AP Moves Video Service From thePlatform To News Distribution Network

The Associated Press is switching hosting duties for its Online Video Network to the News Distribution Network from Comcast-backed white label video tech services provider thePlatform. The reason is that NDN, which has been something of a rival to the AP’s video network, can provide a range of services, including running ad sales and striking content deals, Nick Ascheim, AP Digital’s GM, told paidContent.

The AP pointed out that thePlatform was just a technology provider and had no other extensive content relationships it could build on. The Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) company also didn’t have a sales force. Although many of those functions, in addition to video hosting, will be handled by Atlanta-based NDN, Ascheim said there will be no layoffs or changes as a result of the switch. “This frees our people up to do other things,” Ascheim said. “We actually competed against NDN, and felt that with their extensive content network, they would be good to partner with.” In turn, NDN had been trying to get more breaking news in its network, so the two sides found teaming up could have mutual benefits.

For the AP, it can offer NDN to its 1,500 OVN affiliates for no extra charge. Plus, since NDN will take care of the ad sales, members have a better shot at seeing more ad revenues. Ascheim wouldn’t say what the revenue split between the two organizations would be. Also, the OVN affiliates are not required to partner with NDN if they choose not to.

The AP turned to thePlatform over two years ago, after deciding to give it the responsibility of running of its video player and uploading service, which had previously been handled by Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). The transition to NDN will happen over the course of Q1.

Video has been on the AP’s mind lately. In November, the Associated Press Television News began planning a “multimillion-dollar upgrade” of its news-gathering system to provide high-definition images to broadcasters and digital photo clients. For London-based APTN, the company’s global video news agency, the revamp is considered the single biggest investment the wire service has made in it since 1998, when the AP bought its competitor, Worldwide Television News.

All these moves come as AP and other news services are trying to broaden their audience reach, as well as find ways to capture rising video advertising dollars, especially in local markets.

For NDN, the partnership with the AP completes a negotiation that initially began about three years ago when Greg Peters, NDN’s CEO, founded the company. At the time, he had met with former CNN President Tom Johnson, who suggested Peters meet with AP head Tom Curley. At the time, Curley declined to sign up with the service, which Peters said didn’t fully launch until the summer of ’09. But the AP head said that there could be a possibility for the two companies to work together down the road.

In between that first meeting with Curley and now, NDN signed up the three major broadcast networks as well as publishers like Cox and sites like The Huffington Post. Peters also told paidContent that the company has received investment from Google’s Eric Schmidt and, oddly enough, actor Bill Murray, who has a mutual friend with Peters. Murray thought the syndication platform NDN has would be natural for entertainment companies. NDN eventually plans to get into entertainment. “But with the addition of the AP, we’ll have our hands full for the next several months,” Peters said.

Aside from content partners, Peters is also focusing on building relationships with ad agencies and marketers. “One of the first things Hulu did was to strike a deal with Omnicom Digital, and that was a pretty smart thing to do,” Peters said in an interview with paidContent. “That’s where we see our next big breakthrough.”