Patreon believes it can do video better than YouTube
Image: Patreon

Patreon believes it can do video better than YouTube

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we explain why Patreon is getting into video and take a look at Charter and Comcast’s new joint venture, as well as the latest in AI video creation.

Patreon creators are getting a native video player

Patreon is making it easier for creators to share videos with their audience: The company’s new Patreon Video feature allows creators to upload their video content directly to its platform. The feature will also make it easier for creators to share video previews in front of the paywall, in turn making their Patreon profiles more appealing to fans who haven’t become paying members yet.

Native video is another step for Patreon to be more than a payment processor. The company doesn’t just want creators to use its tech to bill members; it wants to give them tools to build and engage with fan communities, and help them monetize these audiences better than ad-supported platforms like YouTube.

Video seemed like a logical first step for Patreon’s approach, given its prevalence on and off the platform, according to Patreon CPO Julian Gutman. “It’s the biggest modality of sharing we have on the platform,” Gutman told me this week. “It’s the format of the internet today.”

  • The company’s native video solution allows creators to upload and distribute HD videos of any length.
  • There’s the usual features one might expect from a modern video player, including picture-in-picture on mobile, as well as Chromecast and AirPlay support.
  • Patreon is also offering creators a way to quickly create video previews of up to two minutes, which can then be shared out on social media.
  • Another advantage of these previews is that they also show up on Patreon profile pages, giving people who aren’t subscribers a way to sample content as opposed to just showing them blurry images that hint at what’s available behind the paywall.
  • “Creators love features where they don't just have to ask folks to join their membership but they can demonstrate value,” Gutman said.

Native video hosting also solves a problem some creators have struggled with: leaked content. Some accounts have given their subscribers access to unlisted YouTube videos, which can easily be shared on social media to give those unwilling to subscribe a way around the paywall.

  • This kind of leaking isn’t too common — turns out people willing to pay for content from their favorite creators actually want them to succeed financially — but it has happened, according to Gutman. “We've had some really big creators where it's been a big issue for them.”
  • Patreon Video is being offered to Patreon Pro and Premium creators free of charge until the end of next year, with each member getting 500 hours’ worth of storage space.
  • There’s no word yet on what native video support will cost when the company starts charging for it in 2024.
  • Anyone who doesn’t want to upload their videos to Patreon can still use other platforms. “We're not going to turn off your ability to use Vimeo or YouTube. You can still use those if you prefer,” Gutman said.

Patreon has been trying to evolve past billing for some time. The company teamed up with Acast in 2020 to more directly integrate podcasts into its platform, and it has been experimenting with mobile storytelling formats as well.

  • A next step for the new video feature will be to build out insights: for instance, show creators who is watching their clips, what subscriber tiers they are in, and which part of a video sees the most engagement.
  • And Patreon won’t stop with video. “You'll see us do a lot more work on content and community for creators, and a lot more tools to move beyond ads and algorithms,” Gutman said.

Helping creators build sustainable income streams that aren’t dependent on ad revenue could be especially valuable in the current economic climate. However, Patreon itself has not been immune to economic jitters. The company laid off 17% of its staff in September and closed two offices in Europe.

— Janko Roettgers


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Comcast and Charter are betting on Xumo

Comcast and Charter have settled on a name for their streaming joint venture: The two companies are reusing the Xumo brand, which Comcast acquired in early 2020, for all their joint streaming services and hardware needs going forward.

  • As part of the name change, Comcast’s Flex streaming box will now be known as the Xumo Stream Box.
  • The JV will also make its own Xumo TV-branded smart TVs, with plans to start selling devices in Walmart stores in late 2023.
  • The XClass TV brand, which Comcast unveiled last year to sell its own smart TVs, is apparently going away. However, Xumo TVs will still be powered by Comcast’s software, so we shouldn’t expect too many changes under the hood.
  • Xumo’s free, ad-supported streaming service will live on as Xumo Play.

Fun fact: The joint venture was previously called Appco, which didn’t quite have the same ring to it.

— Janko Roettgers

In other news

Tubi’s Q3 revenue grew nearly 30%. The ad-supported streaming service’s revenue growth has been “breathtaking,” according to Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch.

PSVR 2 gets a price tag and release date. Sony’s new virtual reality headset launches on Feb. 22, 2023 for $600. That’s $50 more than the priciest PS5, but this time around, it ships with motion controllers and headphones.

Holoride launches in-car VR. The company is collaborating with Audi and HTC to launch its first consumer product in Germany.

Activision Blizzard tries to squash Albany union. QA testers at Blizzard Albany face an uphill battle as parent company Activision Blizzard filed two motions on Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board to try to stall an upcoming union election.

YouTube now sells streaming channels. Taking some cues from Amazon’s channel store, YouTube is selling subscriptions for services like Paramount+ and Epix.

Square Enix Montreal is no more. Mobile studio Onoma, formerly Square Enix Montreal, was shut down this week by parent company Embracer Group, Bloomberg reported. The Hitman Go developer had just announced a rebrand last month.

Prime members gain access to 100 million songs from Amazon Music. Paying Prime subscribers will be able to play the entire catalog without ads in a Pandora-like shuffle mode.

Paramount+ now has 46 million subscribers. The company’s growing streaming business couldn’t quite make up for slowing TV revenues in Q3.

AI video creation

What if making a video was as easy as writing a tweet? Imagine writing a couple of sentences into a text box, clicking a button, and an algorithm spits out a clip made from AI-generated images, synchronized with text-to-speech narration. That’s exactly what New York-based video startup AugX Labs has been working on. Last week, AugX Labs CEO Jeremy Toeman gave me a preview of his company’s AI video tools, and I was impressed by how its technology made it possible to create professional-looking slideshow-like clips in mere minutes.

One thing that stood out to me during the demo was the company’s approach toward synthetic media. AugX Labs does use Stable Diffusion to create some of its imagery, but also relies on licensed footage as well as photos uploaded by creators, and I couldn’t really tell the difference. Still, Toeman told me that the company decided against only using AI photos. “Without AI-generated images, there’s no guarantee that a creator can find the perfect match to bring their story to life,” he said. “And despite the sophistication of AI Art, if there’s already an existing image or clip to represent a given scene, there’s no real value in generating a duplicate.”

There may be a lesson here beyond algorithmic video creation: Even with AI, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

— Janko Roettgers


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