Vevo Launches Lean-Back TV Experience

Vevo TV will run on most connected devices. “We’re building it to be network and distribution agnostic,” said CEO Rio Caraeff

The company that brought back music videos to a new generation of on-demand viewers on Tuesday is launching Vevo TV, a traditionally programmed, linear broadcast that harkens back to the era of appointment television.

Like broadcast TV, Vevo’s new channel features a variety of originally created shows scheduled for specific times of the day, so that viewers who tune in at the same time will see the same show.

The offering represents the back-to-the-future evolution of online video, which has begun to blur the boundaries between Internet, cable and broadcast media.

“I see everything fusing together,” said Vevo Chief Executive Rio Caraeff. “Viewers ultimately don’t know and don’t care where their videos are coming from.”

But they will watch differently, depending on what screen they’re using. As Vevo begins to distribute its videos on devices, including the Xbox 360 and the Roku box, that attach to living room screens, it’s finding that viewers are more likely to want to sit back and watch whatever’s on. On computer screens, the opposite has been true -- viewers take a more pro-active approach to zeroing in on and watching particular videos.

Caraeff said Vevo is pursuing both approaches -- programmed and on-demand -- as a way to optimize the viewing experience by device, although Vevo TV will be available on and as an application for iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as on Xbox Live and Roku.

“One experience complements the other,” Caraeff said. “There’s a time and a place where you want to select only what you want to see and a time when want you want someone else to program for you.”

For Vevo TV, that someone is a team of five programmers from the broadcast TV and radio worlds, rather than an algorithm. It’s one way Vevo plans to differentiate itself from other online video services such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix, which all rely to a greater or lesser extent on algorithms to make recommendations for their viewers.

Another way Vevo is trying to keep viewers from flipping channels is with original content. Aside from its library of official music videos from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, which jointly own Vevo, the company has also been busy producing about two dozen original shows such as “(Area) Codes” where artists take viewers on tours of their hometowns; “Music Is My Sport” in which artists talk about how they physically, mentally and creatively train as musicians, and “BalconyTV” where musicians perform on balconies in London to Los Angeles.

The New York-based company has bigger plans for Vevo TV, which is debuting in North America as a single channel. In the coming year, Vevo wants to offer multiple channels and expand the product to international markets, such as Europe and Latin America, Caraeff said. Vevo is currently working to add local programming capabilities within those markets. Vevo also plans to pursue cable and satellite distribution, just like a traditional TV channel, repackaging its programming into 30-minute to 60-minute segments that more suitable for traditional broadcast consumption, said Caraeff, who estimated that Vevo could have a distribution deal in place by the end of the year.  

And what will Vevo TV look like in two years?

“We’re building it to be network and distribution agnostic,” Caraeff said. “Whether it’s through cable, satellite, game console or other over-the-top device, we want Vevo TV to be everywhere. At the end of the day, we're not selling a platform. We're selling an audience.”