In reflection of the Digital NewFronts a few weeks back, the Upfronts and the NYTVFestival this week, I’m amazed that we are trying to get web video to fit within a TV model. When TV first came to market it was simply filmed theater until we figured out the medium. The same will happen with the on-demand interactivity and share-ability of web video. So why are we so bent on selling pre-rolls?…think about how our viewing habits have changed. While the Upfronts very much focus on the networks that bring you the content, the Digital Newfronts are more focused on the content and the creators for obvious reasons. Please don’t tell me we have come all this way with the democratization of media and a direct pipe from creator to consumer just to replicate TV!
Just like Smartphones have overtaken the market due to the features and functionality they give us, so will the living room give way to SmartTVs along with connected devices such as X-Boxes, Rokus, Google Nexus Q’s and AppleTV’s. The ability for these devices to turn the lean-back experience of our big screens into a search-for-content experience that more closely resembles a web search in addition to a-la-carte content purchases and subscriptions choices via individualized content apps – all start to make the idea of a ‘network’ irrelevant (I’ve written about the potential of apps on Smart TV’s before). Think about when you search for content online…do you care where it comes from as long as it is from a credible source or from the content originator…bingo…the power is now with the creator, and search.
Leading the pack is Google as they beef up their offerings within GoogleTV by adding voice search along with a New Prime Time TV guide. Given SmartTV’s will be all about search, Google is poised to rule and don’t be fooled if you think this will be limited to just GoogleTV any more than your choice of search tools is limited on your PC, tablet or smartphone.
With a majority share of the online video viewing audience, YouTube’s most recent facelift to prioritizes channels and its new paid subscriptions vs. user generated content (Also see the official YouTube Blog) will have a large impact in shaping strategy for others if they are successful. The new design lets users access their channel subscriptions across all devices, mobile or otherwise. The Channel Guide is also available no matter what page of the site you are on. To boost discovery, the Guide also offers recommendations and information on which content users’ friends are sharing across the web.
YouTube is also starting to sign deals similar to a traditional network like their deal with Virgin America for in-flight programming. YouTube will offer shows from five of its original programming partners for free on all Virgin America planes flying within the mainland US and Mexico.
Moving over to a search competitior, starting Sept. 1, Yahoo! will become the online home for ‘Saturday Night Live’ clips. From a search standpoint this is significant as users start to ‘search’ for content regardless of who hosts it. The fact that search leaders like Google and Yahoo are also hosts of the content will obviously give them a leading edge vs. findability of a traditional TV network.
And would you believe that even TV traditionalist TV Guide’s newly redesigned Android app includes a “Watchlist” feature that lets users find their favorite TV shows and programs via direct links to apps like HBO Go, Max Go, Hulu Plus, The CW, and Crackle, regardless of originating network.
So, unless you are a part of the Google/YouTube family and own the majority of online video search (for now) its all about the content. Sooner or later the networks will be in trouble – especially those that hesitate with digital delivery tethered to a cable plan. Digital networks like Netflix and Hulu may face similar challenges in the future, although their digital roots give them the advantage of experience around search and delivery.
There is no doubt that digital video will eventually eradicate the need for traditional TV delivery. Along with that and search, traditional TV networks will lose their ability to be ‘found’. Participation will be key and digital video will not look anything like TV.
For a potential peek into the future, Chad Hurley, the founder of YouTube is on the right path with his collaborative video-creation site mixbit.com. Think participatory crowdsourced content and brand integration. Now we may be onto something…
- Google boss claims YouTube has already overtaken TV (itv.com)
- YouTube Streams More Than 6 Billion Hours of Video Each Month (hngn.com)
- How the next Xbox can win the cable TV war (reviews.cnet.com)
- YouTube Tiptoes Toward Paywalls With The Launch Of Channel Subscriptions, But The Ads Play On (techcrunch.com)
- A sneak peek at YouTube’s future as it rolls out new channel design for everyone (gigaom.com)