Over-The-Top Video A Balance Between ‘High-Touch And Automation’ At AOL

RobDelacruzAOL is building on its foray into long-form content, which it first announced at last year’s newfronts, by distributing the pilot of its documentary series, “Connected,” on Roku devices.

Although AOL Video has content distribution agreements with 17 different Internet-streaming and over-the-top devices, including Amazon Fire and Chromecast, “Connected” – produced by Morgan Spurlock and supported by ads – will run exclusively on the AOL On Roku app for one week beginning Tuesday, prior to a wider multiplatform launch.

Robert DelaCruz, AOL’s VP and GM for video and consumer experiences, declined to disclose the terms of the deal, but hinted that AOL’s relationship with Roku is mutually beneficial. For instance, the two partner on multiple executions – the AOL On Network has powered the News Channel On Roku with video content from 1,000-plus partners.

“One of the main reasons why we went with Roku [for the Connected pilot] was because of its scale,” DelaCruz said. “By the end of the year … [Roku] announced they had sold over 10 million units, and we’ve seen over 450% growth in video views, which is huge volume coming from one platform.”

Conversely, the average growth in video views across other over-the-top (OTT) services for AOL is 165%.

While AOL has traditionally focused on short-form video – five minutes and under –OTT content is conducive to long-form, more so than mobile or tablets in some instances. 

“We have big investments in the live space with AOL Rise and HuffPost Live, where we’re bringing more of that content online,” DelaCruz said.

Although AOL’s long-form videos will be available on its owned-and-operated channels, the company hopes third-party distribution will serve as a complement to and drive awareness of its flagship properties.

Additionally, AOL is also acting as a distributor for others’ content. For instance, it’s co-producing and distributing video from Players’ Tribune, Yankee alum Derek Jeter’s new media property, which the company hopes will reach a different demographic than the older female-skewing audience of shows like AOL Rise.

As for ad monetization, AOL typically sells inventory for its owned shows (called Originals) directly, but DelaCruz said there will always be exceptions given AOL’s platform and programmatic technology focus.

“Directionally, that’s where we will be headed over the long haul, but there are always ad relationships where you need more touch … from your sales force with your top advertisers, so it’s a balance between high-touch and automation,” DelaCruz said.

Sprint served as exclusive sponsor of the Connected series, which includes pre-rolls and brand mentions onsite, which AOL facilitated directly.


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