Is This the End of the Smart TV? Vidora Puts the Smart in Your Mobile Device

Two weeks ago Vidora launched as “a next generation premium video aggregation platform for mobile and tablet devices”. I recently talked to Alex Holub, co-founder of Vidora, about the platform and his perspective on the TV industry.

Vidora

From Ooyala to Vidora

The Vidora team includes former Ooyala employees and has a strong focus on technology, big data and analytics to create a recommendation engine for premium content and provide publishers a channel to get their content to relevant viewers. While working at Ooyala Holub saw three important trends within the web TV and online video field that inspired the team to build the Vidora platform:

  1. There is a strong growth in online video views from mobile devices. Ooyala recently reported that mobile and tablet video now account for more than 10 percent of all online video plays. The share of tablet and mobile video grew 19 percent in Q1 2013, after doubling in 2012.
  2. Increased connectivity within the living room between mobile devices and the big screen. With technologies like Apple’s Airplay, Miracast and DLNA connectivity it becomes easier to interact with you TV directly from your mobile or tablet.
  3. Smart phone and tablets are increasingly used as second screens to find content and interact with TV. However, many applications lack the seamless experience by allowing you to control the TV or set-top box directly from the app.

Vidora launched two weeks ago after a short beta testing period. The company is founded in March 2012 in San Francisco and has received investments from Interwest Partners and Core Ventures group.

A platform for viewers and publishers

Ooyala’s core business is focused on the effective delivery of video content for publishers, and provide insights about the use and reach of the video. Holub explains the team started Vidora to help publishers to get discovered by a relevant audience and provide them with deeper analytics by combining big data on video interactions such as plays, search, likes, shares, and the metadata of the content. The product is focuses on both the viewer and publisher. The application provides the user with a recommendation engine for premium content while publishers are able to showcase their content and create a branded channel.

Vidora is able to directly connect to most popular OVP’s to show the latest videos for  a publisher or even stream live content. Users can authenticate for subscription services from within the app which makes Vidora similar to the Roku box, explains Holub, except the need for an extra box next to your TV. Vidora wants to work closely with publishers and allow them to create branded channels and support them to reach a relevant audience and support them to monetize their content. Users and content can be segmented to optimize the use of advertising, subscription or pay-per-view monetization options. By creating ‘video profiles’ of users, Vidora can deliver deeper analytics than most of other platforms.

Metadata: understanding video content

Analyzing and understanding big data is a key differentiator for the company explains Holub. The recommendation and segmentation engine is the core technology of the platform. The company created technology to really understand what’s happening in the video by combining video semantics, the exciting metadata of premium content, and video insights, information that is extracted from the video itself. Holub notes that the difference in metadata formats for the different video sources makes it difficult to standardize and make sense of the different video’s. And while there are rich datasets with metadata for premium content such as series and movies, web video has less detailed information. By making sense of content within the video the company is able to deliver recommendations that goes beyond the viewing history, social graph or genres and includes all the content from the available channels within the platform. The recommendation engine is powered by combining standardized metadata with user profiles resulting in more relevant recommendations and deeper insights in the ‘video persona’s’ of the viewers.

Results from the first two weeks

Holub said the company received a lot of interest after the initial launch and saw ‘good usage numbers’. He discussed some of the first findings based on app usage statistics. In a recent blog post the company writes that based on initial search and viewing behavior user interest and usage is very similar to TV viewing with a combination of series and movies. The most popular genres are comedy (30%), sci-fi (29%), ‘other’ (26%), and drama (25%) and the app usage peaked during prime time.

Vidora - usage hours

Vidora usage peaks are around prime time, similar to regular TV viewing.

Live is critical!

An important feature that will increase the adoption of any seconds screen application is the ability to control your TV or set-top box from within the app. I asked Holub about his view on the seconds screen and if a third party like Vidora will be able to become the default app without live TV integration. Holub agreed that ‘Live is critical’ and announced the company ‘is working on it’. In the coming weeks we can expect an announcement how Vidora wants to integrate live TV. I expect it to be the integration of functionality to control the set top box from within the app similar to Zeebox and the XFINITY set top boxes from Comcast.

The end of the Smart TV?

“Internet TV will replace linear TV” and “TV as we know it is coming to an end” wrote the CEO of the company that is responsible for one third of the Internet traffic in the US. In a recent article in the Washington post Reed Hasting, CEO of Netflix, was quoted:

“Billions of people around the world will abandon remote controls and begin tapping video apps across an array of devices […]. They will choose what to watch like they order food off an a-la-carte menu rather than be force-fed hundreds of channels. Instead of CBS, NBC and ABC, a new set of names will dominate, he said.”

Holub has a similar vision and sees apps on your tablet or smart phone as the next remote. However, ‘the app ecosystem doesn’t work for small publishers if you don’t have a brand’. Vidora wants to help small publishers by allowing them to create their own branded channel with monetization options and statistics.

IP based delivery of content is the future of TV and a companion device helps you to discover and watch content but also get it on your TV. ‘Your tablet or smart phone is a really personal device and is easy to use’, it makes sense to discover new content and view your guide from you phone or tablet and ‘beam’ the content to your TV explains Holub. The ‘smart’ will be in your companion device without the need for a separate box or a Smart TV, and this smart is called Vidora. For now the company is focusing on growing the number of publishers to integrate in the platform. In the future the company wants to release an Android app using the Miracast standard and integrate live TV channels and your set-top box. The app launched two weeks ago and is certainly missing some functionality, however, the company has proved with Ooyala it can create a popular platform, just don’t sell your Smart TV just yet.

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