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Maven Networks CEO Hilmi Ozguc`s views on Internet TV
With video becoming a prevalent and even viral medium on the Internet, 2007 and beyond promises to bring some order to this visual, Web-based revolution. Video has by far become the most prevalent form of communication that people enjoy consuming, as it can be found on all kinds of websites, from news sites, to entertainment, and even on those of a prurient nature. Internet ?TV has been bandied about for years, yet no one solution has made a big impact. The target keeps moving, YouTube being a prime example. DMN recently spoke with Hilmi Ozguc, CEO of Maven Networks, in an effort to get his views on such things as user-generated content to professional, target-based content on the Internet.
DMN: There is a hodgepodge of video formats available to viewers on the Internet, as well as devices to play back that video, yet no format has really taken on a leadership position. Will we see a standard video format winning the majority of user eyeballs in the near future, or will it continue to be like the Wild West with divergent video file formats, and even web browsers playing to a different video tune?
Hilmi Ozguc: Currently, there are only two video formats that are widely used, Windows Media and Flash Video. I dont see that changing dramatically in the next 12 months. However, I do see Flash growing considerable market share because of the high quality and interactive user experience it provides.
DMN: What about DiVX, QuickTime, H.264 variants. Don't you see these as formats that users have to deal with? Do you consider these as popular as Windows Media and Flash?
HO: Widespread use of H.264, DivX, and XviD codecs within the MPEG-4 standard will be driven by portable devices such as video iPod, PSP, and cell phones; and while MPEG-4 is not currently as popular as Windows Media and Flash (as these portable devices penetrate the market more heavily), the demand for MPEG-4 content will rise. Flash video has been wildly successful as of late for Web browsers because the complete experience of the video wrapped in an interactive Flash component is very compelling (even though the actual Flash format is nowhere near as sophisticated as Windows Media). WPF/E will be interesting to watch as it widely deploys; it will probably lead to a resurgence of Windows Media format.
DMN: Video is being generated by all kinds of capture devices, webcams, digital cameras, cell phones. Content providers such as the big networks, movie studios, and consumer electronics manufacturers such as Sony (Sony Connect) and Apple are pushing their video content on the market, yet when one visits a site such as YouTube, a huge chunk of that content is generated by individual users. Will users want to pay for packaged content such as what can be bought on iTunes or will the majority of the content that is consumed on the Internet be user generated and from sites such as YouTube?
HO: I believe that user-generated content will continue to play a significant role in the online video market. However, as the industry continues to mature, there will be a shift toward content that is professionally produced, published, syndicated and ad supported. In fact, we are already seeing the popularity of professional online video grow even among user-generated sites such as YouTube.
DMN: Internet TV is a potentially huge market, of which the content is free to users as the Internet content mostly is. Will users be willing to pay for targeted content like that of a DirecTV or Cable TV model?
HO: Consumers now expect free content similar to what theyre accustomed to getting from linear TV. Were rapidly moving to a business model where the majority of content will be ad supported. However, there will be a segment of consumption across premium content, such as what is being offered by CSTV in the college sports domain, which will be offered through subscription models. When consumers pay for the right to view content, they will want to access it from a variety of devices, at any time, and also be able to copy or burn the content on a DVD, essentially owning it.
DMN: Many households have multiple computers, each with some sort of online access. How would a pay model work with multiple computers?
HO: I believe that video consumption will be dominated by ad-supported business models. Where consumers have paid for content, they expect to watch video at their convenience. Pay models will cater to consumer needs and allow them to watch video how and where they want (for example, through multiple PCs or portable devices). I see multiple pay models working, such as subscription-based services or models based on a set number of passes that consumers buy. We are seeing a slow increase in home networking environments that will contribute to multi-device viewing.
DMN: How can the Internet TV "networks" convince a new generation of Internet users not interested in paying for content to pay for content that might be free elsewhere? How does Maven fit into this role?
HO: They cant and theyre not. Consumers have come to expect free TV content online. Maven plays a critical role, as we provide the underlying broadband business platform for creating, managing and distributing compelling ad-supported content across distribution channels that generate additional revenue streams not previously realized. Our platform also informs TV networks what and when their consumers are watching so they can make fast changes to content lineups, resulting in increased media consumption.
DMN: How can a company that has the content and wants an Internet TV presence get and sustain a viable presence on the Internet?
HO: Offering an ongoing series of compelling content to consumers is one of the most crucial elements of a successful broadband video channel. The first challenge of any broadband video business endeavor is to take large libraries of video assets and make them available online. Unlike traditional TV environments, media companies must now manage a dynamically-growing number of ?channels for which there is no scale comparison. Once video content is made available online, the second challenge is to broaden video consumption through syndication. Effectively replicating the TV affiliate model online brings together local and national programming to offer tremendous opportunity, but also requires implementation of a complex set of business processes and controls around approvals, reporting and brand integrity.
As content accessibility becomes pervasive and consumers can access the same content in multiple locations, becoming an ?experience will be required to differentiate assets and services. These experiences must be engaging, interactive and personalized to maximize ongoing media consumption and audience growth.
DMN: In an age when movies, concerts, even boxing matches, are uploaded to sites such as YouTube, how will the content providers protect that content from being downloaded to other devices? Will we see a time when more content providers are enabling users to download, say a college football game, or perhaps a music concert, or news cast onto a video enabled cell phone or iPod-like device?
HO: Protecting content from distribution on the Internet is incredibly challenging. Content providers are taking the necessary legal action to prevent their content from being copied and distributed across the Internet, yet there is no fool-proof strategy. Maven enables media companies to legally distribute their content to their own high-quality channels, and across distribution partners in an efficient and managed environment. As a result, most consumers will no longer feel compelled to ?steal content from user-generated sites.
Consumers are demanding content be accessible via multiple portable devices such as cell phones and iPods. In order to keep consumers satisfied, content providers and media companies are doing what they can to satisfy consumer needs.
DMN: Users don't necessarily want to watch their content on their computer screens all the time. How does the Maven solution fit into all of this? Are we talking a distributed smorgasbord model or content specific solutions? And to what devices?
HO: Individuals consume different types of content across different mediums. Some content is designed exclusively for television whereas other content is geared for hand-held devices. We enable our customers to publish content across multiple mediums and devices. Maven delivers a professional solution that facilitates media companies to build business models that support broadband video channels, meet competitive challenges and respond to consumer demand for valuable and convenient content. We ensure our customers offer consumers the best quality content and that this content can be accessed on any device. It is also important to note the importance of the business relationship between media companies and their affiliates. Integrating local news content with national material optimizes the experience for your audience. Replicating the TV affiliate model online and pulling together local and national content drives tremendous opportunity.
John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at email@example.com
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