"Appointment-based television is dead," said William Randolph Hearst III, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. "The cable industry is really in danger of becoming commoditized."
Mr. Hearst sits on the board of Akimbo, a provider of an Internet service that permits users to download video content via the Internet to a set-top box digital video player. This week, Akimbo announced its first mainstream content deal to enable its customers to download Hollywood movies for later viewing on their televisions.
The "appointment-based television" does have one big advantage in popular culture: It allows a large group of people to simultaneously have the same experience and then to share their reactions to it at work or at play the next day. Part of the pleasure that many people derive from viewing some popular show is the ability to react to it together when socializing. I can recall guys at work discussing a new X Files episode and I've certainly heard women discuss a Desperate Housewives episode. Will all TV shows continue to have synchronised first viewings before becoming available for download?
Every year broadband connections get faster and cheaper and that trend looks set to continue for some years to come. Video on demand is now reaching the point where the download times are getting reasonable. Also, lots of other enabling technologies such has hard drive capacities, video browsing software, and display device improvements make the availability of TV shows and movies by download offer a lot of advantages. There's no need to stick to a single broadcast standard for resolution of shows. Every show could get downloaded at whatever resolution your display device reports itself as supporting.
Experience with downloadable music web stores has probably helped warm up the entertainment industry to the idea of downloading video for sale as well. CD recordings can already be copied illegally. The video downloads for sale do not make the pirating problem much worse. But they do open up the possibility of a lot more impulsive purchases by customers who can instantly order something without going to a video store.
The Google video service will allow content providers to post videos for downloading on the company's online store. Providers will decide on pricing and levels of copy protection, but all video would be viewed via Google's own media player.
"It lets anyone sell video," Mr Page said. "The content producers decide what to charge."
"Google video will let you watch lots of high quality video on the web for the first time. You can search and browse, and we make it fast and easy for you to watch," said Larry Page, Google's co-founder and president, Products. "For video producers and anyone with a video camera, Google Video will give you a platform to publish to the entire Google audience in a fast, free and seamless way."
I expect this technology will allow independents to get distribution for things that large companies won't want to bother with. So more niche video will get made.
Google has already lined up some big media players including CBS for TV shows and a Sony music division that will provide music videos of many big names such as Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera (whose impressive vocal range unfortunately comes combined by her attempt to be as tasteless as possible).
"This is yet another exciting platform in which CBS can leverage its market-leading content to a whole new audience," said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation. "Making our programming accessible to the Google Video Store guarantees our shows significant new exposure to millions of users who are likely to access this Web service and who may not be traditional TV viewers. As the industry's most prolific generator of popular TV content, it's only natural that CBS would partner with Google on this service, which is destined to become one of the web's most popular destinations."
Google is such a heavyweight with so many web site visitors each day that they have an enormous ability to launch a new web service.
Both cable TV companies and satellite TV companies stand to lose marketshare to internet video. But the satellite people have it worse since they can not provide separate feeds to millions of people. At least the cable TV companies can compete against phone companies to provide broadband services.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 January 08 10:39 PM Comm Tech Society|