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Hulu Desktop Impications and Bad News for Boxee

May 31, 2009


Earlier this week, Hulu launched Hulu Desktop, a desktop app that transforms Hulu into a lean-back viewing experience (much like Boxee). When I first heard the news, I was surprised. Hulu had previously blocked Boxee from allowing their content to be used in a lean-back 10 feet experience, and I understood why. Hulu’s content creators (NBC and FOX) didn’t want their online content repurposed to cannibalize their cable business model. Now, one had to wonder why they are creating their own 10 foot experience if the economics on cable is so much better. Why would they accelerate any cannibalization to a lower margin business?

I talked to my friend Bobby at Forrester Research and he reminded me that Hulu is a sampling platform, where only the most recent episodes are able to be accessed. So currently, I can only watch the most recent season (and sometimes only the most recent episodes) of any series before they are taken down from the site. Hence, Hulu’s library is still limited and therefore, I am unlikely to cancel my cable subscription at this time.

Then it dawned on me. This move by Hulu is the first phase of an experiment that could end with Hulu providing paid on-demand access to their content partners’ entire libraries. In the short-term, Hulu Desktop will improve viewer experience by allowing Internet-sourced content on a living room TV. But as people start to cut their cable subscriptions and start replacing cable with Boxee, Hulu Desktop, Apple TV, etc., then Hulu is all of a sudden in the best position to continue to provide premium content and also monetize their partners’ libraries through on-demand services. As long as Hulu provides a cheaper plan than current cable providers do, people may be willing to pay to access Hulu’s “premium” services, essentially making Hulu a new media cable provider without having to go through third party cable companies.

Also, as long as Hulu’s partners don’t allow the Boxees of the world access to their content (and it doesn’t seem like they will anytime soon), then Hulu becomes the prime destination for all ABC, NBC, and FOX shows.

Avner Ronen (CEO of Boxee) wrote on his blog:

“Hulu just launched their own boxee-like application for watching Hulu content. the new downloadable application is built to be used from the couch with a remote. we’re glad to see Hulu had a change of heart about bringing their service to the big screen, and we hope that this means Hulu content is coming back to boxee. we’ve already put in a request to Hulu to work with them on bringing Hulu back to boxee, and we’ll let you know the response..”

Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening. Hulu’s desktop app can replicate Boxee’s strategy and aggregate other Internet content such as YouTube, Blip, etc. Acquiring Internet-created content is not going to be difficult. And since Hulu is the only major player for premium content, viewers are more likely to flock to Hulu. We’ll see how things shake out, but I think this could be a very smart move for Hulu and pretty bad news for Boxee.

TubeMogul 2.0

May 28, 2009

I woke up this morning, logged into my TubeMogul account and discovered that TubeMogul just upgraded their site significantly. TubeMogul was already fantastic for distribution and analytics, and now it’s gotten even better with their 2.0 upgrade release.

One new feature I really like is the audience attention span tracker where you can actually see the points during a video where viewers drop off. This is especially helpful because what constitutes a view can be arbitrary based on the distributor (I believe YouTube requires 3 seconds). Now, you can actually see the retention rate throughout your video and the amount of completed views, which is important for post-roll advertising. Also, from a creator feedback perspective, you can identify what parts of your shows might not be holding your audience’s attention, and conversely, what parts/scenes have the lowest drop-off rate.

Check out their video on some of the upgraded capabilities. And if you haven’t, make sure to use TubeMogul’s service. Their analytics are robust but free to use in most cases if you’re an episodic content creator (nice of them to look out for the little guy). If you’re an ad agency, some of the features require payment.

Survey Results for The Hayley Project

May 13, 2009

hayley800x600 streamys

After a few weeks in field, we closed up  The Hayley Project survey and looked at the results. We had about a 100 respondents, which is large enough to generate insights. This survey really allowed us to take a step back and say, “what was working for the viewers? what wasn’t? and what can we do to improve?”

The results are quite interesting and in some cases, confirm what we had been thinking. In other cases, we were quite surprised by the results.

Makeup of Viewers

The overall respondent population looked like this:

  • 59% Female/41% Male
  • Avg. age 21

Approximately half of the overall group were also LG15 viewers (not surprising considering how often we were compared to the show). This LG15 sub-population skews more female.

  • 67% female vs. 33% male
  • Avg age 20

Overall, I didn’t see a huge difference in survey results from these two populations, although there were some people who had referenced LG15 in comments, and even requested Jessica Rose to be a guest star next season.

What other webseries do our viewers watch?

We know the webseries category has a fragmented audience base, and our survey results support this. As mentioned above, about half of our audience claim to watch LG15. However, the next highest show was Dr. Horrible with only 21% of the audience claiming to have watched this. Dr. Horrible was the  Streamys Audience Choice Winner, was created by TV genius Joss Whedon and stars Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day.

Kate Modern (another EQAL production) and The Guild also scored around 20%. After these titles, none of the other webseries were really being watched by Hayley Project viewers. It really speaks to the niche nature of our audience, but it might also indicate that there is little crossover among audiences in the web video category.


Overall, The Hayley Project received very strong marks across all elements (e.g., story, characters, acting, etc.). The one area that lagged slightly when compared to the other high scores was interactivity, even though interactivity still scored well overall. As one of our viewers mentioned in the comment section, he would have preferred that he could have impacted the plot and seen more video blog responses from Hayley, rather than reactions solely through the comments section. Rachel responds to this in our Q&A, but the gist of our response is that we would love to do this, but there were a lot of challenges with resources and time. This level of interactivity is something we are considering for next season (knock on wood, if there is a Season 2).

Most Important Elements

Below is a chart that shows the top 2 box level of agreement among respondents for each element. What this means is that a respondent had to select a 6 or 7 on a 7-point scale to score an element as ” very important”. The results below confirm that our viewers prefer a “genre” style show. Suspense, mystery, twists, and drama ranked as the most important elements of the show. It’s also nice to see that Comedy came out as fairly important, as we aspire to have a good mix between drama and comedy going forward (dramedy).



Not surprisingly, the top 3 characters (excluding Hayley) that viewers want to see come back for Season 2 is the newly formed “Hayley gang” (Lexi, Slade, and Randy). Lexi leads the pack with a whopping 93% of viewers saying they want to see Lexi return. Lexi was followed by Slade (89%) and then Randy (69%).

From a writer’s perspective, I have to say I’m really happy to see that our arcs for Lexi and Slade worked well. Both characters started off as the “annoying” characters that Hayley had to deal with during her investigation. Fans didn’t like or support them early on in the season. (E.g., “i would kill myself first before i would have that kind of room mate [Lexi]”)

However, by the end of the series, Hayley had embraced them and apparently, so did the fans.

Hayley_Project_ 508

After these top 3, we have Detective Kedis (45%) and then Lili (30%), two big characters in terms of plot. What was really surprising was Madame Zizi, who appeared in only one episode (Episode 29), came in sixth (26%). I have to imagine that her appearance was quite memorable given the circumstances of that episode.

Viewers also wrote in and requested that we  bring in web star Jessica Rose and some more mainstream names in Ashley Tisdale, Miley Cyrus, and Miranda Cosgrove. (Yeah, doubt we’ll be seeing Miley Cyrus on the Hayley Project but keep dreaming!)

Episode Findings

The rankings of episodes is perhaps the most interesting, because it allows us to generate hypotheses around WHY these episodes ranked so highly. It also tells us what episodes we should be showcasing to people who have never seen the show. Although not shown in the chart below, Episode 12 “Dust” has been one of my favorites and one that I had been showcasing. I figured this episode had good production value and a bunch of quirky characters. So I was surprised to see that Episode 12 ranks as a top 7 episode among respondents only 12% of the time. This means it ranked 20 out of 37 episodes. This is also why my market research professor told our class “your gut is usually wrong”. Guess she was right.

So the highlights are:

  • 7 out of the top 10 episodes come in the last 10 episodes of the series, highlighting the fact that 1) we ended very strong and 2) viewers are impacted by either recency of the episodes or the payoff effect (e.g., the culmination of events lead to bigger payoffs towards the end of the season)
  • 7 out of the top 10 episodes have at least two of our non-Hayley stars in them. What I think this could mean (and what I had hypothesized before) is that the ensemble nature of these episodes is really when the series shines. Hayley is certainly a strong leading character, but when you mix in other quirky characters who clash and interact with Hayley, the episodes really get a lot more interesting and entertaining. In fact, Episode 32 and 35 exclude Hayley completely, yet ranks really highly. If we are fortunate to do a second season, it will be more ensemble from the beginning
  • Our viewers like Slade/Lexi combo. 4 out of the top 5 episodes include Slade and Lexi. And Episode 32 (rank 4) is a Slade/Lexi episode which doesn’t even have Hayley in it
  • One thing to note is that a lot of these episodes are also benefiting from the build-up of previous episodes. So it’s possible that some of these episodes are great from a serial payoff perspective, but not necessarily as stand-alone

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In terms of advertising, 47% of responders said they wouldn’t be impacted at all by advertising (e.g., pre-rolls, post-rolls, overlays)  vs. 66% saying they wouldn’t be affected by product integration. Similarly, 45% of responders said they would continue to watch The Hayley Project if we turned on advertising but might be annoyed, while only 28% of respondents said they would be annoyed by product integration.

If done right, it seems like product integration is the better option for viewer experience.

So that’s a look into our fan survey results. Going forward, we’ll keep what we learned in mind. In the meantime, enjoy the Q&A from Rachel below. And a special thanks to Kodak and Jeff Hayzlett for giving our team two Zi6 pocket cameras at the Streamys (even though we didn’t win). Our team had fun playing with this gadget in L.A., and the quality was MUCH higher than I had expected. In fact, our fan Q&A was all taped using the Zi6.

Bearish Signs?

May 7, 2009

A couple of bearish news stories in the web TV world.

First, the Hollywood Reporter reports that 60Frames has stopped operations due to lack of funding. And today, MetaCafe decides to stop their Producer Rewards program.

As much as I think the web TV world is a wonderful place that democratizes the creative process, I also recognize that the advertising business models in this category don’t support most productions. We’re coming off a “bubble” (2006-ish) where people used to think online video was going to be a viable way to make money. Now, it’s the opposite. With the economy in bad shape, marketers reducing their advertising budgets, and depressed CPMs, it’ll be interesting to see which video start-ups survive 2009.

WebSeries Twibe

May 3, 2009

For those of you on twitter, check out the WebSeries twibe. I just joined (I’m @AYPark). Another social media avenue to network and connect with like-minded folks. Thanks to Brent Friedman (@BFree63) for tweeting this over.

For the creators, participators and lovers of Web TV, webisodes, web series, whatever you want to title the new media movement.

The Onfronts Launch

April 19, 2009


Earlier this week, Tilzy.TV announced the launch of The Onfronts – their own marketplace that connects content owners and advertisers.

Upon first glance, I thought this was an ongoing service that was going to compete directly with PlaceVine. But the difference is the Onfronts is a live NY-based event, where content producers and advertisers come together in person, while PlaceVine is an ongoing online service that advertisers/brands, agencies, and content producers sign up for (i.e., the eHarmony for advertisers and content producers).

The OnFronts sounds like a great idea. It certainly continues the momentum of the Streamys. I do wonder what the long-term play here is, however. Whether this is an event that might have different business model implications in the future, or whether this is just meant to be another stake into the legitimization of the category. Either way, it sounds like a move in the right direction. If the Onfronts is meant to be an event-based concept, I wonder whether Tilzy would consider partnering with PlaceVine. It seems like an appropriate match, assuming no direct competition between the two.

What now? (and business development thoughts)

April 17, 2009

Now that Season 1 has ended, the big question is “what now”? Here’s a quick summary of what we’re trying to accomplish in the next few months.

Basically, there’s momentum for us to do Season 2 (especially coming off our season finale and the Streamy Awards). This is our goal, and we’d like to shoot during the summer. However (and this is a big HOWEVER), it is important for us to secure financing. Season 1 was a fun, but an incredibly difficult challenge. In many cases, we got really lucky with scoring great locations, having a tremendous cast and crew who basically worked for free, and the fortune of schedules aligning for us to pull it off. I’m amazed that we actually managed to do 37 episodes. That said, Season 2 is contingent on having money to pay the people who deserve it, and make sure that we’re not forced to bootstrap our way through production like we did previously. I’m confident when I say, we cannot accomplish the same level of quality of Season 1 without financing the second time around. So, with that all said, here’s what we’re doing:

  • We sent out a survey to our viewers to get a pulse on how they felt about Season 1 and any feedback they may have for us in Season 2
  • I met with Greg Neichen of Placevine the other day and we had a great chat around his company’s capabilities. Placevine brings marketers and content producers together, and it’s exactly the type of service we’re looking for. (FYI, I had been planning on writing something up on this company for a while now….)
  • We have a warm lead with a potential product sponsor and we’re in talks with their agency on a product integration deal (note: I’m not going to name specifics, as I think that’s tacky when trying to build a relationship).
  • I recently had lunch with Paul from For Your Imagination, and he gave me the low down on branded entertainment economics. I came out of that meeting feeling like I had a whole new understanding of how to pitch the series from a product integration view. Paul is the man. I hope to work with those guys in the future.
  • Not exactly business development-related for Season 2, but we’re going to distribute entire Season 1 through Blip.TV, which I’ve always been a fan of. It sounds like we might be distributed through the Sony Bravia too, which is pretty cool

So that’s a quick update. I’ll be back as we figure out new ways to approach the financing angle. But the plan of attack right now is to line up a product sponsor. The particular product we’re going after now aligns really well with our Season 2 storyline so I’m optimistic. The real catch is how to guarantee viewership to the advertiser, which is a completely different topic (and hence, will be written about later).

Measuring Results and Getting Feedback

April 5, 2009


As a filmmaker working in an interactive medium like web television, it’s important to leverage and solicit feedback whenever possible. Sure you might be able to measure viewership, ratings, comments, etc during the season, but there is still A LOT that you don’t know. One of the first things my marketing professor said on Day 1 of business school was “You aren’t your consumer and no matter what you think, you don’t think like they do”.  All the biases in your head can cloud your judgment. With that in mind, we just released the first ever Hayley Project survey!

The objectives of this survey is for us to gauge how well we did across a bunch of different metrics (e.g., editing, acting, storyline, interactivity, etc.) and also learn what elements our most highly-engaged viewers are looking for from our series. Are they looking for more comedy, suspense, drama? All these questions are hard to answer unless you go right up and ask them (which is why we’re doing this).

One of the things I’m most curious about is, what other shows are our viewers watching? I can tell you (as I have many times) that our main target demos skew young, 13-24 and female. However, what YouTube metrics do not provide is what the target audience’s attitudes and pyschographics are. To understand that, we asked questions around what other TV shows and Web series they watch. Hopefully, this will allow us to draw insight into the type and tone of the shows that appeal to them. We had always hypothesized that our viewers might be heavy viewers of Veronica Mars, or LG15, but now we’ll have data to support this. (Note: As of the time of this writing, HEROES is actually the highest-watched TV show among our viewers, which is surprising to me. Guess it proves the point that you can’t assume anything about your audience).

Once the survey is closed, I’ll disclose some of the results. What I’ve seen so far is already surprising to me, so I’m glad we’re gaining some new insights. Of course I won’t reveal how we’re going to use these results. For example, one of our questions asks who the audience wants to see come back in Season 2. This information can be used for “good” or it can be used for “evil”. Successful writers take audience expectations and leverage that to create emotional responses in dramatic situations. In other words, it might just tell us who is a good candidate to kill off 😉 j/k… maybe.

One tip about fielding surveys…. make sure you give the respondents some sort of incentive. In this case, we allow responders to ask Rachel a question at the end of the survey that she’ll answer in a few weeks in a video blog. So far, it looks like this has been a success as our response rates seem fairly high (~15% based on YT views and survey responses).

THP featured on Zune’s front page

April 4, 2009

The guys at KoldCast.TV have been great at promoting The Hayley Project. They managed to get THP featured on Zune’s homepage. That’s the sort of placement THP never had throughout its run. This is in addition to the distribution through TiVo and iTunes that KoldCast set up for us. Needless to say, they’ve been a great partner. I had a chance to meet David and Brian Samuels when I was in L.A. Those guys are working non-stop, and I look forward to “big news” that should be coming out shortly.

Now that the season 1 is finished, we’re going to start syndicating the show across more platforms and try to build a broader audience base. Part of the difficulty in doing this in-season is that we had to put a lot of resources and time to interact with the community on YouTube. Now that the series is over, I hope to make THP available across more sites.


The Hayley Project at Streamy Awards

March 30, 2009


The 1st Annual Streamy Awards was held this past Saturday at the Wadsworth Theater in LA. It was a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. The Streamys is really a celebration of web television in 2008, and coincidentally provided the perfect cap to our Season 1 run of The Hayley Project (last episode came out Thursday).

In the end, we didn’t win in our two nominated categories as Rosario Dawson beat Rachel Risen for best dramatic actress, and Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog deservedly beat out The Hayley Project and 8 other great series for Audience Choice Award.

We, of course, never expected to win. For us, having a chance to meet and celebrate web video with like-minded people was the purpose of our trip to LA. I should note that it’s a shame that Jato Smith (co-creator) was unable to attend, since he was shooting a documentary in Ethiopia. Paolo (producer) was also unable to attend.

The entire results of the Award Show can be found on Tubefilter, Tilzy TV, and NewTeeVee. Dr. Horrible and The Guild were the 2 big winners of the night. Both Joss Whedon and Felicia Day had inspiring speeches that summed up the spirit of the ceremony (see NewTeeVee’s post). Battlestar Gallactica (BSG) was also a big winner.

As an aside, I haven’t seen the web series version of the BSG, but I’m not sure if it really fits in with the spirit of the awards like the other nominees. That said, everything at this point helps legitimize the medium. I just hope that we don’t have a trend of BSG, Lost, Chuck, The Office, etc starting to play in the “best” web series categories in the future.

Below is a run down of the THP gang’s experience at the awards. I suppose the right way to have done this was to blog or tweet throughout the trip, but I’m too lazy to do that. You can also find more pictures on our facebook fan page and the other publications’ websites.


Before the show, Phil, Rachel, and her friend Melissa (an actress who was on 30 Rock recently) came by Hotel Palomar for some pre-Streamy drinks. We wanted to take a moment to celebrate our series by ourselves before we hit the red carpet. Kasia, our music composer, was running late, so we were going to meet her at the Wadsworth (note: I had never actually met Kasia in person until tonight as Jato worked with her more on a daily basis).

Phil stopped by first, and it had been over a year since I last saw him. He’s been staying quite busy. He has a role in the new Adam Sandler movie Funny People, which comes out during the summer (got to plug him).


Anyway, Phil is a crazy character and having him come with us definitely livened the atmosphere wherever we went. The kid was born for the red carpet. While we waited for Rachel and Melissa, we met Darren Elwood of Jenn 2.0, who was also in town for the Streamys. I’ve only seen a bit of this series, but it seems relevant and quite clever. It’s worth checking out.

After Rachel and Melissa arrived, we had another drink, celebrated THP, and then got in our rental car (Prius – hybrid, baby) to head over.


When we got to the Wadsworth, we were surprised to see how much media there was (Big kudos to the organizers for a great job in promoting and marketing the event). To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether traditional TV and Film stars would come to a new media focused event like this, but sure enough, Joss Whedon, Neal Patrick Harris, Rosario Dawson, and Lisa Kudrow were among a few of many that attended.

The first thing we did was shoot a quick promo video with Rachel and Phil (always running ‘n gunning!). We wanted them to thank the fans with the Streamys in the background, and also wanted them to promote a short survey and Q&A session we want to conduct with Rachel in a few weeks. The survey gives us feedback for Season 2 (assuming financing comes through) and the Q&A gives the fans a chance to interact with Rachel.

Once that business was done, we made our way to the red carpet, which was an absolute zoo. We had to fight our way through the pack. During the chaos, we did get to meet some of the other stars in attendance (Felicia Day, Jessica Rose, Rosario Dawson, Amber Lee Ettinger aka Obama Girl).


Upon reflection, I probably came off as a “fan boy” when I met Felicia and Jessica. Both have done so much for the web space that it was really cool to meet them in person. They were both really great and had some nice things to say about The Hayley Project.

We had Rachel take the lead through the crowd, as she was a nominee (and more recognizable than any of us). We wanted to get her as much exposure as possible. Phil (did I already mention he was born for the Red Carpet?) also stayed by her side. The two of them did pretty well getting interviews, including Access Hollywood. Dave and I supported where we needed to, but the red carpet was really Rachel’s show.


Once we finally got inside the theater, the place was pretty packed. Rachel had assigned seating, and the rest of the tickets were general admission. Yes, this was a big sign that we weren’t going to win Audience Choice, as the only seats we could find four together were actually up in the balcony area. The awards ceremony itself was entertaining and thankfully, not too long. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Horrible and The Guild were the big winners (and rightfully so). I’m especially happy for Felicia who built her success through her hard work and perseverance.

After the ceremony, the THP gang headed to In-and-Out burger for a post-loss, pre-after-party meal. It was actually funny for us to walk into In-and-Out in our formal dress attire. For some reason, it felt like prom (although I swear I never took my date to a fast food joint). By the way, am I the only one that thinks In-and-Out is over-rated? I mean, it’s better than McDonald’s but I don’t get why people love it so much.

dsc_3190(note: not sure where Phil got the idea about the comb…..)

Anyway, after dinner, Kasia had to bail because she had a migraine. Since we stopped off for dinner, we got to the after-party later than everybody else. But I heard that this was a good thing as people complained that the valet line was ridiculous early on.

The After-Party was a lot of fun. I had a chance to meet a bunch of filmmakers/actors from the Crew, Break A Leg, The Guild, and a couple of the Streamy co-founders from Tubefilter and Tilzy I hadn’t met before. It was really fun hearing what everybody was working on and getting to meet these people in person.

We also met a former-paparazzi who helped Dave fix his camera on-the-fly when it stopped working. That was actually a little bit surreal. I mean, Dave’s camera breaks but a paparazzi guy is standing next to him to fix it? Only in LA. (Unfortunately, I don’t have the details on who this guy used to photo hunt).

The party closed down at 2AM (I didn’t realize that everything shuts down at 2 in LA). Anyway, this was perhaps when the most surreal moment of the evening occurred. Phil, in an intoxicated state, made a confident claim that the valet working at our hotel was an adult film star. He swears that “his roommate who edits porn” worked on one of her films. Right, Phil. That’s how you recognize her.

Frankly, Dave and I wasn’t sure whether to believe him but the next morning, Phil calls excitedly and gives us the name “Aria”. You make the call:


The next morning, we spent time recovering by adding friends to facebook and uploading some pics. Yeah, pretty geeky, we know.
Overall, the trip was a blast. Neither Dave nor I work in the web TV space fulltime. We make movies for fun, and we both have demanding day jobs. But for this one weekend, we got to fully embrace the producer roles and celebrate our team’s accomplishments over the last two years. THP cost us about $200-250 per episode and we’re incredibly proud with how far we stretched the dollar. I really wished Jato and Paolo could have joined in on the fun, as well as more of our cast members. But it’s hard to coordinate trips out to the west coast. Hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll be back another year.