Video Content's Evolution

Recently, while reading about Amazon's new Web series, I had a flashback moment to 2004, when we addressed the Internet’s potential influence on video content, whether we’d be “leaning forward or leaning back”, and other issues of the unknown.  These discussions focused on the new storytelling, how the structure of the story would change, be it interactive stories or cat videos as new forms of entertainment.

Looking back, it’s clear that theories got it all wrong.  Technology doesn’t drive storytelling. The same content formats have existed for 75 years, since TV’s early days.

The Internet’s technological capabilities had no effect on storytelling of online video content.  After 20 years, I hope it’s clear that users don’t want to choose the camera angle or the end of the story, and cats returned to their historical role in “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and didn’t become a genre.



However, a change has occurred. “House of Cards” wouldn't have been a success in the 1960s or the 1990s (try to think of Dick Van Dyke, or for that matter, even President Bartlet killing their dog in the first episode), and "Gangnam Style" wouldn’t have been a global hit in the 1970s (nor last year’s Norwegian YouTube invasion).

This begs the question: What did revolutionize video content?

Let’s evaluate video/TV content’s major revolutions:

The 1980s saw video clips shift to the mainstream and news became a full-day event.

The new millennium saw the emergence of reality formats and targeted niche shows like “Queer Eye for The Straight Guy” or recently, the bizarre trend of "factual Entertainment" shows (such as “Duck Dynasty”). These indicate that storytelling didn’t change; it just became more segmented, better targeted to specific audiences. The template (storytelling) of the show didn’t change -- the way we fill the template has changed.

This echoes significant change in the technological sphere. During the '80s, we transitioned from terrestrial broadcast with one to four channels per country, to analog cables with 10-20 channels.  Then digital channels appeared, which opened hundreds of channels, and in recent years, the Internet generated unlimited channels.

With only a handful of channels per country, it was risky to present video clips throughout the day, but once there were 20 channels, it made sense to create a teen channel dedicated to video clips. Documenting the life of birdy rednecks several hours a day might’ve been a bold experiment with only 10 channels, but with 100 channels, it makes sense. With unlimited distribution and no borders, let’s create the most extreme shows and market Norwegian and Korean content.

Thus, the great change-maker of the video content industry is the distribution method.

What’s next?

We need to revolutionize content distribution over the Internet.  We currently still imitate the broadcast model.  Through “broadcasters” like Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube, we choose what we want to see. Here, we lose the advantage of the Internet as a new distribution model, as we still think in the context of channels. I can create an infinite number of channels, but people still need to enter the channels, and Netflix’s content search algorithm still requires entering a specific site (Netflix).

My idea is that we devise a method of “content searching for people,” not “people searching for content.”  With vast advertising knowledge, it’s easy for us to understand which show a person’s interested in watching. Why should Warner Brothers wait for that person to enter Hulu and choose their channel? Let’s build a wide network of partner sites, enabling them to locate the person interested in a specific content, and present the relevant content on that very site.

You may say it’s hard to do such an ecosystem -- but actually it’s easy if you try…

1 comment about "Video Content's Evolution".
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  1. Todd Koerner from e-merge Media, March 15, 2014 at 4:17 p.m.

    Oded - Finally got around to commenting, and pulled out this comment I wrote back in 2005:
    There appears to be increasing evidence that the web and television will soon merge into a seamless content delivery system. As you can see in the articles below, the major entertainment conglomerates are utilizing the web as a type of “minor league” destination for less successful programming.

    The question seems to be when, not if, with regard to the point when programming on the web will feed the traditional television networks, and not the other way. I suppose that will depend in large part on the speed with which viewers are able to integrate the technology for consuming web content on the television instead of the computer screen.

    Once I can sit on my living room couch and surf the web as easily as I can channel surf, then the decision to watch a network sitcom as opposed to a webcast will be based solely on the quality of their content. With a truly level playing field, I would contend that the democracy of the Internet will allow previously undiscovered talent to get a great deal more attention, and those with the talent and ingenuity to produce it will be handsomely rewarded when those media conglomerates come calling with a lot of cash.

    “A Failed TV Show Attempts New Life as a Yahoo Webcast”
    In two brief runs on broadcast television, the live-concert show "Pepsi Smash" drew only a modest audience, but Yahoo is betting that putting the program online will be a boon to its digital music offerings.
    By Jeff Leeds for The New York Times

    “'Pepsi Smash’ TV Show Moves to Yahoo”
    Joins Growing Lineup of Video Fare on Internet Portal
    By Kate MacArthur for


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