Friday, June 11, 2004

TiVo Goes Web for Video Downloads: So Much for Distribution Control

It's amazing sometimes how media companies continue to drag their heels on the most obvious exposures to their product base from emerging technologies. The New York Times reports on set-top digital recording provider TiVo's plans to support downloading of videos via the Internet. I was at a conference on digital rights not long ago chatting with an expert on securing rights on cable programming via set-top boxes. When I asked him what his unit could do to manage internet content also being delivered via cables, he drew a blank. Looks like TiVo didn't, nor many other providers who look at the opportunities offered by leading technologies and how they serve user markets. Is this a major threat to existing content channels? Probably not as much as some may fear, anticipating months of headlines from legal wranglings. The likely and largely unforseen consequence of this emerging capability is for new sources of video content to sprout up on the Web for distribution. Today's 100+ channels of cable content comes at a steep premium, with much of it stale and repetitive. What if users could choose new and innovative video streams intertwined easily with more commercialized sources via cable, satellite and broadcast? The ability of the Web to create and amplify user interest in content would be extremely useful in helping to widen the popularity of innovative multimedia content channels. All points to the strong necessity to have rights-secured access to content objects on the Web to facilitate such capabilities. Heel-draggers, please step up your pace to meet enticing new opportunities. [UPDATE - Monday, 14 June: The New York Times reports on RealNetworks' alliance with the Starz Encore Group to suppport monthly USD 12.95 monthly download subscriptions for rights-secured access to up to 100 moves a month via the Web. Makes perfect sense: the idea that we need hundreds of channels to schedule content for times that probably don't match with our desire to view something is rather passe. It's a great positioning for premium content - though a threat to premium cable packaging in the long run.]
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