The Internet? What channel is that on?

It’s hard to imagine an example that sums up the conflicting ambitions and tensions within the TV business better than the latest announcement about Gossip Girl, the show that appears on the CW network (co-owned by CBS and Warner Brothers). The news from the network is that fans will no longer be able to watch episodes online, as they have been since it started airing last fall. Instead, CW would like viewers of the show — which is all about a girl and her blog, and was effectively created in part to piggyback on the online habits of its target audience — to watch it only on television.

That’s ironic enough, of course — a show that’s all about how young people are turning to the Web and social media, but you can’t watch it online. The reasoning behind the decision is even more illuminating, however: in effect, the network is saying that the show has become too popular with fans online, and they would like to shift some of those eyeballs to the tube instead. Why? Because that’s where the advertisers are. Advertising on TV still brings in far more revenue per viewer than online, and CW needs to build up the former at the expense of the latter.

In reality, of course, the network may end up irritating the core group of viewers — many of whom enjoy the freedom of watching a stream online whenever they want — and the show could go down the drain regardless.

Daly and Rosenblatt launch Me.tv

me-tv.jpgGuess I missed this somehow, but Richard Rosenblatt — one of the co-founders of MySpace — has formed a new company called Demand Media with Carson Daly, one of the early MTV video jockeys, and they are offering people who want to create their own video channel a video website-in-a-box, with a .tv domain name — they have a deal with Verisign to resell .tv domains — and some social-networking tools to grab, create and share video (the .tv domain, incidentally, ultimately belongs to the tiny island nation of Tuvalu — only 10 square kilometres in size, the least-populated country next to Vatican City, according to Wikipedia). An interesting idea.

Joost gets more and more like TV

The peer-to-peer TV venture from the Skype boys has signed deals to run ads and overlays from major-league companies like GM and Nike.
clipped from clickz.com

Online video platform Joost has signed three-month contracts with a group of 31 big brand advertisers, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Nike, General Motors and Visa. It will offer these marketers traditional units such as :30 mid-roll spots as well as unique formats, including a small digital overlay ad.

“The foundation is the traditional :30 spot, which we believe is far from dead, served on a mid-roll basis,” said David Clark, Joost’s EVP of global advertising. “We’re inspired by others who seem to be able to make this work, like ABC for example.”

Joost said it’s worked with 20 agencies to develop its upcoming campaigns mainly in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. advertisers on the system include Electronic Arts, Kraft, Lionsgate, Microsoft and Nestl� Purina PetCare. IBM, L’Or�al Paris and Nokia Nseries are among the European brands. The Coca-Cola Company, HP, and Intel are advertising globally on the system.
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A call goes out: Pay the Tubers!

Like many others in the blogosphere — including Ashkan Karbasfrooshan at HipMojo, Allan Stern at CenterNetworks, Fred Wilson over at A VC, and my pal Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 — I’m intrigued by Chad Hurley’s comments to the crowd of tall foreheads at Davos that YouTube plans to start paying users. The only questions that remain, of course, are a) pay whom? and b) How?

According to the Beeb, billionaire surfer dude Hurley said that YouTube is planning pre-roll ads, possibly as short as three seconds — something iFilm and some other sites do, and a solution I don’t think is that bad, despite all the moaning and hyperventilating from some quarters about how this would ruin the YouTube “experience,” etc., etc. Will the site offer AdSense and other monetization tools as well, or tiers of service of some kind?

hurley.jpg

Scott seems to think that it’s hypocritical of YouTube to build a gigantic enterprise based on other peoples’ content, then make a boatload of money by selling it to Google, and then start doling out nickels and dimes to those who actually own the content. To which I would respond: So what?

The people who had that content weren’t maximizing the use of it on the Interweb, so YouTube saw a market need and filled it — and thereby created value that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Good for them. Now they can help those content owners monetize their content more easily. Everybody wins.

And I would have a tendency to agree with Chad when he says in the video clip that YouTube decided it was better to hold off paying people until the community had developed first. Introducing commerce too early would likely have given YouTube a much different feeling, and likely would have stunted the growth of the site as the go-to spot for uploading and sharing video. But ultimately, it had to happen. It will be interesting to see how YouTube does it.

Vene, vidi, Venice — the TV killer

Update 2:

The Venice Project is now officially known as Joost. Why? Because.

Original post:

There’s one thing I still don’t get about The Venice Project, the secretive, TV 2.0, peer-to-peer project being put together by billionaire Skype founder Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom to revolutionize the boob tube (Om Malik has an in-depth look here). And that thing is this: Why is it called The Venice Project? Did they think of it in a cafe in Venice? Is the project almost under water? Do Venetians watch a lot of TV, in addition to having invented the Venetian blind? I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the player is very slick (yes, unlike my poor friend Mark Evans, I got an invite to the beta). The content, however, still leaves a bit to be desired. That’s not surprising, of course, but as Tony Hung pointed out awhile back, the bottom line is the content. A really nice interface, with lots of cool features and great useability, is only going to impress people for so long.

So far, the content consists of lots of HBO-type programs — a Green Day documentary, an interview with Nelson Mandela, episodes of The World’s Strongest Man, The World Poker Tour and (somewhat bizarrely) episodes of the old 1950’s television show Lassie. Some of the content comes in crystal clear, just like average quality television, while other programs are somewhat pixelated, like Web video often gets when your Internet speed is throttled.

venice project 4.jpg

As Ars Technica has pointed out, Internet speeds are also an issue The Venice Project is going to have to confront, since plenty of places — including this particular corner of North America — don’t have unlimited fibre-optic connections, and so cable providers like Rogers provide an “asymetrical” connection, which means I get tons of download bandwidth but nowhere near as much upload bandwidth.

Many ISPs also have bandwidth “caps” or limits on how much you can download per month. For a peer-to-peer service like TVP, both of those things are the kiss of death. Ars Technica notes: “watching an hour’s worth of TV consumes an average of 320MB downloaded and 105MB uploaded traffic, due to the service’s P2P architecture.” Someone who watched a lot could use up their entire month’s allotment of bandwidth in no time at all.

Could Robert Cringely be right? In a recent column, he predicted that this year would be “the year the net crashed (in the USA). Video overwhelms the net and we all learn that the broadband ISPs have been selling us something they can’t really deliver.”

Update:

As Haydn mentions in the comments, there is a social aspect built in to The Venice Project that I forgot to mention — there are “widgets” built into the application (with more coming in the future), including RSS feed “crawlers” that run along the bottom of the screen and a see-through instant messenger window, where you can chat with friends about what you’re watching.