Teenagers – those great respecters of copyright

7 04 2008

It wouldn’t be a Monday without another digital media scare story from the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper: aside from its sister newspaper’s report that video-rich services such as YouTube and the BBC’s iPlayer are melting the internet, today’s shock horror ‘revelation ‘ is that 95% of U.K. teenagers are illegally copying music. Well fancy that.

The article shares findings from a survey commissioned by industry group British Music Rights, quoting the group’s chief executive and one-time popster Feargal Sharkey as the findings painting an ominous picture for the next generation of musicians.

Yet a significant number of those naughty teens polled are sticking to tried-and-tested means of copying, such as borrowing eachothers’ CDs or recording from a radio broadcast. Brits have been doing this for decades at it isn’t the underlying cause of lacklustre performance from the music industry. Has Mr Sharkey never heard of peer-based recommendation? It might, after all, introduce his music to a whole new generation.

Mr Sharkey clearly doesn’t buy the wise words of Glenn Merrill, poached by EMI from Google last week to stop the rot at one of the world’s largest labels: “file sharing is a good thing for artists and not necessarily bad,” said Merrill. “We should do a bunch of experiments to find out what the business model is.”

A week in online TV & video: wrap-up

4 09 2007

U.K. indie producer and Guardian columnist Anthony Lilley provides an excellent contextual wrap-up of the week’s key developments in the online video space, including:

  • The arrival of iTunes video downloads in the UK;
  • NBCU’s non-renewal of its video deal with iTunes;
  • South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s online syndication deal with Viacom — a watershed moment for the producers of the most sought after content;
  • Google’s deal with music collecting societies the MCPS and PRS.

Don’t want to be targeted, contextualised, watched? Get Firefox

3 09 2007

The International Herald Tribune reports on the AdBlock Plus plug-in for the Firefox browser and its “potential for extreme menace to the online advertising business model”.

The program creator claims 2.5 million users have so far installed the app., hardly a big enough figure to yet worry the likes of Google; but with its user base growing by 300,000 to 400,000 a month, this may soon change.

YouTube: and now the monetisation begins

22 08 2007

The long march toward Google attempting to monetise YouTube commences today, as the company unveils its contextual advertising strategy for clips on the site.

YouTube has shunned pre-roll ads, used by many of its competitors on broadcast and portal sites, electing instead for animated, transluscent overlays across the bottom of its video player console.

Ads appear 15 seconds after a clip has started playing, inviting viewers to click on the overlay. If clicked the original content pauses and the ad begins playing in the video console, if not the overlay disappears after 10 seconds (presumably to be replaced by another).

Reports range from 20 to 50 charter advertisers signed up for the launch of the new InVideo service, including BMW and NewLine Cinema. The rate card for InVision ads starts at US $20 per 1,000 times the ad is displayed

But Google doesn’t see it as a panacea, as Eileen Naughton, its director of media platforms told Reuters:  “In the history of Google, there has never been one ‘answer’. It’s not the end-all, but it’s a very promising format that we are ready to bring to the market.”

It’s less of a surprise that most ads will be paired with professionally-produced content, such as Warner Music Group videos, though Google is dipping its toe in the water of ads wrapped around consumer-generated content.

Now begins the task of Google making its $1.65 billion investment in YouTube pay off (not that it needs to pay the money back to anyone!)

Edit: early reaction to the new ads.

Content distribution just got smarter

20 08 2007

Echoing a similar deal between Google and Viacom prior to the former’s acquisition of YouTube, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Disney Channel actress Raven-Symone are to create original web video content, which Google will then distribute to target demographics via its AdSense  contextual advertising network.

MacFarlane will create around 50 animated shorts, while Symone will craft a series of ‘how to’ videos targeted at teens and tweens. The US $10 million bill for content creation is being underwritten by Media Rights Capital (MRC), the film financing vehicle in which ad group WPP, AT&T and Goldman Sachs have all taken stakes. Revenues from the ads embedded in each film will be split between MRC and Google.

MRC’s backers have given it a warchest of US $400 million per year — enough to finance 10 indie movies, five or six TV series and 10 to 20 broadband video series. The company has built its business on acquiring rights bundles where traditional studios have feared to tread; for example, it snapped up non English and Spanish-speaking territory rights seven-times Oscar-nominated Babel, which achieved $114 million in box office takings, 70% of which was from non-U.S. markets.

Variety is heralding the MRC/Google deal as one which throws open the doors to mass distribution for indie-produced content, while allowing each respective party to concentrate on the bits of the business they’re best at. In a further sign that online video distribution has passed the tipping point, the same report quotes MRC digital president Dan Goodman: “We’re looking at this as a business-model, not as a pilot.”

Paid online video: Google throws in the towel

11 08 2007

Google has conceded failure in its attempts to monetise video downloads and ended its 19-month experiment to offer paid programming, reports the Washington Post.

Google has been offering a range of video on a download-to-rent or download-to-own basis since January 2006, with titles ranging from US $2 to $20 and viewable only through a downloadable player.

Google’s decision to close the retail part of its video site indicates the company had less success selling content than attracting advertising spending, which accounts for 99 percent of revenue, said the New York Times.

“The current change is a reaffirmation of our commitment to building our ad-supported monetization models for video,” Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

Visitors to Google’s sites watched 1.8 billion clips in May, accounting for 22% of videos viewed in the U.S., according to online measurement firm ComScore. However, the vast majority of these were via YouTube.

YouTube may need to re-brand as SueTube

7 08 2007

First came Viacom’s US $1 billion action against YouTube, then the U.K. Football Association and music publisher Bourne piled in.

Now others including the U.S. National Music Publishers Association, the U.K. Rugby Football League and the Finnish Football League Association have joined the class action.

Rumblings from Japan too, where a consortium of television, music and film companies is saying that the video sharing site isn’t doing enough to counter copyright infringment. This time it hasn’t turned legal, yet, but the criticism adds to a growing clamour that Google is dragging its heels over the introduction of content-fingerprinting technology.

Yahoo! overhauls online video

3 08 2007

Yahoo! is to revamp video across its site by year end, say Bloomberg. Music videos, movie trailers, television shows and sports highlights are among the features that will be available on the new site, in a move aimed at attracting more video-hungry users to Yahoo!

Currently Yahoo! share of online video traffic in the U.S. is just 4.6% (vs. Google/YouTube accounting for 21.6% and Fox/MySpace taking 8.1% of traffic).

This Bear Sterns briefing note on Yahoo!, suggests the company focus its activity on social networks, in order to build site stickiness. It also notes that social networks now account for 60% of global online traffic.

Online video copyright: the techies fight back

2 08 2007


Major content owners have been deceiving the public when it comes to the accuracy of statements about copyright [at least this time its not the content itself!!], states a complaint lodged yeserday with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a lobby group representing Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! among others.

The complaint argues that content owners have been abusing their market dominance by using copyright warnings “not to educate their consumers, but to intimidate them.” It alleges that named parties have been pursuing “a nationwide pattern of unfair and deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting consumer rights under copyright law,  In some cases, copyright holders threaten criminal and civil penalties against consumers who choose to exercise Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

The group singles out Major League Baseball, the National Football League, NBC/Universal, DreamWorks, Harcourt Inc. and Penguin Group as the prime offenders. In its coverage, the Wall Street Journal notes “The conflict illustrates the shifting concept of fair use in the digital age. “Fair use” of intellectual property revolves around the question of how much, if any, of movies, books, music and other creations can be used without permission of the owners. As Internet platforms have made it easier to redistribute chunks of content without asking for approval, copyright owners have become more protective about enforcing their rights.”

Examples of ‘misleading’ copyright warnings, usually pre-roll on DVDs and online video:

— NFL telecast: “. . . . Any other use of this telecast or any pictures,
descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is

  — MLB telecast: “. . . the accounts and descriptions of this game may not
be disseminated, without express written consent.”

  —  Harcourt Inc. book: “No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing. . . .”   

The CCIA has also launched ‘Defend Fair Use’, a campaign which aims to make “big content come clean”.

To pre-roll or post-roll, Google speak (but in muted tones)

1 08 2007

Much discussion in the TV and ad industries focusing on the type and duration of online video ads which work: nobody quite seems to know yet. So interesting to observe, that neither do Google (or if they do, they’re remaining tight-lipped about it).

NewTeeVee quotes Google’s Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management:  “We are still in the process of trying different things… There is going to be a lot of experimentation. We shall see how and where the market evolves to.” The report goes on to say that Google’s current focus is on in-stream ads but it is looking at different overlays or ways to put ads at the bottom of the video, banners around video, or or even simply opting for ads that are companion banners to the video clips

Microsoft and Google future TV patents

1 08 2007

ars technica reports on a couple of recent patent applications from Microsoft and Google, covering targeted TV advertising and corresponding web content respectively.

The Microsoft patent would use information about an individual’s preferences to deliver behaviourally-targeted commercials on-the-fly. [Eek] It goes further… Information would also be cross-referenced with a user’s online address book, calendar, purchasing history etc. to deliver a more personalised experience.

Meanwhile the Google patent outlines a system that would record ambient noise from a television while the viewer is watching, pick up relevant tidbits that the viewer might be interested in, and either pull up pages or generate them on the fly for the viewer to check out. One example given in the patent describes a viewer watching Friends who may want to gossip with others online about Monica’s pregnancy. That person would typically have to go to the computer, perform a Google search for “Friends,” then sift through the results to find a discussion forum of some sort. This, Google says, “would diminish the passive experience offered by mass media.”

Instead, the system would listen to what is being played on the TV, compare it against a database of previously-generated audio fingerprints, and automatically pull up the relevant web pages for the viewer. It could even put together dynamically-generated pages with various things like news stories, discussion boards, and social networks based on the content being viewed.

Ominously, both technologies rely on a sort of camera being mounted on or near the TV screen, to detect facial characteristics of whoever is viewing [how will they persuade anyone to install one of these?]

ComScore June 07 numbers, U.K.

31 07 2007

ComScore reports that 63% of the 15+ population used the internet during June, with an average of 35 hours per user spent online during the month.

Despite clinging to the prized number 1 to 3 rankings, Google,  Microsoft and eBay all lost a modest amount of reach during the month, while Yahoo! showed growth of just 1%. But the fastest growth of all came from Mozilla, which released an update to its Firefox broswer during June.

Of U.K. broadcasters, Channel 4 put in a strong performance with unique visits climbing 39%, believed to be as a result of online viewing of the latest iteration of Big Brother; the second biggest gain for any U.K. web property for the period reported.

YouTube copyright filters from next month

31 07 2007

YouTube is to introduce a new content-fingerprinting technology as early as next month, reports Media Post. The disclosure came during a preliminary hearing in Viacom’s US $1 billion copyright infringement action against Google/YouTube.

Viacom attorney Donald Verrilli applauded the initiative but said it wouldn’t be appeased by this promised cure-all, the report adds. “We’d have been a lot happier if they’d put this in place when they launched,” he said.

The technology will be as sophisticated as fingerprint technology used by the FBI, claims the Associated Press, adding that the technology will copyright owners to provide a digital fingerprint that within a minute or two will trigger a block from YouTube whenever someone tries to upload a copyright video without permission.


Who says ITV don’t have a sense of humour?

30 07 2007

Picture the scene: it’s BBC iPlayer ‘i Day’, when registration for the service goes live to the general public. Type into Google the keywords “BBC iPlayer” and the top organic search result returns a defunct page, pointing to the earlier iMP content trial, while the top paid search result reads: “Why wait for a download? ITV Broadband… [link]”

Strange, it’s gone now though 🙂

In related news, here’s what BBC News [impartial, promise] says about the first few days following iDay.

Hey, let’s be careful out there

25 07 2007

You can’t get a clearer statement that social networks are representative of all parts of society than the revelation that among MySpace users in the US are 29,000 convicted sex offenders — and that’s presumably just the ones who’ve told the truth about their digital identities.

According to the report, Attorney General Roy Cooper is calling for state legislation which will mandate parental consent for children joining any of the social network sites. This naturally assumes parents know enough about how the internet works in order to be able to make such informed decisisons.

I’ve never forgotten how it got drummed into me as a little ‘un that you should be wary of strangers – yet trust is so often taken for granted online – and parents presumably think that if their kids are tapping away from the safety of home, this is safe.

It’s a thorny problem to tackle and one which I don’t believe legislation is the answer to. The online industry as a whole – from content providers through to ISPs – could be doing more to educate users, of all ages, about the risks inherent to interacting with others on the web. Watch this space for when government agencies make a greater play of the mass of personal data Google stores on all its users.

Stepping back a level further, we could ask ourselves some more searching questions about being better parents full stop (and you won’t find the answers in any manual or FAQs).

Sgt. Phil Esterhaus of the Hill Street precinct couldn’t have expressed it any better…

3 Out of 4 U.S. Internet Users Streamed Video Online in May

18 07 2007

ComScore’s latest data, released yesterday, states that 74.3% of US internet users watched streamed video online, during May, with each user watching an average of 158 minutes of content; over a third of these (35%) via YouTube.

Numbers are aggregated across Google sites, collectively accounting for 49.2% streaming video market share, followed by Fox (40%), Yahoo (26.6%), TimeWarner (22.3%) , Microsoft (18.5%) and Viacom (14.7%). Both ABC and Disney — curiously split out in a study which otherwise aggregates across the network sites — languishing at < 10%.

TV is dead! Long live TV! (again…)

18 07 2007

Journalists just love portents like these and Vincent Dureau, Google’s head of TV technology, has set the pack off again with yesterday’s keynote at the Internet Television Technology Conference: “On the surface, television as we know it looks dead,” he opined. Only to quickly add: “But the future of television is actually pretty bright.”

The explosion of choice and the arrival of new technologies, such as DVRs, which are helping audiences be more selective about the bits they do (or don’t) want to see are re-inventing the business models on which the linear TV business is built, Dureau added. Thankfully, there’s always Google to help a screwed up business fight its way out of a crisis, with a little internet know-how.

So TV execs, are you listening? 🙂 Time to close down those dusty old networks and plunge into the interweb. But don’t forget your water wings.

Curious though, could this be the same Vincent Dureau who as recently as February, warned delegates at another industry love-in that: “The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.” Ouch. 

Evolution of the Joost/Viacom deal

10 07 2007

More clues emerge on Viacom’s stake in Joost and whether the latest development is merely an expansion of that arrangement, or a sign that Viacom’s interest is in acquiring Joost outright .

Viacom’s VH-1 is to premiere the entire series of its new scripted comedy I Hate My 30s from next Monday, 10 days ahead of its first network airing. “We see this as Phase 2 in creating value with content owners,” gushed Alberdingk Thijm, executive vp content strategy and acquisition for Joost. What was phase 1? Putting more stuff up there than a few vids of girls in bikinis, boys on skateboards and black and white episodes of Lassie. 

Each episode will feature with pre-roll spots, together with cross-promotional for other Viacom interests on mobile and VOD.

The Viacom tie-up was opportunistic: Joost was desparate for big brand content partners and Viacom was looking at a way to put one in the eye of Google/YouTube following the great content take-down.

The key to the announcement is exclusivity in content before it can be watched anywhere else. Something which a handful of the major networks and MySpace are already wise to.

Prediction: irrespective of Viacom’s ulterior motives in the Joost deal, the relationship remains key for the latter. There are the beginnings of a “look what we did for Viacom” proposition in the making; handy to have up your sleeve at a time when the smart Madison Avenue / Charlotte Street money may be moving away from traditional media, yet many clients remain nervous about committing their buck to (in their view) such a nascent space.