yeah. The Op-Docs channel is something very compelling. The 36 Hours, which is a new show that we have where we have a few journalists going to different cities and spend 36 hours in one of those place and try to show you what is the best of that. I believe those are a pretty good content to be in those device.

Troy: So the first one was Op-Docs?

Maxwell: Op-Docs, yeah.

Troy: What is that, opinion?

Maxwell: Yeah, it's opinion and documentaries.

Troy: Opinion documentary, then the second one is travel.

Maxwell: Yeah.

Troy: Okay. So it's pretty standard genres, but the Times is doing them their way. How much is new media a priority at the Times?

Maxwell: I think it's quite big because if you take the business of the New York Times, we have since our last innovation report in the beginning of this year, it's very clear for the Times that we should be a digital first experience because our newspaper subscription has been facing a lot of different challenge like every single New York company.

Troy: Like every newspaper, yeah.

Maxwell: Yeah. The Times has been putting a lot of effort to start to change the way of how we think about our content, keep the quality, create something that is still compelling, but focus on digital first and video.

Troy: That's fantastic. It's been great seeing how the Times has adapted to the challenge. Thank you for joining me, Maxwell.

Maxwell: Thank you.

Troy: This is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media West on the red carpet.

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