Enter the Joost-alikes

11 09 2007

When online video aggregator overhauled its user interface, it was with more than a nod towards the approach taken by incumbent service Joost.

Next came a mash-up of Joost and YouTube, brought to us by enthusiast Paul Yanez (who has done the same with iTunes and Babelgum; though running more than one of these at a time will likely crash your machine).

Now the sincerest form of flattery of all, DNAStream is offering a service which slavishly looks like Joost, but purports to be from another service provider. However, unlike Joost the service requires no client to be downloaded and runs in a standard browser window, nor does DNAStream provide any information about itself on the site (presumably, for fear that Joost lawyers will come-a-knocking).

Advertisements




NFL seizes back control of its online video destiny

3 09 2007

The U.S. National Football League (NFL) has regained direct control over some of the most valuable online video out there by hosting material on its own site, ending a seven-year partnership with CBS Sportsline.

The NFL’s new approach gives it more say over the context in which its material is presented, as well as leverage when it comes to setting advertising rate cards. The move also rekindles the debate over whether walled gardens limited to the content of a single provider, or syndication via broader aggregators will win the day.

For certain genres of content — sport and new release movies as examples — restricted availability via a single destination will likely continue to work. But for everything else, TV shows included, it’s an approach which flies in the face of one of the most established consumer beahviours: the way in which they watch TV and that this is never limited to a single channel or network.

It’s the latter approach which informs emerging plays from the likes of Joost and Babelgum, with one current downside, neither has yet to sign up a breadth of content providers which make either service a destination in their own right.

Hulu.com, the soon-to-launch online TV portal JV between NewsCorp. and NBC Universal (NBCU), promises to redress the balance, and even now it’s clear that at least one of the partners is re-thinking its distribution relationships with third parties, such as last week’s revelation that NBCU is to end its deal with iTunes. 





Why size matters :)

31 08 2007

Perhaps a general excuse for a syndicated feature on the brave new world of online TV and video, but this piece from AP makes an interesting, yet also baldly obvious, observation that online video viewers expect a full-screen, televisual experience, rather than watching something which judders in a console the size of a postage stamp.

Particularly telling are the straplines employed by incumbent services:

Babelgum’s slogan is: “TV experience, Internet substance.” Veoh touts: “VeohTV makes watching Internet as simple as watching television.” Joost simply states: “The new way of watching TV.”

Which suggest that out of the three quoted, two get it and are playing the long game on anticipated mainstream usage, while Babelgum is clearly speaking more directly to the early adopter audiences which forms the user bases of all three offers.

The report also cites A poll conducted by AP and Time Warner Inc.’s AOL from last September, which found that only one in five online video viewers have watched or downloaded a full-length movie or TV show. Arguably both dated and self-serving given the commissioners of the study.

What’s without a doubt, as the piece highlights, is that  TV and PC environments are merging. It will take 10-20 years, according to the report for them to fully converge, the report adds, perhaps a subjective judgment, given the speed of change both within the service, technology and device landscapes and broad underestimates of consumer adoption.

TV viewing is one of the most deeply-entrenched habits witnessed by humankind, after the other thing, change is beginning to happen quite profoundly among both younger and yonug-at-heart consumers, but the mainstream majority will likely take longer than the VC-backers and hyping-journos would like to believe. This isn’t an uncertain world, merely one which is shifting distribution mechansim.





WiTV: the new Joost-alike kid on the block

20 08 2007

When Joost emerged from its Venice Project chrysalis late last year, commentators said it would re-invent the TV landscape.  Then came Babelgum and Veoh, products which have adopted broadly similar approaches: full-screen, televisual user interfaces paired with community features, such as the ability to customise channels and rate content.

Now it seems these three are to be joined by yet another newcomer, WiTV, conceived by the people behind the Streamcast Player.

witv-s3.png

Details of the new service remain sketchy, beyond a currently small amount of blog chatter, but you can bet you’ll be hearing a whole lot more about this over the coming months. WebTVWire was first to splash news of WiTV back in June, following up yesterday with these screen shots. Hopefully the company will work out how to spell trailer before it rolls out to the public 🙂

witv-s1.png

witv-s2.png

Differentiating it from the rest of the pack, WiTV is browser-integrated, so will work across all operating systems from word go — it’s only in recent months that Joost has released a Mac-compatible version, while the BBC’s iPlayer continues to vex Mac owners and open sourcers by only offering a Windows XP version in its initial release.

It’s stated that the service is compatible with Apple TV and Windows Media Center, bridging the all-important ‘last 20 ft’ PC / TV divide. If the developer’s claims stack up, the service also works with mobile devices and games consoles.

In these just-released screen shots, its backers have clearly been giving careful thought not only to community-type features (Skype compatability is mentioned in reports) but also to attracting content owners, through branded environments, as well as advertising overlays.

tn-witv-crosscast-advertising.jpg

Another key differentiator, it’s claimed, is that all content will be streamed directly from a central server. It’s already widely-known that despite being bases on a p2p architecture, Joost continues to server augment content distribution to its one million registered users.

As impressive the screen shots are, it remains to be seen whether WiTV’s backers will have the wherewithall to cut meaningful content deals: Joost’s formidable hype machine, the deep pockets of its Skype-founding backers and a liberal sprinkling of opportunism have allowed it to engage majors such as Viacom. Meanwhile, despite wheeling out Spike Lee at its launch to media movers and shakers in Cannes earlier this year, Babelgum has announced just 25 small, indie content deals.

One to watch…





Forecast: internet TV advertising to be worth $10 billion by 2011

29 07 2007

Online video advertising is set to take 18% of all internet ad revenues by 2011, according to a forecast published last week by research firm Understanding & Solutions (U&S).

“There is an Internet TV ‘goldrush’ in progress,” says the company, “as mainstream broadcasters, cable networks and TV content producers move their content online alongside a new raft of legitimate ‘Webcasters’ (Internet Video and TV aggregators) like Joost, Vudu and Babelgum.”

“Globally, we estimate there are more than 20 billion videos being streamed across the web each and every month. In the US alone, active Internet video users are streaming an average of 55 videos per month – and this is just the beginning,” said U&S principal consultant John Bird.

“Online video is growing at around 200% each year and, going forward, television will be a primary driver. Major US broadcast networks are already reporting tens of millions of streams monthly from their websites, but to build sustainable revenues the industry needs to effectively engage with consumers to understand what works, it needs to establish re-transmission rights and develop audience measurement techniques.”

Unlike music and film industries, which operate with paid-for content, television is predominantly a free-to-air market and lends itself to the Internet. The challenge for the industry will be in harnessing the power of the medium and developing the revenues through sponsorship, advertising, subscription and paid-for business models. Piracy and ‘free’ TV content on file-sharing networks will be an endemic problem faced by the emerging business, as has been the case for the music industry over the last 10 years.”





Joost continues its industry schmooze

30 06 2007

 Joost logo

Gotta hand it to these guys, they’re more serious about the product than many in this market; it’s pretty cool to use (if you like TV that way) and in addition to the opportunistic addition of Viacom (post-Google snub) as a content partner puts them in a pretty good place. The arrival of new CEO Mike Volpi draws on the experience of a Cisco veteran (or heir apparent to John Chambers), tasked with making Joost jump from the PC to TV.

“We have the opportunity, through the Joost platform, to combine that media fare with interactivity and all aspects of the Internet,” Volpi said. “Our number one task right now is to create this market,” gushed Volpi to the assembled audience of Hollywood execs, at an event for content owners and advertisers. “Long term, getting digital content onto viewers’ TV set is the Holy Grail of Web video, analysts say,” the report adds.

A recent report in Investors Business Daily [sorry subscription only] reveals that the Joost software has been downloaded 700K times. An even earlier recent report [sorry can’t recall source right now] suggests 600K registered users and 60K active users — over 10% of the installed base. Not bad for a brand new product with no mainstream consumer awareness.

IBD‘s take on Joost’s main competitors: Metacafe, Break, Sony’s Grouper, Blinkx, Jalipo and Babelgum.





The cost of online video-on-demand

30 06 2007

cash.jpg

4oD: not explicitly reported, but new media division – spanning other activity too – spent £34.6 million, up £11.5m on 2005. (Source: C4’s 2006 annual report).

60frames: the JV between Hollywood power brokers United Talent Agency and online ad agency Spot Runner. Start-up capital of US $3.5 million. (Source: Globe & Mail, 31 Jul 07)

Babelgum: €220 million [US$288m] (source: C21 Media [by subscription], 19 April 2007). Other sources suggest seed capital of €10 million [£6.78 million] from founder Silvio Scaglia, with a further €70 million pledged during the next three years.

BBC iPlayer: £4.5 million (source: The Sunday Herald [UK], 2 December 2007). Funded by licence fee.

BitTorrent: backed by US $20 million from  Accel Parners and DCM.

Break.com: Lionsgate has invested US $21million for a 42% stake.

Brightcove: US $81 million so far… Launched 2005 with $5.5 million funding from General Catalyst Partners and Accel Partners (source: company press release, 1 March 2005). Raised a further $16 million the same year, attracting investment from AOL, IAC/InterActiveCorp, The Hearst Corporation, and Allen & Company LLC (source: company press release, 22 November 2005). A further $59.5 million was sunk by a syndicate led by AllianceBernstein L.P., Brookside Capital LLC, Maverick Capital, Ltd.; the funding round also included investments from The New York Times Company, Transcosmos Investments & Business Development, Inc., as well as all of the company’s existing strategic and financial investors: Accel Partners, Allen & Company LLC, AOL, General Catalyst Partners, The Hearst Corporation, and IAC/InterActiveCorp. (Source: company press release, 17 January 2007).

Bud.tv: backed by parent company Anheuser-Busch to the tune of US $30 to 40 million.

Dave.tv: Provider of video distribution and social networking platforms to content providers, founded in 2003. The company is currently backed by angel investors, including Applied Semantics co-founder Rex Wong, who is believed to have sunk at least half of the company’s initial $7 million funding (source: MarketWatch, 1 Aug 2006). Potential investors take note: the company’s site says “We are in the midst of seeking strategic or venture capital to facilitate our growth.”

ITV Broadband: £20 million (source: Digital Spy, 8 June 2007).

Hulu.com: NBC Universal / NewsCorp.’s JV, originally dubbed ‘Newco’: US $131 million (source: LA Times, 29 June 2007).

Joost: seed capital of US $45 million (source: Wikipedia, 29 June 2007). Backers include Sequioa Capital, Index Ventures – an early investor in Skype – CBS, the US media group, and Li Ka-Shing, the Hong Kong tycoon. Viacom, the US media giant, also has a minority stake.

Vmix: seed capital of US $5 million in 2005 (source: Marketwatch, 1 Aug 2006), plus further funding of $16.5 million in October 2007 (source: Vmix press release, 31 Oct 2007). Founded by former execs from Universal Music Group, Fox Studios, Apple and mp3.com. JK&B Capital and ATA Ventures joined existing investors Mission Ventures and Enterprise Partners in the latest funding round.

Vudu: founded 2004, launching summer 2007. Backed by US $21 million from Benchmark Capital and Greylock Partners.

Vuze: backed by US $13.5 million raised from Redpoint Ventures, BV Capital, Greycroft Partners.

Update 17 Dec 07

Recommended reading: Media and entertainment freelance writer Daisy Whitney has produced this excellent summary of going rates for online video advertising rates on some of the best-known sites.