Below are my stream of consciousness session notes from the NewTeeVee conference sessions, exhibits, and cocktail hour chats. I will leave it up to you to extract whatever pearls of wisdom you can find.
• Marc Whitten, GM for Xbox Live, seems to really understand how important the interface is for OTT video. Most of us usually talk about the “lean forward” and “lean back” positions. Marc described those but also gave examples of applications best suited for the “middle position” as well as the need to quickly change modes on the fly. For example, someone might quickly check their Facebook wall to see if there are any updates (lean back), if there are then there might be a need for a bit more remote control navigation (middle), and then writing on someone else’s wall might require a switch to a keyboard (lean forward).
• Asked if there ever will be a browser on the Xbox we got the same non-answer that just about everyone gives—saying something like “we don’t want to over-complicate things” or “we don’t want to break an elegant user experience.” While this may well be true, when is someone going to speak the real truth—that they don’t want to give up complete control of the content—letting users roam from Hulu to Netflix to iTunes all willy-nilly?
• Marc said Xbox’s mission is to move beyond just games to become “a super-powerful conduit to get you all the forms of entertainment you want.”
• The creative force behind the #1 YouTube channel was hilarious. Lots of laughs. One key take-away: despite a gazillion hits for his YouTube videos, Ryan Higa implied that he is only doing OK financially—not making enough money “for my Mom to quit her day job.” Can someone say “Internet pennies”?
• Sam Blackman, CEO of Elemental Technologies, announced the launch of their new graphics processing units which he claims are ten times faster than existing video processing methods. “Video is a perfect example of a parallelizable application.” The Elemental server does “highest video quality encoding, adaptive bit-rate streaming, and online and mobile delivery.” Proof that there are still hardware opportunities to come out of the OTT video trend.
• Avner Ronen said that their Beta product is coming out on Dec. 7th. It will have a new user interface, queuing capability, integrated search, and social interaction. Newflash: Avner announced the much-anticipated BoxeeBox (Boxee ported to an Internet set-top box).
• Avner predicts that by 2015 the biggest Internet show will be bigger than biggest TV show and that Apple will have more total subscribers for video content than Comcast. Bold claims for sure but Avner is not a meek guy.
• Clicker aims to be the new TV Guide for high-quality, long-form Internet video. They just launched their GA product with the “first complete program guide for Internet television”, having organized and tagged over 400,000 Web episodes.
• Clicker organizes shows, news, movies, with all the metadata to easily sort search results. They have already integrated Netflix and Amazon VOD libraries. One neat feature is the ability to see the 4 or 5 sites where the same movie appears and whether it is paid or free.
• Check out a demo of Clicker here:
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Comcast On Demand Online
• Amy Banse, President of Comcast Interactive Media, talked about Comcast’s flavor of TV Everywhere—the industry initiative to allow subscribed Pay TV content to also be acessible online.
• Comcast OnDemand Online (Fancast is the content aggregator), was introduced to 5,000 customers in July. So far: “It works quite nicely. .. they really love it. They like the video quality, they like the UI, they like the content”, says Amy. By logging into Comcast.net or Fancast.com, it will recognize you as a Comcast customer.
• Breaking news: you will be able to use it in the home and out of the home… Initially you need to log-on from home and download the Move player and a device authorization client (up to 3 devices).
• One of the top applications is catch-up TV.
• How much of a concern is cord-cutting to you? Amy’s answer (paraphrased because I can’t type that fast): “We don’t see any real cord-cutting going on right now. That’s not to say that we are not mindful of the phenomena. More people bought a multi-channel package last year more than any other time. Many of us like iTunes and Netflix, many more of us like our cable packages. I don’t see it as a winner take all. Will there be cord-cutters? Yes, but I think what will happen for most of us is that we will like the choice and buy content according to our needs. Online will grow and there is no question of that. What we see as our long-term vision is to offer content no matter where it sits. Our end-goal is to watch it on HBO, starting Sunday on VoD, or online later next week… or if you need it now, you can download it for a fee and take it with you on your mobile device.”
• What about Comcast’s bandwidth caps? Amy: “As far as bandwidth… that’s not my job. Our products apply against the bandwidth… 250 GB is there if you use Fancast or not… I know from my own experience that that is plenty.”
• Laura Goldberg, GM of NFL Online, spoke about how Fantasy Football has been driving more innovation online, as well as on the television. 30 million people play some sort of fantasy sport. “I like to say that FF was really the first social network. 8-12 people messaging, interacting, etc. You watch more shows because you care about your players. You sit and watch all the games. You also have to watch throughout the week to check player news and the waiver wire.” Laura’s message was that the online world can buttress the traditional TV world.
• Murali Nemani, Director SP Video Marketing for Cisco Systems, talked about the new Medianet. “The second wave was IPTV, the third wave is IP video over CDNs. It needs to be a unified video experience for Hybrid OTT and Pay TV.” The migration to all IP networks will traverse content capture, production, delivery, and playing in a way that is network-aware, media-aware, and endpoint-aware.
• Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, in a talk called “Journey Over the Top”, talked about his desire for Netflix to be in every Internet-enabled device. He is excited about the new WiFi enabled Internet TVs coming out on the market.
• Wallstreet values Netflix dollars 60 times more than Blockbuster for the same dollar of revenue.
• Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe Systems, spoke about how Adobe will enable video in the living room via Flash on TVs (such as the new Vizio TV with Flash). Flash is #1: 80-90% of all video online is Flash. Flash is coming to smart phones and TVs, games consoles, STBs. The integrate code base of Flash 10.1 will work across all these devices.
• Supports progressive download.
• “We have made some moves towards openness: Open Source Media Project-- everyone creates their own frameworks on top of Flash, great for branding but a lot of unnecessary duplication of work. Now everyone gets a standard player that is reskinnable.”
• Quincy Smith, CEO of CBS Interactive, talked about the future of TV and also why he is leaving CBS (to become a VC!?). He doesn’t think TV is going to go the way of the newspaper business. “$120B reasons why not which is the size of television market including carriage.”
• Why does he hate Hulu and how does it feel to be the sole major player not backing it? He says he does not hate Hulu and CBS is still the #1 network by far. “We were 140th (ranked Internet site) and top ten Internet video site--- all above us are all pure-play Internet companies-- 11-28 are Comcast, NBC, Disney, NYT, etc. The problems is when you put content up on Hulu you can’t protect it. Before you put it everywhere, you have to let people know it is also on the TV. How do you bring that $120B online? The business model for Hulu is going to evolve. For now, we have to defend the $120B.” Quincy suggests that ABC, NBC sites are losing eyeballs because they are sending them to Hulu. “You can make an argument that NBC.com is getting hurt by that content when it can be found somewhere else, where CBS.com has grown. The more you distribute it the more relevant your root gets. Its more about your content, it gets seen and ultimately paid for. I want to aggregate the audience first and then monetize it—once you get the audience it is good. That is why we acquired CNET and why the online presence really matters.”
• Brian Fuhrer, SVP Media Program Leader, The Nielsen Company
• TV consumption is up: … 7.3 hours per day in 2000, now 8.21 hours in 2009. More televisions than people.
• Nielson is investing heavily in the “Extended Screen” project to measure online viewers.
• Hunter Walk, Director of Product Management, YouTube
• “YouTube is not a media company. We are a media catalyst. We want to connect content creators with viewers.”
• “The greatest challenge for us is content discovery. We want to be the ‘Channel of You’.” How do you find what you want to watch? YouTube aims to blend content you know you are looking for and content you didn’t know existed.
• Announced plans for the Roku store and 10 new channels including Pandora, Revision3, and Blip.TV
• “Just like with regular TV, some people are heavy users, some are light viewers. Some Roku units are on 16 hours a day (e.g. retirement homes), but on any given night a third of our Roku boxes are playing with average playing time of 2.5 hours per viewer.”
• “We are trying to turn out product into more of an open platform, but (new forms of content) needs to be presented in a clean way.”
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