THE MARRIAGE OF TELEVISION & THE INTERNET
We all know it’s coming - but just when, how fast and how exactly will TV and the Internet converge? These and other questions were addressed at a Cinequest Film & Innovation Forum held at the San Jose Repertory Theatre last Saturday, February 28, 2009. I sat in on the 1.5 hour session. Cinequest founder and director Halfdan Hussey opened with a few remarks before turning the floor over to Moderator Kathleen Powell, President of Cinequest who interviewed two VERY INFORMED persons, Tom Morgan, Chief Strategy Officer of Move Networks which provides digital streaming to major networks and players in online delivery of content and Lance Koenders, an advisor to a Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Digital Home Group at Intel.
So Lance started us off with demonstration of a new chip Yahoo and Intel are developing to create a seamless conduit between your TV and the Internet. You will be able to run Yahoo widgets on your TV while streaming any content you like. The Yahoo interface will effectively turn your TV screen into a computer screen and you will be able to access anything on the web on your TV through widgets with no lag time, while still watching the TV show. The Yahoo widget framework will be rolling out this fall.
Tom then streamed an HD movie live over his laptop onto a wall-size 20' x 40' screen in the theatre. Not a single glitch in the video, truly impressive and awesome to see. Of course someone had kicked the plug out of the power supply earlier, so a theatre tech had to come up and plug it in!
Long story short, People, the technology exists to do everything we used to do on TV and traditional networks over the internet. The question that is plaguing the industry right now is how to make entertainment delivered via the Internet profitable. Traditional networks pay the bills with ad sales. But as TV and video viewership spreads itself out over the viewing options out there, what will the new model be? The experts say within 3-5 years, a monetization model for the new converged formats will be in place, and all providers of traditional TV content will have to move in that direction to survive.
What does all this mean for our world, Cable Access? Well, cable and telco companies like Comcast and AT&T that we rely on to broadcast our shows are scrambling right now to find a profit model on the Internet. Cable may in a good position to compete since they have the fat pipe for both TV and Internet, but if TV as we know it simply goes away, what will happen to Cable Access?
The forum did not address this specifically, but as I sat there listening to the future, I realized that there has to be a model for us. But we will have to drive it.
There are more eyes watching screens than ever before and they are watching them all over the world using many different platforms. How do we at Cable Access keep our shows local but also make them of interest to some of the millions of pairs of eyes that are out there looking for interesting content? What can we as content creators do now, while we wait for the "business model" to define itself over the next 3-5 years?
One of the main ideas we heard was that we as content creators need to get our videos out there everywhere we can and generate a buzz around them! Check out www.vuze.com which was mentioned at the forum. You can publish your videos and distribute them to viewers absolutely free with no ads, or if there are no strings on your content, you can choose an ad supported or sell-through approach and make some money. Also check out distribution on iTunes, working through an aggregator, of course, or videosharing site like blip.tv. Of course, if you want to sell your content (which was very important to the independent film makers at Cinequest), you should check out www.cinemanow.com. Netflix still generates a lot of interest. Their simple model of bringing content to the TV screen through the Internet via the Xbox, or dedicated Roku box on an all-you-can-eat low price subscription basis was mentioned at least 5 times at the panel discussion. And don't underestimate Youtube video with Google Adsense overlays: Christopher Cannucciari, local producer of "Depression Cooking with Clara", stood up in the audience and said he started the series on youtube with his grandmother about two years ago, and it caught on (the right content at the right time, I guess) and he is making a bundle on Adsense click-throughs now.
So whether you are trying to distribute your content as a public service, or build up a reputation to capitalize on later, or looking to make money now on ads or pay-per-view, there are a lot of low-barrier ways to break in. Then it is up to you to get your videos noticed through social networking, blogging, and online promoting. The main thing is the business is in a high growth phase despite the current economy, and the best place to be in 3-5 years, when the business models shake out, is on the Internet with lots of content and fans already.