Monthly Archives: November 2010

GTV killer app

Q: What Will Be Google TV’s Killer App?

A: “Killer app” is the kind of giddy talk that journalists use to attract eyeballs. Killer apps don’t happen in blog chatter, they happen by hacking. But I’ll bite if this is about the purpose and value of Google TV and other platforms, like web app support in Boxee, that bring open web technology to the TV.

One huge benefit is good user experience. Comcast et al lack it. Legacy remote controls, on-screen channel guides, and DVRs are not in the same league with comparable things on the open web. No skilled interaction designer or product manager would ever do work that confusing, error prone, and user hostile. For example Dish has 50,000 channels, yet the on-screen channel guide is a linear list that you scroll through from the first to the last.

TV really does need search. It also needs scrobbling, channel bookmarking, recommendations, playlists, and all the other information architecture tools that have evolved to manage the firehose of content on the open internet. The information architecture of legacy TV is oriented towards the tiny amount of content that was available before the advent of cable TV. It’s been a long time since then.

Also, content specific to the web, stuff that’s not on cable, will be a big draw. No doubt this will include porn, but also there will be the whole world of ultra niche media that powers blog traffic on the web. What’s holding back niche content on IP TV is that users can’t find or manage it. For example the other night I watched a great live set by the squawk electronica band Holy Fuck on Baeble’s Roku channel. The reason this kind of thing will have a big impact isn’t that it’s blockbuster content, like The Sopranos of Roku, but that it scales up to a very large number of niches, including political videoblogs, mommy videoblogs, etc.

Marc Cuban’s Eye of Sauron

Sull comments more on Hulu on his own blog:

The audience would be directed to the proper Channels/Shows. On the web, obviously these would be domains/sites. On new interfaces built specifically for TV (i.e. GoogleTV, AppleTV, Roku etc) the concept of domains/sites does not exist and instead you just have a GUI to navigate and search for the channel and show you want to watch. Why would we need a “Hulu” to encapsulate the content and direct brands?

The future of TV does not require TV Guides or mulit-library destination sites like Hulu.

Something befuddling is that Every Major Network Site Blocks Google TV.

These are vendors who are already doing business on the web. Google TV is no more or less than a web environment optimized for content sites.

Obviously what these network sites want is for Google to do deals with each one of them in order to offer a portal to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu. Marc Cuban rants it this way:

I personally can’t think of anything stupider for the big broadcast networks to do than give their shows to Google for free. Why ? Because they are finally getting BILLIONS of dollars in retransmission fees from their distributors. This is new money. It is found money. It is money they are fighting for. Just ask Fox and Cablevision what they think of each other this week.

The idea that they would take and fight for money from their distributors, who generally are the same ISPs that Google TV delivers content over, and then offer the exact same shows for free through Google TV, or any aggregator that expects that content for free is probably one of the dumbest concepts ever.

Now if Google were to go to those networks and offer them money per month for every buyer of a Google enabled device or TV, that would be different. Then they would be a tv provider competing with the rest and they should take their money. Think Google will ever do that ? I don’t.

So giving the same content they not only charge their distributors for, but also charge their local affiliates for to Google for nothing or for a share of revenue ? STUPID.

Which is precisely analogous to Fox wanting royalties from Sony to play The Simpsons on Bravias, which would not actually be in Fox’s interest. How is it possible for the old school television business to not understand where Google TV is in the stack?

For example, each TV network might sell its own ads and keep the entire revenue, then take advantage of Google TV to grow their viewership. That’s how Google relates to web sites on a PC, why not on TV?

What Google really wants to do here is have third parties host the content and insert its own video ads in the playlist. In this vision there would be an ecosystem of content hosts that are spread all over the web, just like on the PC, and Google TV would be knitting them together, just like on the PC.

the eye of Sauron

But then again, this kind of thing usually loses in the media industries. Internet music businesses are usually full-service one-big-catalog shops like Rhapsody, and the customers never complain about that. The customers complain about other things, but not having to use a single vendor. Marc Cuban and Rupert Murdoch just keep getting richer. Their disinterest in how media products are supposed to fit into the internet doesn’t seem to be a problem.

is Hulu a solid company?

sull think Hulu is built on a shaky foundation:

hulu was born to divert attention (and content) away from google/youtube and provide a legitimate online destination for high quality tv content. hulu.com did this perfectly. the UI was clean, commercial integration was elegant and the branding was top notch. the catalog was good but not great. certainly good enough to achieve the original goals.

the problem is the complexity of hulu as a corporate entity and the cost of running the product/service is as much through the roof as their revenues.
also… content partners are king in the relationship. their is no guarantees about long-term and/or exclusive content deals and hulu has to make content partners happy with generous terms otherwise… not much prevents them from launching their content on their own pre-existing online properties (ie. ComedyCentral, CBS etc).

hulu also has competition from Netflix and a handful of other players in the market. competition is expected to increase during the next 5 years making continued hulu success more difficult to maintain.

hulu is pushing out more frequent ads and diluting it’s original consumer value as a nonintrusive experience for watching video.
even the Pay (Pro) version still has ads. in order to be profitable, ads will likely increase in frequency even more so. it is also still very difficult to get paying subscribers. netflix prob has the upper-hand with long-term existing paying customer relationships. either way, it is a challenge for hulu and it is not clear whether hulu can attain the amount of paying customers needed to bring the kind of profits that are expected and required to make the large group of owners and investors happy over time.

their are many obstacles. that’s not to say that any other company comes without obstacles. it just seems to me that hulu itself with its complex structure of owners and partners and uncertainty that can always be in the air…. that this is a unique situation and it almost needs to be all or nothing. maybe hulu can be the king brand for the future of TV…. but it’s too early to cement that and i can only express the obvious and my gut feeling on the future outcome. if i’m wrong, great. because i am a huge proponent of video on demand options and hulu is one of them. its not that i dont like hulu, its just when i peer inside its inner-workings, i get skeptical.

suppose thats why they want to IPO so badly. no clear path to profit without substantially securing ‘time’ to work on making this machine run as an efficient money-maker for years to come. if it takes almost a billion dollars to begin to see light at the end of the tunnel…. how great of a business model is that really?

xspfy gate

Uh, James Wheare’s xspfy.com (spiffy) will “Convert XSPF to JSON”, including JSONP output, and has the special benefit of a liberal parser which is able to “Shrug off invalid XML with aplomb and grace.”

And I’m pretty sure I knew about it when James put it out there about a year ago, which goes to show that my XSPF Gate was the kind of reinvention where you remember the idea of a thing but not the thing itself and then decide you thought of it yourself.