Category: Television

hello Homeland and the #screwcable problem

I have been thinking about cable tv and the future of video for what seems like forever. Much has been written here about tv in general, boxee, and the future of television (remember Joost?).

Tonight I finished watching Homeland from Showtime – and tweeted about it (really great show by the way!)

To my surprise it set off a flurry of responses from friends and colleagues who were at various stages of being either interested in starting to watch it, in the middle of it, or interested in more.  This presents a “hello Homeland” situation for many of my friends who want to see the show from this tweet, heard about it elsewhere, or maybe just have an interest and want to sample it.  But right now they can’t do that.


Some friends even started watching it right away based on or tipped into watching it from my recommendation.

This is the part I find extremely fascinating (and no, I am not looking for a pat on the back).  Everyone is looking to cut their cable, and stop paying large cable co’s for service, or switch to an a la carte model.  The problem is that this does not mesh well with the behavior that we currently follow.  Its extremely hard to change peoples behavior, and although the complaints are real, the bills are high – the benefit of cable to solve this need/desire to consume things as they are broadcast is a real benefit.

This all got me thinking about Fred Wilson‘s #screwcable post in which he says:

I’ve long believed that piracy is largely a business model problem not a human behavior problem. If you give people a legal way to consume the content they want, they will pay for it.

So what business model supports the current behavior? Affiliate links and capturing attention.

Currently there are different models that could support this type of behavior.  The simplest is affiliate links.  More difficult is capturing attention.  If I could have linked out to two (or one if they were smart) types of content, I bet I could have generated direct sales, or possibly even subscription sales for Showtime via Homeland.  Afterwards, there is interest and intent around the show – just waiting to happen online.

Affiliate links

The first, and simplest method would be to allow someone to deeplink to content that only subscribers have access to.  Meaning a Showtime subscriber could link to an extended viewing of Homeland to their social network, attributing the longer viewing and following episode sale or subscription sale to their account.

The second, would be driving views to content (read: ratings) via my recommendation.  This attention could be monetized by ads, and because it comes from a trusted source (me) my friends and colleagues may sit through advertising supported video for their first viewing of the show.  Subsequent purchases and subscriptions would also be attributed to the original seeder (again me).

Capturing attention

This method has been tried for years by many startups.  I have personally seen many companies that have promised solutions, but never delivered.  A real time chat room or re-played chatroom next to video content isn’t what anyone is really looking for.  They want to share their thoughts about something when its over with their friends in real time.  This is today solved by Twitter and Facebook – usually in a hard to follow thread of comments.

The real time (somewhat solved by Twitter today) and post watch need for a watercooler is very prevalent.  Some friends even wanted to chat about it as soon as they were done watching.  Why can’t Showtime (or someone else for that matter) give us a place to have this conversation.  I am much less excited about this opportunity, but if it offsets the cost of all-you-can-eat cable and gets us to the a-la-carte model faster than so be it.

The problem with an immediate consumption based behavior means that only true a-la-carte cable pricing would suffice.  This would mean an ever growing firehose of video on demand, available at a clicks notice.  Since this is not going to happen anytime soon, this affiliate model would work quite well.

Based on the reactions of some of my various friends, its clear this would have resulted in views of Homeland from a single tweet, which in an affiliate model would have ultimately been good for the show, good for me, and great for Showtime.


NFL on TV and the iTunes allowance

At the start of this years Football season NBC showed a live game on where I watched.

It was a great experience.

You could see a number of cameras on and around the field while the teams were warming up (no sound) and then during the game switch to the live “broadcast” view of the game (normal sound).

Throughout you could see a Twitter stream next to the game with some basic sentiment analysis.  It was a cool visual to see who was saying what and what they were thinking that did not get in the way.  I am a big fan of a-la-carte-cable packages (although they do not exist yet in any form I can use) and have been without “cable” TV for about 3-4 weeks.  Experiments like this shed some light on the future of TV, and show that the networks are willing to take some risks and try out new things.

The iTunes Allowance

I find myself actively paying for content now that I do not have a fixed bill, and think of the cost of what I would normally spend as an “allowance” for buying/renting shows.

I am spending less overall, but the dollars I do spend are going direct to the broadcaster (split with iTunes of course)

This has changed my viewing habits considerably as I no longer channel surf, but have to literally know exactly what to watch.  It has made my computer attached to my TV the main source of video in my house, and I do not see it changing anytime soon.

There is a reason to get a working cable box again, but I am thinking of at least downgrading to the minimum viable cable possible based on the last month.

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Streaming March Madness (

It should come as no surprise that I found the technology behind this years college basketball tournament more interesting than the games themselves – despite this fact I did win in my bracket! (much to the chagrin of fellow players who all knew I am not a huge college basketball fan)

I was recently reading about the details behind and how they streamed the games. said it streamed more than 11.7 million hours of video to some 8.3 million unique visitors, including nearly 600,000 UVs for the championship game that saw Duke beat Butler.


…and some context from the same article on what this means for the bottom line;

…ad revenue for the tournament was up a solid 20 percent from a year ago to “at least $38.4 million.” While the total is just a slice of what CBS brought in overall for March Madness, it’s growing at an accelerating pace, and that’s something the broadcast side can’t claim. Consider that in 2006, CBS estimated its MMoD revenue at $4 million, or just 0.8 percent of the revenue of the broadcast tournament. It increased to 1.7 percent in 2007, 3.5 percent in 2008 and 4.8 percent in 2009.

By eliminating the obstacles people had to go through, they actually increased viewership and streams which directly contributed to their bottom line. Unlike the Vancouver Olympics streaming disaster by NBC, there was no authentication necessary to start watching the games.

While NBC had basically DRM’d the Olympics, CBSSports had opened up the streams and won out.

This is the same dialogue that revolves around the music industry, the happenings with Hulu and online broadcast, and many other areas where the gatekeepers want to continue their stronghold over content. This is a great case study into the affects of a large publisher and content distributer (CBS) opening up the floodgates and actually seeing a meaningful lift in revenues and customer satisfaction.

By having a platform that was free, and encouraged watching through a authorized source fans were happy and advertisers were in front of streaming viewers. Whether or not the campaigns were effective is another story, but the basic principles of where and how data should be accessible are all there.

Image courtesy of

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The Google Superbowl ad

Google aired its first ever Superbowl ad using a video that resonated with many folks called Parisian Love.  The video is embedded below.  Search Engine Land has an excellent write up of all the details, including the fact that it had over 1MM views before the event – will be interesting to see how much that grows.

It is also interesting that they took out SEM ads for most of the auto complete searches that came out of the video.  This is the type of SEM drafting you hope to see whenever any messaging is put into a search ad.

Google placing this ad in such a mainstream location is a big move and I wonder if we will see more of it.

As a Company that is so focussed on data driven results – I hope they publish their findings about searches, responses, and results from this placement.

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I have been using Boxee for some time now in my home as my primary Media Engine. Many people have been looking for a similar solution and I thought I would share my experience here and provide a place to grab an invite if you are interested. (disclosure: my employer Union Square Ventures has made an investment in Boxee)

I like the term Media Engine for Boxee because after some of the announcements this week and descriptions from blogs, I would use my own naming convention.

I use Boxee because it enables me to have one piece of software for all my owned and streaming media needs. Since Boxee provides a way of easily browsing local media I use it to view videos and listen to music that I own. I also use the streaming functions to watch content that comes in through Hulu, YouTube, CBS, and other sources that I have customized via feeds. That is how I watched AirWolf the other day, one of my favorite shows as a kid.

Personally, I have used a third party hack that enables me to use Boxee on my Apple TV. Note: This is not official.

Below is a video from the team at Boxee:

quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

If you are interested in checking out Boxee for yourself, let me know and I will send you an invite.

Full disclosure: I work at Union Square Ventures which has made an investment in Boxee

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Web 2.0 Expo Week

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.Image via Wikipedia This is certainly a busy week in the NY tech scene with many events happening. I am using Gary’s Guide to help sort out interesting events this week for the Web 2.0 Conference as well as the many other events in NYC that are happening.

My Agenda:
Looking forward to a number of Web 2.0 sessions – All Week
Will not miss the @ShakeShack event – 09/16/08
I will also be going to OMMA later this week.

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My Thoughts on Roku

Disclaimer: I have an Apple TV.

I got into some discussions this week about the new Roku box from NetFlix. It is basically a $99 solution to watching NetFlix on your TV.

My counterpoint to those who are lined up to buy it is this; would you pay $130 for an upgrade that presented you with a similar device that could; play Youtube videos, stream video content from your computer to the TV, stream audio to your home stereo, store TV shows and movies, and allow you to watch HD previews, stream flickr photos from your own photos and friends?

Then why not buy an Apple TV? No monthly fee, tons of great rentals, lots of HD content, and a centralized streaming system for your audio and video content in your home.

There are tons of great hacks for Apple TV (read: will most likely void your warrant) and rumors and speculation that a keyboard and mouse will soon be coming out for browser and chat functionality built in.

I have never been much of a Mac fanboy but I must say that Apple TV is the Newton of my generation.


State of the TV Industry: Part III

[Editors note: This is a guest post by Adam Perlis who has a continuing series at on the State of the TV Industry]

At the very beginning of 2007 I published a two part article called State of the TV Industry. Now in the spirit of I am continuing the conversation. In my first article I described what I thought to be the future of digital media. In doing so I made a few predictions about what I thought might happen over the course of the next few years and low and behold, some of these things rung true. To begin lets revisit some of the predictions made in State o the TV Industry: Part I,

The Future: So its 2009, and TV still exists! Ads are continuing to support the framework of television. But TV has changed quite a bit since 2007, the new form of TV integrates the Internet, Live TV, and Recorded/On Demand TV and it’s all at your fingertips. You can choose to view a show at any time recorded or not. Let’s say you missed last night’s episode of 24, well you can pull it from the database and watch it even if you didn’t record it. Live TV still exist, and so do traditional TV spots, but now they are much shorter because there is so much Ad content out there that longer spots create too much clutter. Finally, the internet has been fully integrated into your digital media space. You can access your desktop right from your big screen, pull up multiple windows showing TV, internet content, and media content simultaneously. The possibilities with these three integrated technologies are endless, we are talking pre-show ads, post-shows ads, in-show non-intrusive ads, show selection screen Ads and they will all be relevant to YOU! Though these ideas are dreamt up, it will remain to be seen what kind of creative ways advertisers will use this platform. Keep in mind that theses are very real possibilities and the technology is there.

The Bridge to the Future: It’s 2008, awareness has been generated, the technology is ready, it’s affordable and relevant to the consumer, and advertisers are starting to put money into it. But we need people to adopt it, make it part of their everyday lives. The success of the platform will be largely dependent on getting consumer to make it part of the norm.

Present Time: Today is January 16th, 2007 and the technology is ready to be presented to the world. But only the techies have caught on. It will be up to a few brave companies to break the mold, put money into R&D, and find the new medium that could change the way advertising is done. Whether it will be Microsoft, Apple, Google, Viacom, one of the major networks, or one of major cable providers, there is a serious opportunity for one group to rise above the rest. Only time will tell.

Today is April 15th, 2008 and we are very close to being at the halfway point of my predictions. The paragraph that I want to focus on is The Bridge to the Future. Many of the things I discussed in this paragraph have made headway. I believe awareness has been built, people are really understanding the concept of internet on TV. Affordability and relevance, well Internet TV is free and people are starting to adopt it as part of there daily routine. Advertiser are starting to put money into it, I think does the best job of this.

TV on the Internet is by no means traditional and has certainly changed peoples viewing habits and the way they watch TV. Everything is “On Demand” but this hasn’t changed much, people are used to it with Tivo/DVR. The real challenge will be in getting people to site and to actually view shows. But remember websites are going to turn from your PC to your living room. Picture this…you click menu on your remote control, you click web TV, you click Hulu, you click The Office, you choose which show you want and tada you have web TV in your living room. It’s not too far from what we are doing now, people just need to get used to the idea of a totally integrated entertainment system.

So the question remains, how do you monetize a system which seems to take away the amount of advertising space and inventory? Two solutions that I can think of. Targeted advertising specific to each individual users via charging more for less. What I mean is sometimes less is more…ok, let me explain. When I watch my shows on Hulu. I see one advertisement every 15 min or so. It is almost always the same advertisement for the same company each time. After seeing the same ad at least 4 times per show, I tend to get the idea. Is this annoying…yes! But is it potentially more effective at getting the point across, I think so. My point being that advertisers will be more willing to spend the extra money for fewer spots if they know that the value of their impressions will be greater and more targeted. The other area I see potential for advertising space and monetization is within the user interfaces a la “On Demand” video box.

Comcast On Demand

That is where I think the real creativity will come but that is a discussion for another time. Just understand that there will be more and more spaces for untraditional advertising within the user interfaces.

Monetization is important, but when will people be ready! As I had mentioned in my previous articles, I don’t think people will be ready for a fully integrated digital home entertainment system until 2009. Early adopters will most likely begin to catch on to the trend and I think that the Comcasts, RCN, etc. of the Cable TV industry will improve their software and start catering towards this integration. I also believe that there is room for another major player to be involved, perhaps Apple TV and other competitors will step into the market. It seems a likely story considering you will only need cable TV for live entertainment. Everything else will be available online and on demand. I guess we just have to wait and see…


Louis Vuitton – First TV Ad

Louis Vuitton put up what I believe is their first video ad called Louis Vuitton Journeys (embedded below – feed readers click through to view)

The overall message is “Where will life take you?” along with many other cliché lines like the ones from the end of the video shown below…

Does the person create the journey or does the journey create the person? The journey is life itself. Where will life take you?. Louis Vuitton.

I understand what they were trying to do with this ad, getting back to basics, trying to connect with the “traveler”, as well as perhaps reintroduce the LV brand – but it just does not seem to work for me.

It brings to mind another commercial with a similar tone…the Zoolander commercial.

Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.