This rather quaint old media saying is not just funny – it might also still be true. Especially for high quality graphically rich content.
Web 2.0 evangelists have been promising us for some that we would be able to pipe time shifted high quality content of all kinds across the Net. But this month something happened in the United Kingdom, that might portend massive upheavals for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and put a spanner in the works of broadcast industry web dreams.
And the significant event is? – the launch of the BBC iPlayer a month ago.
The iPlayer is a very different & dangerous beast from video aggregation websites like YouTube says Telco 2.0, because:
- It is heavily promoted on the BBC broadcast TV channels. The BBC had a 42.6% share of overall UK viewing in 2006/7 and therefore a lot of people already know about the existence of the iPlayer after one month of launch.
- It is a high quality service and is designed for watching whole programmes rather than consumption of small vignettes. This is sharp contrast to the current #1 streaming site, YouTube.
- It’s not reliant on advertising funding.
The Register spells out the damage the iPlayer is doing to business models.
In only its first month of service, iPlayer pushed up ISP costs by 200 per cent, from 6.1p per user to 18.3p per user. This obliges ISPs who are simply BT resellers – and most are – to order more pipes; yet there’s no extra income. Remember that this is the low-bandwidth version of iPlayer, not the high resolution, high traffic P2P service, which uses much more bandwidth. And of course, it’s early days – we’re at the beginning of the iPlayer adoption curve. January’s figures involve just 19 minutes of TV per viewer for the month.
In other words, viewing iPlayer today costs your ISP a penny a minute – but the ISP isn’t gaining any additional revenue from you. Nor is it being subsidised by the content provider, the BBC, to carry those streams.
…The analysis makes grim reading for anyone who doesn’t own and operate a major network.
Telco 2.0 lays the fault at the door of the all you can eat business model.
The data reinforces our belief expressed in our recent Broadband Report that “Video will kill the ISP star”. The problem with the current ISP model is it is like an all you can eat buffet, where one in ten customers eats all the food, one in a hundred takes his chair home too, and one in a thousand unscrews all the fixtures and fittings and loads them into a van as well.
ISP’s that own their own Network, like the UK’s Virgin (who has a dedicated cable TV Network) and BT (Who owns all of the Network right to the homes) do better.
This suggests industry consolidation – the end of the small ISP resellers – will follow. And perhaps the end of the all you can eat model.
Michael Graef, British documentary filmmaker gave his thoughts on the impact of the web and sites like YouTube on filmmaking in this weeks Media Guardian(registration required). Graef seems to a loss as to why large numbers of viewers are choosing to watch grainy amateur footage on YouTube over TV. He reckons independent documentary makers have on the one hand lots of opportunities, but laments the conservatism of broadcast commisioning.
Much of the current improvised style goes back to the 60s, when lightweight equipment provided mobility undreamt of by previous documentary-makers. Portable cameras were able to follow action as it happened, rather than stage it as so many of the masters did. Smaller cameras made possible both the best and worst of observational film-making.This also changed the language: once controversial grainy handheld images are now commonplace to convey action and immediacy. Big Brother draws millions. It is descended from innovative film-makers such as Dziga Vertov and Andy Warhol setting up a fixed camera on the street. Now we can peer into bedrooms and sitting rooms or watch streets all over the world. Surprising numbers choose this over whatever is on telly. Go figure.
The launch of Channel 4, Five and the opening of the BBC to independent producers have created scores of opportunties for independent producers he says. And today there are even more digital channels and another window of opportunity at the BBC offering a further 25% of their output to indies. But Roger ain’t happy:
Because the speed of change has caused a shift in commissioning policy and audience targets, pulling programme-makers in conflicting directions. Even as channels ask for innovation, they are retreating to safer, more controllable formats. TV executives exhort the creative community to “think big”, “out of the box”, to come up with “landmark ideas that will punch through the schedules”. They want to be surprised. But they want surprise in predictable forms.Although reality shows are history, they want “constructed documentaries” on lighter subjects, fronted by a celebrity or at least a presenter. They should be fast-moving, appealing to younger viewers. And whatever anyone says to Ofcom, success is still measured by ratings. So too is the decision to commission.
Just as the audiences fragment or leaves Telly for YouTube, broadcasters want to play it safe.
But creative film-making requires the opposite ethos: no formulas, no guaranteed number of viewers, and no imitation of other successful programmes. It needs a willingness to take risks, to fund and stay with projects that may not bear fruit for years. We set out on each journey without knowing how it will end – the opposite of the current requirement for a full outline of the film to be part of the initial contract.
More news to send a chill down the spine of TV stations. The online video boom is starting to eat into TV viewing time, an ICM survey of 2,070 people for the BBC suggests.
Some 43% of Britons who watch video from the internet or on a mobile device at least once a week said they watched less normal TV as a result.
And online and mobile viewing is rising – three quarters of users said they now watched more than they did a year ago.
But online video viewers are still in the minority, with just 9% of the population saying they do it regularly.
Another 13% said they watched occasionally, while a further 10% said they expected to start in the coming year.
The Media Guardian speculated this week how traditional news media organisations like newspapers should react to the hordes of citizen reporters stalking the streets. The BBC, perhaps not unexpectedly, reckons that news media providers can make themselves felt by providing hard news. Blogs can out opinion the best of the papers op-ed pages they said. But they would say that – The BBC is uniquely resourced to do hard news and because of its public service remit, not big on opinionated pieces.
The BBC may only partially be right. Blogs will increasingly break hard news that institutions – even the mighty Beep – will not have the resources to cover. Or they simply just won’t be at the right place at the right time.
Ah, but you might say, no single blog will have those resources either. They might through serendipity get one great scoop, and that’s it. But do remember, its immaterial that the fractured blogosphere don’t belong to a single media entity. They work on a collective level and can be found through one or two interfaces.
Technology like Digg‘s link recommendation engine (user generated editing in effect), Technorati and Google’s time and Pageranked based blog search, will increasingly encourage bloggers to publish information nobody has access to and do so first. Take this review of Gmail’s mobile application for instance. All of these engines try to give users the best postings on the web, within a certain time frame. So the links they present are weighted for quality and news-worthiness.
But here is another reason why the BBC is wrong. There’s the so-called long tail and the workings of Google’s Pagerank to take into account. If your item on a particular subject is very incisive, funny, informative and gets voted for via links from blogs and sites across the web, Pagerank will like it too. And then you are pretty much guaranteed traffic long after the item’s published date. The links presented by Google search are weighted for quality as judged by other web users. This favours well written opinion pieces whose content transcends time.