There’s been a lot of movement in the web video world of late, and as a micro media mogul at my very core, I’ve been paying keen attention to it. Broadband proliferation, the rise of smart, connected TV’s, set-top boxes from Google, and PC to TV app-based systems like Boxee, are all driving forces behind these shifts. Now, with web entrepreneurs like Jason Calacanis jumping into the fray on the content side, there are some indicators that a new, vital marketplace is emerging for web TV content.
The long term vision is to have 30 shows that each have a natural audience of between 10,000 and a million people, Maybe they have on average 100,000 views each which means we could have 3 or 4 million people a week watching these shows pretty easily I think.
– Jason Calacanis, from LA Weekly post
For some time, I’ve had this idea to create a stable of niche market shows that appeal to passionate, targeted audiences – and build on a social web component to help viewers be more engaged with the content. Now I’m certainly not the only person who’s had this idea –Revision3, Next New Networks, and TWiT, among others – have been enjoying successes as trailblazers of this medium. At the same time, the field of battle is littered with good web shows that failed to get the traction needed to become self-sustaining. Here’s a couple “good” failures I created myself.
Crafty Nation Episode
Pregnantly Plump Promo
The reasons these failed are instructive and manifold, but thankfully we failed fast.
New Marketplace – New Risks and Complexities
Never in the history of television has it been easier to bring a show to market. Gone are barriers to entry of FCC licenses, prohibitive transmission facility costs, large staffs, and high priced talent. Just about anyone – this very minute – can launch their own web TV show. As with the blogging market, the cream rises to the top. Those with more resources, higher volume, and better content get more traffic and are as a result, more successful.
I’m operating under the assumption that any content play like this will have advertising as the primary revenue model. Premium content models would depend on the niche and the quality and utility of the content in question. I believe that there is a delicate balance between niche and scale here. Beyond that, you have to take into account whether the segments that you target are broadband connected and inclined to watch web video.
New web TV delivery platforms are opening up new distribution pipes for content producers, and as more people watch web TV on their “smart” connected TV’s, the more indistinguishable the experience will be from watching regular TV. Having said that, I believe the more viewers blend the PC to TV experience – pushing web video to their 42″ flatscreen HDTV’s – the more they will gravitate toward higher production value content – separating the wheat from the chaff.
Is This Really What The People Want?
Consumer demand for this type of content also appears to be mercurial. While by some accounts, web video – and not just the short form kind – is seeing increased consumption rates during traditional prime time hours, much of it via some PC-to-TV connection. At the same time though, Nielsen research says overall online video consumption is down for the first quarter of 2010. I wonder if the reason for the decline might be that people are becoming more selective about the online video choices they make, especially for those watching on their big screens.
The success of video content networks like these hinges largely on the availability of broadband. The expectation is a seamless viewing experience between regular TV and web delivered video on your TV. As Verizon is ending their FiOS deployment and AT&T threatening to slow their broadband rollout, that leaves cable companies wiring houses with fast pipes. Unless they can find a way to make money off of “over the top” video, they have a vested interest in seeing it as a threat.
So this is a very complex marketplace with a lot of moving parts. My hat is off to those who have had success thus far. As demand for this content rises, it will be instructive to watch the market levers that drive successes and setbacks for web video ventures.
As I said in this interview with Don Martelli of Shamable, “Good ideas and good products aren’t enough”. As the web video ecosystem matures, new players taking the field will have to balance startup cost containment with immutable, inevitable burn associated with creating high production value TV.
Me? I’m sitting on the sidelines for now waiting to see who enters the fray next. So readers, are any of you closet micro-media-moguls? Are you watching video “over the top”? What kind of shows would you watch?