Thursday, 12 July 2007

Will Broadband TV succeed immediately?

Sorry for the break in posts, I was travelling.

TV over broadband has really been talking off recently and after the initial excitement of Joost, 40D and BBC iPlayer has died, the reality and the shakeout will begin.

It's pretty obvious to all, not just Creatives like me, that its the content, stupid. People watch shows, they don't 'use' technology for its own sake. But I think in content is paramount, these developments are more than just content, it's more than any piece of cool software. What hasn't been discussed is the marketplace. I'm having visions of VHS vs Betmax, HD-DVD vs BlueRay all over again.

The first thing that strikes me immediately now that I have Joost, babelgum, veoh, 4oD, Sky Anytime, (on demand) and waiting to download BBC's iPlayer, is... can you guess?

Well, I mentioned 7 ways of watching TV. Yes 7, 6 of which involve a download, an icon on my desktop, a log in process, and a double click whilst software loads and I can then go pick what I want to watch, or infact see if there is anything worth watching. is the only one that I can just go to the website (and here, I had to close in Firefox, find where I have IE7 on my computer before I could watch anything).

These are all mass-market propositions - but that's too much software and junk on my computer.
Now considering you are in a market place where many people have access to multiple streams, via an easy interface (regular TV and remote) you're setting yourself up to have some problems.

Unless 'portals' like Joost or Babelgum do the mind-blowingly difficult and become like the UK's Sky or Virgin Media dominating a particular market with a mass of quality product on offer, its going to be a very hard sell indeed. The BBC are more likely to pull it off because of the sheer amount of product they have, which in turn will attract others.

Yes, there are all the issues or DRM (Digital Rights Management), and lots of people are trying to create value. In this post however, I'm being the consumer with my many, many choices of how to spend my free time, not an Executive trying to sell my wares.

I think these portals will 'simmer' but won't reach mass market propositions until the software become no more than 'widgets' which work across browsers, and as seamlessly as browsers. I think both Microsoft and Adobe are working on that.

Now looking into my crystal ball the other bump to get over in terms of market penetration in old fashioned marketing and advertising (ok, hands up, I'm ignoring revenue and network capacity issues here for the sake of clarity).

The much talked about long tail (small revenues over prolonged time) is valid, but video based entertainment has always been, and to a very large extent will remain about hit content. A hit business needs hit content. Real hit content is still about well produced show, featuring 'stars' that play to the mass market - and a mass market that needs to know the hit show exists and be able find it easily.

I don't see Joost or Babelgum taking over poster sites like Channel 4 saying, watch Ugly Betty on our service. Equally, the current dynamics of the business will mean Battlestar Gallactica's producers won't take out posters for their shows saying 'watch on Sky, Joost and Virgin Media on Demand'.

Traditional TV is fighting with the fact that programme brands are getting bigger than the channels. These new start-ups need to not forget that.

My biggest bit of advice, ditch the incompatible downloaded software to participate and partner up with established channel brands.

As a addendum, my personal usage. I Sky+ everything and look at all the players as part of my work. I find Sky Anytime clunky, but use it to download movies I've already paid for through my subscription which I'll watch whilst travelling or staying at my partners. 4oD kept crashing on me, and its limited content mean I don't bother. Joost, Babelgum & veoh I check out of professional curiosity, but I doubt I'll go back till I see there is a show I want to watch on it. looks good, but I don't watch many of their shows, iPlayer I'm waiting for. Youtube's and Google Video are all about short form content so are a slightly different marketplace.


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