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TV, Web Video Reach Digital Mainstream

Television programming and user-created media have found a home–and a business model–on the Web.
October 27, 2006

Web companies are scrambling to fill consumers’ insatiable desire for video.

Just a few years ago, watching Web video meant navigating through broken links, endless buffering loops, and poorly compressed images. Not so these days. Television execs–who once scoffed at the idea of the Web competing with their programming—are increasingly turning to the digital medium to increase the reach of their shows.

At some point, it’s likely they’ll understand that the reason people are increasingly turning to the Web to watch their shows isn’t because we want to crowd around our computers. I can tell you, watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip every Tuesday night on my Dell laptop isn’t my favorite experience. I do it because owning a TiVo seems redundant in a world in which content should be on-demand, available when and where I want it.

These execs may come to that realization once GooTube lays the smack down on infringing materials on its website, something that appears to be just over the horizon. Once GooTube – the market leader in unauthorized television video services – develops a comprehensive “take-down” policy for copyrighted works, I expect to see the free models that NBC and the other networks are using fade away, while models such as iTunes’ – which charges $1.99 per episode for most shows or $39.95 for a series season pass – become more popular.

This, of course, will not make cable providers happy. Which is why we’ll likely see more integrated packaging, offering upgrades for cable service that include on-demand programming through both the television and the PC.

Let’s not forget, though, that it’s not just television shows that are making the leap to the Web. Mobile video is making its way online as well. When Cory Lidle’s plane crashed into a New York City building on October 11, Fox News posted video shot by one of its cameramen using only his Palm Treo. And a startup out of San Francisco launched a service that allows people to upload their video to websites.

Veeker built a photo sharing service with technology it gained in August when acquiring ThumbJive that lets consumers upload still pictures or video to its Web site from any camera phone.

Of course, we all hope that Web-based video doesn’t eventually require a headset such as this Japanese contraption that resembles an old-school diving helmet. Although honestly, if this was the only way that I could watch 360-degree video, particularly in a video game, I’d probably find some way to make it work for me.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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