On April 24, the Churchill Club held a panel discussion, "Video Goes Internet--The Future of What You Watch." The panelists included Rob Bennett, general manager, MSN Entertainment and Video Services at Microsoft; Jennifer Feikin, director of Google Video at Google; Blake Krikorian, founder & CEO of Sling Media; John Papanek, senior vice president and editorial director of ESPN New Media; and Ben White, vice president of Digital Media at MTV. Frank Rose, a contributed editor to Wired Magazine was the moderator. We have a podcast of the event that you can download, or you can play it from this page.
From left: Frank Rose, Rob Bennett, Jennifer Feikin, Blake Krikorian, John Papanek and Ben White
Some highlights from the panel:
Google’s Feikin discussed what Google users like to watch: Free short form comedy, user submitted content, commercials, such as those for the Superbowl. The sweet spot for Google, she said, is educational content, such as the National Archives, such as the first landing on the moon, and the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which has interview with people like TV legends Steven Bochco and Barbara Eden. She noted that unsolicited user testimonials are popular, but she questions what will happen in the future. “Right now there is a purity about it that precedes monetization.” She also noted that Google aggregates and makes the content searchable, rather than producing content.
ESPN’s Papanek said the Web is radically changing the way TV is produced and broadcast. Half of ESPN’s 4.5 million daily users watch video clips. The living room is the place you want to see the game with friends, but you also want to get it when and wherever you are, he said. The rights holders, such as the NBA and NFL, have some say how the content is distributed. In addition, just repurposing TV ads won't be sufficient.
Microsoft’s Bennett noted the benefits of community and sharing that are brought to the online video experience. “We are really at the beginning of this transformation,” he said. Feiken agreed, saying that online video is not necessarily challenging TV, but changing the way we communicate and interact with one another.
White noted how the industry is “crazy for user-generated content,” but that it doesn’t make sense for everyone. The generation growing up with sophisticated technology will be more prone to bringing their creativity online.
Krikorian deemed the SlingBox additive, allowing users to get the video content they are already paying for on their PCs, laptops or Windows mobile phones. You can watch your episode of Lost on your laptop thousands of miles away, but that doesn’t mean the studios and networks can’t upsell related content.
The panelists agreed that it’s a time of experimentation as well as press releases. “Ultimately consumers will vote on what model works…it’s a great time to get into the marketplace,” White said. The money flowing into the Web video advertising in miniscule compared to TV. Feikin said they have no clue as to whether users want to watch long form, short form, news, comedy or if they should be subscription, advertising or pay for download business models.
The networks and studios are trying to figure out how to best leverage and monetize their content in the new medium, and at the same time a huge mass of new producers--an anarchic explosion, Rose said--are sharing their content on sites like YouTube. On the traditional side, local affiliates, rights holders, pipe holders (cable and telco) and other constituencies in the economic mix are looking to find their best models for growth and survival.
Papanek said there is such a thing as too much content, a glut of glutter. “Some content is for TV, and some for sites on Web—it’s not a one to one correlation. However, looking out several years, it’s hard to image any content that isn’t available and searchable on the Web and that new ad models, such as click on clothes actors are wearing to shop, will evolve. It’s part of consumers being in more control of the experience.
Over the last couple of years consumers are more in control of when they want to view content. Bennett said MSN sees a huge spike of usage during work time. Some users will want to create their own personalized video channels.
Papanek concluded that it will be harder for big media companies to maintain market share with sites like YouTube and MySpace in the game. He referenced what ESPN has done over the last 30 years to disrupt the big three networks with its sports programming. "We are constantly looking out for new ways to get to sports fans." He added that the democratization and globalization of Web make possible and conceivable to reach fans in ways weren't possible years ago.
Prior to the event, I interviewed Sling Media's Blake Krikorian about the next phase of the SlingBox, which has become the TiVO of IPTV.
Bonus link: Renee Blodgett also covered the panel.