Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 10th:
Discovery Channel signs onto Comcast On Demand Online trial - Comcast added yet another cable programmer this week to the roster of those participating in its TV Everywhere trial. Discovery will make available episodes of "Man vs. Wild," "Swords," "Stormchasers" and "Verminators" though with some delayed windows that take a little edge off their appeal. Comcast has made a ton of progress corralling networks for its trial, but 4 of the big 5 cable network owners - Disney, Fox, NBCU and Viacom - remain holdouts. No coincidence that the first 3 are Hulu's owners.
Swarmcast powers MLB.TV on Roku, introduces "Autobahn Live for CE" - Following on Roku's announcement this week that it is offering MLB.TV, Swarmcast announced it was powering the service through a new offering called "Autobahn Live for CE." Swarmcast's COO Chad Tippin explained to me that integrating with CE devices that drive broadband/TV convergence is a key company goal. Chad is confident that Swarmcast's high-quality, scalable HTTP streaming service will work on these various CE devices, and that as the number of them deployed swells, a new "long tail of live sports" will flourish. Live sports and events (e.g. concerts) could be a significant contributor to device adoption. For example, picture getting a coupon for $50 off the purchase of a Roku when you buy a pay-per-view of a streaming blockbuster concert.
Babelgum grows to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July, 2009 - I heard from Michael Rosen, EVP and Chief Revenue Officer at Babelgum this week, with news that the site has grown to nearly 1.7 million unique visitors in July (comScore), following its U.S. launch in April. I profiled Babelgum back in April and was cautiously optimistic about its approach to curate high-quality, independently-produced video into 5 channels (music, film, comedy, Our Earth and Metropolis). The site is fully ad-supported. Babelgum's growth comes on top of a slew of made-for-broadband video initiatives I detailed recently. The NY Times also had a great story this week on how independent filmmakers are taking distribution into their own hands. Despite the recession, this corner of the broadband market seems to be hanging in there.
Zune HD coming Sept 15th - Microsoft at last announced this week that the Zune HD digital media player will be in retail on Sept 15th, with pre-orders now being accepted. Zune HD introduces a touch-screen interface, 720p video playback, HD radio and other goodies. It is sure to raise the visibility of high-quality portable video another notch. But I find myself wondering: as the iPhone and other smartphones incorporate video playback (and recording) into one device, how large is the market for standalone high-end media players like Zune? Related, the iPhone's risk of cannibalizing the iPod has become a hot topic recently. Things to ponder: will users want to carry 2 devices? Or might they appreciate the ability to drain their battery watching video without risking the loss of their cell phone? Lots of different things in play.
I'm back in the saddle after an amazing 10 day trip to Israel with my family. On the assumption that I wasn't the only one who's been out of the office around the recent July 4th holiday, I've collected a batch of industry news links below so you can quickly get caught up (caveat, I'm sure I've missed some). Daily publication of VideoNuze begins again today.
OK, one last post related to CES, and then I promise to shut up about the show.
Observing the goings-on this week, it is evident that both content and consumer electronics firms have come to the same basic conclusion: each industry's success is inextricably tied to the other's. Each recognizes that the business dynamics of the future requires a new way of differentiating their products than they are accustomed. That means, for example, that TV makers can no longer just boast about better pictures. And that content companies can no longer bank on bigger stars or funnier sitcoms to deliver audiences and profits.
Rather, both industries recognize that we are moving into what I would call the "experience era" for video. That's to say, success with consumers is going to rest more on these industries' ability to deliver superior experiences which integrate content and technology in new and compelling ways. Rather than oohing and ahhing about their new TV's picture quality or how hilarious a certain episode was, going forward consumers will increasingly cite "how cool" something is.
"How cool" are code words for "how compelling is the experience". The new currency of video hipness will require that when I invite friends to my house and want to show off, I need to have more than just a honking-big screen or a digital collection of old programs - those will be commonplace. Instead, the experiences are what will matter. Things like seamlessly accessing broadband content on my TV, interacting with it -- along with other viewers -- from my couch, and moving it around my house for playback anywhere, in a snap. Delivering these types of experiences (and more) is the new competitive bar that content and technology firms should be aiming for.
My sense is these industry executives know this, and the partnerships we saw unveiled -- and those yet to come -- demonstrate this recognition. Listen to what Bob Scaglione, Sharp's SVP Marketing said in this NY Times piece: "We already all have beautiful HD televisions. How do you differentiate? One way to provide some really unique differentiation is to provide new content. That's why we're fighting to find the right content providers."
And then what Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal Integrated Media said: "You can't talk about consumer electronics without talking about content.....We try every new technology that comes along."
Executives across the content and technology spectrum must understand the experience era is now upon us. Steve Jobs and Apple's iPod ushered in the experience era in the music business. We now wait to see which companies in the video industry will do the same and reach for Apple's success. In a hyper competitive world, those who deliver strongly against consumers' needs and desires will be the ultimate winners in the experience battle now underway.
Agree or disagree? Post a comment and let us all know!