By Ooyala's Reckoning, Distinction Between TV and Online Disappeared

It means something that the online video business seems to be having sidebar conversations about what the viewing public actually calls the stuff it creates. But to Simon Jones, the solutions marketing director for Ooyala, the answer is clear and becoming clearer: Online or not, it’s called TV.

“What we’re seeing is that TV usage has gone full circle,” he says. Television was once described, sometimes derisively, as the lean back experience, which, Jones suggests, is what online video is becoming too as it matures, but in a weird hybrid because it’s lean back content that can be manipulated through interaction. And it's a lean back experience, with another device in your lap.

All of this is not bad news for advertisers, either, who have myriad, inventive, intimate ways to reach you, however you are leaning.

But now, as Netflix made binge viewing an accepted (rather than pitied) viewership mode, the idea of spending time watching video that doesn’t technically come “from” TV can be pretty much the same as the stuff that really does. in a digital world, Jones says, viewers “do not have to pick and choose like they did on TV.”

Ooyala created a short 30-second “history” of TV that isn’t like ones you may have seen before because it includes some historic moments that may not seem like TV history at all, like President Obama’s 2013 inauguration speech which was the largest live streamed event in history, though it’s certain to be eclipsed sometime soon.

That, in Ooyala’s history of television video, is a TV event, even though it is marking it because of the millions—unspecified millions as far as I can determine—were watching it on devices other than a TV.

Likewise, Ooyala notes the Super Bowl blackout as a major moment in TV history because it drove millions of TV viewers, and the Oreos cookies ad team, to Twitter and Facebook.

It’s all TV, Jones and Ooyala are arguing, in a lot of new disguises.

(Not to quibble, I write just before quibbling, the 30- second history also notes, in its quick timeline, that  “Remote control rose in popularity as Berlin Wall fell” in 1989,  a historical linkage I’d like to see fleshed out. The TV remote was new in the mid-50s, and an established thing long before the wall came down. Maybe you couldn’t get a remote control TV in Communist East Berlin until then?)  

To Jones, the old mode of TV thinking was how it got to you and when. “You’ve got to see the last episode of ‘MASH’ or you didn’t’ see it,” he explains as an example. Today, by contrast, “how content gets to you isn’t the thing.” It’s simply not an issue, and where it’s coming from isn’t either. Jones excitedly notes that the viral hit of last year was from a South Korean rapper. Jones observes that last decade, Discovery Channel took several of its favored topics and changed them into separate channels. Now, he says, with smart TVs, the same thing can happen again. “Discovery cut itself into 24 Discovery networks. That was the way TV was packaged for us. Now we can create 24 of our own virtual channels, that will be exactly what we want them to be.”  The TV we will be watching soon, he says, is a little more like Pandora than cable, and you’ll access it on a tablet, a cell phone, maybe a wrist TV set, and from that big screen, too.

But it’s all TV, he says, and when I suggest that perhaps in five years that’s what the public will commonly call all types of video they see, he says, “I’ll guarantee you it will happen quicker than that.” He’s probably right.      

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