Will More Eyeballs Make the Difference for Shazam’s Visual Recognition?
Here’s hoping those who follow the online video industry weren’t overwhelmed with excitement over Shazam’s announcement that it added video recognition capabilities to its well-entertained audio service/application. Truly the phrase “nothing new under the sun” applies here.
Companies such as Digimarc long have showcased the capability to tie visual recognition to secondary applications such as shopping or the artists formerly known as “second screen TV.” Hence, a very brief technology explainer is due here to prove there is no voodoo or witchcraft involved in this business. The process includes Shazam or Digimarc or a number of others possessing the ability to recognize images that relate to a set of stored data. Simply put, the technology can only recognize songs, images, or video that has been pre-scanned and entered into a database with a set of tags. Later, when the application spots content that matches the “exemplar” in the database…BINGO, we have a match. Ever wonder why Shazam and other similar apps can’t recognize songs you sing or generally ones by original artists that were performed live? By the way, the same goes (for the most part) for live TV where those captions you see are rarely done in real time (and if they are, there is a high error rate).
So what is Shazam going where others have gone before? Easy answer — unlike its competitors, the company begins with a base of more than 100 million active monthly users who hold up their smartphone in front of a car radio when a new unfamiliar song comes on. The new functionality will work when a user waves his or her phone over any item with the Shazam camera logo on it or a QR Code. At that point, they’ll instantly get taken to custom mobile experiences including interactive content, special offers, and ability to purchase items or share them with others. And you thought QR codes were dead?
Leveraging its large user base, the company was able to bring a slew of partners on board who will use Shazam’s new feature primarily for advertising. Included in its announced list of cohorts are Target, Disney, Harper Collins, Esquire, and some outdoor ad firms who hope to breathe new interactive life into their business.
Why Is Yahoo Streaming a Regular Season NFL Game?
By now, everyone knows Yahoo outbid its competitors for the rights to stream a live October 25 NFL game between the Bills and the Jags from London. Media outlets have confirmed that Yahoo likely paid $20 million for the rights in what is billed as an experiment on how pro football games will play in prime-time throughout non-US markets. Those who claim that the game, with a 9:30 am East Coast start time will appeal to fans in major markets are kidding themselves. I would also contend that on Sundays in late October, most European sports fans care more about soccer/football than how good Blake Bortles will be in his sophomore season.
Which brings up two questions — why did Yahoo want to do this, and why were they willing to do it without charging fans to watch the game? Let’s assume Yahoo sells enough advertising to cover some of its costs but not enough to get full ROI on what it paid for the game rights. The real reason is one most have missed — Yahoo wants to show off its live-streaming muscle to become a leader in that space. If they can pull off a mega-event with viewers coming from around the world, and preserve a quality experience, Yahoo may finally have found the differentiator it has been in search of for the better part of the 21st century.
That differentiator is live events. Some, but not all, in the online video industry know that Yahoo has knocked its daily live-stream concert partnership, a Yahoo executive said 43% of the users to the Live Nation content are new to Yahoo, spending an average of 24 minutes watching the music live. That number is about two times the 11 minutes typically spent watching music programming on other channels. Yahoo also raked in sponsorship dollars from Kellogg, Citi, and Sprint, whose commitments were in $5- to $7-million range. The Yahoo-Live Nation series was renewed for the ‘15-’16 season and new programming with Syco Entertainment’s Simon Cowell and iHeartRadio in the works.
As anyone who has suffered through live buffering can attest, it’s all about the experience. To offer a seamless experience takes money and know-how, and an interview with Yahoo’s live streaming principal, Chris Mangum, reveals the painstaking details his company goes to for a live event. Yes, others, ranging from Periscope to LiveStream offer streaming of live events, but the ability to serve a global audience is a major risk-reward gambit. For Yahoo, a sterling job with a rather meaningless NFL game could catch the attention of those planning for the 2016 elections, the 2018 World Cup, and other top-shelf attention-getters.
Infrastructure — that is the tech it takes to make great things happen — is not sexy, and not the stuff that blows up Twitter, but it pays the bill and makes stock prices rise. Yahoo would be happy with both of those outcomes.
As Predicted, Apple TV Refresh Was a No-Go
Moving on from my criticism last week that the folks from Apple not knowing about the television business (but do care about tangoing their way into the me-too music biz), a looming questions seems to be left hanging in the air. Other that Sling and Sony, are others looking at a live-TV streaming service?
Handicapping the odds, the players appear to be the MVPD, telecom carriers, and forward-thinking, risk-taking tech companies. Of the lot, here are the odds:
Google: Even money. They already have Google Fiber, which means that have some expertise in negotiating programming deals. In place is an advanced ad-tech platform and numerous Android-powered devices. They need to do a better job in original programming (or perhaps start).
Amazon: 3–1: Devices, check. Big pockets, check. Original programming, check. Infrastructure, check. Lots of customers, check. TV experience, no.
Comcast: 5–1. Probably underselling this one, but adding adding a service to appeal to the customer base not willing to fork over monthly coin for cable could be a nice revenue stream.
AT&T or Verizon: 10–1. Many device partners and large footprints are a plus as is relationships with programmers via their IPTV services. Historically, content and connectivity have never worked in unison for carriers.