Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building the Road to Broadband Video Profitability

Last night's Broadband Video Leadership panel brought big networks, big distributor, and big advertiser together to assure us that big media was making money and all is right with the world. Sponsored by VideoNuze and NATPE, the evening was well attended and attentive. And the company line was well represented.

Digital is making money, more than the pennies, but still less than dollars, and for both the content distributor and content creators on the panel, additive to the bottom line. Most interesting, digital was not taking eyeballs away from TV, simply enhancing it, and profitable when packaged to advertisers as a multi-platform solution.

Nor do they see consumers switching off their cable subscription to rely primarily on broadband. "Today cable, satellite and telco TV providers pay an estimated $22 billion per year in programming fees, Karin Gilford noted. 'It's pretty hard to imagine that revenue stream going away,' she said. Asked about 'cord-cutting' -- the notion that cable customers would cancel their pay-TV service and obtain all their video content online -- Gilford said that remains a theoretical idea rather than a real trend."

Also asked was the effect of competition from Netflix, You Tube, and others on the cable business. Cable's variety and depth of content far exceeds what others might offer and user generated content will not surplant the premium content that cable serves. None of the panelists seemed concern about these video aggregators. But while they may not be taking huge bites, they may be nibbling away and shouldn't be ignored. TVs are now connecting directly to the web, bypassing the settop box to access online content.

The most interesting comment was about search. Currently, You Tube appears to be the choice for the initial search for video content. And cable has done little to provide an application that easily searches for video programs, movies, VOD, or clips through its platform. It seems that search, navigation, and recommendation may be the ultimate decider for the consumer on which platform, broadband or cable, best serves a viewer's need. Missed a Daily Show, click a button watch a clip, click another button, watch the full show, click another button, watch a preview of the guest's clip that they are hyping. Will Fancast be the site that does that first, will Hulu, will Facebook, or someone else? Search, navigation, recommendation seem to be the drivers that will shape who wins the race.

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