Content Contention – Entertainment Flexibility … Big Iron Doesn’t Matter
Television production used to be pretty straight forward. You had HUGE, HEAVY cameras three people pushed around. In the control room you had sliders and BAM! magically the signal went over the air. At home you turned on the set. Had dinner (families ate together then) and a half-hour later the tube was lit and you watched the Sid Caesar or Lone Ranger show. It was so cool.
For years we all went to the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show and the behemoths of the industry dominated the floor. Big, sexy, expensive cameras. Big, gorgeous, expensive control panels. TV sets, big/bigger, gorgeous, expensive. Then the cable and satellite folks emerged with “a better TV experience.” Once you got tired of over-the-air only shows in they “offered” you 50-100 fantastic channels for $100 a month. Suddenly our wife could watch HGTV, daughter could watch the gut-buster infomercial, and son could watch Telemundo (he’s practicing Spanish and the skirts are short). According to Nielsen we started watching more TV — 4 hours, 34 minutes a day in 2006-07. Not bad for the producers, network, cable operators, advertisers. Nielsen found:
- 100% of US cable operators offer HDTV
- 165.3 mln LCD TVs to sell in 2011
- Americans choose smaller 1080p TV over a larger 720p
- 80% of TiVo owners and 82% of other DVR owners likely to skip commercials
- 85% of US households aware of digital TV transition
- More than 80% of US households have digital TVs
- 15% of Americans have 2+ HDTVs
- US HDTV sales to top $65 bln by 2009
- 1080p LCD TV to generate $75.4 bln in 2011
- Japanese and Americans watched 4.5 hours of TV a day in 2006
- Digital television reached 64% of US households last year
- 52% of urban males do not get enough international content on their TV
- 94% of Americans have HDTVs
Then a viewing paradigm took place.
The Internet became ubiquitous and pipes got bigger. People started watching stuff online. Once the novelty wore off things just kept getting better – better quality, better variety, better timing. The kids watch tons of short subjects on their computers…something about attention spans. But they didn’t reduce their TV set time they just added video content viewing. Nielsen found:
- 69% of Americans think PCs are more entertaining than TV
- 47% more engage with TV ads online
- 17 mln IPTV subscribers in China by 2011
- 1.2 bln HDMI-enabled devices by 2010
- 38% of US consumers watching TV shows online
- 30% of cable subscribers would drop cable if shows were available over broadband
The world of video entertainment/education suddenly got close…just a few mouse clicks away. Suddenly we could find anything online (some of it is a “little” scary). We’ve gone way beyond YouTube and MySpace. Online video has become so promising that Cisco looks at it as their next big target (right after owning more of the corporate infrastructure). They figure if our insatiable video demand is going to grow 400 times what we needed in 2000 by 2012 they might as well be the provider of choice!
Toying with onlineTV bridge we tried the Sling box and Hulu site and they’re …ok. The kids though have a very finite budget. They look for all the free stuff they can online such as TVWeb 360, InnerLive, TVChannelsFree and others. Our son likes MyP2P for some of the sporting events. The whole family likes channel surfing with LiveStation to view some really awesome content around the world. Heck every network is getting their shows online to capture even more eyeballs. According to Pew Research online video watching is attractive to all age groups:
Percentages of Age Groups Engaged in Online Activities
Age Groups 18-32 33-44 45-54 55-63 64-72 73+
Watch Videos Online 72% 57% 49% 30% 24% 14%
It got us to thinking about slipping off the golden handcuffs of the cable/satellite folks. Our kids asked why not and … we’re thinking about it.
After all the kids have already made the shift to the third screen…mobile video. The iPhone 3.0 OS and iTunes have helped every mobile supplier see huge potential in offering content, service, new devices, new download options. Mobile video is already widely used in Korea and most of the Pacific Basin countries. In Europe it’s slow in taking off. According to Nielsen there were 145 million mobile media consumers last year in the U.S. Ok so Apple only sold about 14 million iPhones last year but they’re aiming higher this year. So is every other device manufacturer! We were reminded of all of the new options while cruising the NAB floor. The big iron booths were still there but who was covering them?
The New Production Staff
There were one or two people walking around with good-nuff HD camcorders and decent mikes, and a really good notebook computer. They shot the stuff, edited on the fly or in the evening and posted to the Web for people around the globe to see what’s new in broadcast. We talked with journalist journalists – you know folks who used to do print. They were documenting the show, working their blogs, doing photo/video feeds to their outlets’ sites. Reminded us that most TV stations, post production houses are “modest” budget operations…maybe $150K ($250K max) a year.
Business, government, houses of worship? Budget???
The engineers, reporters, staff all do double and triple duty. They only dream about the big boys iron, software, service. Indie videographers (folks with stars in their eyes and moths in their pockets) also have their dreams. The Big Red camcorder is way out of their league. A well-equipped post production facility will never happen. But the prosumer products appearing more and more at NAB is something the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), small stations, movie moguls of the future can swing.
The computers and software are moving up in features, capabilities and they’re inexpensive…almost cheap! What the engineers, journalists, indies lack in budget they make up with ingenuity and monitoring the growing video outlet options. While lots of the traditional NAB players haven’t reinvented themselves but show management has morphed into a content association. They spent a lot of sessions talking about the new distribution platforms, the new content sources and delivery mechanisms. The industry has opened up so much that even the video game folks saw opportunities to push eyeballs and revenue sharing. Sure folks are still watching the 36-in LCD in the family room but according to 3Marketer online viewing is growing rapidly and by 2012 25 percent will be time-shifted, on-demand, on the Web. The big question will be if traditional TV broadcasters can reinvent themselves and their organizations to take advantage of the on-demand, interactive future. Right now they’re wrestling with how to “control” their content and get paid. They get a lot more money from advertisers for their TV shows than they do for the downloads so it’s tough…especially in tough times. People increasingly don’t just want content. They want the content the way they want, when they want it, where they want it. They want it on all three screens.
Three Screen Issue
That isn’t all about big studio solutions. That’s about the lowly codec (encoder/decoder) program that encodes the data stream or signal for transmission, storage, encryption, decodes for viewing. It would be ideal if all you had to do is turn on that beautiful big screen and watch your show…switch to your computer and view it…grab your iPhone and keep up with the entertainment. Doesn’t work that way!
There are thousands of lowly codecs – some free, some costing a few hundred. The most widely used are:
Getting a universal codec that will work across all platforms isn’t in the cards.
Too many things you have to deal with like the depth/breadth of the content, size of your pipe, size of the screen, royalties, yada yada yada. So the content providers will have to continue creating for their version of the optimum screen that they think is hottest! Then users will have to figure out how to move from one screen to another.
Blew us away a few weeks ago when we stumbled across some folks who actually came up with a solution … vuze.com. It’s the closest thing we’ve seen to auto-conversion. Works with full screen HD content, you can move it to your Mac/PC, PS3, Xbox, heck even iTunes for your iPhone! True it is a work-in-progress but for gawd sake they just might be the portal to all of your devices. That could take one less issue off the content developers, content owners, content production house to-do list. People would be empowered with their time, place, device shifting content solution.
Content producers could focus on making their content available to any screen (at the right price). Advertisers could see a real tangible tracking of devices/eyeballs. Of course big iron folks will have to rethink what they do and…what it’s worth. Otherwise, they’ll wonder if Sugar might have been right…“Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.”