* Published on July 20, 2019
What happens when you run a popular independent service distributing videos to Vevo and then you start receiving royalty reports missing millions of views upon your videos?
Will you keep insisting on getting genuine and properly revised data, or will you, without pangs of conscience, send the doctored reports followed by significantly smaller revenues over to your clients?
One thing's for sure: dealing with some of those famous and well-respected companies and brands must not lead to taking at face value, or setting your hopes up way too high, not until you see the consequences. This is our story.
Vevo used to be an on demand advertising supported video streaming service, owned and financed by a few major labels, formally managed by Vevo LLC headquartered in Delaware and New York. Vevo consisted of the following:
In May 2018 Vevo officially shut down its video-hosting service on Vevo.com.
It is said to have never established a presence on its own website that could match its reach on YouTube. True indeed, but this has been a very well-known issue since the very beginning of this service founded in 2009.
It, however, had not been recognized as an issue for almost 9 years, all until the beginning of 2018. So the question is, why did it happen in 2018 and not in 2011, 2013 or 2016, when it has always been clear that Vevo's competing with YouTube is a losing battle? Our company used to distribute music videos to Vevo and we will try to shed some light on this story by telling things that nobody else would be able to speak about.
During the period 2012-2015, our company VIDYPS 79 d.o.o. acted as a music distribution service on a link between its clients and Vevo by enabling artists and labels to upload music videos to Vevo and its syndication partners with the help of the company's own service, Blue2Digital.
YouTube was by far the most significant partner of Vevo's and there were many clients of ours who only paid attention to how their videos were doing on YouTube. Some of them didn't even know about Vevo's own video service on Vevo.com.
As you may presume from the aforementioned, for all that time, Vevo was supposed to be performing a very simple task. All they had to do was count the video views generated on Vevo.com, gather them together with the views provided by other syndication partners (including YouTube) and eventually, present the royalty reports based on the total number of views.
Counting video streams is a real-time process and it must represent the authentic viewers and their IP addresses.
The biggest challenge one could face is distinguish the genuine (regular) views from those treated as gamed (fake, robotic etc.).
If a company intends to host a video service, it must provide a reliable tracking software to analyze the website (or app) visitors and determine if a view is regular or not.
Whether this software is a product of its own or provided by a 3-rd party service, the company must guarantee for its reliability and functionality. If the company is not capable of counting streams properly and it still insists on hosting videos, it will bite off more that it can chew. This will consequently produce legal effects that cannot be ignored.
In April 2015 we started receiving royalty reports that did not reflect the actual number of views we could count on Vevo.com. Of course, it did reflect the amount Vevo was supposed to pay out and it was significantly smaller than it should have been.
Millions of video views were missing and we refused to send such doctored reports over to our clients. Instead of providing us with genuine data, which we, adamantly, were insisting on, Vevo decided to teach us a lesson.
In May 2015, as their "response" to our enquiry, Vevo took down the videos distributed by Blue2Digital and kept them offline for two weeks. During that time, they didn't reply to our emails or phone calls, so we couldn't tell our clients what was going on.
Then in June 2015, we received a rather confusing letter provided by a Vevo's partner (not Vevo itself), stating that "after a lot of investigation they have discovered that there was a technical error with the embedded software which counts streams; Vevo saw a huge drop off in views of the above videos when they switched their tracking software from superbeacon to comScore and some traffic was coming from an embeddable Facebook player, which Vevo has not to date been able to find or recreate".
Long story short - there was a big counting issue Vevo was not able to deal with, because it did not utilize any software specifically intended to detect fraudulent activity. If this is true, it made sense to conclude that it affected all videos on Vevo, not just those distributed by Blue2Digital. Did they also notice a "huge drop off" in millions and billions of views of videos distributed by other companies, or this "honor" was done to Blue2Digital only? Nobody ever elucidated this matter, they all remained speechless.
Meanwhile, Vevo had aborted all further payments to us and our clients and all of our money was confiscated by their partner, a "global digital rights agency" called "Merlin" (they also sent us the aforementioned letter).
According to Merlin's data, Vevo required that almost all the money they had paid us for that previous 2014 be returned to them, although no suspicious activities or irregularities upon any of our clients' accounts had ever been reported!
In subsequent months of 2015, the videos were taken down and restored a couple of times. There was a fake news that Blue2Digital's catalog was acquired by Universal Music Group (this news was provided by John Guerrier De'Bey a.k.a. Sean Larvonde Thurman who once worked for Universal Music Group).
Around 1,000 videos were then illegally carried over to an anonymus distributor called "MarvMent", which Vevo pretended to know nothing about, although we found out that it was the Director of Content Operations at Vevo who had managed the transfer by himself.
VIDYPS 79 did its best trying to settle with Vevo, but no success. We had no other choice but turning them all in to the U.S. Authorities. On August 30, 2017 and November 15, 2017, the aforementioned companies and the scammers were reported to the IC3 via WWW.IC3.GOV.
We have provided the Authorities with the information originating from our own private investigation we had to conduct. This lead us to some of our clients involved with the issue who - you can guess - are all in some way connected to each other.
Shortly after, on December 15, 2017, Vevo's board of directors announced a "leadership transition at the world's leading all-premium music video and entertainment platform".
Erik Huggers, Vevo's President and CEO since 2015, had decided to step down to "pursue new opportunities".
Expectedly, on May 24, 2018, Vevo announced "changes to its owned and operated platforms" which resulted in Vevo shutting down its video-hosting service.
- the main website Vevo.com, which used to be an on-demand video streaming website
- Vevo-On-YouTube, which used to represent the branded Vevo pages on YouTube