Posts about smalltv

The NBC/Fox gigadeal on video

Just as it was to be announced, I learned about what could be an extraordinary deal between NBC and Fox to go a different way from Viacom in their relationship with online video.

The two networks/studios are creating a new company to distribute TV on the sites where large audiences already are: AOL, MySpace, Yahoo, MSN. All their entertainment video and some of their movies will be available there for people to embed in their own pages. This means that a MySpace user who’s an Office fan could put up a widget allowing her readers to watch the clips and even the shows on her page. The joint venture will create a destination site for all this, but this isn’t a portal play; it’s about finding a tolerable — for them — way to distribute content via fans’ sites.

I’m told that it’s likely this video also may be made available for embedding on lowly blogs such as this — and obviously, I think that will be key. You make the popcorn, and let’s get together to watch American Idol on IdolCritic, eh? I doubt that will come on the first day (and that first day, by the way, is about 100 days away).

The new company will also sell ads and will share revenue with the producers and with the distribution sites (whether that will trickle down to the actual users/distributors, I have no idea; I would imagine that would be up to each of the sites and if they are smart enough to share, then the distribution of this video will only expand and explode).

There’s no reason this arrangement cannot include other producers, networks, and studios. And there is no reason this cannot include other distribution points (read: Google/Yahoo and such). And though this starts with entertainment, I don’t see why it can’t expand to include news and sports. It should.

What’s smart about this is that it potentially provides an infrastructure for the viral, audience-controlled recommendation and distribution of video with the two elements the producers demand — control and monetization (mantras I heard from the big guys at the Video on the Net conference). If this makes this kind of viral distribution profitable, it will cut off objections to it. And that, I believe, will leave Viacom out there dangling naked on Main Street.

At first, the big guys will pick their own clips. I think they have to get quickly past and let us pick the clips, the moments we want to recommend and comment on. Every moment in a show should thus have a permalink that makes it a linkable part of conversations. At VON, I saw a company called Gotoit that enables just this: you can send people directly to that moment you want to talk about. That is vital: We, the people — not the producers, prorammers, and network execs — need to be the recommenders, not the producers; that’s the point of viral distribution

At first, this will also be about just the big guys’ shows and movies. As you can predict, I argue that if they want this to succeed, it also must include small TV, our TV, the TV we are reinventing. That doesn’t mean that they should air all the flaming farts. But the smart things to do will be to find the great new talent and give it a means of distribution and control and monetization — which the little guys want, like the big guys, a point made at the end of my VON spiel. And then the networks will like networks.

I don’t know what this means for NBBC, the very tightly controlled venture NBC started to distribute video. I suspect it will be involved.

If this is done right, it makes viral distribution of video a noninfringing activity. It will legitimize, enable, and exploit what we already want to do: recommend and watch their shows. That would only be smart.

If it is done wrong — if the networks try to maintain too much control and still tell us what to llike and where we can watch TV — then it will fail miserably. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this.

From the Wall Street Journal story:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” News Corp. President Peter Chernin said in a statement announcing the venture. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch.”

The venture will also start its own site, with a name that is yet to be announced, which will go up in the summer. The two companies said “full episodes and clips from current hit shows,” including NBC’s “Heroes,” “My Name is Earl,” “Saturday Night Live” and Fox’s “24,” “House,” “Prison Break” and “The Simpson”s will be available as well as programs from the companies’ TV libraries. Movies will also be available, including “Borat” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Here’s the LA Times report.

: LATER: I think some reporters are missing a key part of the story. I think this is less NBC/Fox v. Google in business and more NBC/Fox v. Viacom in philosophy. These guys, unlike Viacom, recognize the power — and the necessity — of the recommendation engine (aka us) as the new means of marketing and distribution. They are trying to do that in a way that feels safer to them and that they can make money on — echoing, once again, the themes I kept hearing from the big guys at VON: control and monetization. If they crack the monetization, then these guys will care (a bit) less about control.

They will succeed if they enable us to recommend, share, and talk about (positively or negatively) their good stuff.

They will blow it if they try to maintain too much control: if they give us only their shows, if they insist on which clips we can embed, if they don’t open up to more programming, if they don’t open up to our putting this stuff in our space (not just Rupert’s MySpace). So we’ll see.

But it’s all about the recommendation engine as the new network.

VON spiel: It’s our TV

Below the more link (which I’m quite fond of today, trying not to bore too many of you with longer spiels) is my Video on the Net spiel. (Here is my last VON talk notes; here is the video.)

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VON: With our hosts

I’m in San Jose at the first day of Jeff Pulver’s second Video on the Net confab. On the stage are three of our video hosts: Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV, Dmitry Shapiro of Veoh, and Robert Petty of Roo with Om Malik moderating. Some live-blogging:

Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV: “This year… we will think about shows as just being shows” no matter where we watch them. More web shows will be available on TV, and more TV series will be available on our computers. So what matters is quality.

Dmitry Shapiro of Veoh says that the producers of small TV are getting more and more resources. This, too, will improve quality and so that means that quality — not medium — is what will matter.

Robert Petty of Roo says that people watch more and more video online. On Roo, a year and a half ago, they watched an average of 4 minutes 30 seconds; last July, that had increased to 30 minutes.

Om Malik says it’s his job to play devil’s advocate and he asks whether we are entering phase two of internet video, when it will be made with the same production value (and cost) that makes broadcast TV “worth stealing.” Dina says that Michael Eisner bought Sam has Seven Friends, a successful web serial, and it was not made to Hollywood standards and budgets. Dmitry acknowledges that when you throw money at something, you will see a difference.

Dmitry says that internet TV is not new TV, it is an evolution of TV as we knew it. I heartily agree. He also talks about watching tech talks on Google and the context, not the production quality, matters in that case. I also say that TV can be overslick and that leaches its authority in certain cases.

Om points to YouTube’s new awards and wonders whether Blip and Veoh will become like networks. Dina disagrees and says that the users are the programmers and so the Blips and Veohs are not in the position to make stars. “We’ve created the first ever entertainment marketplace where the best content rises to the top, not based [on programmers] but on what you people say,” she says.

Dmitry says that he believes in a few years, “every single video on Blip will have the opportunity to be monetized… it may be by the laundromat down the street, but the money will be there.” Later, he says that the money in this space will be “obscene.”

Dmitry says let’s be honest, “we are video hosting sites… but we are the beginning of a new medium I call internet television.” It will start with hosting sites that will evolve with better tools and monetization and such. Om says there are now 367 such sites. Dmitry says there will be thousands. The big problem is how we help people discover content. Amen. How do you look for Lost: search for ‘deserted island’? ‘Weird plot’? So finding the videos will need to improve and so will the viewing experience. “If I go to CBS on my cable box, and then I go to NBC, the user interface is exactly the same.”

J.D. Lassica of Our Media says that today is their two-year anniversary. He thinks they may have been the first. Look at what has happened since…

I ask what the role of these companies will be in the future. I say that I love Blip and Veoh and know investors in Roo and can’t avoid the power of YouTube. I say it’s like dating three women at once: who gets dinner? (I admit that I never had this problem but, hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?).

Dmitry says Veoh serves viewers, producers, and advertisers. “For content owners we provide a comprehensive platform for them to reach their viewer: hosting, syndication, monetization….” For viewers, they provide a player that will deliver videos not just from Veoh but from your own feeds. ” You shouldn’t have to care as the viewer where the content comes from.” Or you may not know what you want to watch and the service tells you. So I think he’s saying that the real role of these companies in the future is as aggregation and recommendation services. “Discovering, consuming, interacting with, organizing….”

Roo says it is not a destination. They provide the tools for partners.

Dina agrees with Dmitry that just as there are thousands of sites that do well serving text on the web there will be thousands for video. But they will be specialized. She says YouTube is about viral video. There will be sites for skateboarding videos. Blip caters 100 percent to people making good shows (that is, series). She says that too their surprise the company is becoming a new-media talent agency. They’ve had two of their shows sign deals with HBO and another with MTV. And Dmitry adds that, of course, the traditional talent agencies are getting involved as well. UTA is here.

Exploding Video: The biz

Frank Barnako has nice things to say about my newborn video effort, Exploding Video, and its first two shows, PrezVid and IdolCritic:

I’m an always looking for a simple idea with big possibilities. The Drudge Report is one of them. One or two guys, constantly scanning the Web as uber-editors looking for sexy, funny, provocative, inside, and shocking stories about money, politics, sex, and entertainment.

Now, Jeff Jarvis and Peter Hauck have launched two online video shows: PrezVid.com, which follows the 2008 campaigns by aggregating video clips from YouTube.com, and a fan show, IdolCritic.com.

Liza Persky, a TV talk show producer, is the talent on the weekly videoblog about America’s favorite TV show. She’s no Amanda Congdon, but at least seems to know what she’s talking about, even if it just a TV show. If you’re an “Idol” fan, while Perksy’s remarks may amuse or anger, you probably can’t hear enough about the show.

Which leads me to one of IdolCritic’s really good ideas. The site has links to Idol-related news, information, EBay-items, Amazon-available products, and blogs. This is such a natural think to include, and useful. Further, since EBay and Amazon have affiliate programs, it’s possible that if IdolCritic visitors make some purchases, Persky/Jarvis may make a few bucks.

Jarvis is convinced that old and new media must involve their readers, by nurturing and supporting communities of interest, even if the focus is a TV show. The Idol site invites people to submit their own “Idol videos” (whatever THEY are), and of course comments are welcome – if few and far between: only 20 after a month, some not so positive. There’s also no evidence of uploaded video.

Jarvis and Hauck are on to something. As Jarvis told PaidContent.org, the cost of doing something like this – anything – is zip. “My son is my Webmaster. I’m editing the video myself, as you can tell. It’s so damn cheap to get started,” said Jarvis. He and Hauck are taking their cues from the front pages of newspapers and conversation at water coolers. They’re showing it only takes eyes, ears, and a little money to set hooks for peoples’ attention. The cost is so low you can afford to try a bunch of ideas, and if one hits, you’re successful.

That was kind of my reaction when Howard Lindzon launched Wallstrip.com. You can do more-than-acceptable video programming with equipment available at Best Buy and, in Wallstrip’s case, talent behind and in front of that gear. Anybody can do Web video now, and every day it seems there’s another portal, video sharing site, or wanna-be Internet TV network that wants your content, and some are willing to pay for it.

What a country.

Yes, I think it’s possible to start something new with TV and so I’m doing it to learn it.

A visit with Webcameron in London

While in London, I went to the Conservative Party headquarters — new and sparkling white, with a view of the river just down from Parliament — to meet Sam Roake, who’s making his leader, David Cameron, a star of small TV. I wanted to hear his advice for the American candidates now dabbling in the TV of the people.

Roake is a personable, low-key, and smart chap in a suit with no tie, the uniform of our next leaders. He’s a veteran of Google AdWords. Yes, Google will take over the world. And then no one will wear ties.

2007, Roake says, is the year of video and social networking. He sees the two closely linked.

The web team — which so far is Roake and one colleague — have Cameron answer five questions a week from voters, three of them voted up by the public, Diggishly, and two he selects.

Then they have videos of him “out and about” anywhere in the world, talking to the camera with his thoughts and experiences. That happens about three times a week, but Roake said they’d do more with more resources — that is, one more staffer.

He says Cameron’s videos need little editing. Once they’re done, they go up on his site and on YouTube.

Roake argues that the videos enable their man to speak directly with voters and it helps them present their man in a candid, human way. “To be genuinely candid,” he says, “you have to talk about yourself as a person.” He says that to make this medium work, politicians have to switch “out of politician mode.”

The videos have been remixed and spoofed. But that hasn’t worked to the party’s disadvantage, Roake says. A labor MP made a parody of Cameron’s video and — I heard this tale from 18 Doughty Street‘s Iain Dale as well — it was so far off the mark (like a cringeworthy late-night skit), he had to apologize. The people from the show This is a Knife also made a parody called Blind Dave. And see the video by pioneer Parliamentary blogger Tom Watson tweaking Webcameron but wishing Labor had its equivalents:

Not having snit fits about all this apparently makes it look as if Conservatives have a sense of humor. They also want the videos to show that Conservatives are open and innovative. Roake says Labor isn’t doing this because they are “more focused on control.”

Roake acknowledges when I ask that it’s a bit different for the party in power. But then I ask whether they would continue their video strategy if they took power and he says they’d pretty much have to. “If it suddenly stopped, that would be seen as a very cynical move,” he says. The form would “evolve as the job evolves…. You can’t stop communicating.” This, Roake says, is a “new stage of politics” that is about a “sustained dialog with the public.” This was the kind of talk we heard from Gordon Brown about blogs at Davos. Once Brown ascends to power, I suspect they’ll be tripping over themselves to seem web-cool. As a head-of-state vlogger, Germany’s Angela Merkel already beat them all to the punch (though with a characteristic and militant lack of flair); she, too, is answering citizens’ questions online (here, auf Deutsch). Coming soon: Fireside vlogging. The White House Show with ___________.

But Roake emphasizes that vlogging isn’t the same as old TV though the American candidates are still treating it as if it were. They are broadcasting. The audience is different, he says, and the medium is different. His advice for our vlogging pols:

Don’t make the videos scripted and spun. Involve the voters: respond to them and address them by name. “See them as people who want to engage with you.” He says they need to be “personal, open, spontaneous.” Have someone with a camera along as much as possible to capture “off-the-cuff moments.” If you just have someone come 15 minutes a week to get one video, it won’t work. If you show events with lots of people, he says, balance that with more personal videos. Don’t sweat the production value.

Now, of course, it’s hard to believe that everything in politics isn’t always spun. Saying you’re not spinning is spin. But I take the point: don’t shrink-wrap the message and the candidate.

I ask why he thinks that the leaders in small TV in Europe tend to be conservative — Cameron, Sarkozy — while in the States, it’s the liberals who’ve taken the lead. Roake acknowledges that “a lot of it has to with being in opposition” and not immersed in the business of government (the podcasting, vlogging Merkel excepted). Then he spins just a bit: “The conservatives are less of a top-down government.”

Roake plans to help small TV spread in his party, getting more MPs to join the fun, joining a few leaders, including blogging Boris Johnson and vlogging Grant Shapps. He says that “any party serious about engaging in social media could do it.” And will.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

OPA: Jeff Rayport and video

I’m at the Online Publishers Association confab in London and Jeff Rayport is leading off. He is a former Harvard Business School genius (former HBS, still a genius) now leading a consultancy called Marketspace. I’m taking extensive notes because he’s sure to be provocative and this will be on the final. From his Powerpoint and spiel:

He says the challenge for online publishers is to “build volume through aggregation and margin through engagement.” Trends:

* “Community is the new engine of content creation,” his PowerPoint says. I’d day that content is the gas of the community engine.

* “Social networks are the new distribution channels.”

* “Social intelligence is the new source of editorial filters.”

* Tools and applications are the new editorial bundles.”

* “Multiplatform is the new basis of online ‘publishing.’ ”

* “Video is the new lingua franca of online content”

Now to the strategies he recommends. Note how big-company-centric they are (I argue that you have to see yourself not at the center but at the edges, serving the community at the center, but more on that later). Powerpoint quotes:

* “Own the audience: Overwhlem the microcosm. Deliver shock and awe in content abundance by geography, interest, or identity.” Where do I start? We’re not an audience and you can’t own us. And you likely can’t awe us either. His example is Toyota’s launch of Scion because they are selling cars “designed to be completed by the owner.” Or I’d say, owned by the owner. He says this was the first major auto brand launched with no television but with web and interactive media. Online, his examples include the knot for “condition” (“it touched 85 percent of weddings” last year), femail for identity from the Daily Mail in the UK, xionet.com (a Chinese Facebook, the second-largest social network in the world after MySpace) for location, bebo for interest (a MySpace up-and-comer in the UK). He says that online, “audience growth is often strongest where community is most palpable” — e.g., The Economist, The New Yorker. He’s not wrong but I still say he’s looking at this the wrong way. These things an help enable people to do what they want to do or to do what they already do better. Flip the model: You’re not at the center, we are.

* “Claim the community: Ensure membership has its rewards. Forge communities of conviction and reward loyalty.” His example is online travel and “gives us cause for great hope for claiming the relationship.” In content, he argues that free content “drives volume or traffic” while bundles of proprietary offerings “defy aggregation;” he uses Times Select as an example because it “drives pricing power.” Insert standard argument here.

* “Work the web: Let the outside in… and let the inside out. Adopt ‘open source’ thinking as an aggregator while exploiting network effects. This, he says, is the network effect. Letting the outside out is Progressive Insurance providing quotes from other insurers. Letting the outside in is Starbucks pushing into consumer environments (aka grocery stores) instead of just pulling them into destinations (the Starbucks store). Sure. This is about a newspaper providing links to the world and about going to where the people are. This is Google. Citizen journalism is letting the outside in. He says the more interesting story this year is citizen editing. Yup. Factoid: “up to 60 percent of YouTube’s streams are viewed on third-party websites.”

* “Design for occasion: Make each interaction a divine revelation. Customize online content interfaces for consumption contexts and occasions.” He says that Daily Candy is an example of form-factor optimization. Oh, my, that’s a fancy way to say it. But yes. Factoid: Daily Candy commands CPMs as high as $280 and is on track to generate $18 million in revenue in 2006 with margins over 60 percent.

* “Integrate the experience: mandate a unified field theory. Orchestrate multichannel delivery to establish best ecosystem.” Example: American Idol spreads internationally and into mobile and the internet and merchandise and concerts. Being a former business school academic, he draws a two-by-two martric: Amateurs acting like amateurs (e.g., Numa Numa guy), professionals acting like amateurs (e.g., LonelyGirl15), amateurs acting like professionals (ZeFrank, AskaNinja), professionals acting like professionals (e.g., OK Go, Beppe Grillo, and, surprise, me at PrezVid).

He has five strategies, “x factors” for online video (from Andrew Heyward).

* Extend content you have and bring it to online media.

* Expand video activities to make new and experimental forms of content.

* Expose (let the outside in; e.g., NY Times wedding videos, Le Monde user videos).

* Explode (let the inside out; syndication, in other words).

* Exhale (you don’t know what will work so relax).

There’s a lot of meat in this. I might grill some of what he fries, looking at things from a different perspective (ours v. theirs), but I think he brings together important observations, conclusions, and recommendations.

Discuss.

* * *

Next is a panel with Betsy Morgan of CBSNews.com, George Kliavkoff of NBCU, Alberg Cheng of Disney-ABC, and Tony Ageh of BBC internet with Larry Kramer moderating.

Betsy says that they are sold out in video advertising and that’s why they are syndicating their content to get more inventory. Kliavkoff, who extolled the virtues of marketing by putting clips on YouTube (yea), says that CPMs are high for online video but there is a shortage of quality inventory. He argues against the dreaded “user-generated content” usage saying that Spielberg is a user, too. He says the lesson of YouTube is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s amateur or professional; quality wins (I agree in spirit but in specific, it’s hard to judge the quality of a flaming fart and so quality is what you have to seek and find).

Betsy tells the story of her sister-in-law, who got Direct TV and made an either-or decision: TV or internet. She chose internet and she’s now watching her TV via the internet, including paying for shows via iTunes etc. See yesterday’s post about the end of the remote control clickers.

George says that an SEO company trying out for a gig with NBCU made measurements on the sly, looking at blog talk about shows from five weeks before they launched and then compared the ratings five weeks later. No surprise (to us): We the people formelry known as the audience (now known as the programmers) predicted that Heroes was a hit and that other shows would not be hits.

I asked the group to give advice to the makers of new TV at the Video on the Net conference I’ll be attending in a week and a half. Betsy said they are seeing “microjournalists” who are expert and credible and they’d like a relationship (promotional and commercial) with them but also need a trust system to help determine who is good (a system used by the public, not the network). George advised focus (serve a topic and stay on topic) and scale (get distributed). Larry advised aggregation, putting together shows/sites in networks large enough to be worth advertisers’ effort.

Exploding TV (Guide)

tvg1.jpgTV Guide gave me a sneak preview of their new video search, due out in April. Click on the thumbnail to get your sneak preview of the home page.

The world does, indeed, need new guides to the new television. The old TV Guide wouldn’t suffice because TV isn’t scheduled anymore, it’s on-demand; the choices are unlimited now, as are the sources. So a guide for the new age of TV has to provide the means to search and browse and, I’ll argue, recommend from an endless supply of content to a boundless world of individual tastes.

The new TV Guide search is emphasizing “professionally” created video. As you can guess, I’ll quibble with that. Much of the interesting TV being made online isn’t coming from big companies and studios and isn’t necessarily professional. We need a service to help us find the good stuff among the new stuff. See Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal praising some of this new series TV; he, like I, discovered much of it on Blip.TV. Mossberg also praises another guide, Network2.TV (on whose advisory board I sit).

It’s a damned complicated new dial TV Guide finds itself spinning. So I agree with their mission to find good TV, not all TV; we need a meritocracy of recommendations. I also understand their decision to go with the big guys. They want to serve a mass audience still (though the mass audience remains an illusion and some of the small TV shows being made by little guys are drawing audiences as large as those on big, old cable). They don’t want to provide a guide to flaming farts; the world doesn’t need that. And they don’t want to overwhelm people looking for TV online. So searching just the studios and networks gives them a more manageable world, safer and bigger. But they say they will expand their sources beyond the 50 big-media sites they’re starting with to what they call “semipro content.” I’ll certainly encourage that.

tvg2.jpgNow having said all that, the search is nifty (click on the thumbnail for a view). If you’re looking for ‘The Office,’ you’ll get the show, not office parties on YouTube (though, just to beat this horse, I’d also like to find Office parodies on YouTube). When you search on Office, TV Guide will give you 222 results, all related to the series; Blinkx returns 900,000 results and Google Video 24,000 (only from Google and YouTube), most obviously unrelated to The Office.

TV Guide lets you drill down in any search by network, genre, length, and soon star. Click on an episode and you’ll go to the source and watch it there. That includes going to iTunes, where you can watch, buy, or subscribe. TV Guide is not hosting the videos and doesn’t have relationships with the studios and networks (though they’ll clearly be delighted for the direct links to them). TV Guide will also make editorial recommendations on the home page. And they will be linking to their incredible data base of reviews and listings of shows. No one knows more about TV — at least old TV — than they do. They’ll also point to the most popular shows (as measured by clicks from the TV Guide site). And you’ll be able to create playlists. They’ll enable linking from their very active blog community and also enable users there to upload their own videos. In a later version, we’ll be able to syndicate our playlists to our sites.

Now that some networks are pulling their clips off YouTube (stupidly, I’ll say again) and retreating to their own walled worlds, it is harder to find big-TV shows online. So TV Guide’s timing could be better. That will be the first place to go to find network series online. Now we’ll see who will be providing similarly authoritative guides for the new TV.

Added disclosures: As the producer of two new small-TV series, PrezVid and IdolCritic, I clearly have a vested interest in being found. And I was the Couch Critic at TV Guide for six years in the ’90s. I’m a TV guy.

Oh, and yes, I’m glad to be getting two sneak previews of new stuff in two days. Keep ‘em coming.

: ALSO: The aforedisclosed Network2.TV is giving away $25,000 in prizes for winning videos about “How to Watch Internet TV.” You have a week to enter and explain to big media executives everywhere how TV is exploding. Winners will be announced at the Video on the Net conference, in San Jose in two weeks (I’ll be there).

The expanding Buzzmachine empire

Jimmy Gutterman at PaidContent gives some nice attention today to my nascent efforts to start shows online at PrezVid and IdolCritic with my partner, former colleague at Entertainment Weekly and Advance Internet, and the guy who’s really doing the work, Peter Hauck. And note well that IdolCritic is made by the talented duo of Mary C. Matthews and the ever-amusing Liza Persky of 39 Second Single fame (which is where I discovered them). I see big opportunity to making little TV. The time is right to jump in. And as Jimmy point out, so’s the price. There’s a need for people to make and reinvent better TV; it’s not all flaming farts. And there’s the opportunity to learn while doing. So please do go watch IdolCritic as Liza brings the American Idol water cooler to your laptop and watch and read PrezVid as it covers the election through the eyes of YouTube. End of plug.