Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Digital Hollywood

Last week, I spoke at a panel for Digital Hollywood. It was an interesting panel on Content Distribution Models.
Most interesting to me was the new buzzword in Hollywood: branded content.
Remember the concept of product placements? Simon Covell casually sipping Coke in American Idol?
Well - turns out that the 'brands' (like Coke, P&G, GM etc.) have decided if they are shelling out the dough, they want to be more of the hero of the show, and not an after thought.  So take transformers, where the brand - Chevys - was so intertwined with the story and the characters that it was the perfect marketing vehicle for the company all in the guise of entertainment!

If done right, branded entertainment can be a win win for all. But more often that not, I believe that the creative process will bow to the brand needs - leading to sub par story lines and plots

Video content - broadcast or broadband?

A paradigm shift is unfolding in front of us: - video content is finding so many more ways of getting itself to the consumer:
  • by traditional means (broadcast/cable/sat) and now also by broadband. 
  • on all devices - ranging from your mobile phone to the PC all the way to the large screen TV. 
  • you can consume it on the go or at your leisure in the work place ;) or at home
All the players in the content space are aware of this shift and are rushing to find the right 'new' model that will help them retain their audiences and their revenues.
The networks have all rushed to make their presence online - abc, cbs, nbc, fox: all have strong online presence. To make things even more interesting, all (except for cbs) are betting on an aggregator site - to capture user demand for finding a single location for varied content (wait - I thought that was called Google Search!).

The cable guys are also rushing in - Time Warner has been public about their plans with TV Everywhere, and seemingly similar plans from Comcast and others.

The smaller guys are also jumping in - creating aggregator sites such as or simply posting their videos on youtube and waiting for the viral distribution to kick them into their two seconds of fame.

One thing is clear - reaching the audience where and when they want to be reached, is good for the consumer and will result in longer 'video' watching, as hard data from Nielsen bares out.

Who will be the winners and the losers in this new paradigm? Much like what the iPod did to the music industry - My bet is that:
  • Networks as we know it, will die (ala the record labels)
  • Operators of the pipes will continue to win (the cable guys/telcos) - they still control the path to the consumer. Satellite guys will fade into oblivion
  • Aggregator sites like YouTube, hulu will still drive eyeballs (ala iTunes)
  • Content owners like  will continue to be squeezed in the middle of the operators and the aggregators. 
However, the end user will be the winner - better pricing and more ways to access their content. So thats why this paradigm is good for us! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to sell (or not!) in the retail market

Theres been plenty of news about the release of Samsungs new LED TV with Yahoo widgets incuding a nice review by Walt :

So all excited, I headed to the closest Best Buy to find out for myself what the fuss was all about - what a waste of time!

  • As soon as I entered the TV show-room, I saw the three TVs prominently featured in the front: Samsung, Sony and LG.The Samsung model had a lot of details on the nature of LED etc. (breakthrough picture quality, eco-friendly design),  but nothing about Internet connectivity or Yahoo.
  • I asked the store rep to show me Yahoo widgets - he had no idea what I was talking about. He went and got his boss, who then took me to the back of the show room for the TV with widgets (not all their LED TVs have widgets incidentally, and none of their LCD or Plasma TVs have it as yet).
  • We then spend 15 mins looking for a remote to operate the TV.When the remote finally showed, he realized that the TV was not hooked up to the Internet - and no, he could not do me the favor of running a long Ethernet wire from the back office or setting up the TV via wifi (despite the TV being wifi ready. When I persisted, he said he did not have the right dongle for wifi).
  • He did let me operate the offline widgets myself - the remote was terribly slow.  The widgets themselves had a nice design and they open up to use abt a quarter of the screen (you can also resize the video so you effectively get two screens).
  • The widgets currently on deck were Yahoo services:  Flickr, news, weather, twitter etc. The store-rep claimed a 100 more widgets were in the works.
All in all - if  you ever have a product you want to sell retail, make sure you educate the store reps on how to sell it!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

SlingBox Pro-HD

I got myself a SlingBox Pro HD over the christmas break. During the break I tried to install it, and realized that:

1. the device does not support wifi, only Ethernet in.
2. I dont have an Ethernet drop in my living room (duh! Even the new Sony Bravia with Internet  suffers from the same issue. The reason that the Ninentendo Wiis have been so successful in getting users to connect online, is due to the fact that having wifi builtin makes it a snap connect to your home wireless network. Why do living room devices forget this simple fact?)

So I went ahead and ordered myself a LinkSys Ethernet Bridge  (a wireless bridge enables you to connect any Ethernet enabled device to your wireless network) and finally sat down to set up the whole damn thing today.

Setting up the bridge was simple and quick. I then started to connect all the A/V components from my cable box to the Slingbox. It was not too hard but it was painful to pull everything out from under the TV and sort through the zillions of component and audio wiring (where is that wireless HDMI technology that everyone talks about?). After connecting everything I downloaded and installed the Slingplayer on my PC - and viola! I could now watch my satellite TV on the PC - and I can do this no matter where I travel (as long as my PC is with me). Sling also supports viewing DVR and other sources of A/V content.
The quality was ok - not true HD (1080p) by any stretch of imagination. In addition, if you have your TV and the Slingplayer on at the same time you can notice a lag of a few seconds while the devices translates the AV and slings it over.  

Its a nifty product, but in the end, I believe if all content is moving online (, etc.) then why go through the hassle I just went through?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nows the time to make it big online!

As the economy worsens, there is more and more evidence that people are going online in droves, not only to find new jobs, but also for entertainment (stats released today from comScore show that 14.3 billion videos were streamed to nearly 150 million unique viewers during Dec 2008) and to find comfort by networking with their dear ones. 

If you are an aspiring producer/director, this is the time for you to market your productions. Its free to put up on sites like youtube, costs almost nothing to market and now more than ever, there is a hungry audience waiting to be entertained.

Contact me if you want tips on how to produce and market your content online.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Video Books!

Interesting release of a video book (available via Amazon digital download store):

TRENDS projections claim that book revenues will reach nearly $42 billion in the US alone with units at 3.24 billion by the end of 2011. E-books are happening, video e-books may be the next step. The hard part for the video phenomenon is that its not cheap to create compelling video productions that people would pay for. Case in point - would you pay to watch Youtube content?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big News from Superbowl XLIII

- Watch highlights of the superbowl on the NFL site.

NBC’s broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ vs, the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII averaged 95.4 million viewers, ranking second behind last year’s record-setting game. NBC announced on Jan. 31 its advertising spots fetched $206 million, the most ever.

- Superbowl went social and used twitter to tweet about events. From the web site it looks like thy had 2,987 followers (compared with 95.4 million viewers who watched the game.)  NFL also blogged about the event during the game. Not a huge number of followers, but definitely pointing to the merge of online and broadcast experiences.

- Hulu not only showed all the superbowl ads online immediately after their aires, they also broadcast their own ad during the live broadcast - for FREE!  Good deal considering the going rate for ads was rumored to be 2-3 million dollars.

- Doritos ad won the USA TODAY'S 21st annual exclusive Super Bowl Ad Meter: a site for real-time consumer testing of how much they liked the ads as they aired. Whats amazing is that the ad was created  for an online contest for amateurs (sponsored by Doritos) by two unemployed brothers . Certainly builds up on the momentum for user generated productions.

- You can still vote for your favorite superbowl ad on Youtube

- Oh yeah, almost forgot -  the Pittsburgh Steelers won 27-23 ;)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl online?

No official sites that are streaming Superbowl 2009 live - some not so legal ones can be found via a search. The bottom line is that the economics of streaming a highly watched event like the Superbowl does not compare with broadcast- as yet. More on this in another post.
But Hulu has the Superbowl ads online - a start since honestly this is the only reason I actually watch the Superbowl!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Content Release Windows

TV and Movie content go through distinct release phases. The release window (as they are colloquially called), is based the revenue that the content derives from each phase. Traditionally, for film, theaters are given the first exclusive window, months after which it is made available via other formats: DVD/home video, followed by PPV/VOD and finally broadcast TV (ad supported). TV content usually has a first run on their programmer network (such as ABC) and then gets distributed via VOD and finally moves onto syndicated channels (such as TBS) as re-runs.

Films will likely always be released in theaters first, as box-office results tend to generate buzz that translates into demand for the film in other distribution channels. However, consumer demands are shifting towards Video on Demand. Most consumers have fancy home theatres and prefer watching entertainment when they want it, in the comfort of their homes or when on the road. This trend means that Video-on-demand is clearly where content distribution is headed.

Although cable has been providing VOD content for some time now, the Internet is increasingly becoming the way to distribute this content (both TV and film). Most shows are available for viewing the day after airing on web sites such as, etc.  Movies are finding distribution via streaming services on Amazon, Apple iTunes and Netflix (whose recent earnings figures blew everyones expectations and seems to be largely based on their streaming service.

This shift in consumer behavior is causing distributors to not only experiment with smaller release windows, some have even gone so far as to flip the window head over heels. Warner Bros. is putting most movies onto video-on-demand at the same time they appear on DVDs. Paramount Pictures released the latest movie in its "Jackass" franchise, "Jackass 2.5," onto the Internet before any other distribution channel. Viacom just launched a join venture called Epix, offering up newly released movies such as  with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,  interestingly Epix is launching five months early to online subscribers first.

Are the days of theatre doomed? I don’t think so, see my article earlier on what theatres & hollywood are doing to fight back. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hollywood and 3D

When I was at Pixar, we started the trend towards Computer Graphics generated movies via the world's first 3D-CG animated movie 'Toy Story'. Now, 3D-CG is the lingua franca for all animated movies (save for a few like Coraline which is stop-mo)

This time, Jeffery Katzenberg wants to start a new trend in 3D  - 'real' 3D via 3D glasses

To quote from the article in Hollywood Reporter:

150 million 3D glasses are being given away in the US so TV viewers can watch a 90-second commercial for the new 3D animated feature Monsters Vs. Aliens during the Super Bowl game Feb. 1.
The cost of the stunt is somewhere in the "tens of millions of dollars" said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

In fact, last year when I attended IBC , Katzenberg gave his keynote by beaming in through a crystal-clear live 3D transmission from Los Angeles (yes, the fish in the pond behind him looked as if they could swim into the room). Katzenberg thinks that 3D glasses will be the next fashion statement - with glasses converting from sun glasses to '3D' glasses as you enter the theatre. The technology has come to point where nobody in the audience hurled. They applauded. So perhaps he is on to something.
Pixar/Disney is also releasing a 3D movie this summer called UP, as is Jim Cameron with Avatar.

Hollywood is definitely watching and waiting. With recent movie goers prefering to stay home and stream movies into their home theatre systems (as witnessed by Netflix's recent earnings), will this technology prove to be a lure to get audiences back in the theatres (the highest money raking operation for hollywood)? Will TV manufacturers incorporate technology for 3D viewing within the home theatre?
Of course the high level question is: will audiences want to watch 3D movies? Wait and see...