But, occasionally, there is a meaningful confluence of suchbig deals in a short period of time, immediately floodlighting the future to come -- that we must stop, look and listen. As consumers and as media executives, we must know what time it is and expand our outlook accordingly.
Ponder the past few weeks: We have Blip.tv's content deal with YouTube; we have YouTube's test with FreeWheel. These deals are not only symbolic. They outright set the cadence of our footfall and broaden our path to the future. That is, a future where content production and distribution are not dependent on TV network affiliations and where we take a truly liberated, cross-channel view of the screen.
So what are the deals?
The Blip.tv Deal: The online video provider Blip.tv announced in July that it has added YouTube, Vimeo, NBCU Local Media NY, and Roku as content partners. Of particular interest is the relationship with YouTube. While Blip.tv could certainly place content on YouTube before, the deal includes ads placed by Blip.tv, which the video provider will then be able to track. The combined footprint, visibility and measurability are a boon to big-time growth.
YouTube's Test With FreeWheel: Around the same time, YouTube announced a trial with FreeWheel that will allow certain partners who sell their own ads to serve those ads directly into their videos on YouTube. Previously ads sold by these partners were still served by YouTube. In the company's own words on its corporate blog, "This will create a more centralized, streamlined process for partners in the test program, making it easier for them to sell ads and make even more money from their content." These words paired with actual action make the media progressive's heart sing.
In fact, a recent quote by Blip.tv CEO Mike Hudack illuminates his kindred point of view: "Our goal is to make web shows sustainable. The CBS TV network is about 68-years-old. The cable nets are about 25-years-old. They're designed for economy of scarcity and linear distribution. We're building our network for an economy of plenty and at a time when people can watch whatever they want, whenever they want. The majority of shows will come from independent, don't-have-to-work-with-TV networks, just as more of us are listening to music that is distributed independently."
It's starting to look as if progress is not so steeply dependent on TV executives shedding the dinosaur suits and "getting it." We are not waiting for that. Interests are aligning among us, and there is meaningful movement. These two deals don't just gripe at limitations and choke-points, they forge our way forward with solutions satisfying both the avid media consumer and progressive media enterprise.
Just like the long-running comparison to print distribution, it has always been true that online distribution generates only a smidge of the revenue and profit of today's incumbent cable, broadcast, and satellite distribution models. So, we've had to deal with TV models being stretched by TV executives, beyond their aptitude. But now, as Internet-based distribution gets traction, the shortcut of simply porting over aged TV models to digital will finally be acknowledged more broadly -- as lame. And these shortcuts will be usurped by more aggressive, imaginative deals that effectively begin to reconstitute models across the board.
The adoption of this kind of significant deal-making, partnering and alignment of consumer and business interests will effectively transport the media industry at-large.Some would say thatthe events of the past two weeks will be regarded as just as important in ten years as the passage of the Telecom Reform Act was to the growth of our industry back in 1996.
Previously, I could have rattled off all kinds of proof of progress in our world:
- New home-friendly entertainment formats besides TV.
- Incremental digital platforms like Hulu and YouTube.
- Fewer distribution choke-points over time, as Internet access has improved around the world.
- Our collective waking up to restrictive media business practices such as market-based control on viewing, limited live streaming, video library hording and expensive bundling practices.
But, these two deals tell us far more than that obvious list. These deals collectively and in themselves are proof of concept. And the "concept" is: fluid, consumer-led global content distribution is coming.
As we move more quickly toward
this goal, it's important to remember a few things: The best content creators will succeed, regardless of affiliation. Leaning forward or leaning back is an irrelevant distinction, if we can choose
our screens all day long. Dumb stays dumb and renders itself obsolete. And, consumer-friendly and clever on the dealio count an awful lot.