Internet TV has bright future, insiders say

Summary:SAN FRANCISCO -- Digital TV may not have made much of a splash yet, but some TV providers say the era of Internet television has already dawned.Companies such as CNBC, which distributes digital business programming on its own Web site and on the intranets of dozens of partners, say the demand and the technology for Internet video exists today.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Digital TV may not have made much of a splash yet, but some TV providers say the era of Internet television has already dawned.

Companies such as CNBC, which distributes digital business programming on its own Web site and on the intranets of dozens of partners, say the demand and the technology for Internet video exists today. And that demand will only grow once television networks are producing all their programming in digital form, they believe.

"Digital television is not just about high definition," said Gregory Harper, chief technologist of CNBC/Dow Jones Business Video. "Once this programming becomes a file, all sorts of new money making opportunities start approaching."

Harper spoke Monday at Streaming Media 98, a San Francisco conference targeting Internet audio and video.

Net video reaches into workplace
He said two of the benefits of Internet video are its reach into the workplace and the fact that it can be redistributed over a number of networks.

CNBC packages its business news into a number of multimedia "objects" such as still images, text and video clips, which can be combined in different ways for each redistributor, depending on its needs. All the repackaging is done automatically, Harper said.

"This allows you to build the content once, and then populate dozens or hundreds of sites," Harper said.

If CNBC treats the Net as a new distribution method for its known brand, startups such as SimplyTV take the opposite approach, relying on the Internet to build a brand around original content.

The company believes that the draw of special-interest channels will pack in the users.

"What consumers really want is to see something relating to their interests," said Krystol Cameron, SimplyTV's CEO.

SimpleTV chooses e-commerce model
The SimplyTV revenue model is based on e-commerce-enabled advertisements targeted to the user's demographic profile and inserted into the programming they're viewing.

The network is distributed in the U.S. and abroad, via Internet service providers, and has over 60 content providers.

On the other end of the business-model scale is the British Broadcasting Corporation, which distributes news programming over its BBC News Online site.

Bob Eggington, the site's director, said the BBC gets calls every week offering to pay for the privilege of redistributing BBC content or associating themselves with the BBC brand. They are all turned down.

"We exist to spend money, not to make money," Eggington said. "Americans laugh when I tell them about our business model ... We are developing not audiences, but skills -- how to work in a nonlinear way, how to work with these different pieces that we can send out over the Internet."

Eggington said the BBC is taking a highly skeptical attitude towards the Internet.

"We're not betting it's going to work," he said. "I'm not saying it won't, I don't know. But we're not approaching it as a done deal."

Topics: E-Commerce, Start-Ups

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