Hulu’s New Owner: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo?


Lots of speculation in the news about Hulu’s new owner. The Hulu peeps (Disney, NBC) opted against an IPO (initial public offering), and have an investment banker looking for a buyer.

Are we surprised that Hulu is for sale? Nope. In 2006 (give years ago) we posted that “Networks Pretend They Can Rival YouTube.” These types of things, I said, typically fail without “a STRONG intermediary is taking the lead and the individual players give authority and accountability to that player. Otherwise the interests of specific participants will almost always trump to collective goal.”

The news was dense with suggestions that Google might acquire Hulu. But despite suggestions Google and Hulu are in preliminary discussions, I’m finding that unlikely. Hulu is rumored to be trying to fetch $2 billion, which seems awfully high to me. I would suspect MSN or Yahoo would find far more interest than Google. The search giant paid less than $2 billion for YouTube ($1.65 billion), and I’m sure there is at least one tech company that would pay $2 billion simply to keep it out of Google’s hands.

What do you think?

YouTube 5.0 Begins

Netflix is watching “GOOG” and its potential use YouTube to stream longer form content. See WSJ blog. And read about YouTube’s move to live streaming ala Ustream and Blogtv.

I’d say the concern is significant, and this marks the fifth phase of YouTube…

Phase 1: Pirate Sharing (2004-2006)
Phase 2: Amateurs & Community (2005-2009)
Phase 3: Video Search Platform (2009-2011)
Phase 4: Mainstream and Semipro Content Aggregator and producer (2010-2012)
Phase 5: Live Programming and Video Anywhere (2010-2013)

These phases aren’t precise in their beginning and end, and each builds on another. So technically there’s still plenty of pirated content, but far less and harder to find. And amateur hour isn’t quite over, but YouTube’s emphasis is on music, web series and professional content.

YouTube has not touched long-form content significantly (check the latest comScore data to see that Hulu and Netflix dominates when you rank websites and platforms based on view duration). Also find some important comparison graphics to see what’s at stake for the ustreams and others.

But since YouTube, like Google, is the “first stop” for most people searching for video content, it has a natural advantage to be the default 3-4 screen streaming media player.

This 5th stage, of course, takes GOOG and YouTube into unchartered territory that requires:
-Device dominance: plus for Android, but Apple still leads and Google TV is far from the new OS for televisions or web devices.
-Equity on search: can you be both a neutral video search engine and a content owner? Given difficulties licensing pro content, YouTube appears to be stepping up original content: example Next New Network purchase, and more recent news about investments in custom content).
-Better deals with production studios and networks (to overcome the barriers that cable and telcom are forging). But in the meanwhile it appears that YouTube’s focus is on broadening distribution as a platform and as a network for smaller producers.

What do you think? Is YouTube the MySpace of our time, or will it be the dominant platform and search engine for any/all video? Off the latter, what’s it need to do to maintain relevance?

Online-Video Changes: Facebook Growing, Pro-Content Attracting Ad Dollars

comScore’s February data once again shows Google’s dominance in the online-video market, but Facebook is catching up. It’s now the fourth-largest online-video sharing property (see Facebook’s unofficial resource for more information). Facebook, as a sharp contrast from other sites, has short bursts of viewing (far shorter durations than other properties like YouTube, Hulu or Viacom (see BroadbandTV report).

comScore has a nice presentation that shows the “radical” growth of the medium (see download), and the total people relative to streams. It seems that the longer format of professional content (basically TV shows streamed online) is attracting a greater portion of advertising today.

Growth of streams and peeps from 2006 through 2010 (comScore)

To me, the most interesting part of this report is the acknowledgement that advertising dollars aren’t keeping up with the increase in online-video viewing. While this is probably true for the dawn of every preceding medium (radio, television, internet), it does suggest media buyers are in need of additional adjustments of the “media mix.” This requires better planning, and more creative built for the channel.

The ad budgets aren't keeping pace with online-video consumption

Because media-buying agencies (representing top brands) are more comfortable with television, it’s no surprise that Hulu is serving more ads per minute streamed. It’s familiar content and an easier format. Of course advertisers should be looking not just for “comfort” and targeting, but also “reduced clutter.”

Note that YouTube is not leader in advertising delivery (when you look at “ad views”). After Hulu, Tremor Media Video Network ranked second overall (and highest among video ad networks) with 503.7 million ad views, followed by ADAP.TV (432 million) and Microsoft sites (415 million).

Hulu Fail? Networks Biting Friends

Imagine trying to run Hulu…

  • On one hand, you’re dragging some media companies to the web. On the other, they’re out ahead of you on competitive platforms (Disney/App).
  • You threaten to quit because your pricing is wrong (FastCompany).
  • You’re charging for content that has ads, but at least the user interface is clunky… because some of your “partners” want to stream it on their archaic technology. Journalists and pundits accuse you of too many ads, even if it’s allegedly only one per 5 minutes.
  • You’re thinking about going all pay… effectively competing with your primary distributor (cable).
  • Your primary backer (NBC) is losing its strategic influence. You are blocking some new delivery devices and platforms like GoogleTV.

WackArnold’s post, “Hulu, Destined for Fail?” raises an interesting question.

I’d like to formally propose that Hulu is “lost in the middle,” with decreasing relevance as IPTV emerges and web video moves to television screens via a number of new platforms and hundreds of devices. It’s not showing the ability to coral networks, or to enable distribution via emerging platforms.

Hey networks… don’t bite your friends.

Online Video in 2011: Ready for Drama?

Friends, online-video is going to be a fun storm in 2011 as the drama has just begun. It’s the first official business day of 2011, and that prompted me to awaken at 3:00 a.m. with great curiosity. I spent 4-plus hours diving into dozens of articles and blogs, and have wrapped it all up nicely for you. It’s my late Christmas gift.

Here are “things to watch” in early 2011, including some recent articles. See also my 2011 predictions, which is a mandatory scan. This will be on the exam.

Can WebTV tame the "Big Media" Tiger?

1. The WebTV Bloodbath Is Just Beginning: Check out this killer article by Fortune’s Jessi Hempel titled “What the Hell is Going On With TV” to get a flavor for the impending drama in this space. And I quote: “Netflix, Google, and Apple can’t just swoop in and disrupt the $85 billion home entertainment industry. The challenge lies in navigating the entrenched interests that make up the television business.” Jessi’s piece reminds us that only a 1/10th of a percent of people have left cable television for the web, yet Microsoft says 42% of the premium Xbox Gold users who rely on it to view video are watching more than an hour a day, or 30 hours in a month. “If you’re a cable provider, that should be terrifying,” says Forrester analyst James McQuivey. The author points to Clicker.com as one I’d watch closely… a made-for-web TVGuide and search tool that allows you to locate various shows (Modern Family) and select viewing options: free, per episode or subscription. But Jessi likes Comcast as a driver of a mature online-video model because it protects the financial interests of content providers (as well as its own). I sadly believe she’s right given the confusing and frustrating state of online-video on television today (which she likens to Internet circa 1998).  Fortunately we’ve got two forces to keep Comcast motivated: consumer demand and willing startups ready to meet that demand. And he, Comcast has been asked to be cool (see Bloomberg/Businessweek article).

Click image to read more of Fortune's "What the HELL is Going on With TV"

2. Online-Video Platforms Continue to Get Commoditized, Then Interesting. Frankly I’ve never been as interested in the boring infrastructure supporting online video as I am the marketing, community and content that sits on top of it (where the air is easier to breath). But Streaming Media’s Dan Rayburn explains it well. Sure the space is commoditized, but just because YouTube is free doesn’t mean online-video platform vendors can’t charge a premium for more flexible solutions that can scale and provide unique functionality. According to Rayburn’s “Commoditization Is Not a Dirty Word,” vendors are shifting from talking about how they encode or embed (yawn) and how they a) integrate with ad networks and analytics, b) deliver the right video content to the right user on the right device. That makes sense, and I would not underestimate the power of a platform that meets the needs of creators and advertisers (David Russek‘s SevenEcho, for instance, is one of the best-kept secrets for storytellers and brands). There’s a wide opening for a video platform which better meets the needs of creators and advertisers (see MediaPost article by WatchMojo’s Ashkan Karbasfrooshan). The challenge, of course, is that today traffic (not content) is king, and YouTube continues to reign by miles (comScore). Thanks to music videos, Vevo and Blip.tv continue to grow — but still small fish.

3. YouTube Community Still Alive. Is YouTube a thing, destination or community? Yes, depending on whether you live there 2 hours a day or slide over to see the latest viral clip of search for a meme. Community is still alive, and the eager and weird folks from StirFryTV are cooking up a “YouTour,” a YouTube Tour which starts in Orland on a Jan. 18 event. It will include YouTube allstars Michael Buckley, Shane Dawson and CoolGuyWithGlasses. We’re not sure if John Basedow will be sneaking onto the YouTour RV, and going shirtless to each event to pitch his “Take Control Fitness Package” (making the rest of us feel like fat asses). Paul (odcasting101) remains alive with his YouTube Gathering ning. There’s a San Antonio, Texas YouTube gathering planned in June 17-June 19). While YouTube’s Creator blog has gone dry, it points to 488 YouTube gatherings listed on Meetup.com (mostly tiny ones). I just discovered YTGatherings on Twitter too, and it alerts us to such events like Jake & Amir’s Toronto event on Jan. 27, 2011. I’d be surprised if a YouTube event doesn’t spring up as part of the popular Austin, Texas SouthBySouthwest event March 11-20. After all, there are several YouTube and online-video sessions as part of the programing and Felicia Day is keynoting.

4. Video Search Will Suck Less Get Better. Sure we’ve been saying that for years, but ThinkJose’s Jose Castillo explains why video search sucks: “The internet was never designed as a platform for video… the basic structure and platform we are using to consume visual data is an outdated system originally used for sending text messages between universities.” Castillo reminded me that Blinkx.com is still around, and that Microsoft’s Bing search has a mouse-over playback (and don’t tell YouTube, but I think Bing is curating better with a homepage of videos that I regard as more relevant than what I’m finding on YouTube). He also points to CastTV, which provides blended results from YouTube, CNN, Amazon and other sites. See also Clicker.com (point one).

5. Video Greetings Will Get More Awkward in 2011: Cheesy Christmas video greetings were hot, with some being fabulous and others being downright painful. They didn’t stop, as evidenced by Profnet’s stunningly awkward 2011 New Years video. I hate to say this, but I think we’ve only begun to see how low corporate video-greeting cards can go. Sure this isn’t an “industry shaker,” but it sure will be fun to watch.

6. Video Destinations Rival YouTube: When I pop into a few well curated online-video sites, I increasingly believe YouTube, while still growing in views, will lose share in 2011. Check out Bing’s site and you’ll find a piece about Mona Lisa’s eye codes by NBC (saw it on TV last night), the “No” baby (that has viralinated), and how to break your soda habit via Howcast. That’s far more relevant than what I’m finding when I browse YouTube’s inhumanely edited topic areas, or surf my bloated subscription box. Yahoo Video is still luke warm, but I’d expect it to steal share with the shift away from consumer-generated content in March. AOL Video is still Revverish (insert tumbleweed and sound of crickets) but getting better. While YouTube focuses on being a platform, being relevant on television and mobile, and hopefully searching video better.

7. Damn We Need Curators. It’s simply not possible to “browse” for good videos on YouTube anymore, although perhaps Google will consider some of my unsolicited New Years Resolutions for YouTube. Ultimately I’m not likely to find good content surfing the “most viewed” on YouTube (now dominated by a few niche “web stars” that appear to be “crowd sourced” by a tiny segment of apparently stoned teenage video enthusiasts). Instead, we’re more likely to find it via curators like eGuiders. Why aren’t we seeing more curators (see NYTimes blog on subject from last year). For instance, ReelSEO’s Jeremy Scott carefully selected some fantastic viral highlights from last year. That was more helpful to me than combing through YouTube. I wrote a lot about curating in Beyond Viral; go buy that dang book so I’m not the laughing stock of Wiley. Hitwise’s Bill Tancer saw the migration of early YouTubers to curated content sites a year ago, but it’s been oddly quiet.

8. Online Video Gets More Social. I didn’t hit that hard enough in my 2011 predictions, so let me point to Hitwise’s report about Facebook driving the social engine of the Internet. Basically Facebook’s growth hasn’t slowed down, and MySpace and Bebo are crumbling. YouTube, surprisingly, is flat relative to Facebook. I’m telling you… watch for Facebook offering revenue sharing and see if the YouTube community shifts over to Facebook. Daneboe’s cracked Facebook via the insanely popular Annoying Orange with nearly 7 million “likes” (compared to only 1.5 million YouTube subscribers despite his 423 million views). Currently Daneboe uses Facebook to alert fans to a video, then streams it on YouTube where he generates a percentage of income. How easy would it be for him to start using Facebook if the company revenue shared? Most of us YouTubers haven’t cracked Facebook yet, and it’s high time for that. NYTimes Tech Blogger, Miguel Helft, also points to Clicker.com (someone’s doing good PR) for socializing video.

9. You’re Going to Pay More for Broadband: Video will soon dominate the percent of Internet traffic (see 2011 “Year Ahead In IT,” point 6). You .o5 percent of cable snippers are draining the economic system like illegitimate welfare recipients or those pesky entitled Boomers looking for social security payouts. Sure maybe there will be a poor-man’s broadband solution, but the rest of us are going to pay. With broadband suckers like Netflix and the new Skype iPhone Video one-to-one apps, do you honestly think telecommunication firms and broadband providers aren’t going to get wise? The U.S. is 18th in the world for speed, and we can bet that’s going to get some attention despite the historical year-over-year flat cost of broadband.

10. Google Going Beyond YouTube. Despite the GoogleTV Sony/Logitech launch running into a mix of praise and hiccupsreworking software and media-company resistance, we can expect Google to go beyond YouTube in 2011. Check out Information Week’s predictions on what Google will do this year. Among them: going Hollywood. That appears a difficult but inevitable play for Google to “organize the world’s information,” when you recognize “big media” as a large, sustainable chunk of it.

Finally take note of NewTeeVee’s Liz Shannon Miller’s poll about what force will really impact the space. Most votes are not for Hulu, Netflix, TV Everywhere, Apple or Google… most of us believe the real “shake up” or transformation will be driven by… something else. If YouTube and Facebook’s relative overnight success taught us anything about this still-maturing market, it’s that where there are problems and unmet consumer needs, there’s always something sudden and new that can keep it interesting.

What Will Matter About Online Video in 2011: Top 10 List

The space called “online video” is as broad as its players: online-advertisers, mobile technology, content creators, media properties, networks, cable-television providers, startups and individual YouTube “weblebrities.” But let’s not miss the fact that while I’ve been writing about “online video” for 5 plus years, I don’t likely have 5 more to go. As I mentioned in Beyond Viral’s chapter 18 (The Future of Online Video), we’ll soon return to calling video simply “video,” whether it’s on our computer, HDTV, mobile device or whatever else comes along.

Presumably my blog will migrate too, just as it has in the past. First it was “Revverberation” focusing strictly on the only 2005 revenue-sharing video property (Revver) to a site for amateur video creators looking to make a buck. Now it’s a blog I hope is relevant to a wider audience, such as online-video networks, digital agencies, online-advertising buyers and fellow marketers.

We “futurists” (dare I call myself one) typically fail by overestimating short-term changes but underestimating long-term ones. For instance most of my 2006 predictions came true… just not in 2007. I’ll crack out my annual crystal ball without reading Alex Rowland’s 2011 online-video predictions or any others. But when I’m done, I’ll add their links at the bottom and perhaps to substantiate or evolve my countdown of 2011 game changers.

So here’s not just what will happen in 2011, but what it means and why it matters.

1) Here Comes the Money. Until 2009, marketers were concerned about placing ads anywhere near “consumer generated content.” In 2010, online-video advertising was the fastest-growing portion of a marketer’s mix. Advertisers are still scrutinizing reach (scale), targeting, and impact. But online-video ad spending forecasts are very positive, and it remains a “buyer’s market” for those media buyers willing to divert ad budgets into online video units. YouTube commands a ridiculously small CPM (cost per thousand views) relative to most properties, and demo-accuracy aside, is driving ROI for most brand pioneers (as measured by attention scores, direct response or “CPC,” recall, intent-to-purchase lifts and ultimately sales, where accurately tracked). Advertisers took many years to migrate dollars from offline to online, but most analyst reports are bullish on ad spending moving to online video (at the expense of offline media and lower-performing banners). So content creators (and media sites) who hold constant on monthly views will receive bigger checks. As an example, when I reluctantly turned on “pre-rolls” to my Nalts videos I saw my income increase significantly with no change to total views (still 4-6 million per month).

2) Bold New Online-Video Advertising Models: InStream or InVideo formats (small overlays on the bottom 20% of the online-video screen) was certainly more effective than adjacent banners, and a smart compromise to avoid charging for content. But the market is artificially depressed for these ads, and pre-rolls have become dangerously pervasive alternatives. I hope and trust that creators, advertisers and (quite importantly) video platforms will provide new formats that a) respect the viewer, b) complement the content, and c) ensure that ad message gets sufficient attention to command a fair price. Most importantly, the most innovative approaches will weave ad messages into the creative, and target with greater precision for a better return on advertising investments.

3) Experimentation With Ad-Free, Microcharge Pay-Per-View: Given how little ad-revenue generates per active view, I would expect some online-video creators (if platforms cooperate) to experiment with a token fee-based subscription models. If it was easy, I’d pay a small fixed or variable fee to avoid cursed pre-rolls before viewing online-videos by YouTube Partners. As long as an annoying preroll generates a fraction of a penny to YouTube and the Partner, it wouldn’t cost a viewer much to purchase immunity from them (while still keep the platform and creator “whole” on income). Imagine if YouTube offered viewers the ability to effectively self fund the content he/she consumes for a modest monthly fee based on the quantity of videos consumed. I realize 70-90% of online-video viewers would resent whipping out their wallets because they feel entitled to free content. So I wouldn’t expect this to explode, nor would I propose an “either/or” scenario. That said, I trust I’m not alone in saying that I’d rather pay $5 a month to enjoy all of my YouTube videos without interruption, and that’s all it would take to offset the ad revenue YouTube and its partners might otherwise generate. This has been proven on certain websites and apps (free with ads, small fee for ad-free) and could work in this medium… but it does require a PayPal or Google Checkouts to make this incredibly easy. Mac cracked the code with me and others by simply making the purchase/rent option so incredibly easy that pirating content is no longer worth it.

4) The Video “Screen” Becomes Less Important: For years we’ve anticipated the great collision of “lean forward” (computer) and “lean back” (television). It was going to fundamentally change the ecosystem and democratize content creation. Finally in 2010 you didn’t need an MIT PhD to enjoy digital video content without an antenna or a cable-television subscription. Of course this convergence, despite dramatic improvements in the past year, is still being enjoyed by fewer than 10% of Americans. Now we have three discreet segments of video consumers:

  • Early adopters (we’re using home-rigged media centers, TiVo, GoogleTV, Roku, Boxee, AppleTV, and clumsy ethernet-enabled televisions.
  • The lagging but vibrant “cable snipping” generation, which had a sudden epiphany during the past solar orbit, and believes Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner are “The Walking Dead” because content will forever remain free.
  • The laggards who will enjoy subscribed, licensed, stolen or ala cart (on demand) video content via television, computer and mobile… only when their cable-TV provider makes it incredibly easy.

None of this matters terribly by itself. Sure our content via YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Cable “On Demand,” Amazon and other providers) is increasingly portable, and we’ll eventually carry our subscriptions on our primary mobile device (aka phone). Hooray! We’ll have the luxury of watching rented, purchased or “borrowed” Avatar film or Modern Family episodes continuously whether we’re on the couch, commuter train or our desktop (example: Xfinity or Dish Network’s “TV Everywhere“).

More importantly, we’ll prefer to consume different types of content via different screens, and that poses a challenge to content creators. For the most part, we’ll subscribe (free or paid) to most content that’s popular within our social networks (real or virtual). But we’ll search (usually in laptop-like mode) for “just in time” content, which may include quick “how to” videos or a clip we’ve heard is “going viral.” Demographics (age, region) and psychographics (behavioral) will dictate viewer preferences, so Paw Paw may watch Fox and CNN on her cable box, mom may surf her cable lineup, young urban adults may binge The Onion and College Humor on computers using HDTV as a monitor, and the teens and tweens can gorge semi-pro content like Barely Political and Annoying Orange from the privacy of their Smart Phones.

So what does this mean to the people who depend on audiences? Creators and advertisers will need to know their audiences better, and leverage different mediums and form factors (length of content and distribution strategy) to reach and satisfy them. We won’t see the end of niche creators with niche audiences whose needs can’t be met via more mainstream content (hot music, top comedy, the quirky clip that taps our collective consciousness). However these creators should take caution in mimicking the habits of the top talent, and instead focus on depth not breadth.

5) Transmedia Storytelling Grows Up: At September’s New York Television Festival (NYTVF) Digital Day, panelists discussed the challenge of “transmedia” storytelling. For these media executives, directors, creative types and writers, “online video” was one element of a storyline. Their challenge, unlike a web series like The Guild, is to leverage online-video to complement a story that is powered by a television show, but offers short-form web video as an optional “add on” to the experience. Previous television “webisodes” (like those of The Office, which were well promoted during the weekly television episodes) were largely isolated events. One could enjoy The Office without the webisodes, but hardcore viewers enjoyed the extra, independent plots. As more people are conveniently able to dive into a webisode from their television, it’s likely these previously “stand-alone” pieces of entertainment will serve a richer role in the narrative.

6) Independent Webisodes Get Second Chance. In the early days of online-video, there wasn’t a sufficient revenue model for well-produced webisodes that were fairly expensive to produce, but had trouble attracting audiences. Look for aggregators snatching some of the quality content at a low cost, and forging distribution deals to give them new life. Currently there are dozens of popular YouTube channels that meet the definition of “webisodes” (see a Mashable list of popular ones in 2010). But what about all the Streamy nominees featuring well-produced but sometimes starving comedic, drama or reality-show “webisodes”? Could the mercurial content from “Funny or Die” find a new and broader audience via well-promoted subscriptions via new devices? This provides new income to the show owners, unique content for audiences, and a powerful differentiator for the distribution platform. Roku, by example, provides easy access to Revision3 content, and that’s a free “value add” for Roku users that gives Revision3 shows (Film Riot, Scam School) a larger audience to attract advertisers.

7) The Amateur-Creator “Thinning of the Hurd.” The “amateur” talent pyramid has transformed from flat to tall, and almost no YouTube star has jolted into mainstream. Still, hundreds of lean amateurs have developed comfortable full-time jobs (six figures plus) as YouTube Partners in the past 18 months. The “weblebrity” lifecycle is shrinking (rapid rise and fall), with just a few dozen channels dominating the vast majority of views. This is no different from the maturing of any previous medium (radio, television, blogs, Indie music) because society can’t handle radical fragmentation of content. Shared media/entertainment is a social glue that forgets a common vocabulary, so it’s “survival of the fittest.” Even with occasional “overnight successes” (from Justin Bieber to the relatively small Shaycarls, iJustines and Wheezywaiters), we collective viewers struggle focusing on more than 20-50 different webstars or channels, and eventually the best 10% will own 90% of the views on YouTube — or emerging “democratic” mediums with relatively low barriers to entry. It happened with music, and it’s happening on YouTube, where the same 7-20 people are routinely dominating the daily “most popular” charts, and the “one-hit wonder” viral videos are celebrated and forgotten like a fad.

Now let’s look at some other online-video 2011 predictions to nail the final 3:

8) Social-Viewing and Curation. VidCompare invited some industry experts and platform owners to speculate on some coming trends. It’s a beefy list of predictions, but I’m summarizing two related predictions I found especially important (where italics are my own reactions to the assertions).

  • Dramatic increase in social viewership drives innovation in social sharing techniques and measurement (Jeff Whatcott – SVP Marketing, Brightcove). An absolute in my opinion. Look no further than how Daneboe has used Annoying Orange’s popular Facebook identity to increase views on his YouTube videos.
  • 2011 is the year we curate. The result of this massive explosion of content creation is that we are increasingly overwhelmed with choice. Too much content makes finding useful and relevant material increasingly difficult. In a world of unlimited choice, search fails. What we’ll see is a growing category of content curators – individuals, brands, and publishers. (Steve Rosenbaum – CEO, Magnify.net). Steve has always been ahead of the market, and curation is logical and desirable. I became introduced to the concept of video curation while writing my book, and see it as a natural and healthy progression of the medium.
  • See more technology-oriented predictions on VidCompare, as well as observations on what geographic markets will drive growth, what major players (Amazon, NBC) will dominate, and how ad networks will face a squeeze.

9) Cost Per Engagements: Speaking of ad networks, see what the leading providers are anticipating in 2011 (AdExchanger), including some interesting thoughts on CPE (cost per engagement) by Tremor Media’s CEO Bill Day. I like CPE better than CPM because I feel that impressions is a poor judge of online-video performance. What matters is how the viewer engaged, and what they did as a result of the video… even though that’s often missed by CPE.

10) Standard Wars, and Everyone’s a Media Company: Brightcove’s Jeremy Allaire wrote a nice TechCrunch article about standard wars, connected TVs and social recommendations.Well worth a read, as Allaire is standing in the middle of a separate part of this ecosystem that I don’t see first-hand.

Okay now your turn. What’d I miss? What did I call wrong? Let’s crowd-source our psychic powers and make the first 100% accurate technology predictions, shall we?

    You Don’t Have to Be CableTV’s Bitch. Options Abound!

    The poor television networks and cable. In one of the seminal points of the evolution of online-video-to-television and mobile, the networks are putting legitimate near-term business desires and needs above consumer demand and innovation. You could view recent moves — like blocking GoogleTV and Hulu’s paid app with ads — as strength and discipline. Avoiding threats to their lucrative cable TV partnerships. Or you could view all of this as a tragic flaw — not dissimilar to the music industry’s early failures in the dawn of digital distribution.

    CableTV and networks are preserving their cash cows. But not for long.

    It’s the perilous curse of any comfy industries that is reticent to let high-potential new revenue streams and consumer demand cannibalize their cash cows … and it’s the cart blanche for startups that produce new models to meet consumer needs.

    But guess what? You have a choice (see options below). Ironically, I have Verizon FIOS servicing my home as I write this blog entry, and the company is updating its offering to provide more for less (less expensive additions, faster broadband and soon web-via-TV). Still, the cable-TV box is quickly dying (see WSJ). The FTC is making it harder for CableTV companies to force its own boxes on people, yet most of the “unwashed masses” don’t know they have other options. It amazes me that most people are oblivious to the fact that the CableTV box and the DVD player are the least interesting things that can feed their HDTV.

    Meanwhile, Hulu is also slipping: yesterday I was about to download the Hulu app on my iPad, until I saw that it had one of the worst ratings I’ve yet seen on iPhone/iPad apps! Apparently the “Generation I” isn’t keen on the subscription charge plus commercials, and Hulu is missing the opportunity to develop an ad-supported wide “anytime, anywhere” distribution of network content without intermediaries. In a similar flub, Google TV is being blocked by networks and Hulu, because they’re no doubt rooting for a network-friendly cable alternative that will take forever and suck. But they’re counting on it stopping a “great migration” away from monthly cable.

    You can’t blame the networks for wanting to charge for content, which is the very basis of a very fair $99 AppleTV model (where consumers pay “ala cart” to rent specific television shows, and it’s commercial free HD content without a subscription). But the “one to watch,” in my opinion and others, is Netflix’s evolving model, a fixed-price (as low as $8) “all you can eat” movie rental service which is becoming much more generous and easy, as viewing options rapidly expand from DVDs by mail to desktop, Roku, AppleTV, Netflix, some DVR and DVD players, and iPhone. We don’t even bother with those red Netflix envelopes by mail, and our days of visiting Blockbuster are completely over. Sometimes we accidentally pay $5 for Verizon’s “on demand” movies, only to discover they’re part of the free Netflix library to which we subscribe!

    Hulu’s bi-polar approach, driven surely by networks and not by Jason Kilar, the company’s smart, flexible and customer-oriented CEO. Kilar has created a site designed first for viewers, and offers advertisers novel ad options (like allowing viewers to view one trailer instead of multiple in-stream ads, or giving consumers the choice of what ad they view). But Hulu also has to protect its content partners, who aren’t keen on anything that threatens the addictive income they fetch from cable providers.

    Just like smart phones exploded in the past 18 months, the online-video & television merger is just entering “the tipping point.” It appears the emergence of GoogleTV has everyone innovating in desperation. So what should you do?

    Like the boys from Prison Break, set yourself free. You have options to escape the restrictions of your cableTV provider.
    1. Join Netflix for if you watch more than 2-3 movies a month. It’s the most cost-efficient and easiest way to watch movies because it’s “all you can eat” on a fairly decent library. To enjoy it beyond the laptop, you’ll want a $99 AppleTV or $80 Roku. The quality is fantastic, and it’s easy to use.
    2. Google TV has folks scared. And scared industries innovate.
    3. Unless you don’t mind the horribly slow and counter-intuitive cable boxes, you may still want a TiVo. It’s frustrating to pay TiVo a monthly subscription (around $15)  and still pay your cable provider maybe $5 for a card allowing TiVo to read the signal. But TiVo is the gold-standard for easy interface, and sells refurbished boxes. Even better, there’s one you can rent, which helps you avoid the one-two pain punch of a purchased unit plus subscription. TiVo, like most new Blueray DVDs and retail DVRs, also offers Netflix and other services (like Amazon and Blockbuster, for when Netflix doesn’t stock the latest movies).
    4. Keep your eye on CableTV box alternatives: AppleTV, GoogleTV and all of the new BlueRay DVDs with advanced options. You’ll find there’s far more for your HDTV to enjoy when it’s not plugged into that archaic cable box, but most of us accept these dumb boxes without question. As I learned recently from Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Sears, the manufacturers of these boxes will attest the fact that the cable providers “dumb them down” for various reasons, not the least of which is preservation of a dying business model.
    5. Finally, if you hate watching television via a hot laptop, you may be a candidate for an iPad. It’s small, it streams Netflix well, and it’s a good bed/couch option if your spouse is watching Nancy Grace and you want to avoid getting a TV lobotomy.
    My wife watches Nancy Grace, and I'd rather hear our pet pig squeal (or watch something smart and funny on my iPad with scream-canceling headphones)

    Rumors of AppleTV Revamp. Hulu Charges. BestBuy May Fire Funnyman.

    Rumors on NY Times of an AppleTV overhaul that may make it more than a “hobby” (a term Steve Jobs used to describe the somewhat limited device). I, for one, already love the AppleTV so I’m bound to be excited about a new version. Heck I’d chose my AppleTV above my iPhone4G… which continues to boast crappy connection (even when the bars show otherwise) and has underwhelmed me for consistently posting on YouTube without errors.

    And Hulu starts a pay-for-content model, and Apple offers a free Hulu Plus app on the iPhone (I’ll bet dozens sign up for it).

    It’s like the online-video space found out I’ve just filed my book manuscript and want to see how quickly they can date it.

    All we need now is for YouTube to launch a new television network.

    Oh- and Best Buy continues to charm the online-video community, most recently scolding Brian Maupin. Turns out the former Best Buy employee is responsible for the hysterical video about the iPhone4G vs. Evo (you may have read about that one here last week).

    AP is reporting Maupin, 25, said he was told Thursday he had a “choice to either quit or the HR people can decide what they want to do.” He said he would not quit and was told he could be fired over the matter.

    Was probably told that by the nut job that called the cops on me.

    Hey Brian (tinywatchproductions on YouTube)- unless you’re planning to keep your job or sue your employer, why not join me in a Geek Squad parody collaboration? Continue with videos as funny as the HTC Evo vs. iTunes video and you’ll earn far more from YouTube advertising than at Best Boob.

    I used to love your employer until the Geek Squad ape when nuts on me, and Best Buy or Geek Squad never bothered to even acknowledge me.

    Quick Way to Make Web-Television Suck Less (ethernet via powerline)

    I never really bought in to the concept that audio or electronic signals could travel via powerlines. But when Jim Louderback (former computer nerd publisher and fellow online-video enthusiast) told me about these little dlink powerline guys at a bar in San Fran, I grabbed his laptop and purchased them via Amazon immediately. Come to think of it, I think I was still logged into his Amazon.

    Surprisingly, they made it possible for me to watch television via that other doo-diggy that streams YouTube and Hulu to my HDTV through the convenience of a light keyboard and mouse… neither of which gets hot in my lap. That’s what sucks about laptop video from a couch or bed.

    Years ago I marveled that new houses were being wired with Ethernet, and with wireless modems becoming so fast and cheap, I’ve often chuckled at that waste of money. In hindsight, it was brilliant (ask Dave). The best damned wired modem can’t touch a wired signal for uploading and streaming video. Trust me: I have 5 modems. I don’t learn easily.

    I don’t know how these dlink things compare to a direct ethernet connection, but the latter was not a very practical option for me. My Verizon Fios Fart modem brings my signal upstairs, and I’d have to rerun a bunch of ethernet wires back to the basement and up walls… in the case of my main television, there’s not enough crawl space to even accomplish this. Post college I had speakers in every room of the house (including bathroom), but I’ve lost my passion for cable splicing.

    So these puppies are $100, plug and work, and do the trick. One small step for ethernet speed, one giant leap for web-television conversion.

    P.S. The ethernet-to-TV solutions I’ve seen to date are a friggin’ joke. Glad to have a direct ethernet input, but the interfaces are absolutely retarded. Even TiVo blows for watching streaming media (just to search out a YouTube video is like using a 56K modem to watch a 700K picture). Then again maybe I need to get my TiVo hard wired like this. But the AppleTV is doing fine without a direct connection. Wuz up?