Exploding TV

Exploding TV

: I was lucky to join a lunch Fred Wilson and Brad Burnham held to ask some folks how TV is going to be disrupted with the advent of TV programming that will be directly addressable (as opposed to hose-fed by networks over wires).

Fred writes about it here. He says that some are enthusiastic about VOD, others by streaming. Predictably, I donned the video alterego of my Blogboy persona to become BitTorrentBoy. A few of my thoughts (including some remix of the conversation):

: The way to make big money in the longrun in the explosion of TV is to go around the present players. The current networks can’t act subversively because cable MSOs have them by the balls (and won’t let them put content out there on the internet to compete with cable) and rights-holders and lawyers have them by the neck (and will stop them from distributing content) and they’re addicted to big money — big expenses, big revenue, constant growth.

So learn lessons from the explosion of the print industry thanks to the advent of online:

Many of the big players will be new players — video Googles, Yahoos, Netscapes (RIP), eBays, Amazons, CraigsLists, and so on. Oh, there’ll be money made by the old guys in addressable video; they’ll make it sooner. But eventually, the subsversive companies will do to video what, for example, CraigsList has done to papers.

Walled gardens (AOL = cable MSOs; Pathfinder = oldstyle networks) will not prevail. Open, distributed, ad hoc networks will win.

Interactivity won’t mean pushing a button to get “more about this” while you watch a TV show (as ITV is now defined, insultingly and boringly). Interactivity will mean recommending TV shows to the rest of the world, remixing TV shows, making TV shows: citizens’ TV.

New tools and citizen producers will reduce the cost of producing TV to a comparative nil and there goes the barrier to entry to video.

: What excites me most is that reduced cost of production. That’s really what drove weblogs: history’s cheapest publishing tool reduced the barrier to entry to media and allowed anyone to produce and distribute text content. Now this will come to video. I’ve said it before (warning: I’ll say it again) … A half-hour of how-to TV that now costs X hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce can be done quite respectably — and probably with more life and immediacy — for a few thousand dollars. New content producers will pop up all over (just as they did in blogs) and now they can distribute their content freely (thanks to BitTorrent). That is where I want to play.

At the same time, networks will no longer be able to continually raise their rates even as their audiences shrink and so they’ll have to find profitability in reducing costs. These new content producers will show the way and even eventually start producing content for the big boys.

: There will be new tools to produce audio and video content: the video Movable Type. Apple is making most of those tools today; there will be a few more. That will be an OK business. I’d rather build the content and the brands than the tools, but that’s because I’m not a toolmaker.

: There will need to be a Google of video — a means of helping people find what they want. And, no, that’s not just about creating a search engine. It’s about capturing the metadata we create when we watch and share things and making sense of it. It’s not trivial but it’s vital for without a great guide, we’ll never find the programming we want and this new medium won’t work. This video Google thing will be the next Google and TV Guide and it will be big. And I doubt that either Google or TV Guide will be the one to create it.

: While copyright holders and Congress get their knickers in knots about protecting content and restricting its use, people will be copying and remixing and distributing content like crazy.

The smart content creator will embrace this. And it will be a helluva lot easier for video creators to embrace the Napster/Kaazaa/BitTorrent world than it was for music because (a) they can learn from music’s mistake and (b) we’re already used to video programming being underwritten by sponsors.

Video programming, as Fred says, needs to come with hooks to serve ads and ping servers. If that exists, then content creators will happily let their content be distributed by whatever means — so long as the can be paid when ads appear and so long as advertisers can target and track those ads.

This is a vital infrastructure that will enable a new world. Who will make it? Who knows?

  • Excellent thinking – I asked the other day on your site “what’s next big thing in TV” and this is a great answer to that. In short: not the major players of today.
    I have a question. You said, “While copyright holders and Congress get their knickers in knots about protecting content and restricting its use, people will be copying and remixing and distributing content like crazy. The smart content creator will embrace this.”
    Does this imply then that those who seek a centralized, controlled message will not use video?
    Politicians are the first ones that I see in jeopardy of this new paradigm, and they are the ones most likely to curtail it because it hurts not Hollywood or other content creators but their own campaign ads.
    Again, brilliant.

  • When TV does explode onto the net what will it cost the viewer?

  • Jeff, I agree with your thoughts on the future of video distribution. The importance of content search and usability in finding content can not be overly expressed.
    It will be critical that digital media be available through many different types of storage/playback devices and able to be downloaded directly to any wireless device.
    We may one day soon have the home storage capacity and home server technology to distribute our home downloaded content to all our digital TV’s and mobile devices playback devices via WiMax.
    Most digital content around today has little or no meta data inside content files. Content providers need to do a better job of inserting meta data into these files as media search will be based on this information for years to come. See new ID3 tags that add capacity to mp3 files.
    The processing power to actually index the multi-media audio content file is just not here and will be just too expensive to do for a few more years.
    I agree that we are all going to want total control over our video content and have most of it on-demand and even mobile.
    I also agree that we need to accept that fans of content will want to remix major branded commercial content into personalized music videos and compilation videos that we have been seeing for years on TV fan sites (see JamesSpader.org). The entertainment industry needs to support audience remixing, discussion boards, downloadable segments, screen savers, images as it is good for building audience loyalty and connection with the content. They need to have contests for the best remixing and play it back on the broadcast somehow.
    Currently, the advertising industry does not value downloads as much as streaming for advertising purposes.
    We have a challenge to make downloadable content able to deliver dynamic streaming ads on downloaded playback. This will only be possible for media playback devices that have always on broadband wireless connections.
    I also think that streaming and IPTV will always have a significant place for live programming, audio news and ad insertions.
    Rob Greenlee
    Founder / Host
    WebTalk Radio Show

  • Ray in Chicago

    Thanks for the longish post and recap of the discussion. One thing that advertisers might have an issue with is that the video is no longer streaming video (via airwaves to an antenna or over the net) but a recorded copy on the local computer – users can and will be fast forwarding thru the ads. It’s a matter of getting creative and smart people would need to figure that out.
    Video files generated on the fly with different ads, based on the IP address of the person requesting the file?
    The home improvement show idea actually might be a good test of the ITV model – click here to see a short video demo about how to use a tool, a video glossary of a particular term tossed about casually, or a closeup in slow motion of the tool in use, or where exactly did they get the material? I’ve often wanted to freeze a home improvement show and zoom in and get more details about what they are doing or where, exactly, can I buy that stuff because the local Home Depot sure doesn’t carry it.
    “Bob, we used a special kind of epoxy to glue these two pieces together and look how good it came out.”
    “Great Jim, now on to the framing….”
    AAARGH. There are 3700 different types of epoxy out there. And this one is special? Where do I get that stuff?!!? Do they sell it in less than 50 gallon drums to people who are not licenced contractors? Info like that (with links provided) either embedded in the video at a click or in a supplimental project weblog would be great.

  • Chris

    Exciting insight here. I’m cheering for technology to move into Hollywood and shake up the old, non-progressive and disappointing establishment. I think the cultural mindset about how to create and function in the entertainment industry is going to be the biggest obstacle, but with the greatest results.
    There seems to still be a *huge* component missing however – the business model. Content can definately be produced more affordably than it is now. There’s no shortage of creativity out there and broadband opens up the channels of distribution. But there are still costs for creating and distributing content. I imagine gaining advertiser support will be difficult without content that has a proven audience. Our view of copyright will obviously need to change or adjust as content becomes so easily shared. But how will the creators feel about that? And what’s the financial incentive to create quality content?
    Perhaps the models will be created by the likes of Terry Semel (Yahoo!) or Steve Jobs (Apple). They have the cross-industry experience and exposure to make it happen; Semel with WB and Jobs with Pixar. But I’m sure that there are other ideas among the masses. How do we find those fledgling producers and support them? Where are those companies? Are they the atomfilms? Or is there something else? And more importantly than identifying them, how to we become *a part of them*? How do we get people fresh out of film school and convince them that the big money is no longer to be made from the likes of television network executives or mega superstars?
    The platform is built and ready. The technology hurdles are sort of the easy ones. Bring on the next challenge. ;)

  • Frank Meeuwsen (Netherlands)

    Jeff, great stuff. I do believe in a revolution regarding video as we have seen with audio and text. But what bothers me the most is the fact that it has to be downloaded in all given models and frames of thought. Why should I download a 100Mb+ file just to view it once? Why would I want to spent time waiting on a little how-to video to download? I think part of the experience with video is the click-and-play we’ve grown accustomed to with TV, video and DVD. The same with streaming video online. Sure, I have to wait for a buffer or something, but then I just sit back, relax and watch the video.
    I also don’t believe in the podcast model for video. Sure, for some video’s I can click and wait to download. But I think business can be made in the “instant gratification” of video’s. Sure, the adult industry can be a driving force here, but I think other branches can profit from it as well.
    So, what can be interesting models with streaming, but with the ideas you describe in your post?

  • Not completely sure about the technical aspects, but it seems that product placement is the simplest and most effective advertising model for downloaded video, whether it be from mainstream or independent content producers.
    The more a file is ‘shared’, the more eyeballs ‘get the message’, without need for drm or fast-forward controls.
    Of course, the product placement itself must be handled adeptly.