We Believe the Future of Interactive Video is Bright

On Tuesday, Jason Thiebault with Streaming Media News posted an interesting editorial piece titled “What Happened to the Future of Interactive, Immersive Video?” Jason asks if the digital video industry has lost its vision for the big, immersive, interactive digital experiences that we once dreamed of, in favor of more advertising platforms.

The author goes on to share that interactive video is still hanging on as there are some great companies still fighting to bring interactive video forward, but ultimately, it’s television that has killed the dream.

While Jason is correct that immersive video experiences haven’t gained the traction (or funding) needed to make the vision a reality, I think there’s more to the story than just pointing the figure at television.  (To be fair, television did play a big role.)

1)  Disruptive vs. Additive Interactive Experiences

There are still many companies striving for great interactive video experiences.  This list from PBS offers a few.  Some are still pushing hot spots, overlays and other options. That’s good technology, but a bad customer experience for both viewers and brands.

Consider the model:  you’re watching a video and an icon appears encouraging you to click. How is that anything but intrusive? Consumers haven't accepted most interactive technologies because they’re not fun.  People don’t want to be forced to lean-in, they want the choice: actively engage or passively watch.

2) Smartphone Growth

Just in case you missed it, mobile video is kind of a big  thing.  The challenge for interactive platforms is translating the experience across all devices.  Content is going mobile; so too are ads. Interaction hasn't followed. Even YouTube is struggling with mobile interactivity.  

Advertisers are still buying pre-roll.  Ad tech firms are now offering auto-play mobile ads.  (Really?!  That's a good idea?)  While mobile video is growing exponentially, the experience is slow to keep up.  Websites aren’t optimized for mobile, ads are cluttering screens, and interactive features (like YouTube's cards and annotations) don’t translate.  How can interactive video gain critical mass when it’s not available on the most important screen?

3) Creative Freedom

There are many, many talented creators producing great video content across all types of platforms. The content is there. The challenge is bridging the gap between creative, production, distribution and marketing. Immersive, interactive, entertaining, revolutionary, profitable storytelling is absolutely possible, but it requires a fresh approach to the business.  It requires planning, communication, vision, and leadership to bring it all together.  The big movie studios and media companies might get it, but my guess is a mid-sized studio with a fresh approach and some investment money will get there first.

4) Out-of-Control Pre-roll

Like most advertising, it was a good idea at the beginning:  show an ad before the content plays while you have the consumers attention. The problem is, pre-roll got out of hand. Money followed to the point where it's (almost) too big to turn off and consumers generally hate it.  Media companies are hesitant to turn off the  because of the dollars it generates, consumers are skipping or blocking ads, everyone is losing. In recent weeks, you’ve started to see articles questioning the long-term viability of pre-roll and video advertising.  As consumers - and sellers - adapt to the new reality of digital advertising (video advertising especially) the balance will shift to interactive video platforms that can offer viewability, engagement, and a good experience.

5)  Exploding Ad-Tech Marketplace

Ad tech revenue is projected to reach $100B by 2020 . In a crowded startup marketplace, ad tech is a relatively safe investment. There's always going to be a market to improve advertising, brands will always spend, good tech will be acquired. So money keeps flowing. It just makes it harder for interactive video platforms (many of which are harder to monetize) to secure funding, which slows growth.  

6) OTT, TV Everywhere, and SVOD

If you don’t think that advertising is coming to Netflix...well, it must be nice to live in your world.  There’s too much money to be made to not open that Pandora’s Box.  Just because they said they won’t do it, doesn’t mean they won’t evolve their thinking.

The point is, right now there’s more money to be made in licensing and distribution then ad sales and brand integrations.  Subscriber growth, distribution contracts, content acquisition...  these are top of mind issues at the core of advancing the business model. Audience engagement is an afterthought. (Unless of course said engagement makes money.)

We don’t believe that the vision of big, immersive, interactive video experiences is dead.  In fact, Multipop is bullish on the market.  We think the market is ripe for someone to come forward and bring an interactive, entertaining solution that works across all devices, adds value to the viewing experience, and supports brand partners.  

We’re going for it.  

Who’s coming with us?