Status of online video market – green shoots are visible

By January 16, 2008BT, IPTV, PCTV, TV, Venture Capital, Video

Web TV

Apple yesterday announced an overhaul of it’s online video strategy, and provided some interesting data along the way. This market (consumption via the web of the same long-form professionally produced content that we watch on broadcast TV) is one that is big and obviously coming and as such has a lot of people positioning themselves early for a big slice. The highest profile are traditional telcos like BT and well funded startups like Joost.

My best guess as to how the future will pan out is slightly different from all of these guys. I think we will evolve to a world where TV programmes are mostly available from the websites of the companies that produce them, and that we will find them via aggregators and dedicated TV search and discovery engines (e.g. TIOTI). These discovery engines will combine social elements (e.g. your friends watched this programme), celebrity recommendations (Clarkson‘s top car programmes, or even Clarkson’s Friday night choices) with more straight forward vertical search. Note that this means the end of linear channel programming as we know it today. I think the delivery mechanism will be a direct network link from the PC to the TV. Note that there is no set-top box in this setup.

I have blogged these points at more length here and here.
So, to the green shoots. I have previously wondered whether the companies who control traditional TV distribution would allow premium content to be made legally available over the web – based on what Jobs said yesterday, it is starting to look like that concern is going away. As with most things the trend begins in one corner of an industry, and in this case it is films. Apple have apparently sold 7m films over the web. That is a lot less than they had wanted, but it is still a good start.

As Jobs pointed out, the other key to unlocking this market is getting the bridge from the computer to the TV sorted out, and that is still largely in the future. I’m talking my own book here, but as mentioned above I think the answer will come from solutions like those of our portfolio company DisplayLink which make the TV (or any display) a n IP point on the network which can be linked to via standard networking technologies, and pretty soon wireless will be able to provide sufficient quality. That solution is at odds with Apple TV.

The other green shoots I see in this market are the number of programmes available on a pay per download basis. I’ve got no stats here, but anecdotally the number is increasing very rapidly.