On Friday, 17 October, we’re lucky to have Alec Hendry, director of digital media operations and development for MTV Networks UK & Ireland, join us as a keynote speaker. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Alec a big about some of MTV’s successes—and challenges—in the realm of online and mobile content.
Q: Please explain your role and focus at MTV Networks.
A: As director of digital media operations and development for MTV Networks U.K. and Ireland, I sit within the digital media group, and look across all of the different platforms that consumers interact with us on, including online/websites, mobile services, interactive TV and also broadcast TV where we’re working with SMS and interactive TV technologies.
Q: How does streaming media and online (and/or mobile) video fit into MTV Networks’ focus and emphasis?
A: Our aim is to provide as much content as possible across all of the platforms we’re currently working with. Broadcast television is obviously one of our main outlets, but we’re also across the web and on mobile networks, and all of our research is showing that our core audience (16-24 year olds in U.K./IE) is on all of these different platforms, continuously moving between all of them, and using all of them at the same time. So we try to ensure that we’re everywhere our consumers are-whether on our own property or others’, such as various social networks including Bebo or MySpace, and that our content is available on those sites to drive people back to TV, back to our own website (MTV.co.uk), and back to our mobile services.
Q: How would you characterise or describe the split across all of your platforms mentioned above- websites, mobile services, interactive TV and broadcast TV?
A: I don’t have direct figures as to the split between each of these, but sometimes we have the same audience across all four of these platforms, and on other occasions (or for other events and content), we have different audiences on different platforms.
Certainly at the moment we’re seeing that the web is one of our strongest platforms right along with broadcast television, and that the web is one of the primary digital opportunities for us.
And since we’ve been doing video on mobile handsets for quite a while (at least 3 years now), we’re seeing more and more mobile consumption as handsets improve over time. We first launched mobile video content in the U.K. with 3UK when it launched its first 3G video content. At that time we first started offering MTV video on demand downloads and streaming content, and now we’ve expanded to offering live mobile TV channels on most U.K. operators. We’re seeing that we’re consistently in the top 10 mobile channels, normally coming only second to sports and news, so we’re obviously very pleased about this.
Q: What would you describe as the biggest challenge facing MTV Networks in terms of its online /mobile video initiatives?
A: I would answer that by saying I don’t think we have as challenges as we do opportunities. For example, how do we better engage with the audience wherever they are? Media is a crowded marketplace, but our brand is very strong, our audience knows us well, they trust our content (both on the music and on the entertainment side), so we are able to serve a breadth of content as a trusted editor to bring the best and most relevant content to our audience. We also pride ourselves on the high quality of content available online, including a wide range of content repurposed from our TV channels, but also made-for-mobile content, extra content produced strictly for online series and the like.
Q: What does MTVN see as the future of monetising (or building sustainable future for) online or mobile video?
A: For us, monetisation has always been a mixture of sources. We have some ad-funded content, with pre-roll and post-roll advertising, and then we also have branded sponsorships. We are also able to use online video as a driver to traditional TV broadcasts and advertisers there, so our in-house advertising agency is able to offer complete packages (broadcast television + online/web + mobile) to advertisers as part of their sponsorships, and so our efforts are definitely paying for themselves.
Q: Can you give us an overview of the MTV Overdrive initiative?
A: Our MTV Overdrive product launched in 2006, which was the first time we brought all of our video into an aggregated place that people could come to access. To enable this, we built internal workflows to manage the digital archive and the custom-built content, e.g. our MTV News team has a daily news package which we were able to make available. So again, we have end-to-end workflow processes to produce content cross-platform and then we don’t have to worry about the technicality behind the delivery process [to different platforms]. It’s a managed process end-to-end of a huge archive of online content now.
The MTV Overdrive platform was a great starting point for us to show some of our video content, and as that’s evolved we’re seeing the demand for video (especially in the U.K.) as extraordinarily high and we’re very pleased with the results there. Now we’re in a process where we’re moving some of that video content so that it’s not just in the MTV Overdrive area, but rather phased out so that the video content is wherever it’s relevant, such as MTV News video clips on the MTV News site and so on.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your experiences with streaming the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards?
A: Last year for the first time we were able to stream in high-quality Flash format, and to do this we used one of the very first commercially available hardware products that supported Flash video streaming, the ViewCast Niagara Pro Encoder, provided to us by Garland Partners Limited. As it happens, we met and engaged with Garland Partners Limited as a result of their exhibitor space at Streaming Media Europe 2007. They were previewing the ViewCast hardware, and that’s when we established contact and engaged with them for the MTV Europe Music Awards show to take place a few weeks later.
In any event, the ViewCast Niagara Pro Encoder allowed us to take the broadcast feed from our Camden (London) studios receiving the show feed from Munich and then live stream that in high quality Flash format. At the time, that was really the only commercial product to deliver high quality video/audio over a sustained period of time (such as the 3+ hour long Music Awards show).
Additionally, our team was able to produce inserts to use during the ad breaks, and we were able to send footage back from Munich (such as Wyclef Jean interviewing stars backstage) to drop into the ad breaks.