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Day three in the Big Brother hous...I mean CES: WWE going way way over the top, Vevo Las Vegas

by User Not Found | Jan 09, 2014

Day three saw unchanged weather and dire traffic as the show headed past half time and the key messages started to be digested by attendees. Clearly the headline buzz bullet points are:

- 4K, some panels boast 4k resolution in order to use it as a marketing message. Silicon, upscaling quality, framerates and a host of other key factors impacting IQ range from bad to non-existant from these (generally) lower tier, less recognisable manufacturers. 4K content is another discussion entirely. In summary, wake me up when Sky Sports 4K launches.

- wearables, thaazands of'em (apologies to Michael Caine). If it has a chip, make sure you add a strap or some way of sticking it on a person. My colleagues in WMS have made some headway in divinating the key points on the app side of the wearables equation. The quantified self and wellness are another two big themes of this show which rely partly on the wearables story.


1. WWE are Family

WWE, the organisation behind the hugely popular wrestling entertainment franchise, announced an OTT subscription service to enable the audience to access live and on-demand wrestling. Monthly cost is $9.99. US launch is late February 2014 with UK, Australia, Germany, SIngapore and the Nordics to follow by the end of 2015. Device coverage includes desktop, iOS, Android, ps, Kindle, roku, Xbox, major IETV brands.

The content included comprises all twelve live PPV wrestling events annually including Wrestlemania. Other content includes a daily live studio show and a reality show based on retired wrestling legends sharing a house together and the hilarious japes which result. Live programming is augmented by an on-demand library making over 1000 hours of wrestling content available to subs.


Let's get ready to rumble

- WWE has a proven track record in pioneering distribution strategies which have subsequently become the industry standard for sports entertainment and conducts much research into the huge audience which will pay to get ringside. Of 116m TV homes in US over half have a self-confessed WWE (not wrestling, WWE, an important distinction) fan. This fan base loves online video and is twice as likely purchase online viewing than the average American. Device ownership and usage metrics also track well above average and their love of WWE is beyond question.

- WWE already performs well via the OTT channel: a subscription based product is a natural evolution of a maturing strategy. Other US sports rights owners have already leveraged the OTT channel effectively and WWE will hope to replicate if not surpass the success achieved by the NBA, NFL and particularly MLB.

- WWE Network at $9.99 a month substantially undercuts the cost of accessing WWE PPV broadcasts via TV which costs around $675. These aren't directly substitutable products: the main screen experience is still differentiated from the more intimate connectable device based viewing experience: try convincing ten of your college buddies to come round and watch the wrasslin on a tablet with beers and nachos. However the price difference is substantial and will cut into PPV revenues which won't be the best news service providers will get this week. WWE is disintermediating TV distributors by using the Public Internet to reach the audience directly: straight out of the Digital Media Analyst's playbook. Naturally OTT sub revenues don't have to be shared with anyone and presumably enjoy much higher margins than PPV revenues. Also WWE gets to cultivate a deeper relationship with the fan base. Deeper awareness and knowledge of what makes their audience tick will be gleaned from online viewing habits and will enable WWE to sell advertising at higher rates as well as inform future programming development.


Stone Cold Steve Austin

- The headline risk is in whether WWE shrinks the dollar volume dropping to the bottom line by enabling die hard wrestling fans to access PPV content at a 70 per cent discount to TV. Some of this is mitigated by imposing a 6 month minimum subscription period on the OTT product and some more is mitigated by the fact that the experiences are not directly substitutable. It is conceivable that a hardcore fan will subscribe to this AND purchase some of the PPV shows when they want the big screen experience. Additionally this is a long term play for WWE: while unlikely I suspect Vince McMahon would be willing to take a gentle bodyslam in the first year in return for the chokehold of higher margin revenues over the long term.


2. For what we are about to re-Vevo

In the round of Analyst briefings and meetings it is easy to become slightly jaded at the longer term attitudes of some senior execs for whom everything seems focussed on market share, exits, bottom lines, audience metrics and whatever else makes the compensation committee reach for a bigger chequebook. So a chat with Rio Caraeff who founded online music video service Vevo was a reminder that there are still some firms chasing the end of a visionary's rainbow.


Take me down to the Paradise City

- Online music video is a serious business: SA consumer research shows that it is the number one online method for teenagers to access music. It doesn't matter that there is a video playing: the major online video platforms allow the audience to treat them as they would an audio streaming service with playlists, discovery and recommendation tools which would be familiar to any Spotify jockey.

- Service is also free and ad-supported. Vevo has become a kitemark for quality music video online. Before Vevo searching for a popular music video on Youtube would yield thousands of low quality versions. Now Vevo is the key Youtube MCN with dozens of artist channels which usher the audience to the high quality official version. You can still stick a Daft Punk soundtrack on your boring holiday video featuring your insufferable offspring, just don't expect it to nix the Britney Spears cover version in the Youtube search rankings.

- territorial coverage is good and improving: we expect territorial rollout to continue through 2014 to increase markets from 13 to around 20 by year end. Device coverage is already tier one as demonstrated in our Digital Media Distribution Tracker. The commercial model will continue to evolve with some innovative release strategies promised for 2014 which will drive premium CPM rates higher still.

- the macro story is excellent: our OTT and digital advertising forecasts show that Vevo is riding the crest of two substantial growth waves with plenty of runway left for growth: OTT consumption and online video ad spend.


Like a wrecking ball

- working with music rights brings to mind the dentistry lesson from Marathon Man. The main constraint on Vevo's global rollout is negotiating publishing rights in each additional market.

- emerging markets retain the anarchic nature of low quality music videos attracting low to zero dollar CPMs and brands who continue to place a very low value on the online music audience, Vevo still has a substantial evangelical job to do in many parts of the World.


The tale of how Vevo reclaimed the music video experience online, cleaned it up, gave it a stiff polish and as a result substantially improved the value proposition to advertisers is likely to be taught in business schools a few years from now (don't hold that against them). We'll take a closer look at Vevo and online music video in general in the near future as this is a form of music distribution which doesn't get the attention it deserves.

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