Home Digital TV and Video SnagFilms’ CEO On Cracking Monetization In The New TV Ecosystem

SnagFilms’ CEO On Cracking Monetization In The New TV Ecosystem


RickAllen copyWhether you’re Coca-Cola or the NFL, building experiences across 15 device and app environments is a tall order.

It’s why video publisher SnagFilms launched spin-off company ViewLift on Thursday, aiming to help media networks as well as brands target video app audiences and boost discoverability across mobile devices, smart TVs and set-top boxes.

ViewLift has partnerships with 21 digital platforms and device manufacturers, including Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, LG, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung and Sony PlayStation. It has three beta customers: a major sports league, a major media network and a continuing education company.

“Anyone who’s looking to expand their audience reach on these new devices can come to us and we can be an end-to-end solution for them, whether it’s ingesting or streaming content or helping them forge the relationships they need with these 21 digital platforms,” said Michael Kohn, VP of platforms and marketing at SnagFilms.

ViewLift first analyzes what business model is best for a brand or media network, whether it’s paid subscription, ad-supported or some type of hybrid freemium model. It then uses an analytics suite to break down audience paths in and across over-the-top apps.

“Understanding the lifetime value (of a viewer) is a critical thing,” Kohn said. “We really wanted the ViewLift analytics to be customizable as well. Depending on the business model, you’ll be focused on different KPIs.”

For instance, a subscription-based business typically wants to know more intricate details about the funnel beyond a simple app download, such as where the user dropped off. A common place to lose a customer in over-the-top environments is during the sign-in process.

“People don’t want to pull out their credit card and punch in numbers on a remote that wasn’t designed for that functionality,” Kohn said. “That’s one problem ViewLift wants to solve – we think people want to experience the native functionality of each app. And it’s helping the brand or app (developer) understand what path people are taking.”

ViewLift also helps clients understand ad availabilities across set-top boxes and mobile apps.

SnagFilms’ own applications are mostly ad-supported, so it can plug in pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls where applicable. On some platforms like Roku, SnagFilms runs clickable video ads that direct users to tailored experiences.

“We were able to fully flesh out a business model through direct sales, programmatic sources, and some network relationships” working across various native environments, Kohn said. ViewLift feels it can help other media properties do the same. “It’s still early, but we’re excited about the prospects and opportunity that lies within platforms like Roku for programmatic.”


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SnagFilms’ Storied Origins

ViewLift’s technology comes from eight years spent perfecting desktop video streaming with SnagFilms.

SnagFilms was co-founded as an online showcase for documentaries by AOL vet and investor Ted Leonsis and producer Rick Allen. It is backed by Steve Case, former chairman, CEO and co-founder of AOL, New Enterprise Associates, Terry Semel, Comcast Ventures and others, and his wife, Jean.

“Quite a number of millions of dollars” were put toward the ViewLift undertaking.

“We had very smart people on our board who said three years ago [that] this explosion of devices and platforms will only proliferate,” Allen told AdExchanger. “[Media companies] have to aim for ubiquity even if it’s a significant investment because you wont be able to predict what platform will succeed and you don’t want to make it hard for consumers to find you.”

Amassing An Audience

Consumer interest alone doesn’t mean premium content can survive unbundled, Allen said, drawing on his prior experience as president and CEO of the for-profit arm of the National Geographic Society (one project he spearheaded was the launch of the National Geographic Channel) and senior executive at Discovery Communications.

“If you think about the impact on a cable channel when you’re unbundled, it can be a scary thing for content creators,” he said. “ESPN knew that it could survive an unbundling, but [from my time at NatGeo] I knew any small cable channel was terribly afraid that the move in to a la carte (viewing/pricing) would destroy them.”

From the marketer’s perspective, the unbundling of content represents significant challenges in addressability as well. It’s easy to get caught up in shiny toy syndrome, Allen said, but the most basic question is: Can I aggregate enough of an audience to have the impact I want?

While a consumer may have myriad new choices in which to stream content, “the chance you have as a marketer or advertiser to miss a significant audience or new delivery or distribution channel goes up because you’re making fewer effective bets in fewer places because there’s more consolidation of where the ad dollars are going and because it’s simply easier for the media buyer to manage,” Allen said.

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