Jeremy Allaire’s Big Picture

From ContentNext:

We’ve seen a significant shift in the past year in the number of mainstream publishers offering pay and ad-supported consumer video services. Browser and PC based platforms are getting richer and richer in terms of the kinds of user experience that a publisher can achieve, and consumers are starting to open their wallets. Simultaneously, the emerging connected home world is getting more interesting, and the next few months are going to see an enormous string of new product introductions and announcements centered on using both personal and commercial media (audio and video) from the Internet and your PC and consuming it in the living room. This will get real mainstream attention, not just techies and insiders.

Through all this, though, I’ve tried to explore bigger issues around how video will evolve as a content type on the Internet. Most companies are narrowly focused on what will happen with Big Media in its transformation to digital distribution (yes, this is very important and a huge opportunity), but a more interesting question is what kinds of new video content businesses will emerge or rather thrive in the Internet distribution age, that perhaps could not in traditional retail video distribution (e.g. cable and satellite). Again, a lot of the “old models” for thinking about this — e.g. aggregation; bundled subscriptions; carriage — seem inappropriate in the Internet world, which is deeply decentralized, and built from the bottom up on hundreds of thousands of communities of interest, reflected in content and online services. There’s a lot to learn from search engines, xml feeds, weblogs, etc. that can apply to how video will be distributed and monetized online.

Now that video can be produced cheaply and with reasonable production values, and now that it can be affordably distributed and perhaps even easily monetized, will we see an emerging new class of “video site producers” rather than classic textual content. In 1994 when the Web really emerged, it helped bring forth an explosion in the amount and richness of text that was produced and available globally. I believe we’re at the front-end of a very similar curve in video, and this world / opportunity is not going to look very much like how we as consumers find, acquire and view video today.

Jeremy adds, in a subsequent post:

I absolutely expect to see an emerging class of video publishers and studios, including spin-outs and startups that come out of the existing production value chain in mainstream media. In general there will be a disaggregation of distribution — e.g. many significant brands and productions that are “carried” by cable networks, who are in turn “carried” by cable operators, will have an opportunity to directly distribute their products in more innovative ways, and potentially more profitable for themselves. This will range from individual producers to significant new production businesses, as well as existing established publishers, programmers and brands.

There are significant challenges in helping consumers find, review and select video media. Certainly nothing as powerful and deep as Internet-wide text search exists in this field. Even in the most advanced arenas for aggregated video (e.g. cable operators with digital cable systems and VOD), there are virtually no good tools. This will be a limiting factor in how easily the medium meets consumer need.

Cost issues are being addressed adequately, and the price/performance curves on both bandwidth and storage (in the network and the home) suggest an attractive basis for economical video distribution.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.