Hulu, the PR-darling video portal owned by NBCU and News Corp, pulled all of its content from CBS’s newly re-launched TV.com. They also removed their programming from the Boxee application (an open source social media player and content management platform).
Everyone seems to think they know why this is a good idea or a bad idea. It’s neither. It’s just a business decision. And, it is way too early to tell whether it is a good or a bad one.
That being said, let’s take a minute to explore some of the branches and leaves on the decision tree.
First and foremost, no one knows how consumers will ultimately choose to consume video content over the public Internet. Right now, they are demonstrating several different consumption behaviors — all of which vary slightly based upon time of day, location, content, genre, computer equipment, the quality of the broadband connection, age, etc. However, consumers do exhibit one unsurprising behavior that very closely mimics traditional television consumption patterns. This is unsurprising because the content they are consuming is repurposed broadcast television content. And, they are consuming billions of minutes of Internet Television each month. In fact, the viewership is trending upward very rapidly. Like I said, unsurprising.
That’s what we know. What we don’t know ("we" meaning everybody), is how this consumer penchant for "on-demand, repurposed broadcast television over the public Internet" viewing is going to evolve. How will consumers ultimately prefer to find their content? Where will they be most likely to consume it? Will they tolerate unwanted interruption of their viewing experiences? If so, how? There are literally hundreds of unanswered questions about how the "producer to consumer" value chain for video content over an open network will ultimately evolve.
If you are reading this article online, you are only a few clicks away from almost any piece of video content you could ever want to see. I’m a huge Jon Stewart fan. Where can I get my Daily Show fix. Here’s a short list:
· http://www.google.com — about 6,220,000 for "the daily show" (0.24 seconds)
· http://www.youtube.com — "the daily show" video results about 37,400
In this particular case, the list is almost endless. There are literally over 6 million sites that link back to "The Daily Show." Most people would probably start with Google. But, in practice, no matter which site you start with, you are only going to be a few clicks away from the exact episode you want.
Which begs the question, "what is the real value of a video portal or aggregation site?"
That’s easy! Specialized video sites tend to feature optimized user interfaces that benefit consumers with optimized user experiences. Many also include highly evolved recommendation engines, community and social media tools. And, yes, all of those features and benefits create value. But, can an optimized video site translate that value into wealth as well or better than free-floating, syndicated content that knows how to phone home when it gets viewed? This is really the question. And, at the moment, no one knows the answer.
Boxee is pretty interesting. It is a movie player, a music player, a photo viewer and an Internet video viewer. And, it has some very strong social media tools built in. Sure, it’s interesting that Hulu wants out of the Boxee universe. It doesn’t help them at all. Or, does it? Hulu gets paid when people watch ads and the ads are baked into the content when it plays on the Boxee player. What’s wrong with that? (But I digress.)
Want your mind blown? Go to http://www.veoh.com/static/Design/compass/ and download this plug-in for Firefox or IE. After it’s installed (trust me, this is a plug-in you want to install), go to Google or Ebay, or IMDB or YouTube or Hulu or Amazon or Wikipedia and type something into the search box. You can even just use the Google utility bar that’s built into your browser. In a few seconds, you will see a row of thumbnail pictures and some metadata just under your tool bar. Click on any of the thumbnails, then repeat on any site.
This may sound like a thought experiment, but if you’ve downloaded the plug-in, you can do what I’m about to describe. Go to youtube.com and search "The Daily Show." You will see YouTubes’s content displayed where they normally display it. Just under your tool bar will be contextually relevant video choices from all over the Internet, including: TV.com, TheDailyShow.com, ComedyCentral.com and literally millions of others.
Hummm … that’s a bit of a game-changer. Portal, aggregator, syndicator, optimized player, hybrid, social video site … nope — just content free floating in an open network, and — it’s fully contextualized by your search terms. Thinking about the possibilities just makes your brain hurt. It’s awesome!!!
Tip of the hat to Dmitry Shapiro, founder of Veoh and the creator of the Veoh Compass plug-in. Use it for 10 minutes and you will have a completely different personal perspective on the Hulu vs. TV.com/Boxee death match. Drop me an email to discuss it, friend me on Facebook, find me on LinkedIn or dm me on twitter, @shelly_palmer.