Tag Archives: Streaming Video

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

Was Discovery’s Penguin Execution A Gimmick For The Birds?

Tapping into lovers of Penguins might provide a hardcore audience, but whether it will generate buzz and a large audience for a television series remains to be seen.  Discovery has launched its digital campaign around its upcoming seven-part series, FROZEN PLANET, with a penguin-centric core.  Beginning yesterday and through the month of April, they will presenting a 24/7 feed of the Penguin cam from San Diego’s Sea World and will introduce an online game called Criminal Penguins.  All of it is a cut way to engage fans ahead of the season launch, but will it be anything more than a gimmick?

I value what fun can be had by viewing the USTREAM live video for a bit, but will it entice viewers to watch the show that covers much more than cute penguins and delves into quite serious subject matter?  My 3 year-old daughter has already loved it and grown tired of it in the past 10 minutes this morning.  It seems that the game – which is coming out next week – would also be targeted at children.  I just question if it is much ado about nothing.

It could be great if they were to place more cameras or even show views from other SeaWorld penguin locations to provide more variance.  If the focus is on penguins, I wish there were also some conservancy components that I could check out with the family.  Having seen a number of USTREAM Live offerings, I am surprised by the jumpy video quality and the pixelation.  While you see penguins from a distance and hope that you can see one up close, when they do come close to the camera, you can barely make out their features.

On the surface, I think the partnership is a strong one that will bring value from the parks and other considerations.  With all the advancements in technology with multi-screen and toggling capabilities, I just feel that this execution could have been so much more to fit with the times. They do link out to SeaWorld site pages for more information, but the promotion could have leveraged the technology to convey much more than the opportunity to interact with information and “get to know” the five Antarctic species represented in stronger ways than just listing their names.

My daughter is now back in front of the computer watching the stream, jumping up and down and screaming Happy Feet!  I guess the promotion is working for something.  I just wish Discovery had gone further than the surface to present something truly special, unique and meaningful in the way they have proven they can on TV.

Without the well thought out integration and holistic environment, it just does seem like a gimmick that will easily be forgotten by the time the new show airs – leaving me to think that it was all for the birds…

Miramax and Facebook – The Really Interesting Part

With the launch of the Miramax Facebook App that enables streaming rental of some of their titles, it brings up a number of fascinating elements to consider.  As we see the rush on video distribution formats that enable consumers to consume however they want – whenever they want, Facebook adds a new dimension that could have future implications in more ways than just watching a movie here or there. 

You can check out the limited details about the release here, but these are some of those things to keep an eye on as we move further into the experiment.

  • Forget about second-screen application that utilize Facebook Connect to enable conversation during movies.  This application has the ability, if done correctly, to have everything happen within the same interface.
  • Not just related to this Miramax deal, by being web-based, they are able to leverage the cloud and truly make the anytime, anywhere (with a connection) more seamless than other digital video streaming options out there – with an already-huge user base.  The user conversion expense should be mitigated to just internal communications.  And, the incremental costs of streaming should also not be as hard of a hit that other video streaming sites feel due to Facebook’s already huge traffic threshold.
  • A fantastic component that provides a “wait and see” mentality is the fact that they are promoting this as an iPad feature – but only within an optimized web-version that can be viewed via the Safari browser on the iPad.  It is an ingenious way to get around the 30% revenue split with Apple.   The wait and see part is that we don’t know whether the quality will be consistently good with streaming/connectivity concerns and the lack of an iOS-native interface.  Additionally, we are seeing a bifurcation of quality tastes among users – some wanting great HD quality and some not really caring at all.
  • Another look toward the future is in the handling of the payments for this product. The option of paying $3 or 30 Facebook credits enables consumers to use virtual currency for even more goods.  A key factor of this is when it comes to profit participation.  How do you share that profit when it is a FB credit that might have been accrued by the user for participating in other marketing functions – where there was never any monetary transaction?  Another interesting aside to this is that a user could ostensibly “earn” the currency to pay for this by watching videos or trailers from other studios.  Certainly an interesting dynamic.
  • We know that Facebook does not let anything slide by them in terms of capturing information about consumer usage and tastes.  An embedded video player adds depth to their knowledge base about each consumer – how much they watch, what they watch, when they watch, etc.  For a company that wanted to shy away from advertising at its inception, they have become masters in pulling as much information as possible to enable them to target successfully and charge for it – privacy be damned.

Ultimately, there are a LOT of business complexities that need to be shaken out in the realm of online movies – both in viewing and distribution platforms.  Facebook is uniquely positioned to be the bellweather for how consumers want to consume video online due to their penetration and technical prowess.  Hopefully, we’ll all be able to learn from consumer reaction to any and all of the elements listed above and move forward.