Keeping yourself updated on free-to-watch videos on the internet is quite different. You have to subscribe to different channels on different platforms, making it difficult to keep up with the latest videos.
There’s a company just trying to solve that problem. Meet Frequency. Frequency aggregates all free-to-watch internet video, regardless of its source, and delivers it to consumers in one application, that’s available for and widely distributed on every device. The videos are nicely categorized into business, education, celebrity, comedy, and so on. Just like on YouTube, you can even subscribe to these channels.
But the USP of the service is, that it’s available on various platforms, bringing all the free-to-watch videos to all the gadgets that you access video from. The app is currently available on iPhone, iPad, TV (Samsung, Sony, Hisense, TCL), Google TV, PC, and it recently partnered with Amazon to launch its platform on the newly launched Amazon Fire TV. Frequency CEO, Blair Harrison, also informs us that Frequency for Android phone and tablet will be launched soon.
So really how big is the free-to-watch video market?
In February 2014, comScore reported that 23.7% of the total free-to-watch video minutes consumed in the US were on YouTube. YouTube represents less than 1/4 of all ad supported video watched online (not even including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, etc.. etc.). Frequency aggregates all the free-to-watch online video, over 3/4 of which is not watched on YouTube, making it a big enough marketplace for such videos.
Harrison tells us that Frequency already has around 4 million monthly active users. However, he’s shy to disclose the number of hours videos are being watched on its platform daily.
Its Smart TV and connected TV apps are now pre-installed on TVs from Samsung, Sony, Hisense and TCL in over 90 countries. Harrison is quick to point out that “the usage is predominantly English-language, but you’re going to see foreign language versions from us soon.”
When it comes to videos, Harrison says, “there’s a general trend is ever-greater fragmentation. Fragmentation of devices, of the operating systems that run on them, of apps, inconsistent availability of content (some apps on iOS, not on Android, some on the web but not on TVs, etc.).
Just look at the (Smart) TV landscape… it’s all over the place. And nothing has emerged to normalize the environment for developers like us. The good news is that this makes the value of Frequency’s solution even greater for consumers, for internet video publishers, as well as for device manufacturers and service operators,. The bad news is that the lack of standards creates a very inefficient environment… no good tools, no easy efficiencies of development (code reuse, etc.), and consequently the apps aren’t there, so the usage isn’t there, so the money’s not there. And this cycle feeds on itself.”
Harrison thinks that for the longest time the innovation went out of internet video software development. There were a few reasons for this, but on obvious one is that ten years ago YouTube caught the rabbit, and everyone else sort of gave up, and gave up for quite some time. There was very little innovation in internet video consumer product development during this period.
But what is holding back innovation in video industry?
Being in the industry for more than four years now, Harrison feels that there’s this feeling of “inevitability” about what’s happening. Everybody knows these changes are coming, so people don’t feel as compelled to drive them and be out in front of them. There’s also the fact that, at least in the US, the TV viewing experience is almost completely controlled by the TV operators, and they’re not going to be pushed around. If you want to get to the TV viewer, you’ve got to go through them. And that means waiting until they’re ready.
“If you contrast this with the mainstream emergence of the web itself almost 20 years ago, there was nothing inevitable about the web at all. It was pure invention and innovation, we were making it up as we went along. We had open standards, and we had no gatekeepers. Which is why innovation happened at such an incredible rate.”
With incredible innovation in the Internet video services and products, it’s not hard to believe we are at all time high. Consumer electronics companies, TV operators, and mobile device makers have some of the smartest devices in development. Harrison really believes that it will take only about 2-3 years to get there. “Consumers are going to insist on having a very small number of services that bring them the video that’s part of their daily lives, whether that’s news or music or entertainment or anything else.”
Of course, Frequency is waiting for that moment and driving its entire resources on the same. This is why it partnered with Amazon to launch its service on Amazon Fire TV. The company believes that Amazon is a great partner and a great distribution. But most importantly, partnering with Amazon is another step for the company delivering on their promise to consumers - Frequency consumers can stay connected to all the free-to-watch video they care about, on every device they own.
Which is quite an ambitious promise, considering that the gadget landscape is every changing. Couple of quarters ago, tablets were deemed as a content consuming device. It’s not the case anymore, not only is the demand for tablets decreasing, it’s not the dominant device for viewing videos either. Frequency’s iPhone app is the most frequently used app per month (most sessions per active user), however, the sessions are shorter than for TV. Harrison thinks that it’s fine as they come back very often.
When asked what’s in future for the video consumption industry, Harrison points out that everyone in the industry intuitively know a few things:
- Time spent watching video on TV is still significantly greater than watching on other devices, and it’s relatively untapped for internet-connected / -delivered video
- Monetization of internet video is still relatively immature, with lots of room to grow
- Mobile video consumption will keep growing, hugely
- Mobile devices will control everything, especially the TV
While there’s surely a demand for video consumption, and it’s increasingly growing, it begs the question why would content producers keep producing content if there’s no return. YouTube managed to solve this problem by allowing users to monetize them, however, the payouts are not that enticing. We’ve seen YouTube partners complaining about their no-so great monetizing strategy. According to The New York Times:
TubeMogul, a video ad buying platform, estimates that PSY and his agent YG Entertainment have raked in about $870,000 as their share of the revenue from ads that appear with YouTube videos. The Google Inc.-owned video service keeps approximately half.
Frequency too has its own monetization feature for its content producers. For publishers, it recently launched Frequency Sync, a service that lets video owners publish, manage and monetize their video across all Frequency’s apps. Frequency refused to disclose the percentage share it takes from content creators for providing such service. In a way, Frequency is trying to enter YouTube’s territory by offering publishers features like hosting, managing, and monetizing the video. Will it be as popular as YouTube?