April 24, 2006
Video Goes Digital
Tonight, I wound up at the Churchill Club's monthly event on the future of video on the web. There's a podcast of the event if you later want to consume the audio.
It was a top notch group of panelists including Microsoft's General Manager for MSN Entertainment and Video Services Rob Bennett, Google's Director of Video Jennifer Feikin (hey, at least they had one woman on the panel :-), Sling Media's Founder & CEO Blake Krikorian, John Papenek, Senior VP and Editorial Director at ESPN New Media and Ben White, VP of Digital Media at MTV. So yeah, all the big boys.
And I found former Google's head of corporate communications Raymond Nasr at the head table, who apparently also wears the hat of President of the Churchill Club. Who knew? He hasn't lost his touch and is still wearing his fabulously colored bow ties.
Wired writer Frank Rose moderated the panel, who apparently has an extensive background covering the digital entertainment business -- mostly the giants, such as Sony, Time Warner and Universal.
Video is taking off now because it 'can,' meaning that broadband has reached 65% of all households, DRM mechanisms are reliable enough that companies are putting video online and storage costs have dropped.
But what will it do to television? Even more so, what has it already started doing to television? While clearly it is getting disruptive, a thread I heard over and over again throughout the evening was that it was 'additive and evolutionary,' meaning we're expanding what we already have. It's not revolutionary or disruptive? It's a bit of all four I think; it has certainly been disruptive in the same way blogs have been disruptive to print.
Some just may not want to admit it too loudly because networks are still in a huff over TiVo and don't want to get hit again.
I'm so used to going to digital video panels, where my client VideoEgg is often asked to sit, and the conversation revolves around user-generated content and mixing. The latter wasn't brought up once, but the former was.....a bit. In the context, that YouTube has made some waves, but its not where these guys are really focused or what they care about. Why? MONEY of course.
Papanek was great - wished I had time to grab him one-on-one after the talk....he said, "I just want to see the advertisers get it right......if they don't sort it out and find out what models are going to work for online video, there won't be any profit."
No profit gang, no sustainable industry.
So, what are these players seeing out there?
Jennifer from Google separated it out between paid content and free streaming content. They're seeing video content in three main areas....
--short form user submitted comedy
--educational content, such as archives
--user submitted testimonials, some of which could pass for a vendor advertisement
Her point about the latter: because there is no money exchanging hangs (yet), people are trusting these testimonials because they think the pitch is genuine - what's in it for them? There's definitely a purity about what's happening now that precedes monetization.
Says Rob Bennett of MSN, "We want to make our ads as non-intrusive as possible....the content cannot be overly monetized. We only put one ad for every 3-4 clips, which we think is pretty good."
Hmmmmm. TiVo for online video please? (yet I still don't own one because no one has convinced me why I NEED it).
Frank Rose asks whether online video will change TV the way that TV changed radio? Different medium. It's about sitting back and watching in the comfort of a big plush chair on a big screen versus information that you want immediately, like news in real time or sports scores.
There's also the issue of generation. The 15-25 year old generation is quite happy to be simultaneously IMing, watching a digital clip and do homework all at the same time.
They also pointed to the trend towards using a laptop while watching TV in your living room. UGGGGH. That was me a week ago and I have to admit, it can be addictive. (and I'm not 15 or 25).
Americans are all about the now, the immediacy of everything and its getting worse. Did I mention during the email event I went to last week that 80% of the row in front of me were looking down at their mobile devices during the panel. Was it that boring or do Americans now think they need information faster than they've ever needed it before.
Now for my questions:
If a date pulls out a blackberry in the middle of romantic dinner, how should I handle that? Accept it like everyone else does?
If kids are encouraged to use these devices and have no concept of protocols around them, what will happen to their social skills? Will it become habit to constantly look down at their miniature screens every few minutes for fear they're missing something, anything? Now its email and photos, but in a year, it will be video and then do we have any hope in having them fall in love with the written word or the value of REAL eye contact? (something I rarely see anymore btw).
And what about video in the mobile world? Targeted to each generation? It will clearly be different and advertisers will have to figure it out here too.
Enuf wandering. Back to the panel.
All relevant though, don't you think? If not, think again.
In some ways, yes, its taking storytelling to the next level. But let's not forget about the art of storytelling.
Some things remain predictable. I could pick out the two New Yorkers on stage in a matter of minutes and MTV's Ben White was by far the best dresser. He wore funky sneakers that blended well with his funky tie. Thanks for adding color to the stage Ben.
On business models, White remarks, "Everyone is crazy about user generated video right now, but I don't think its a model that is going to work across the board. Audio and video are naturals but we have a growing generation of kids who are so sophisticated with this stuff, they'll be pushing us to deliver more. Ultimately the consumer will decide and dictate what they want."
Blake from Sling Media pipes in, "There is a lot of experimentation going on; basically a lot of press releases. We're in the early stages of this evolution. I'm also fascinated with the disruption that is happening right now with the local affiliates, which is a whole new level of disruption."
The panel seems to agree. Jennifer from Google raises the fact that we haven't talked about the impact on social dialogue. Hmmm, that was the direction I was heading. A woman's perspective and perception perhaps?
"What will social dialogue and social commentary be like 1-2 years from now? You may lose sight that video is there.....its expanding the way people verbally communicate in the same way email has expanded written communication."
I'll interject here. While I agree, because of email, I now communicate with more people than I ever have in the past, including to people across America's borders, what can the quality possibly be like as the numbers of access points and people (in and out) continue to expand?
Steve - enter your Attention Trust discussion here please....I can't keep up.
And on aggregation? Yes, it came up but not extensively. Jennifer from Google asks, "What is aggregation really? Is it finding it in one place or is it a means to finding the content. For Google, its a means...." I guess I want both. Damn high maintenance consumers. We want it all, when we want it, where we want it and in our preferred format."
What about the barriers, asks someone from the audience? RIGHTS, RIGHTS, RIGHTS. Could it have been clear enough? Issues over rights are a main issue that will prohibit further distribution. There is also a desire to see a series of successes around the current experimentation.
I think the industry really needs to see those successes right now, including the VCs. What should be monetized, what should be sponsored, ad supported and what should be given away for free?
See video clips in next post.
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Using a computer, laptop or Smartphone during a TV show is a great way to get related information or manipulate media, content or video or to communicate with the show. The second screen can also serve to display items from the TV for shopping as well as providing commentary, reruns, different angles or other related content or even games on the second screen. This is called Correlactive content.
Posted by: Dan | Mar 8, 2008 6:27:08 AM