Monday, December 22, 2008, 9:35 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
For those who weren't up for reading 700-1,000 words each day last week, today I offer a quick recap my 5 broadband video projections for 2009.
This one is easily my least controversial prediction, since I've been writing about this trend for most of 2008. The "SVE" as I call it, is an ecosystem of video content providers, distributors and the technology companies who facilitate their relationships. In '08 video content providers increasingly realized that widespread distribution to the sites that users already frequent would improve on the "one central destination site" approach. That's a big change in the traditional media mentality. In '09 the SVE will only accelerate, as the technology building blocks for distributing, monetizing and measuring syndicated video continues to improve. To be sure, the SVE is still nascent, but many companies across the broadband landscape have begun embracing it in earnest.
In '08 VideoNuze has been mainly focused on wired broadband delivery of video to homes and businesses. But as the year has progressed, powerful new mobile devices have mutated the definition of broadband to also include wireless delivery. The huge success of the iPhone and other newer video-capable devices, coupled with 3G, and soon 4G networks, have contributed to mobile delivery finally realizing some of its long-held promise. Still, as some of you commented, obstacles remain. iPhones don't support Flash, the most popular video format. Wireless carriers are careful with doling out too much bandwidth for video apps. And so on. Still, '08 was a big year for video delivery to mobile devices, and I think '09 will be even bigger.
Proponents of "net neutrality" legislation, which would codify the Internet's level playing field, expected that under an Obama administration they would finally be granted their wish, particularly since he supported the concept on the campaign trail. But I'm predicting that net neutrality will be dormant for yet another year. Mr. Obama has been emphatic about basing policy decisions on facts and data, and this is an area where net neutrality advocates continue to come up short as there's yet to be any sustained and proven ISP misbehavior. With Mr. Obama and his team having urgent fires to address all around them, there are only two scenarios I can see that move net neutrality up the prioritization list: a startling new pattern of ISP misbehavior or some kind of deal ISPs agree to in exchange for infrastructure buildout subsidies from the stimulus package.
One of the best-funded categories of the broadband landscape has been aggregators of premium-quality video - TV programs, movies and other well-produced video. These companies have been thought of as potential long-term online competitors to today's video distributors (cable/satellite/telco). However, it's proving very difficult for these sites to differentiate themselves. Content is commonly available, user experience advantages are hard to maintain, user acquisition is not straightforward, audiences are fragmented and ad dollars are under pressure. All of this means that '09 will see a shakeout among the many players in this category, though it's hard to predict at this point who will be left standing (though at a minimum I expect Hulu and Fancast to be in this group).
My long-ball prediction was that at some point in '09 Microsoft will acquire Netflix. Though many of you emailed me offering kudos for boldness, not many are buying into my prediction. Fair enough, I'll either be flat-out wrong on this one or I'll get a gold star for prescience. I provided my rationale, which starts with the assumption that Apple and Google (Microsoft's two fiercest rivals in the consumer space) are best-positioned for success in the battle for the biggest consumer prize of the next 10 years: delivering broadband video services directly to the TV.
I think Microsoft needs to directly play in this space, and Netflix is a perfect vehicle. It has a great brand, a large and loyal subscriber base and excellent back-end fulfillment systems. In 2008 Netflix great strides in broadband, building out its "Watch Instantly" feature. Yet to grow WI's catalog from its current 12K titles to anything approaching the 100K+ available by DVD will require deep financial resources to deal with a recalcitrant Hollywood, and also shelter from quarter-to-quarter earnings pressures. Netflix's measured approach to broadband is consistent with its historical overall operating style. While that style has worked exceedingly well in the past, the broadband-to-the-TV service landscape is wide open right now, and Netflix should be pursuing in a thoughtful, yet ultra-aggressive way. Combined with Microsoft it would be poised to become the broadband video category leader over the next 10 years.
OK, there's the summary. I'll be checking back in on these as the year progresses.
What do you think? Post a comment now.