Tag Archives: YouTube

If content is King, then distribution is King Kong

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.

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Will the Venice Project save TV?

Have you heard about the Venice Project? The project by the Skype and Kazaa founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom that some claim is set bring telly into the internet age? So what’s it all about?

Here are some snippets form the Venice project blog:

For those who’ve not quite caught on to what Venice is all about – in essence the various journalists got the story almost exactly right: we’re fixing TV; removing artificial limits such as the number of channels that your cable or the airwaves can carry and then bringing it into the internet age; adding community features, interactivity, etc.

But we’re also bringing something back from that old TV – of having a shared experience with your friends, something you can talk about, rally around and enjoy with others.

And it is that latter part – embodied in the community tools and APIs – which we expect will play a prominent role in this early beta. Since we’re based on some widely distributed Open Source software we do expect people to quickly be able to leverage it and tune it to their own wild ideas, hobbies and interests.

And suprise surprise, like Kazaa and Skype, its P2P.

We are in the process of launching a secure P2P streaming technology that allows content owners to bring TV-quality video and ease of use to a TV-sized audience mixed with all the wonders of the Internet. All content on The Venice platform is provided by content owners directly, and it’s all protected with the highest standard of encryption and we are working within the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) framework to ensure that it complies with appropriate content protection and ownership regulations.

Besides making a product that we trust users will love, we think that quality content and the respect of copyright is central to making The Venice Project successful. We cannot mix the best of the Internet with the qualities of TV without the content industry’s help and support, which is why the service has been developed with this thought at the heart of our business.

So the bet is that if people can access all the professionally produced content they want, over their broadband connection, when they want, and recommend this content to friends – well have a wildly successful new way of watching TV programming. Some commentators like Anthoney Lilley even predict that it would knock the impact of YouTube into a cocked hat.

I have some doubts.

Who pays for the bandwidth?

Distribution of high quality video files via the Net on mass is relatively expensive. Especially compared to normal broadcasting TV signals. P2P solves that for the Skype boys as a user can download a program (or get a stream) from many other users who carry and split the cost of the bandwidth. What will these users’ ISPs make of this? Especially as these ISP’s are trying their hand at video on demand as well.

Will TV companies be comfortable putting their content into the same pot?

To negotiate the licenses to all the content that will sit on the same platform will be a nightmare and one of the biggest challenges the project will face. TV stations are strong brands. How will these brands prosper in this environment? How will the brands fit into the navigation and programming guides, if at all? The tech part is comparitively easy to getting the TV companies to agree to this.

Pro vs amateur

Since the inception of the net we have had ‘professional’ websites. The Yahoo’s, Lycos’s, AOL’s, Amazons of this world. They are huge, and last time I checked the top 10 sites attracted alost 80% of internet users in the UK. Not unlike print and TV where the big players’ reach are significant.

But if you look at frequency and time spent on a website, these numbers drops precipetously. Although most users visit the big ‘pro’ sites regularly, these sites make up only a small fraction of the sites they visit. The bulk of our life online is spent on niche and often amateur sites.

Look at Flickr. There are a number of very important established photographers using it. Often they get tenfold more views than that of the average user. But as a percentage of the overall usage of Flickr, they are in a small minority.

Yes, ripped TV shows are poppular on YouTube. But if they are all removed tomorrow would we see a crash in traffic numbers. My bet is that you won’t. Another example: How many blogs have ripped and how many orginal and often poor content? What point am I trying to make? Venice will ignore ‘amateur’ content at thier peril.

And the lack of amateur authors create impacts on other things. The Venice Project aims to create a community around TV. Unfortunately a community of collectors and fans are just not as sexy, rich or alive as a community of creators.

The Venice Project P2P video on demand community would seem rather bare if it featured no amateur content.

The big challenge in the future of filmmaking and TV – funding

Lilley points out that: “The big problem for broadcasters won’t be distribution but rather how to fund new content.” The Venice Project does attempt to address this. But this is also the main concern of the amateur filmmaker in his bedroom (which is what Google is trying to address).

Sky surfs the second web wave

Three smart moves by Sky and its clear that you don’t need to be a New Media company to be successful online. You just need to understand media. Yahoo!, take note.

First Sky bought MySpace and then it decided to dicth satelite for broadband via lines, thus enabeling interactivity and not just one to many broadcasting services. Then this deal was done by Sky with Google:

BSkyB has announced a partnership with Google to provide its broadband customers with branded search, email and other services including a YouTube-style video sharing website.

The deal is being touted as Google’s first global partnership to provide such a range of services and the agreement will also lead to the US search engine giant making its first move into TV advertising.

Initially Google will provide the “click through” search bar and display advertising on Sky’s broadband portal – sharing ad revenues with the satellite broadcaster.

But wait, there’s more!

The two companies are also exploring “future forms of web, TV and mobile advertising”. Under the deal with Sky, Google will look at the possibility of using the information about viewing habits that can be obtained through the satellite broadcaster’s set-top boxes to produce more targeted TV advertising.

Google is already experimenting with newspaper, magazine and radio advertising in the US, using its technology to sell and target adverts.

As part of the deal, Sky Broadband customers will be able to edit, upload and share their video clips on the new user-generated video portal, and can also post and download clips from their mobile.

New communications tools available to Sky Broadband subscribers will include a customised version of Google Mail, Google’s web-based email service for the UK, and instant messaging. Subscribers will be offered addresses at the sky.com domain and the service could be extended to Google’s internet telephony service.

Google’s search tool and targeted search advertising will be introduced across Sky’s network of websites, with revenue shared between the two firms. Financial details were not revealed. Sky is aiming to tap into the UK’s booming online advertising market through the deal.

Compare these bold moves with Yahoo’s dithering over user generated content and Channel 4 and BT’s hamfisted moves into Web TV through their 4oD and BT Vision services.

As Anthoney Lilley points out in today’s Media Guardian (registration required), the biggest problems of prospective broadcasters is how they fund production and not distrinution.

First, video on demand was already here anyway – in the form of the Sky+ box and DVD collection and, for some, Home Choice, NTL or via peer to peer on the net. But I doubt the fanfare amounts to much for another reason. Broadcasters need more than new distribution platforms to define their place in the emerging media ecology. Basically, most VOD services are shops. That’s it. Their biggest effect is to turn media and telecoms companies into retailers. The big problem for broadcasters won’t be distribution but rather how to fund new content.

He continues:

Of course, finding new distribution platforms will be part of solving that challenge but it won’t do the whole job. Likewise, BT Vision might help to lock some people into BT broadband products. The big money for BT is in access and services across a wide front, not in broadcasting.

As for 4oD, it’s early days, but the shop shelves seem a bit empty. I know how hard rights deals are to put in place, but if you download the application – which is a smooth process – and then have a look at what you can, or more accurately can’t, watch from last week’s schedule, you’ll see what I mean.

More tellingly, the 4oD service is conspicuous for its lack of social networking features. C4 claims to be an “editor of choice” for its audiences in that they trust its brand to help them choose what to watch. This is definitely correct in some circumstances.

But not all the time – and it isn’t mutually exclusive with recognising that the “audience” is now an active part of services such as iTunes Music Store and Amazon. Can I send a preview of a show to a friend? No. Can I review it? Don’t think so. Is 4oD aware of my viewing habits and those of people like me and does it prioritise content or recommend stuff as a result? No.

You get what C4 thinks you might be interested in – which has a strong relationship to what they have on the shelves. 4oD is rooted in the mindset of a TV channel.

Locked up in his statement about funding production being the main challenge is this. In this WebTV value chain it is important to be a content and rights owner. Distrubution is taken care of by Google, MySpace and thousands of blogs.

To be able to fund their productions, broadcasters will need advertising or subscription revenues and if they are web savvy, they can get their users/ viewers to make content for them on the cheap.

It’s interesting then that the young Murdoch – sounding a bit like a member of the digirati – spelt out where BT and Channel 4 have been getting it wrong. According to Murdoch: “The weird thing about the media market is that people have thought about it in two halves; online and TV. The truth is, in a connected market, everything is connected.”

Sky knows that they have to open up and give their users an opportunity to watch what they want, and they know that the advertising has to be personalised and targetted like on the internet.

Antony Lilley again:

This is the nub of the problem with 4oD and, for different reasons, BT Vision. Both services have their roots as extensions or protections of existing business models.

Companies which fail to take this kind of thing into account usually lose out to rivals who approach “their” business from a new direction.

And Lilley gives an interesting snippet of news and a big prediction:

With this in mind, look out for The Venice Project from the people behind Skype – it’s aiming to combine social networking and legitimate TV content and I think it might knock the impact of YouTube into a cocked hat.

TV execs want safe docs while their audience goes YouTube

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.

Both Smosh and BLAME SOCIETY made it on YouTube

The BBC has conducted interviews with two of Web TV’s early stars, Smosh and Blame society (creators of Chad Vader). And both reveal they got noticed and big once they put their content on YouTube.

YouTube moves to the small screen

The BBC reports on a deal between YouTube and US mobile firm Verizon Wireless. It will see the popular video-sharing website extended to mobile phones.Users who subscribe to the paid for Verizon’s Vcast service will be able to view content on the YouTube website via their mobiles.The trial, which wil begin in December, will also allow users to post video clips from their phones more easily.

But check this out.

Google video is already available on mobile phones.
An enteprising developer have used Google’s API’s and built a search engine (SRobin Mobile video) that queries Google video and displays the results and plays the video on certain mobiles for free (Bar your network data costs of course).