First green shoots of the U.K. online video long tail

4 08 2007

This morning was my first real opportunity to play around with the BBC’s Open Archive trial, a corucopia of vintage treats — made even more rewarding by the addition of newly-shot contextual pieces wrapped around the original video, as well as extra material from some of the BBC’s best-known faces.

Wildlife presenter David Attenborough, for example, talks about life on both sides of the camera; while comedian Lenny Henry shares his thoughts on [the now very un-PC] 1970s variety format The Black and White Minstrel Show. 

Browse is filtered by decade or category, with the real reward coming through ‘serendipitous’ linking of related content, turning a mere experience into a voyage of discovery.

Lots of predictably worthy ‘public purpose’ stuff there, but I’m afraid it was a 1982 episode of The Keith Harris Show which I gravitated towards. They don’t [thankfully] do song and dance routines like that any more 🙂

The trial service is currently available to just 20,000 people, but it’s hoped that the BBC’s Trust unit will soon grant permission for it to be made available to a broader audience.

The ITV Broadband service, meanwhile, is open to all and features an increasing range of full-length classic drama, comedy and children’s titles. While the availability of the programmes is rewarding in its own right, the BBC service differentiates itself with the additional contextual material mentioned above.

Channel 4’s 4oD service also offers a small back catalogue of titles, but these are accessible only a pay-per-view basis (vs. ad-funded for ITV and free for the BBC) and with the majority being titles which were broadcast within recent months, the service is generally more based on extended catch-up than a true long tail offer.

Anyway, I’m off to catch some more of Keith Harris, Orville and Bournemouth’s answer to Vegas showgirls.





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.





ITV Broadband rollout gathers pace

17 07 2007

UK broadcaster ITV has been slowly adding to its online video service, which now offers a selection of treats from the archives, alongside catch-up episodes of popular soaps like Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Vintage classics such as Morse, the first episode of Brideshead Revisited are offered alongside classic documentaries, such as Diana: Story of a Princess and Whicker’s World. Plus my faves, children’s series Joe 90 and Metal Mickey.

Live streaming of ITV’s four channels is also available, though when I checked in on ITV1 for the tail end of GMTV, all I got was a message saying: “Sorry the current programme is unavailable”.

There are also Celebrity Playlists from the likes of Zoe Ball, This Morning anchors Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton, and Amanda Burton. Not an entirely new concept: iTunes has been doing this for a while and the BBC offered a similar feature during the trial of its iMP service — but ITV do seem to have got the choice of celebs right for the tone of offer which will likely success with its core audience.

At first glance the navigation is woeful: content discovery is anything but intuitive, but there may be method in ITV’s madness. All content is offered as on-demand streams, so it could be the broadcaster’s way of managing capacity.





Microsoft brings you… live television

8 07 2007

Interesting post from Erick Schonfeld, Microsoft Research and UK company Skinkers are testing p2p software called LiveStation for streaming live television to PCs (a Mac version is also being developed) using Microsoft Silverlight. The technology was first unveiled at NAB in April and is due for full release in October.  There’s nothing particularly new about streaming live TV over the web: in the UK Channel 4 already simulcasts a proportion of its primary network schedule via the 4oD service; ITV is working on similar plans for ITV Broadband; the BBC began live simulcasting of its News 24 network in May; last week Zattoo announced the launch of a UK localised version of its service (which re-transmits TV channels with a 1-second delay); whilst this is something JumpTV has been doing for a while.  But using p2p as a means for live streaming is a more efficient means of distribution bandwidth-greedy TV. Microsoft, Skinkers and any broadcaster partners they eventually sign up will need to do much to educate ISPs on the benefits of this technology, given that regular access to it by an end user on a fixed cap broadband plan will likely result in additional usage charges.

Here’s an interview with Matteo Berlucchi, CEO and co-founder of Skinkers, plus some coverage on arstechnica.





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.