Thursday, January 24, 2008

Internet Video Will Not Replace Television - Nor Shoud It Try

Mike Abundo writes in his Inside Online Video blog that: "[the] Writers’ Strike Will Turn 25.6% of TV Viewers to Online Video."

It is undoubtedly true that people are accessing alternate forms of entertainment in the absence of new material on broadcast television. But I believe there is greater insight to be gleaned from Dan Rayburn's take on the issue.

Rayburn writes in his Business of Online Video blog:

I have over 60 season passes in TiVo. Going through all of them yesterday,
more than 90% of the shows I watch are not available online anywhere. And the
ones that are, like content from CBS and NBC, do not show up right after they
are broadcast and typically take days if not longer to appear on the web. And in
the case of something like 60 Minutes, one story alone is chopped up into 10
different video segments on their website and encoded at a pretty low bitrate.
And sports, well forget that. No NFL games are available on-demand the next day
online and while the MLB games are, it requires a subscription.

At the end of the day, the internet is not a more efficient delivery system for broadcast television content so there is no real reason to think it will somehow supplant television. There are some narrow applications, like broadcasting local programming to ex-pats, where the incredibly small scale of the audience is better suited to streaming media, but television is very good at what it does.

As Rayburn notes, who would pay for the bandwidth necessary to replicate the quality and scalability of over the air national broadcasting?

However, streaming media is a measurably more efficient method of delivering corporate communications than teleconferences or desktop-sharing sessions with a telephone bridge that call themselves "webinars."

Whether for external communications like lead generation or internal communications like training, I believe the measurable cost-avoidance of streaming rich media instead of travel for a live meeting or the phone bill for a teleconference is the key to its future, not the writers' strike.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Metered Bandwidth!

Saul Hansell writes in Friday Jan 18th's New York Times that Time Warner Cable is testing a new rate plan that would charge internet customers an extra fee for exceeding a bandwidth threshold.

Alexander Dudley, a Time Warner spokesman, said that the exact terms had
not been set, but that packages would probably offer between 5 gigabytes and 40
gigabytes a month. The top plan would cost roughly the same as the company’s
highest-speed service, which typically runs between $50 and $60 a month.

As Hansell points out, this seems to have less to do with the cost of excessive bandwidth usage (if you are targeting peer to peer usage, then the threshold should be measured in terabytes) and more to do with preventing average internet users from becoming accustomed to downloading entertainment from the internet. These internet viewers would be watching less cable television.

The New York Times is running an article on the same date (today, Friday Jan 18) written by Miguel Helft that says that 138 million Americans watch more than 3 hours of internet video per day.

Helft quotes Josh Bernoff from Forrester research:

If you are [a television executive], the fact that people are watching a few hours of online video a month is of some concern,” Mr. Bernoff said. “But if there is some
member of your audience who is there for one or two hours a day, you’ve lost
them. They are never coming back.”

Hopefully, there is enough competition amongst internet providers to squash this trend before real harm is done.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Video for the Corporation

Mike Abundo writes in his Inside Online Video blog that "Vertical Video Cannot Compete on Content." He notes various online video sharing sites that focus on content specific to a certain niche or vertical.

Barely a week goes by that I don’t hear about some startup touting itself
as “YouTube for ________”. Porn and piracy aside, I don’t see any way these guys
can differentiate themselves from general video sharing sites unless they offer
features (not just content) specifically useful to their niches.

The interactive features offered by webcasting companies are what add value to their relationships with corporations, and are what differentiate them from standard CDNs or a hypothetical video sharing site that calls itself "YouTube for the corporation."

The ability to control who watches, to maintain security. The ability to track who watches, to maintain accountability for internal communications and to achieve effective lead generation for external communications. The ability to achieve interaction with Q&A, live polling, and surveys. The ability to replace an expensive teleconference with streaming audio and a synchronized power point presentation. The ability to have viewers take a test immediately after watching to demonstrate comprehension of the content. These are examples of the value a webcasting company brings to a corporation, beyond the ability to inexpensively archive content for on-demand viewing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Why are Politicians Not Webcasting?

According to Crain's New York Business, ad spending growth in 2008 will be fueled by political advertising and the Olympics.

Which makes me wonder why politicans are not webcasting, particularly in this presidential elections when so many primaries are in the month of January.

Webcasting is well-suited for allowing candidates and office holders to reach the people with a specific message. Web events can be streamed live and archived for on-demand viewing, which creates some interesting possibilities:

Candidate X does 45 minutes on health care (with synchronized Power Point slides), takes 15 minutes of carefully vetted questions. The webcast then sits on the candidate's web site for on demand viewing, reaching many more than the live audience.

The next night, or the next week, Candidate X does 45 minutes on Social Security, and takes 15 minutes of questions. After a few months of doing these "Virtual Town Hall Meetings," voters can go to the candidate's web site and access a library of the candidate discussing the issues in his or her own words.

This is much more impactful than a position paper. The candidate can be anywhere to do these live webcasts. He or she would deliver the audio over a telephone. The Q/A feature is an instant messaging system, which means you have complete control over what questions are asked and answered. No ambushes. And the campaign can follow up after the event with every person who asked a question they did not get to answer. The Q/A feature stays active for on demand viewing, so any questions asked are routed via email to the campaign.

And, of course, the reporting is comprehensive: who watched, for how long, what questions did they ask, what responses did they give to live polls, etc. This is a powerful lead generation tool; campaigns are identifying and engaging voters and building a database. Is that not what party building is all about?