2015: Reflections & Predictions with Jonathan Skogmo of Jukin Media

To close out 2015, VideoInk is calling on some of the top execs in the online video business to give us their take on the industry’s most significant developments in the past year, and where it might be going in 2016.

Today, it’s Jonathan Skogmo, founder and CEO of viral video specialists Jukin Media.

It’s been a big year for Jukin, which seeks out videos with viral potential, acquires the rights, then monetizes them on a multitude of platforms, from the web (where its FailArmy brand racked up 960 million views in 2015) to linear TV (its shows include “World’s Funniest” on Fox in the U.S. and “Now That’s Funny” on Channel 5 in the U.K.). Highlights include content deals for the upcoming OTT service Sky Q and Verizon’s mobile-first platform Go90, a partnership with iQIYI in China and the acquisitiion the British viral video brand People Are Awesome. Jukin is poised to have an even bigger 2016 with the expanded roll-out of video monetization on Facebook, where the company’s clips are shared and viewed in by millions.

What was the most important trend in the online video industry in 2015?

The emergence of so many new distribution platforms has had a significant impact on the industry. Not that long ago, YouTube was all there was. Now, you have cable companies, telcos, social media platforms, etc., all expanding the way that they think about short-form video. Many of them are paying for content, either by sharing revenue or by commissioning originals. It’s created a much more diverse and open market, and its given digital video companies and creators opportunities that didn’t exist a year or two ago.

What single deal, launch or failure in 2015 was the biggest game-changer for the industry?

Vice’s deal for its 24/7 cable channel is significant. It’s a big step for a digital-first company, and, potentially, we’ll see a fresh approach to programming a TV channel. I’m interested to how it goes.

What’s the most common mistake you saw this year in the biz, whether it was made by studios or individuals?

One common mistake is not considering the platform/distribution method when creating content. The idea that you could just take videos created for YouTube and post them on other platforms with great success, without modifying them in any way, has been sort of disproven. Today, the producers/creators with the highest multi-platform success have abandoned that notion. Every platform has a different audience and provides a different experience, and the creators that build content specifically for each platform, using data and audience feedback, are seeing the most success.

Is there a sector of the streaming industry that you feel is chronically undervalued or ignored?

User-generated video content is chronically undervalued. There is significant power in an organic, non-manufactured moment that was caught on camera by an everyday person. The public’s appetite for watching UGC videos is infinite, and with video capture devices continuing to proliferate, the public’s interest in recording video is not going to slow anytime soon. Everybody is a video creator in 2016 and, because of that, it will be an increasingly important and lucrative exercise to surface the best UGC videos and unlock their commercial potential.

Virtual reality/360-degree video — fad or future? Why?

Future. People are genuinely interested in VR. There’s a legitimate buzz right now around Samsung’s new headset, for instance. But even beyond consumer tech, there will be continued uses for VR in areas like healthcare and live events. It has so many potential uses that it’s difficult to see it not succeeding in one form another.

Mobile-first distribution — overhyped or undervalued? Why?

Overhyped in the sense that people assume that since mobile is growing, it means that (1) desktop computer viewing is dead, and (2) linear TV is dead. Neither of those things is true. Without diminishing how much mobile video has grown — and it will continue to grow, particularly in developing markets as broadband connectivity improves and devices get cheaper — people still spend a ton of time on their computers, and linear TV is, for the foreseeable future, the most lucrative medium for monetizing video content.

What do you think will be the big story for the streaming space in 2016?

Aggregation. There are so many streaming video services, people are going to turn increasingly to apps that make all of your streaming content available in one place. Whether on a connected TV or a mobile phone, nobody wants to check a dozen different apps to get access to all of their preferred programming.

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