Nov 142005

Man and Mesquite Dunes ©Gary Hayes 2005It is starting to feel a little like one of those JFK “Everyone remembers what they were doing when…” moments. Suddenly TV is spreading across the cross-media universe like wild-fire. With TV companies moving their prized possessions onto broadband, mobile and various PVRs the Washington Post in its article “A Breakthrough Few Months for Portable TV” starts the retrospective – or alternatively a term I think coined by a BBC colleague a few years ago ‘prestalgia’.

The autumn of 2005 will doubtless be remembered as the time when all assumptions about the rules of television were thrown into the air and scattered, with no certainty about what happens when they land.
The most shocking event clearly was Apple’s deal with The Walt Disney Co. in October to make reruns of “Lost” and other programs available for downloading to iPods for $1.99. In less than three weeks, Apple said a million videos were sold.

It continues by pointing out that TV broadband sites are also starting to sprout up everywhere

That remains unanswered, but it hasn’t stopped an explosion of Internet channels or programming offerings this fall _ seemingly a new announcement every day.
Several of the MTV Networks have launched affiliated broadband sites. 50 Cent made a concert exclusively available on MTV Overdrive, VH1 started the VSpot stream, kids can watch cartoons on TurboNick and Comedy Central’s Motherload began operating Nov. 1.
NBC began offering a same-night replay of “Nightly News” online, the first network news broadcast to take that step. The Food Network starts a Web-only series with chef Dave Lieberman next week. HGTV debuted “My First Place,” a series about young people moving into their first homes, on the Web before TV. PBS made NerdTV, a series about high tech pioneers, available exclusively on the Internet.

As is usual when things get a little too ‘raucous’ there is always one party pooper and this one is Broadcasting and Cables article subtitled “Hold on—maybe the Internet giants won’t take over television”

Indeed, while the rush to air TV programs online has promotional value, it’s merely an elaborate experiment for now: Will people watch shows on their computer? Every veteran TV executive knows that any large-scale migration of a network’s best content would upset the delicate supply chain of station groups, syndicators and advertisers.
“I don’t think we’re in favor of any tool that decides to record our content, no matter what functionality,” says Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media at Disney/ABC. “There needs to be acknowledgement of copyright laws.”
Also, networks worry about handing bullets to the enemy. They risk building Yahoo!, Google or Apple’s iTunes into online gatekeepers—the same sort they face in cable and DBS companies—and diluting networks’ leverage.

The New York Times though gets the party going again and also noted the cosmological (OK just TV spreading it’s wings) event. Its article Internet Service to Put Classic TV on Home Computer on Warner Brothers latest venture shows that the tidal wave may have begun already, this writer was kind of expecting a trickle of activity off the back of the Apple, NBC and CBS announcements reported in previous posts.

Warner Brothers is preparing a major new Internet service that will let fans watch full episodes from more than 100 old television series. The service, called In2TV, will be free, supported by advertising, and will start early next year. More than 4,800 episodes will be made available online in the first year. (snip)
Full-length TV shows on the In2TV service responds to that demand, particularly as more people hook their computers up to their television sets.

And like the BBC’s new IMP initiatives Warner Bros. Are reducing distribution costs by implementing existing peer-to-peer technologies

There is a catch. To use the technology, viewers will have to agree to participate in a special file-sharing network. This approach helps AOL reduce the cost of distributing-high quality video files by passing portions of the video files from one user’s computer to another. AOL says that since it will control the network, it can protect users from the sorts of viruses and spyware that infect other peer-to-peer systems.

To add even more excitement to the mix it looks like Interactive TV is sneaking in through this particular back door in the states. They have waited in the wings long enough behind the centre stage antics of the UK’s iTV industry so…

Other programs will be accompanied by interactive features that can be displayed side by side with the video, like trivia quizzes and video games related to the shows. One feature, to accompany “Welcome Back, Kotter,” will allow users to upload a picture of themselves (or a friend) and superimpose 1970’s hair styles and fashion, and send the pictures by e-mail to friends or use as icons on AOL’s instant-message system.

So remember what you were doing at the end of 2005 because the big changes are happening now. You will be able to reminisce when you are old and grey, sitting in your rocking chair as you tell your grandkids (or someone else’s grandkids) about the days when you used to have to watch your favourite TV programmes at certain times of the day – that you were there when the big switch over to broadband TV occurred (or video rather as TV will become a term less used in a few decades of course). These are strange, or rather expected times indeed.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005

Nov 072005

Who would have thought a web site that started as searches for text strings could start to worry the biggest corporations on the planet? Well the New York times today in the article “Just Googling It Is Striking Fear Into Companies” points out that as more and more people are becoming active searchers (and in the future of course active personalizees) across a range of platforms, they are trusting less on market dominance and associated blanket advertising to make those important ‘buying decisions’

Wal-Mart is scarcely alone in its concern. As Google increasingly becomes the starting point for finding information and buying products and services, companies that even a year ago did not see themselves as competing with Google are beginning to view the company with some angst – mixed with admiration.
Google’s recent moves have stirred concern in industries from book publishing to telecommunications. Businesses already feeling the Google effect include advertising, software and the news media. Apart from retailing, Google’s disruptive presence may soon be felt in real estate and auto sales.

As in my recent post about Robin Sloans vision of a Google (Googlezon) dominated planet the evolving personalized information construct looking at a future some 8 years away, perhaps this really is the beginning of the end of the stranglehold of corporation and scarcity media? As the NY times article continues:

The company’s current lineup of offerings includes: software for searching personal computer files; an e-mail service; maps; satellite images; instant messaging; blogging tools; a service for posting and sharing digital photos; and specialized searches for news, video, shopping and local information. Google’s most controversial venture, Google Print, is a project to copy and catalog millions of books; it faces lawsuits by some publishers and authors who say it violates copyright law.

and this started as just basic search. Search is, as we all know, the foundation of personalization – once truly ubiquitous algorithm, agent based, profile capture of what is relevant to you kicks in – the conglomerates will be more than worried. Using a rather dodgy ‘going for a drive metaphor’ already blogs such as Gizmodo are steering many buyers, Amazon has provided a view of the long tail and shifted audiences/buyers to niche rather than mass – google is providing the map (not just Google maps!), get to anywhere from here. The real issue of course is that that anywhere is going to be quite different from where people use to travel to. Finally from the article Mr. Breyer, the Wal-Mart board member:

Internet search, like personal computing in its heyday, is a disruptive technology, he said, threatening traditional industries and opening the door to new ones.

Better be quick and work out what those new ones are before its too late.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005