1. Goodbye to RealNetworks' Rob Glaser - For broadband veterans like myself, this week's news that RealNetworks' founder and CEO Rob Glaser is stepping down from the CEO role after 16 years brought to mind how far the online video and audio worlds have come, in a relatively short time. Having done a fair amount of work with Real back in my Continental Cablevision days, some of my first memories of seeing video delivered through the Internet were with the RealPlayer.
There is no question Rob was one of the pioneers of the online video industry, and everyone working in the industry today owes him and Real a debt of gratitude. In the Internet's first wave, Real was out ahead of everyone in audio and video. Unfortunately for the company, Microsoft's decision to roll out its own media player (and to bundle WMP with Windows) scrambled Real's future and set off years of antitrust litigation. Over the years Real has tried many things, some of which worked and some of which were serious head-scratchers (Ryan Lawler recounts 5 of the company dumbest moves here).
Personally, it's been a while since any video I wanted to watch required the RealPlayer download. And the last time I did download it, I was so incessantly bombarded with offers that I uninstalled it and swore I'd never download it again. Nonetheless, Real remains one of the largest digital media and technology companies, with $140 million in Q3 '09 revenues and almost $400 million in cash and short term investments. The new CEO will inherit all this, plus the challenge of how to make Real a more significant player in a broadband-dominated world that Rob envisioned so many years ago.
2. ESPN: "Mobile will be bigger than the web" - I'm always on the lookout for insights from content executives charged with building their company's mobile initiatives (and mobile video more specifically) and so I found MocoNews.net's interview with John Zehr, ESPN's SVP and GM of Mobile a worthwhile read. ESPN has made a ton of progress in mobile since its MVNO was shut down and the post provides growth stats on some of ESPN mobile's most successful efforts.
Reflecting the key shift in mobile away from "on-deck" carrier-focused distribution deals to a more open Internet-like environment, Zehr said ESPN's mobile revenue model is built on payments from aggregators like FLO TV and MobiTV, advertising and app sales. That sounds a lot like the traditional cable model of affiliate fees, advertising and ancillary revenues like commerce. And just like in cable ad sales, ESPN sells all of its mobile ads itself, avoiding third-party ad networks that it believes would commoditize the ESPN brand. ESPN is clearly bullish on mobile, with Zehr saying "Not too far in the future, mobile will be bigger than the web." With the Apple vs. Google mobile war getting underway there's a lot of momentum building. Still, to keep things in perspective, we're a long way from mobile eclipsing the web.
3. Does broadband help the economy or not? - I was intrigued by this piece in Network World, reviewing a new study, "Does Broadband Boost Economic Development?" which makes the case that where broadband connectivity is available, it helps local economies, though it doesn't necessarily help the individuals who live there. I'll admit, this is pretty wonky stuff, but as broadband becomes ever more central to our economy and to video in particular, it's important to understand broadband's impact. This is true all the more so as we have a major net neutrality debate looming this year, which could have far-reaching consequences for both content providers and network operators.
4. Vail introduces 360 degree video, it's almost like being there - Finally, on a lighter note, if you've been itching for that ski trip to Colorado this winter, or just want to escape the daily grind for a few minutes of pleasure, check out Vail's new virtual video clips, shot in 360 degree splendor with partner Immersive Media. The company's Dodeca spherical camera system captures video from 11 different sensors, allowing the viewer to click on the controls to switch angles.
Immersive caught my attention recently with music concerts they've captured and plus their work with brands like Red Bull, Armani and Mercedes. The company offers a full suite of capture, production and distribution services. In Vail's case, you get to experience some of the mountain's best runs alongside other skiers. It's great marketing for Vail and though it's no substitute for actually being there, your legs won't hurt afterwards either!
Enjoy the weekend!
(Note - The VideoNuze Report podcast with Daisy Whitney will resume next week)