Here are a few thoughts about broadband video that have been building up in my brain over the past months. Please leave a comment and let me know if anything strikes a chord:
- Paying for content isn’t going away: Advertising isn’t bearing the costs of premium content and that’s why we’re seeing a movement of the Hulu’s and YouTubes’ of the world towards paid. The broadcast industry is in upheaval over the shift in spending away from ads, but there will always be a market for good content and I think subscription to great movies and series (a la HBO) long ago proved itself as the model. People too often get hung up on delivery mechanism, but soon enough TV’s will all have Ethernet jacks and once again it’ll be the big brands like Comcast or Rogers that will grab the lion’s share of viewers because they’ve spent the time and money building programming, brand awareness, and trust. (Yes, you disgruntled customers can argue that you’ll switch at the first opportunity, but you’re not a majority, especially in Canada where we tend to stick with our brand – it is the land of the Queue after all).
- New tech means new revenue opportunities: I foresee studios dicing up their content and creating a bunch of related webisodes. I hesitate to use the term because it’ll be associated with the meager results from shows like BSG , but I firmly believe that current movies only scratch the surface of revenue potential because they are mired in the high-margin technology of DVD’s. This single-product, shrink-wrapped thinking doesn’t take advantage digital manipulation (slice and dice the product in hundreds of ways), new delivery mechanisms, and new forms of social marketing. Disney has done this in long form for years with spin offs like Aladdin’s “The Return of Jafar” and “Aladdin and the King of Thieves” , but they need to think about all the other ways that people would be interested in consuming their favourite characters. This is the power of the sequel times ten. And most importantly, this content could be subject to different rules – i.e. different release windows (short pre-quels to gain momentum – like a trailer but better) and licensing (open it up to mashups?).
- Back to the future with easy-to-consume subscription models: Silverlight will continue to gain momentum on Flash, and adaptive bitrate technology will get so good that streaming will grab a large share of the user base, leading to a growth in subscription offerings – which, if you don’t see the irony, is cable’s current model. However, as a large proportion of people are still pack-rats, not everyone will be satisfied with a “copy in the cloud”, and will want their own personal keepsake.
- Video will cease being just a memory capture device and become a communication tool: This is something I wrote a while back, before Cisco paid $590m for Flip and before Apple added video capture/edit to the iPhone: Video is the most natural method of communication because it is the most effective and lifelike. Nothing else includes the realm of information we receive from body language, voice inflection, facial expression, etc. As mobile devices become incredibly powerful, bandwidth and storage limitless, individuals will be able to capture and send full motion HD instantaneously. Anyone who has been in a video conference will know it will never replace f2f, but it certainly will grow in everyday use. (I can just hear the headlines now: “Written communication dead”, “Our children can’t read” etc etc). So while we saw a growth in people taking pictures with their cell phones (of the thing they wanted to buy etc), they will be able to send a video just as easily, or even enter into a video conversation instead of a phone call because they want to see a person’s reaction.