Category Archives: Web Video

Has consumer cloud-based editing arrived?

Recently I was sent a link to an article about JayCut.com. Because I work for a publicly traded company that develops non-linear editors of both the executable and cloud-based kind, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into the specifics of any vendor’s software design or business model. Anyone who saw Avid’s web-based editing demo at NAB or last May’s Editors Lounge has seen Avid’s vision of what editing in the cloud can be.

Long before taking up NLE design as a vocation I was enamored with the idea true “online” editing. Years ago I was a fan of JumpCut — the online editor eventually bought, then shuttered by Yahoo!

JayCut UI

JayCut's UI is similar to those of consumer-facing online editors before it. Is its fate going to be similar too?

If Yahoo! couldn’t jump start JumpCut, what would make a someone attempt a consumer-facing web-based NLE again? The world has changed a lot since 2006 when I first encountered JumpCut. Here are just a few of the shifts that might make a consumer-facing NLE viable.

  • Smart phones are the new camcorder. Nearly everyone under 35 has a phone capable of recording video. Assuming an unlimited data plan, sending even large files to the cloud is a lot easier than waiting to get home and tethering the phone to a PC to download videos. (JayCut can only do this from Android phones currently.)
  • Facebook and YouTube are the de facto publishing platforms of the Millennials. They don’t make DVDs. They don’t even do email. If they want to edit their video, they will want to do it where their video lives.
  • Cisco with its Flip cameras and other online players are interested in consumer video to drive traffic and revenue. Linksys + Flip = Lots of Cisco hardware being sold to ISPs.

Unlike JumpCut, JayCut is not a pure consumer play. It offering includes video distribution software and services for business, differentiating itself from Brightcove somewhat as a tool for online collaboration. (Mashups with a more adult-sounding name.)

Also entering this space is Kaltura.com/.org — an open source online video editing and distribution platform with a nifty WordPress plug-in to boot. Kaltura will host your applications and content, and also allows for DIY on your own server. The Kaltura player also allows for collaboration. Blog admins can set permissions for user to add, comment, and edit videos embedded in a blog post.

Perhaps these tools are still ahead of their time. But if not 2010, when?

Still talking about convergence

It’s been about a decade since I first heard talk of the convergence of the TV and web experience. In that time talk of Interactive TV has come and gone. Walled gardens were villified needlessly — the walls kept out enough light to let anything significant grow. Mobile video burst on the scene only to gain virtually no traction. It took YouTube on the iPhone to get people watching.

The buzz around convergence continues on. It’s quieter these days, but it’s still spoken of by pundits as inevitiable. So then why hasn’t it happened? The New York Times revisited the issue this week — most likely because all the articles about the DTV transition had to be shelved.

I’m no oracle. I got interactive television all wrong back in a 2001 cover story for DV Magazine. But I have been right on convergence. I never imagined wanting to check my email on the big screen with the family gathered around. As Web 2.0 technologies take hold, the convergence of the internet and television looks even more remote. What teenager is going to update her Facebook profile in the living room?

The fact is the PlayStation and Xbox have already brought the internet to my TV. I don’t know anyone who uses those boxes to surf the net. Sony has apparently learned from this. Quoted from the Times article:

“Sony’s stance is that consumers don’t want an Internet-like experience with their TVs, and we’re really not focused on bringing anything other than Internet video or widgets to our sets right now,” said Greg Belloni, a spokesman for Sony. Widgets is an industry term for narrow channels of Internet programming like YouTube.

Yet pundits continue to declare, “This time it’s for real. Really. I mean it.” Like everything else, TVs will connect to the internet, but it will be a managed experience, and it won’t be browser-based. Weather, sports, and financial information will be available on the TV. Maybe Hulu and YouTube can be visited. But the rest of the browsing experience will be done elsewhere — where the screen is 12 inches not 12 feet away. I open my bills in my office at my desk. I don’t project them onto the wall for the whole family to watch.

The convergence ship has sailed. We can browse anywhere — with our iPhones, BlackBerrys, and other devices –  so who’s going to want to learn another remote?

User-generated blues

Remember when user-generated content was all the buzz? It still is in the social networking space. Facebook is nearly 100% user-generated content, but where’s the business model?

Facebook is top dog in social networking, but it’s number one among the most fickle user base. Not too long ago all your Facebook friends were on MySpace. Should Facebook irritate users further with another UI change or more ads, its users will go elsewhere.

In 2005 Rupert Murdoch surmised that MySpace had achieved permanent dominance in its segment due to Metcalfe’s Law, and promptly shelled out $580 million for the soon-to-be-number-two social networking site. Apparently Murdoch failed to factor zero switching costs into his network valuation model.

But this isn’t about MySpace or Facebook. It’s about user-generated video content. In another blow to the Long Tail [see previous post], both AOL and Brightcove have announced their free video publishing services will go dark in mid-December. From Brightcove’s announcement:

Although more than 40,000 publishers have signed up for the Network, it represents less than 1% of our revenue. Our core business, the Brightcove platform, has been extremely successful for us and for our customers. So we’ve decided to focus 100% of our business efforts on the Brightcove platform, which customers pay us to use.

That’s not much revenue, but a good amount of storage and bandwidth. Brightcove is a distribution platform, so it makes sense to move unprofitable content off the system. AOL is in a much different position. Liz Gannes gives a good analysis over at NewTeevee.

If you’re truly pushing your overall platform as a default, there should be a way for users to post videos without leaving to log in somewhere else. But it’s also an ominous sign that simply hosting a few user videos is a significant enough diversion of resources to be considered worth cutting. The cost of running a video service is pretty high, regardless of how cheap everything is getting.

Video differs from other types of UGC. Watching video online requires greater audience commitment than text, still images, and even audio. Having reasonably short, clearly rated, and easily searchable content all in one place are the table stakes. YouTube for UGC and Hulu for commercial material are the clear winners. There’s no room for a second tier player.

The dynamic changes somewhat for longer form content. Users have to block out a time to watch the content. That investment in time must be rewarded. Quite often the content offerings on the free platflorms don’t reward that investment. Put more succinctly, a lot of the content on free Brightcove Network wasn’t very good, making it difficult to find the good stuff. What Brightcove learned is that charging producers to publish content filters out a good proportion of the nearly unwatchable.

It’s not a feel good story about the democratization of the media or the Long Tail. It’s just a market working itself out. To this capitalist, that’s a pretty good feel good story in 2008.

Post Election Day blues

This year broadcasters will mourn the passing of the US election season more strongly than they have in the past. As noted in an NPR piece yesterday, the billions spent in television advertising during the primaries and the final election barely covered the advertising revenues lost due to the economic downturn.

Couple this with the finding that about one in five televisions that receive over the air broadcasts will not be upgraded to receive digital signals in February, and it’s clear broadcast television is in for some challenging times. It should be noted that only 15% of US televisions use a traditional antenna. The other 85% will continue to receive satellite and cable signals as they always have, so only 3% of US televisions are slated to become doorstops.

As noted in the NPR piece, many local broadcasters will be motivated to move more offerings online. In tough economic times, internet advertising becomes even more appealing with pay per click pricing models and more precise audience tracking.

Content producers will be producing more content specifically for internet distribution to further differentiate their local news and public affairs offerings in a hyper-competitive environment. Workflow enhancements that speed the process of versioning and publising video online will be in demand.

Most interesting will be to see which platforms and business models broadcasters choose. Will they host their own content? Though much less expensive than building an operating a transmitter, few broadcasters in a tough economy will enthusiastically embrace increased headcounts and infrastructure costs. Look for Akamai and Brightcove to thrive in this environment.

Is Apple TV a 21st century Newton?

Apple TV menuI’m beginning to think so. While I love my Apple TV hardware and the software that powers it, it’s beginning to feel like a dead end product. The business model just isn’t there. The economics of buying or renting movies and TV shows on iTunes doesn’t make sense – $2.99 – $4.99 for a 24-hour rental just doesn’t cut it for most consumers.

Sure, downloading is the future and DVDs are the past. But in 2008 the DVD is remains more flexible than an MP4 file with DRM. The DVD I receive from Netflix can be played in my living room, my bedroom, my PC, and my car. Netflix’s terms are far more flexible than a $5 rental that times out in 24 hours whether I view it or not. Throw in Netflix’s instant watching option and iTunes doesn’t compete.

Obviously iTune’s cumbersome and costly movie rental model is not all Apple’s fault. The studios won’t allow Apple to rent (or sell) at better terms. (After watching Apple strongarm the record labels into a single price model, the studios were understandably wary, but their caution is costing them.)

Today my Apple TV sits in the family room, it serves up my music quite nicely. But I could always stick m iPod in a dock and feed it through the home theater just as nicely. It doesn’t serve much video beyond the occaisional YouTube break. What video is stored on it is overflow from the DVR, and it’s a good amount of manual labor to get those programs properly encoded – not work for the average television viewer.

For Apple TV (and Apple) to succeed in the video distribution space, Apple TV has to replace something — my Netflix acocunt, my DVR rentals, or a few cable channels. TO date, it’s done noe of that. I have set top box and subscription fatigue, and I’m not alone among consumers. I want fewer devices — not more.

For a while it looked like Joost had a reasonable chance at becoming IPTV’s killer app. With the announcement that Joost is dropping its standalone client to focus on browser-based playback, it’s in danger of becoming just another web video service with nifty distribution technology.

Apple and Joost need each other. Together they can bring IPTV to the masses. Separately they are both teetering on the precipice of irrelevance.

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