Commentary

Examining And Mapping iTV

Over the last three months I've given a presentation on the future of Internet TV more than 40 times -- and every audience for this presentation has resoundingly agreed that Internet TV represents the single most exciting area of growth for advertising over the next five years.

I typically share my thoughts on the i-TV future and provide rationale and support for how to sell it, but I don't need to do that today. The rationale and support is all over the place and is slapping our clients in the face with the obvious nature of the message. No; I decided this week I'd provide you with some insight as to how to examine the landscape of Internet TV and determine how you can apply it to your efforts.

In order to understand the landscape you first must be able to map it out. There are many ways to do so, but I tend to believe the best way is to identify the elements that encompass all of the players in the space. I file the environment under the following headings:

  • User-Generated vs. Professional Publisher
  • Publisher vs. Distribution (Technology)

UGC vs. Professional

On one side of the camp we have user-generated content; on the other, professionally created content. User-generated content refers to those sites that share, aggregate or distribute content created by the consumer. Of these, the largest is YouTube, and in many ways YouTube is responsible for the adoption and rapid growth of the entire category of Internet TV. Without YouTube, the consumer would not have such a fast rate of adoption for the video-viewing online opportunity. YouTube made it easy in much the same way that Napster made it easy to listen to MP3s.

The professional content is, for the most part, the repurposing of programming from the networks and TV and playing it online. NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox are the obvious leaders here, but we also see MTV and a number of other sites expanding their online video assets. This is where we also see sites like Brilliant But Cancelled repurposing content that may never have made it on TV and playing it digitally for a smaller, yet still likely faithful, audience.

In the middle of these two disparate elements we find the world of slivercasting. This is content created in a professional manner, at a lower budget, aired for an audience online. In past years, this content would have aired on a cable network or used to launch a new cable network, but with those costs skyrocketing, publishers can find an audience online much easier and at a smaller cost of entry. Sites like VegTV are exclusively online, but Current is doing both online and traditional TV, keeping its feet in both camps for the time being.

The most exciting element in this category is certainly Joost. If you haven't checked it out yet, do it. Soon. This will be the biggest site of the year, assuming it launches on time. It takes professional content and creates a true Internet TV environment in an interface that the consumer will truly enjoy. It still remains to be seen whether it's going to create its own content or just distribute others', which leads us to the second element for mapping the landscape...

Publisher vs. Distribution

It can be argued that all of these sites are distribution, but my point of differentiation here is that there are tools that exist solely to distribute and become a source for content, vs. distributing their own content. Of course, Google fits into this section along with companies like Blinkx and others. I believe that Brightcove and the various mobile video platforms all fit under one section of this landscape while companies like Magnify Networks exist for distributing UGC. This area is probably where the most growth will occur over the coming months, and as I mentioned before it remains to be seen whether Joost fits in this quadrant or the quadrant mentioned above.

Of course, none of this makes sense unless you can map it out, right? So here is my first stab at what that landscape may look like. It's rough, I know, and it cannot possibly include all the players in these categories, but it's a start and I encourage you to examine the playing field from this standpoint. Just give me a little credit when you put it on a screen in front of a couple hundred people!

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