1Cast Seeks to Re-Cast News Video Experience

by Ken Doctor, Affiliate Analyst - San Jose, California

An emerging company finds a mobile video audience and a new power of aggregation.

Important Details: The post-election Iran discord is the biggest global story of the week - and one of the most visual. So if you want to get a visual sense of what's going there, where might you go? You could check in on Reuters, AP, BBC or WSJ, and get those sites' video.

Or, now, you can go to 1Cast, on the web or on a smartphone, and get news video of the Iran Protests from any of the above suppliers and the CBC, AFP, CNBC, and Bloomberg, as well as the other Dow Jones brands of Barrons, Marketwatch and AllThingsD - all on one screen.

1Cast is a three-year-old, 10-employee Seattle start-up, and it has managed to do what others haven't: create an easy-to-use news video portal, online and now on the phone.

"It was born out of frustration," says President Anthony Bontrager, an IPTV telco veteran. "How can we get the information we want? We saw news to be an underserved market."

Funded by enterpreneur Craig McCaw, 1Cast had been building out infrastructure in stealth mode since 2006. It first made its service available on the web and mobile in November; it will formally come out of beta in August.

The interface is simple, giving viewers a choice of top news or channels (sports, first, with others to follow) or of picking news video by network. In addition, customers can "make their own casts," customizing viewing choices, and or create "favorites."

1Cast is filling a big market hole: offering consumers a portal to news video. In addition to current suppliers, it will be announcing both more national/global suppliers and chains of local broadcast suppliers in the next several months.

Bontrager told Outsell the company sees its opportunity as a three-screen playing field - web, mobile and TV/livingroom. The livingroom/TV monitor access is coming as Cisco, Intel, Apple and other heavyweights try to piece together the experience and make it as simple as desktop or mobile access. That could come as early as 2010 or 2011.

In the meantime, Bontrager says he is amazed at mobile usage. The company had expected that the iPhone would be a good addition to desktop/laptop access. Instead, its popular iPhone and Google Android (look for a Blackberry one, as well) apps now drive 60% of its unique visitors, with the web supplying 40%.

1Cast is selling mobile ads at about $15 CPMs in direct sales, or about half that number through networks. Its charter advertiser is Infiniti. On Wednesday, the company announced the appointment of its first vp for global ad sales, Jack Hallahan, who had most recently served as vp/ advertising and business development for MobiTV.

Implications: Outsell believes that 1Cast's simple product stands out in the marketplace. News video is still hot. Though its ad rates have dropped, with the recession, they still exceed text-adjacent rates. News video is increasingly popular with news consumers, as broadband connections make it a snap. Recent reports have shown as much as one-quarter of news video viewing is happening on smartphones; data that 1Cast's short-term experience seems to bear out. Mobile news video is the ultimate three-minute time-killer/updater; when offered it, people are taking quickly to a "need" they never would have expressed in a survey.

It's noteworthy that 1Cast is focusing first on broadcast sites for local news video. Though local newspaper-owned sites have made some new forays into producing news video, their progress has been haphazard. For the most part, they are still trapped in text. So once a 1Cast came along as a new access point, newspaper companies find themselves behind broadcasters in a key consumer area: emerging mobile news video. There are some basic principles to be grasped about effective news video production for print-based companies, as we've noted before (see Insights, NYTimes.com Extends the Platform: News Video and Blogging Lessons, May 1, 2009).

Finally, we're struck by 1Cast's view of the market as "underserved." Most people in the news industry talk of commoditization and glut, yet, here a new company saw potential that others missed - and is capitalizing on it. It's a good lesson: in seeing the glut of trees before us, sometimes we miss the forest.

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