Another exciting year ahead, with bigger companies bobbing and weaving to get the most out of any “monetising” opportunities on the web. As far
as TV goes, video downloading is going to be a big battleground this year.
Apple and iTunes have already got a foot on the ladder with the selling of videos of TV programmes, to be downloaded to the new video iPod. This month sees more people joining the fray, with Sky and Microsoft announcing their (somewhat vague) plans for downloads of their programmes to the home via PC. Up to now the IP service has been criticised for being slow. With the approval by the Office of Fair Trading for the Easynet purchase, and the links with DirectTV in the US, the challenge will be to serve video at a rate to keep up with demand.
Google will obviously have some influence in this arena. They have huge experience in serving bandwidth from their distributed servers. The link up with ITN, Sony, NBA and especially CBS will give them a huge amount of video content, from old favourites like Star Trek to the newer CSI and Survivor titles. (Not sure why CBS split with Viacom) Google are giving facilities for anyone to upload and rent or sell their videos, which will give a widespread reason for people to visit the site. Free videos will build an audience which will then have a growing acceptance of paying a dollar for some interesting content. They have an angle or two with innovations as usual – a viewer can browse the scenes in a video to see content, suppliers can add the usual metadata for their videos and they have their own video player. It will be interesting to see the quality of this player compared to others on the block, but it has no Flash video formats listed. They seem to be preferring the MPEG4 formats
Meanwhile, Adobe has finalised the $3bn Macromedia takeover and will also be moving in this direction. Flash video has been making good progress in the areas of quality and ease of use for video on the web. The new sevices will be a challenge to the Flash video software, but there must be some significant changes coming for Apple and perhaps the PDF format. PDF has become a de facto standard for portable documents. If Flash were to be integrated it might be a way for video to have correctly structured meta data content contained within it. This is what is missing in the MPEG4 versions of basic encoded video. While playing the video we need some method of bringing data to display the graphics that are associated with the film. Current TV has subtitles and teletext information. In a similar fashion, there should be more facilities to drive animations in the same or partner applications to display the stats content to go with the action.
Content is King still holds sway, and content producers will be able to set the charges for the video, but the audience is moving to less and less, bigger portals to see it. The content owners will have to be careful in their choice of pricing, in order to be competitive. The portal owners will surely make the money as they take their small percentage of millions of small transactions.