Friday, March 30

Internet Video Face-off

We're watching the internet video space unfold and grow right in front of us right now. This is what happened in radio, TV over 30 years, compressed into months. And it's moving the web head to head with traditional entertainment.

First up, I've been playing with the public/private Beta of Joost TV. Joost is the P2P video on-demand platform from the Skype founders. The useability is great, streams are the cleanest clearest video I've seen online and best of all, it behaves like an intelligent TV, with full program guides, content categorised, etc. The Joost team are signing up content partners - you can watch IndyCar, MTV, National Geographic...



They're betting on being THE TV distribution network for your PC and which effectively by-passes the Windows Desktop. My criticism is that it's proprietary, under lock and key, but they say they'll be providing APIs/SDKs soon for others to create plugins.

Next comes Microsoft, with it's suite of products around Media Centre and Vista. I was recently invited to Microsoft's digital home, for a demonstration of all their latest tools and platforms. Now my home set-up already does everything that the new MS kit does, but by pain of Mod's, plugins and config. Pitched at the mass market (Early Majority in marketing speak) they probably have it bang on. Easy to use, not too much to mess with and familiar. But there's certainly no 'WoW' I'm sorry to say for Microsoft marketing team.

By comparison Joost is offering a one-app, one use tool that requires no effort and has the media built right in. It feels like a new TV experience, rather than a media player. And that's the point, it's about the content, not the technology.

The chaps at Skinkers, who last year teamed up with Microsoft, are soon to release their own P2P internet TV platform. The interesting part is that it's based on Microsoft's IP and is based on distributing Live TV, rather than on-demand. It's not in public Beta yet so we'll have to wait and see.

All of this is making Google's YouTube look a little old hat. But YouTube is pitched right where the consumer is NOW and has the luxury of moving those millions of consumers at their own pace. They need to innovate to hold that audience, but that's not often posed a problem for Google.

The 'ace' card may just have been played by an unlikely motley crew - News Corp/MySpace, NBC, Time/Warner, MSN & Yahoo! In the announcement last week, they're combining the worlds largest pool of broadcast content with a combined audience bigger than YouTube. The statement says content will be 'free' i.e. ad-supported, but I imagine there's too much for them to lose in opening up the vaults for free. Not least from revenues via old TV distribution channels (terrestrial, satellite, cable).

Somewhere amongst all this corporate posturing there is the viewer - and they'll ultimately decide how, where and what to watch .... at what price. I don't see a winner takes all prize for any of the corporates, I see viewers using multiple players/sites for different content.

If I like cars, I'll go watch TopGear, where ever it is available.

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