In part one of our end-of-year series, we asked a number of online video professionals: What was the biggest news/development/trend of 2011 in online video?  Then in part two, we asked: What was the one thing you expected to happen but didn’t?  Today, in part three, we ask

What’s the main thing we should look out for in 2012?

Our all-star cast of experts includes:

–      Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of Evolve (content producer, publisher, ad representation)

–      Matt Heiman, CEO of Diagonal View (content producer)

–      Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3 (content producer)

–      Adam Singolda, CEO of Taboola (distribution and aggregation)

–      Brett Wilson, CEO of Tubemogul (media buying platform for video advertising)

–      Steve Wolf, VP content blip (aggregation and network)

My comments will be in italics. Let’s kick things off with the always verbose Jim:

 Jim Louderback: Apple coming in and shaking up the market.

Matt Heiman: Online you are seeing the evolution of websites from text/photo to video, and of video becoming distributed beyond just the main portals.  Also, GoogleTV – this is the early days in a massive shift. Who wins and who loses is still up in the air.  It will be the start of the revolution.

It’s interesting to see two of our experts pick two different giants’ Over The Top (OTT) solutions/approaches.  I’m not going to pretend that I have the “ answer” to which one will prevail, but frankly, between iTunes and YouTube, both Apple and Google have a legitimate Trojan horse into the living room.  I think the more interesting question is: Will there be one successful player between Apple and Google,, or can they both steal enough market share from the traditional media companies (TMCs) and the access providers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast etc.? Speaking of which…  

Steve Woolf: Look for the elephants to walk into the room.  The studios, telecos, cable companies are all going to be making a big land grab and looking for their positions in the online video market. Most of them have been sitting on the sidelines, either because they don’t know what to do, or because they are still stung by the failure of an earlier initiative.  But more and more digital natives have found footholds in these companies in the executive ranks, and they will begin seeking to replicate the dominance they’ve had in mainstream media.

I agree with Steve’s comment about the “digital natives” among the executive ranks of many of these companies.  Times have changed, and many/most of them either “get it” themselves or watch their children’s behavior and “see the future.” The question remains: How many companies will overcome the innovator’s dilemma and be fine to trade digital “quarters” for analog dollars?

Brett Wilson: “Increased focus by marketers on brand metrics and ROI measurement to justify shifting spending to online video from TV.”

For what it’s worth, over the next three to five years, I personally see most of online video dollars coming at the expense of online display and print; only in three to five years will TV start to really see a material shift to online video.  But Brett raises a great point: Will marketers want to see  proof of ROI to spend more money online, when TV is arguably the least measurable —  but most visible — ad platform?  I hope that what marketers will start to ask for are things that are less prone to “banner blindness” — but seeing what happened in 2011 makes me doubt that, to be honest.  Pre-rolls will continue to dominate, but marketers will start to get weary of random ads that appear on even-more-random sites.

Brian Fitzgerald: “Video buying and CPM pricing will become even more barbelled, with any video that is shorter form, user-generated  content (or otherwise not long form, professional video) garnering increasingly lower CPMs and being forced into video exchanges — while longer form, professional video and video running on premium sites will be removed from exchanges or ad networks and will garner much higher CPMs.”

We’ve already seen UGC fall by the wayside, and indeed, I think you will see a further divergence between the low end and high end of video content.  However, I also see “super premium” content continue to retreat back to television, as the absolute dollar amounts online will continue to underwhelm relative to television revenue streams.  In turn this will create an opportunity for made-for-web premium content, though it will still be small potatoes next to the money generated by ad exchanges and ad networks, who have — to their credit — grabbed a lot of real estate and ad budgets despite publishers vowing not to let the growth of display ad networks repeat with video. 

Adam Singolda: “Mobile/tablets will keep growing, and more startups will surface to help publishers and content owners monetize the traffic. I hear publishers telling me that already they are seeing 20%-30% of their traffic coming from the mobile space. That will keep growing.  Elsewhere, the industry has barely scratched the surface of distribution and syndication. Publishers that will not place their videos out there will end up going out of business.  In 2012 I think we’ll see more mega-sites participating in [distribution and syndication], which will increase the video revenue pie for all.”