Beachfront - leaderboard - 7-1-18

Analysis for 'HD'

  • Akamai to Launch "Akamai HD Network" Today

    Akamai is announcing its new "Akamai HD Network" this morning, and planning a 1pm webcast to explain the details. Akamai is positioning the network as the first to deliver HD-quality live and on-demand streaming for broadcast-sized audiences. The Akamai HD Network supports Flash, Silverlight and iPhone.

    Key to the Akamai HD Network is support for adaptive bit rate ("ABR") streaming, which adjusts the quality of the video delivered based on prevailing network conditions, instant response for pause, rewind, startup, etc, an open standards HD video player and user authentication. Adobe has also optimized Flash to be delivered over Akamai's HTTP network, which appears to be a first. This allows Akamai to fully leverage its 50,000 HTTP edge-server network.

    The evolution toward HD-quality delivery has been building steam recently, as content providers increasingly recognize that TV-quality video is becoming the expected norm for online video users. This is particularly true for heavy users who substitute online viewing for TV-viewing, but don't want a degraded experience. As convergence devices, which bridge broadband to the TV in the home take off, the quality bar will rise for all users. This means that all CDNs that want to be players in video delivery will need to be able to deliver HD quality at scale. Move Networks, which I've written about before, is another company playing an important role in enabling high-quality broadband-delivered video to the TV; others will no doubt follow.

    More details coming in the webcast today at 1pm ET.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • HD and Convergence Themes Pick Up Steam at NAB Show

    Two highly related broadband video themes - HD delivery and convergence between broadband and TV - are both picking up steam at this week's NAB show. Among the key announcements are:

    Adobe extending Flash into digital home devices

    Move Networks acquiring Inuk Networks (announced just this morning)

    Akamai detailing HD monetization opportunities in new white paper with IDC

    Microsoft releasing "Smooth Streaming" HD delivery feature in its IIS Media Services

    Limelight supporting Microsoft's IIS and Adobe Flash Media Server 3.5

    Brightcove and Adobe expanding its partnership to enable delivery higher-quality long-form programming, among other things

    CDNetworks commercially deploying first Adobe Flash Media Server 3.5 for first time

    And separate from the show, TiVo and Roku supporting Amazon VOD HD titles

    The entire broadband video ecosystem is getting more and more focused on both HD delivery and convergence. However, the former, which is primarily an infrastructure upgrade, is easier to execute on than the latter, which almost always requires users to buy and install some new device (either single or multi-purpose). Given the lousy economy and natural replacement cycles, this means that for many users, those gorgeous online HD experiences will be viewed on their computers for some time to come.

    I think that's actually OK though. By proliferating online HD delivery, users will increasingly be getting a taste of what would be available to them if their broadband was connected to their TVs. Further, plenty of early adopters will become evangelists, showing off online HD experiences for their friends and families. Making things more tangible will help create the necessary promotional tailwind that convergence devices need to succeed.

    Convergence has been a long time in coming, but the elements are now beginning to fall into place. I believe that the more HD content that's available online, the faster the convergence device market will develop.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Vuze Moves PC-to-TV Convergence Another Step Forward

    Everywhere I look there are companies doing innovative, clever things to bring broadband video to the TV and to mobile devices.

    Yesterday brought another great example, from Vuze, a company with roots as a BitTorrent client that has evolved to an aggregator of hi-def niche broadband video using its desktop application for discovery, download and playback. Vuze announced an update that enables users to drag-and-drop downloaded videos for playback on non-PC devices such as Xbox, PS3 and - via an integration with iTunes - to the iPhone, Apple TV and iPods. It's a pretty cool extension of the Vuze client experience and I spoke with Vuze's CEO Gilles BianRosa and Sr. Director of Marketing Chris Thun to learn more.

    Without getting too far into the technical details, what Vuze has done is capitalized on hooks that have existed in these various devices, making videos downloaded via Vuze visible in these devices' interfaces. As Gilles explained it, these hooks have been available for a while, but only the super-technical would have invested the time and effort to benefit from them.

    The connections to Xbox (installed base of 30M) and PS3 (installed base of 23M) are quite complimentary to Vuze, which has 10M unique visitors/mo and about 50M downloads to date, because its content library is heavily skewed toward SciFi, animation, games and comedy (all HD btw) along with its user base. In other words, there's an affinity audience who will immediately benefit from being able to watch Vuze's content on their big screens and on-the-go. In fact, in a recent survey of its users for how they'd want to connect their PCs to TV and mobile, Vuze got 30K responses with a strong emphasis on gaming and Apple devices.

    In prior conversations with Gilles I've raised a concern about the viability of Vuze's (or anyone's) client download model given the ever-increasing quality of browser-based streaming. But these integrations do shed new light on the value proposition of having a desktop presence. With its update, Vuze actually goes one step further by automatically transcoding downloaded videos into the format appropriate for the target device, often in real-time, thus eliminating playback issues.

    Gilles noted that this is a beta release however, and that one current limitation is that ads cannot be passed through. This is a not insignificant gap for an ad-supported site. Vuze hopes to have ads up and running within a month or so. It also has its eye on integrating with additional devices. My bet is that TiVo is next up given that TiVo founder Mike Ramsey sits on Vuze's board.

    For now Vuze's content is relatively nichey and Gilles concedes that despite ongoing negotiations with major studios and TV networks, they're still getting comfortable with Vuze's P2P platform. Given the crowded video aggregator space, Vuze's ongoing challenge is to bolster its content library to broaden its appeal.

    But Vuze's new update, sure to mimicked by others, which comes on top of Netflix reporting 1M Watch Instantly users connecting to their Xboxes and consuming 1.5 billion in the first 2 months of its availability, Boxee's multiple integrations and other PC-to-TV convergence initiatives underway, shows the huge pent-up interest users have in watching broadband video on their TVs. The genie is way out of the bottle and content providers need to begin adapting to the coming landscape where video flows between PC, TV and mobile, offering unprecedented convenience to users.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Amazon VOD Now On Roku; Battle with Apple Looms Ahead

    Amazon and Roku announced yesterday that Amazon's VOD service will soon be available on Roku's $99 Digital Video Player. The deal starts to make good on Roku CEO Anthony Woods's intentions about "opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box."

    With Amazon VOD's 40,000+ TV programs and movies added to the 12,000 titles already available to Netflix subscribers via its Watch Instantly service (plus more content deals yet to come), little Roku is starting to look like a potentially important link in the evolving "over-the-top" video distribution value chain.

    More interesting though, is that I think we're starting to see the battle lines drawn for supremacy in the download-to-own/download-to-rent premium video category between Amazon on one side and Apple on the other. Though Apple dominates this market today, having sold 200 million TV programs alone, there are ample reasons to believe competition is going to stiffen.

    Apple is of course in the video download business for the same reasons it was in the music download business: to drive sales of the iPod and more recently - and to a lesser extent - the iPhone. According to the latest info I could find, iTunes now has 32,000+ TV programs and movies, including a growing number in HD. For now that's slightly less than Amazon VOD, but my guess is that over time the two libraries will be virtually identical.

    While Apple has a near monopoly on portable viewing via the iPod and iPhone, it is a laggard in bridging broadband-to-the-TV. Its Apple TV device, introduced in January, 2007, and meant to give iTunes access on the TV, has been an underperformer. Certainly a detractor has been price, with the 40GB lower-end model still running $229. But more importantly, as an iTunes-only box, Apple TV perpetuates a closed, "walled-garden" paradigm that consumers are increasingly rejecting (as companies like Roku astutely understand).

    For Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, video downloads are a rich growth market. The company brings significant advantages to the table, starting with tens of millions of existing customer relationships with credit cards or other payment options just waiting to be charged for video downloads. Amazon has strong brand name recognition and trust. And of course, it has a near-limitless ability to cross-promote downloads with DVDs and other products.

    Determined not to be left behind in the great race to get broadband delivered video all the way to the TV, it has been integrating its VOD service with 3rd party devices like TiVo, Sony's Bravia Internet Video Link, Xbox 360 and Windows Media Center PCs. Its latest deal with Roku is far from its last.

    Amazon VOD's adoption will benefit from the fact that there are many non-Amazon reasons that people will be buying these devices. For example, consider Roku, TiVo and Xbox 360. With Roku, Netflix is fueling sales. As Netflix subscribers realize that new releases are generally not available in Watch Instantly, but are through Amazon VOD on Roku, they'll be prone to give Amazon VOD a try (the Netflix limitation is course due to Hollywood's windowing, and another reason why I believe it's crucial for Netflix to make deals with broadcast networks for online distribution of their hit programs). For TiVo and Xbox 360, each has a well-defined value proposition for consumers to purchase. Amazon VOD's availability is a pure bonus for buyers.

    Still, Amazon VOD's Achilles heel that it is missing a portable playback companion on a par with the iPod and iPhone. Users clearly value portability and Amazon needs to solve this problem (hmm, can you say "Kindle for Video?"). Yet another issue is that despite its various 3rd party device deals, the user experience will always be governed by these devices' strengths and weaknesses. In this respect, Apple's ownership of the whole hardware/software/services ecosystem gives it significant user experience advantages (which of course it has masterfully exploited with iTunes/iPod).

    Apple and Amazon hardly have the market to themselves though. Others like Microsoft Xbox LIVE, Vudu and Sezmi are vying for a place in the market. And then of course there are the VOD offerings from the cable/satellite/telco video service providers, who have big-time incumbency advantages. Not to be forgotten in all of this is consumer inertia around the robust DVD market, which to a large extent all of these video download options seek to supplant.

    In the middle of all this are Joe and Jane Consumer - soon to be overwhelmed by a barrage of competing and confusing offers for how to get on-demand TV program and movie downloads in better, faster and cheaper ways. In this market, I believe simplicity, content choices, brand and especially price will determine the eventual winners and losers. These are front and center considerations for Amazon, Apple and all the others going forward.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Reviewing My 6 Predictions for 2008

    Back on December 16, 2007, I offered up 6 predictions for 2008. As the year winds down, it's fair to review them and see how my crystal ball performed. But before I do, a quick editorial note: each day next week I'm going to offer one of five predictions for the broadband video market in 2009. (You may detect the predictions getting increasingly bolder...that's by design to keep you coming back!)

    Now a review of my '08 predictions:

    1. Advertising business model gains further momentum

    I saw '08 as a year in which the broadband ad model continued growing in importance as the paid model remained in the back seat, at least for now. I think that's pretty much been borne out. We've seen countless new video-oriented sites launch in '08. To be sure many of them are now scrambling to stay afloat in the current ad-crunched environment, and there will no doubt be a shakeout among these sites in '09. However, the basic premise, that users mainly expect free video, and that this is the way to grow adoption, is mostly conventional wisdom now.

    The exception on the paid front continues to be iTunes, which announced in October that it has sold 200 million TV episode downloads to date. At $1.99 apiece, that would imply iTunes TV program downloads exceed all ad-supported video sites to date. The problem of course is once you get past iTunes things fall off quickly. Other entrants like Xbox Live, Amazon and Netflix are all making progress with paid approaches, but still the market is held back by at least 3 challenges: lack of mass broadband-to-the-TV connectivity, a robust incumbent DVD model, and limited online delivery rights. That means advertising is likely to dominate again in '09.

    2. Brand marketers jump on broadband bandwagon

    I expected that '08 would see more brands pursue direct-to-consumer broadband-centric campaigns. Sure enough, the year brought a variety of initiatives from a diverse range of companies like Shell, Nike, Ritz-Carlton, Lifestyles Condoms, Hellman's and many others.

    What I didn't foresee was the more important emphasis that many brands would place on user-generated video contests. In '08 there were such contests from Baby Ruth, Dove, McDonald's, Klondike and many others. Coming up in early '09 is Doritos' splashy $1 million UGV Super Bowl contest, certain to put even more emphasis on these contests. I see no letup in '09.

    3. Beijing Summer Olympics are a broadband blowout

    I was very bullish on the opportunity for the '08 Summer Games to redefine how broadband coverage can add value to live sporting events. Anyone who experienced any of the Olympics online can certainly attest to the convenience broadband enabled (especially given the huge time zone difference to the U.S.), but without sacrificing any video quality. The staggering numbers certainly attested to their popularity.

    Still, some analysts were chagrined by how little revenue the Olympics likely brought in for NBC. While I'm always in favor of optimizing revenues, I tried to take the longer view as I wrote here and here. The Olympics were a breakthrough technical and operational accomplishment which exposed millions of users to broadband's benefits. For now, that's sufficient reward.

    4. 2008 is the "Year of the broadband presidential election"

    With the '08 election already in full swing last December (remember the heated primaries?), broadband was already making its presence known. It only continued as the year and the election drama wore on. As I recently summarized, broadband was felt in many ways in this election cycle. President-elect Obama seems committed to continuing broadband's role with his weekly YouTube updates and behind-the-scenes clips. Still, as important as video was in the election, more important was the Internet's social media capabilities being harnessed for organizing and fundraising. Obama has set a high bar for future candidates to meet.

    5. WGA Strike fuels broadband video proliferation

    Here's one I overstated. Last December, I thought the WGA strike would accelerate interest in broadband as an alternative to traditional outlets. While it's fair to include initiatives like Joss Wheedon's Dr. Horrible and Strike.TV as directly resulting from the strike, the reality is that I believe there was very little embrace of broadband that can be traced directly to the strike (if I'm missing something here, please correct me). To be sure, lots of talent is dipping its toes into the broadband waters, but I think that's more attributable to the larger climate of interest, not the WGA strike specifically.

    6. Broadband consumption remains on computers, but HD delivery proliferates

    I suggested that "99.9% of users who start the year watching broadband video on their computers will end the year no closer to watching broadband video on their TVs." My guess is that's turned out to be right. If you totaled up all the Rokus, AppleTVs, Vudus, Xbox's accessing video and other broadband-to-the-TV devices, that would equal less than .1% of the 147 million U.S. Internet users who comScore says watched video online in October.

    However, there are some positive signs of progress for '09. I've been particularly bullish on Netflix's recent moves (particularly with Xbox) and expect some other good efforts coming as well. It's unlikely that '09 will end with even 5% of the addressable broadband universe watching on their TVs, but even that would be a good start.

    Meanwhile, HD had a banner year. Everyone from iTunes to Hulu to Xbox to many others embraced online HD delivery. As I mentioned here, there are times when I really do catch myself saying, "it's hard to believe this level of video quality is now available online." For sure HD will be more widely embraced in '09 and quality will get even better.

    OK, that's it for '08. On Monday the focus turns to what to expect in '09.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • News from NAB

    The press releases began flying today, timed with NAB's kickoff. Here are a few that caught my eye:

    Move Networks Raises $46 Million

    Move continues its fund-raising prowess, raising a large C round. As more content providers push the HD quality bar, Move's content delivery services have increased appeal.

    Signiant Powers Hulu's Distribution Efforts

    Hulu, the NBC-Fox aggregator is using Signiant's media management platform to ingest content from the various content partners it works with.

    Widevine Provides Content Security for Microsoft's Silverlight

    For the first time Microsoft has used a third-party content security system to add a layer of protection for content providers using the company's new rich media plug-in.

    EveryZing Introduced "RAMP," Signs Up Cox Radio

    Building on its recent launch of EZSearch and EZSEO to enable video discovery, EveryZing has introduced a management console for the products for which Cox Radio will be the first customer.

    Live Streaming Quality Bar Raised Via Mogulus-Kulabyte Partnership

    Live streaming gains further traction as Mogulus and Kulabyte announce deal to bring high-quality live Flash streaming to producers.

    No doubt there will be plenty more over the next couple of days.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • CES 2008 Broadband Video-Related News Wrap-up

    CES 2008 broadband video-related news wrap-up: 

     

     

    Sony Pictures Television Launches YouTube Channels; The Minisode Network to be First of Several Brand Channels

     

    Panasonic and Comcast Announce Products With tru2way™ Technology

      

    Panasonic And Comcast Debut AnyPlay™ Portable DVR

     

     

    NETGEAR® Joins BitTorrent™ Device Partners

    D-Link Joins BitTorrent™ Device Partners

     

     

    Samsung and HP Unveil Extender for Windows Media Center Extender Devices, Bridging the Gap Between PC and TV

     

    BT and Microsoft Announce Partnership to Deliver Powerful, First-of-its-Kind Entertainment Experience to Consumers Through Xbox 360

     

    Hollywood Heavyweights Disney-ABC Television Group and MGM Offer High-Definition Entertainment Content on Xbox LIVE

     

    Vudu Expand High Definition Content Available Through On-Demand Service

     

     

    Sling Media Unveils Top-of-Line Slingbox PRO-HD

     

    High Definition Video to Internet Computers, Cell Phones and Handhelds Aim of New Agreement Between Broadcast International and On2 Technologies

     

    Open Internet Television: A Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry

     

    Paid downloads a thing of the past

     

    MobiTV Has ESPN on the Go

     

    Samsung, Vongo Partner To Offer Movie Downloads For P2 Portable Player

     

    Comcast Interactive Media Launches Fancast.com

     

    Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts Announces Project Infinity: Strategy to Deliver Exponentially More Content Choice On TV

     

    MTV Networks Unveils Targeted Online Syndication Strategy, Delivering the Most Diverse Line-Up of Video Content through First-Class Partners

     

    New Year Brings Hot New Shows and Longtime Favorites to FLO TV

     

    Widevine® and Move Networks Announce Partnership & Integration to Secure Delivery of Video Content for Major Broadcast Networks

     

    P2Ps and ISPs team to tame file-sharing traffic

     

    ClipBlast Releases OpenSocial API

     

    "Penn Says" Exclusive New Unscripted Web Series From Penn Jillette to Debut on Sony Pictures' Crackle January 9th


     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Highlighting 3 Partnerships Announced at CES

    Among the many partnership announcements at CES this week, there are a number worth highlighting. Today I focus on the following three:

    Viacom syndication - Viacom announced syndication deals for MTV Networks' stable of content with five leading broadband video sites: Dailymotion, GoFish, Imeem, MeeVee and Veoh. As those of you who have been following my previous posts know, I believe syndication is a critical engine in driving the advertising business model, which itself is the key to broadband video succeeding. As a result, I follow these syndication deals closely.

    I've previously been critical of MTVN which appeared reluctant about syndicating its content when it launched its DailyShow.com destination site. However, with its recent deal with AOL, and now these five deals, it appears that MTVN does in fact believe syndication is the way to go. As one of the biggest cable network groups, MTVN is a key barometer for other networks' moves, so I view this as a real positive for the market.

    Panasonic/Google - In this deal, Google and Matsushita announced that YouTube videos and Picasa photos would be directly accessible on new model Panasonic HDTVs launching in Q2 '08. Ordinarily I wouldn't be too excited about a deal like this, a permutation of which we've seen with other TV makers such as Sony.

    Yet this one rises in potential importance because YouTube is not just the most popular video site - with 40% of all video traffic - but because Google is determined to turn YouTube into a platform for legitimate content distribution. This was underscored by the Sony mini-sode deal also announced this week, and the many partnerships YouTube has already struck with premium content providers. If successful (and there are many if's to be sure), YouTube would be far more than a scraggly collection of UGC. So, marry a broad-based premium video aggregator to HDTVs and you could see a new device/content model emerge.

    BitTorrent device deals Netgear and D-Link - In a less publicized move, BitTorrent announced expanded deals with Netgear and D-Link covering a range of home networking products, with an emphasis on HD distribution. BitTorrent, which has been steadily legitimizing itself from its P2P file-sharing roots, has launched an aggressive SDK program called BitTorrent Device Partners, intended to permeate the market with its client software. BitTorrent also integrates easy access to its digital download store with these partners as well.

    While I'm not very bullish about the market potential of bridge devices from companies like Netgear and D-Link, I do believe that P2P distribution has a real role to play in content distribution, especially for heavy HD files. I continue to see P2P as more of a "peer assist" play. To the extent that BitTorrent can continue getting its software into multiple devices, it gains validation and strengthens its potential to be a meaningful partner in the larger content distribution ecosystem.

    Share your thoughts on these deals, and suggest others you think are noteworthy from CES!

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Comcast Announces Moves at CES; Still Missing Key Strategic Piece

    In his CES keynote today, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will outline several Comcast's initiatives (under the umbrella "Project Infinity") to stay competitive in the fast-changing video arena.

    These include:

    "Wideband"- New "wideband" broadband technology which allows much faster downloads (this is impressive, though was previously displayed at '07 National Cable Show). Wideband is aimed at blunting criticism that telcos' fiber networks have more capacity and faster speeds.

    HD expansion - Plans for a 10-fold increase in the number of HD movies available in its VOD library to 3,000, with at least 6,000 total titles, including SD programming, eventually available. This is all meant to offset the widely held view that satellite and telco have surpassed cable in current HD offerings, a key value prop to millions of Americans now bringing home shiny new HD TV sets.

    Fancast - Comcast's video portal will include 3,000 hours of streaming TV content, from NBC, Fox, CBS and others. These moves will help bring Fancast to parity with other syndicated partners of the networks which are themselves trying to proliferate their programs everywhere. Fancast will also allows remote scheduling of DVRs (both Comcast's and TiVo's), a feature that has been widely available at sites like TiVo.com and Yahoo for years now.

    All of these actions are intended to help restore Comcast's reputation as the leading provider of entertainment programming, amid the swirl of changes that have enveloped the company. Despite its formidable size, Comcast is fighting competitive fires on virtually every front: fierce multichannel competition from satellite and telcos, rising expectations of HD content, consumer behavior shifts to broadband video consumption (premium and UGC) and place-shifting/time-shifting/device-shifting. The list goes on. Amid these changes, and with a slowing of the American economy, Wall Street has punished Comcast's stock price, cutting it in half in the last year.

    While I applaud today's announcements, there is still one big strategic piece missing which Comcast has yet to comprehensively address: what are its plans to allow subscribers using its digital set-top boxes to seamlessly watch broadband video content as they do broadcast and cable programs?

    As many of you know, I have been on a "broadband-to-the-TV" jag recently (see here, here and here) analyzing different options and their potential, or lack thereof. I continue to maintain that incumbents with boxes already in the home - mainly cable, satellite, telcos - are best-positioned to bridge the current divide between broadband and TV.

    A breakthrough value proposition for Comcast would be allowing its subscribers to gain easy access on their TVs to YouTube, Break.com, Metacafe, NYTimes.com and all the others broadband sites that have surged in popularity. In theory, Comcast and other cable operators have always been about providing more video choices to subscribers. But the caveat has been those choices are only offered when Comcast makes a deal to carry these new channels. With broadband it's a wide open world. Any video provider - deal or no deal would gain access. This "openness" is a fundamental paradigm change for Comcast and other "walled garden" loyalists.

    Surmounting this change to its business and cultural model are in fact Comcast's #1 strategic challenge. How to effectively respond to customers' broadband desires, while maintaining a robust economic and competitive model? When Brian Roberts, and others in the cable industry are finally ready to address the question of how they'll integrate broadband into their TV-based user experience, that will be a keynote well worth watching.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • Microsoft Flexes Broadband Muscles at CES

    Microsoft grabbed the early PR spotlight at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), now underway in Las Vegas, announcing a variety of deals across the broadband video spectrum. The deals, announced by Bill Gates in his traditional night 1 keynote, reinforce Microsoft's intentions to play multiple roles in what Gates calls the "first true Digital Decade."

    Here's a look at Microsoft's deals and why they matter:

    NBCU 2008 Olympics on MSN, using Silverlight

    Microsoft and NBC, which has the broadcast rights to the '08 Summer Games from Beijing, announced that MSN would be the exclusive partner for NBCOlympics.com including thousands of hours of live video coverage, and that Silverlight, which is Microsoft's "Flash-killer", would be used. As I mentioned in my "6 Predictions for 2008", the '08 games are going to be the biggest broadband video event yet. The deal gains MSN lots of traffic and Silverlight lots of exposure and downloads, not to mention serious validation as a live streaming platform if it executes well.

    ABC/Disney and MGM content on XBox LIVE

    In a further move to bolster the premium-quality content available in XBox LIVE (the content offering that accompanies XBox 360), Microsoft announced that both ABC/Disney and MGM would now be providing both SD and HD content. These moves bring XBox LIVE's catalog closer to parity with iTunes, while keeping up the competition with Amazon Unbox and other stores. Separately, Microsoft said that XBox racked up 17.7 million units sold during the '07 holiday season.(correction, Microsoft press release misstated this number. Holiday sales were actually 4.3 million units, bringing cumulative units sold to date to 17.7 million, thx Karl)

    XBox users have been remarkable active purchasers and downloaders using XBox LIVE, and previous briefings I've conducted with XBox executives suggest that the initiative has been particularly successful with HD. Since Xbox is purchased primarily as a gaming platform, it serves as a great Trojan horse opportunity for Microsoft to gain broadband access to the TV. Meanwhile, XBox LIVE has served as the deal unit for Zune's library as well, so these moves are important to watch as they benefit Microsoft's efforts to dislodge iPod from its perch as the leading digital media player. Only disappointment here is no ad-supported counterpart was announced for ABC programs, leaving AOL as ABC's only announced broadband syndication partner, as best I can tell.

    BT and XBox 360 Integration

    Microsoft leveraged Xbox 360 for another convergence play, announcing with BT that the company's "BT Vision" IPTV service would be available for XBox 360 owners as an integrated service offering. This means that no separate set-top box would be required for BT Vision subs. Though the box won't roll out until mid '08, this concept has compelling upside for both sides and could be a nice blueprint for future IPTV deals. It eliminates set-top capex for BT, while providing strong marketing benefits to both parties, helping drive broadband/TV convergence on the back of the popular XBox gaming console.

    Showtime, TNT and CNN with new apps on Mediaroom, Samsung supporting Extender

    Elsewhere, Microsoft announced that Showtime, TNT and CNN would be creating new apps for Microsoft's Mediaroom IPTV platform, which it says is now installed on 1M set-tops globally. And lastly, that Samsung will support Extender for Windows Media Center, which means that HD content can be sent over wired or wireless-N networks from PC to TV. Extender hasn't caught on yet, but Microsoft is continuing to push it as a bridge device. I've yet to test it, but have that on my list of to-do's.

    Taken together, these announcements from Microsoft show the company's vast resources allow it to play a role in all aspects of the broadband era - software, devices, services, content, gaming, etc. Less pronounced in these deals was the company's recently added online advertising prowess, which will soon be applied to broadband video as well. Stay tuned for news on this front as '08 unfolds.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
  • HD Broadband Video Rollouts Will Be Driven by Advertising Model Growth and ROI

    Last week's unveiling of HDWeb from Akamai (disclaimer: a VideoNuze sponsor), coupled with Limelight's recent announcement of its LimelightHD service offering, further raise the visibility and near-term prospect of higher-quality video streaming.

    Underlining this was the impressive array of support in the two press releases from customers willing to be quoted expressing their interest in HD. I read all this as putting to rest any doubts about whether content providers are interested in offering HD. Supporting Akamai's release were MTV, NBA, Gannett, while supporting Limelight's release were Fox Interactive, Brightcove, Adobe, Silverlight and Rajshri.com (India's #1 broadband portal).

    Content providers I talk to are enthusiastic about pushing the quality bar, though a key issue is cost of delivery and potential ROI. Obviously to push out HD-quality streams means higher bandwidth and storage needs, the 2 key drivers of CDN charges. To support higher costs, improved revenue potential is required. And this is why HD rollouts are dependent on broadband video advertising prospects.

    With ad support the primary business model for broadband video, I think a chicken-and-egg dynamic between ads and HD is going to play out. The better the ad revenue prospects, the more willing content providers will be to invest in HD. This is a reminder of why further maturing of broadband video ad models and supporting technologies are so important. So while the paid download model will also continue to grow, if you really want to get a handle on HD's prospects, keep an eye on the broadband video ad business. Continued traction will govern how much HD we'll all be seeing.

    In the mean time, HDWeb from Akamai provides an enticing glimpse of an online HD future. I had no problem accessing its content over my standard Comcast broadband connection. The video quality is unlike anything I've yet seen online. If you get a chance, take a look at the NBA highlights clip (screen shot below). The clarity is mind-boggling.

    Can Akamai actually deliver this at scale? At the recent Akamai analyst day I attended, Chief Scientist/co-founder Tom Leighton said their network roadmap is to have 100TB of capacity by 2010, which could theoretically support 50 million concurrent 2MB streams. We're a long way from that usage level, but Akamai seems to be squarely focused on making HD a reality. And they're not alone, along with Limelight there are numerous other HD CDN initiatives underway. All this means that the video quality bar will inevitably rise.

     
  • Beachfront - full banner - 7-1-18
« Previous | Next »

Sample