AOL just keeps giving this week! Earlier today, the mass media company signed a video distribution deal with Microsoft. Beginning this summer, content from AOL brands like HuffPost Live, TechCrunch and Moviefone, as well as partner sites including ESPN, TMZ, Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart will be available on MSN and Bing Apps for Windows and Windows Phone helping both companies catch up to the top video content property by unique viewers, Google’s YouTube.com.
Through today’s new partnership, relevant videos from AOL’s library of nearly 900,000 will be distributed on Microsoft video platforms, including MSN, with an audience of 437 million unique visitors worldwide each month, as well as Bing Apps for Windows and Windows Phone. The AOL video library will include content from all 15 AOL On channels and its 2014 slate of original series that will be unveiled next week at the Digital Content NewFronts. This content will enhance the user experience across Microsoft’s family of devices and services, and delivers consumers some of the best content to the screens they use most in destinations around the globe.
In a press release announcing the deal, Ran Harnevo, president of AOL Video, said, “Microsoft’s suite of devices and services is unmatched, and its loyal audiences are constantly seeking new and refreshed offerings on their platforms. We have an open strategy for distributing our premium content, and we’re proud to partner with Microsoft to enhance their video experience.” He added, “As anyone who watches the online video space knows, AOL has seen tremendous audience growth over the last few years — views for our content are up nearly 75 percent in the last year alone — and the sheer scale of Microsoft’s network will help us reach a massive new audience and continue our climb.”
In the same release, Scott Ferris, general manager of Emerging Media and Video Advertising at Microsoft, said, “We’re pleased to be able to bring this quality AOL video content to our audience across Microsoft’s screens.” He added, “It is our goal to provide the best experience possible to our audience no matter where they are, and this content will improve our ability to delight our customers.”
Today’s partnership with Microsoft follows an earlier announcement from AOL – the company is rolling out a native mobile ad unit that it claims will allow marketers to easily and cost-effectively run native advertising across mobile sites and apps.
According to the latest data from the comScore Video Metrix service, Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, ranked as the top online video content property in March with 155.6 million unique viewers. Facebook ranked number 2 with 88.4 million viewers, followed by AOL with 69.4 million. Nearly 46.6 billion video content views occurred during the month, with Google Sites generating the highest number at 11.1 billion, followed by Facebook with 4.6 billion and AOL with 1.3 billion.
The announcement today was a surprise for two reasons. First, AOL’s search results are powered by Google, not Microsoft’s Bing. Second, industry observers expected most of the “big” announcements would be made during the third annual NewFronts marketplace, which begins next week.
After research showed that 78 percent of buy-side attendees found new opportunities at last year’s Digital Content NewFronts event, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), “super-sized” the schedule for this year’s NewFronts, which expands the traditional weeklong event to nine days of presentations between April 28 and May 8. Held in New York City, this series of programming upfronts from digital video content leaders is expected to generate major announcements from the NewFronts’ six founding partners – AOL, DigitasLBi, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo – on an almost daily basis.
Perhaps AOL and Microsoft just wanted to out front everyone else. Or, they have so much news to announce next week that this deal was pushed outside the nine-day window. Who knows?
So, stay tuned. Don’t touch that dial.