The Coming of The Long Tail TV Networks Technorati icon

July 10, 2006 | Filed under: Internet TV

Today, Techcrunch covered some developments in television programming on the Internet beyond the likes of YouTube and Metacafe but just scratched the surface of something significant which I think is emerging.

Things like Warner’s In2TV are actually the least interesting. They are important because they show a recognition that the net is a viable distribution platform but they have not recognized where it is different.  These services just move old content to the Internet without considering how people use the Internet and what new things can be accomplished. For starters, here I am trying to talk about In2TV and there is nothing I can do to embed an example into this article to show you what I mean. Services I will talk about later don’t have this problem.

In fact, while I am at it, what IS wrong with In2TV?

  • I can’t watch most of the content because I am not in the US.
  • I can’t embed anything in my own site/blog/space.
  • I can only send IM referrals using AOL Messenger.
  • I can’t make playlists and send them to my friends.
  • It is Windows only – I tried to show a friend with a Mac who told me the ‘page was broken’.
  • I am forced to go to their website to see the content… but I don't want to… so I won’t.
  • Most of the content is too long to watch on the PC in the browser.
  • No RSS feeds with enclosures for the video files.

But then… you (yes, you Windows users!) can download some Max Headroom episodes for free so kudos to AOL for that.

Earlier this year, my long-time collaborator Xavier Leret and me formed Flickbook Pictures. We realized that technology had now reached the stage where we could make high quality, HD movies for under $100,000 US and these movies could be distributed on the Internet free of the innovators dilemma that existing video producers have. We have since made Mine (and here) and will release it early next year.

But release it how? And where? And to who? These question have led me down all kinds of intellectual roads. Thinking about concepts technologies and businesses that emerge from a truly converged digital content universe. 

Well here are some general concepts with video on the web:

  • Unlike broadcast it is very expensive to serve large audiences… but cheap to serve small ones.
  • If the content is user-generated (so could be anything from porno to copyright infringing) it is hard to automatically serve ads into the experience because advertisers won’t take the chance… but if this can be solved then advertisers can get all the brand richness they get on the TV today but with greatly refined targeting and value.
  • Users want to show a bit so that they can talk about it.
  • Users want to consume it with content from other people… they don’t want to use the software equivalent of a different DVD player for each piece of content they choose to watch.

http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/ is an example of something that got it wrong for many of the same reasons.

The really interesting thing that happened to the web in the past 12 months was in technology. Great codecs, pervasive formats (like the groovy new Flash video), experience innovation from the likes of YouTube and delivery/protocol innovation from the likes of Bittorrent and Dijjer and of course media RSS.

Well now we have what we need, the stage is set,  for the next revolution where the new content will emerge.

You all know the ‘long tail’ right? The concept of the gigantic market place that exists in niche products when scarcity (such as shelf space limitations) is removed? We are now seeing the early signs of the new Long Tail TV Networks. Let’s have a look at Code.TV because I think that is a terrific example.

  • Look, I just embedded it in my blog. I can say to you all “Look what’s on in Manhattan today!”
  • Even though it is in my blog and not on their site, you can now take the same piece and embed it in your blog
  • The content chunks are small. I can watch one or two on my laptop over a sandwich at lunchtime
  • I can subscribe to a code.tv feed so that it fits into my universe and the particular collection of technologies I have chosen.
  • They can sell high value advertising around it that will be relevant to the users and non-risky to the advertiser
  • The content is niche so they can make revenue through advertising to be profitable while delivering advertising

This is an ad-based business aiming to attract 25,000 visitors a week. That is some way down the long-tail by TV standards but the market is pure 25 – 49 year olds earning over $100K.

And our little movie, Mine?  Well, I’m not to sure yet, but perhaps we will try things like:

  • Episodic releases so that it can be viewed in chunks at lunchtime, etc.
  • HD quality downloads over Bittorrent or similar so you can burn it to a DVD and put it on your telly.
  • Possible to embed excerpts in your blog so that people can review it and recommend it (hopefully!) to their friends.

I wonder… what do you think?

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