As we all know, and are probably tired of hearing because it makes us so damned depressed, the recession is hitting everyone hard. Businesses are closing left and right, people are losing their jobs, and unemployment rates are hitting levels not seen since the days of leg warmers, headbands and tainted Tylenol. It's bad enough that even if people still have a job, their employers are taking extensive belt tightening measures to make sure they are prepared for the worst.
One of the things being eliminated from families' budgets during this belt tightening is their cable or satellite hookup. With costs that can total over $100 a month, families are just not ready to dump that kind of cash on something they feel doesn't have any value. That doesn't mean they are going without television (especially after the DTV switchover) and turning to a simpler life of canning vegetables, making quilts, and attending square dances. Rather, they are switching off their hi-def flat screens, turning on their computer flat screens, and getting their TV fix over the Internet.
The TidalTV display is laid out like an electronic program guide with a video window in the corner. You can click on the video to bring up a full screen version. Or you can click on the program guide to flip channels. There's also an on-demand section if you don't want to watch the scheduled programming stream.
The streaming video platform that was supposed to change the way we watch television really hasn't. While more and more people are watching videos online, it's not particularly clear that many of them are using Joost to do it. In the UK, the BBC iPlayer has gotten a lot of attention for providing residents with the ability to watch any program that's been broadcast in the past seven days. And in the US, Hulu provides viewers with a chance to watch many TV shows and movies from Fox, NBC, and other content partners.
Apparently Joost has decided to pull out of the international market and focus solely on the US, because that's where the majority of its users are at the moment. But with a lackluster content library, and few high profile content partners, I think it might just be a matter of time before Joost folds completely. To make matters worse, I think Joost overestimated the consumer demand for a non-browser based online video solution. Flash and Silverlight have made it easy to not only embed videos in web pages, but to allow users to click a button and watch those videos full screen.
When all is said and done, I think that people like to watch TV on their TV sets, not their computers. While there's a growing number of ways to watch full length TV shows and movies online, I really wish it was easier to make those existing services work with Windows Media Center and other media center applications designed to bridge the gap between computer and television. If Joost had focused on media center integration or set top box software, maybe the company would have had a chance. But if I can't watch my videos from 10 feet away with a remote control, I'd rather visit Hulu in a web browser than launch a standalone application that gives me access to hundred of videos I don't really want to watch.
Update: It looks like a spokesperson for Joost denies that the company has any plans to layoff employees or go US-only.
It's not entirely clear at the moment how the player will work, or how Joost hopes to set itself apart from other services like YouTube or Hulu. The former has the lion's share of the online video market, while the latter has a much wider selection of popular full length TV episodes and movies than Joost. But considering the fact that only 6 million people have downloaded and installed the Joost client, while more than 10 million people watch YouTube videos every single day, it's clear that Joost had to do something.
What do you think, is Joost grasping at straws here? Or does the company's recent test of live streaming video and its plan to launch a browser-based player make sense as a competitive business strategy?
[via Silicon Alley Insider]
Personal video recorders are changing the way people watch scripted television shows and movies. But for the most part people like to watch sports and other live events, well live. The odds of taping Lost and then walking down the street the next morning only to have the plot spoiled by a front page newspaper story are fairly slim. But that's exactly what happens if you record last night's basketball game with plans to save it until the weekend.
So while video on demand is absolutely the right business model for most online video, the ability to provide live streams of some content seems crucial. Now let's see how many people actually turn to Joost instead of, you know, a television set for their March Madness coverage.
Right now when you fire up the Babelgum peer to peer video client, you're confronted with a ton of short videos from independent filmmakers. There's even a sort of online film festival, where Babelgum users can rate videos.
Overall, the Babelgum player provides an awesome interface for viewing internet video content. The video quality is far superior to what you'll find on YouTube. And since the client provides has a full screen interface you don't need to constantly hit a button to make your videos toggle between full screen and in-browser modes. But there's one big problem with Babelgum: It doesn't have much content you've heard of. So while it might make sense for Babelgum to focus on independent film while the big guys go to Hulu, Joost and other sites, I can't help but wonder if the service will ever see a return on the investment.
Like the NBC fodder, the CBS offering is gangbusters: full-length episodes of classic Star Trek, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, MacGyver, Hawaii Five-O and Melrose Place. CBS plans to add more programs and clips in the coming months, including sports and other kinds of entertainment.
They couldn't have guessed where their research would lead, however, so here we are in 2007 with a vast interconnected network that exists pretty much so that people can argue as to the exact point The Simpsons stopped being good. As the internet evolves, though, it's beginning to realize its potential as a content delivery system.
We won't get into what exactly constitutes "engagement," but in a nutshell this is a marketing study that suggests advertisers will get some bang for their buck if they spend money to support online video.
I can think of plenty of reasons why people would be more receptive to online video ads. While most of us have learned to ignore the banner ads and pop ups that we see on web sites, there's no way to ignore a 30 second interruption when you're watching House. And unlike traditional TV, most of the services that let you watch TV shows online, whether they be network web pages, Hulu, Joost, or some other service, only include a handful of short commercials in each episode.
So while you might get up and go to the bathroom or kitchen during a 3 minute TV break, you don't have time to walk around the house when a commercial comes on during your online video viewing session. Watching online videos also isn't quite as passive an experience as TV for most viewers. You can't just hit the power button and then start hitting the channel flip buttons mindlessly. You still need to actively seek out the programs you want to watch, which means there's a better chance you're paying attention in the first place.
Still, I suppose it's nice to have a research company confirm something that should be obvious. Hopefully it will help convince networks to put more of their content libraries online.
The interesting thing is that the cliff notes versions of these shows work surprisingly well, if you don't care about things like plot, character development, and dialog.
The minisodes were originally available online at MySpace. Now Sony is making the mini-shows available on Crackle, AOL, and Joost, as well as MySpace. Sony is also bringing more shows out of the vault including Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie and The Jeffersons.
[via The New York Times]
The online video platform has barely entered public beta, but Adobe is about to change the game somewhat by incorporating the h.264 codec in the next version of its Flash player software. That means all the videos you watch on YouTube, DailyMotion, Metacafe, or pretty much any other online video site will suddenly look an awful lot sharper without using up any more bandwidth.
Schonfeld argues that could spell the beginning of the end for Joost, which has yet to develop a YouTube-sized user base. If people can get high quality streaming video of full-length TV episodes from network sites, video sharing sites, and other websites, they will, he says.
But that kind of misses the point. Joost, VeohTV, and other standalone video platforms aim to take the entire online video experience out of the web browser. Why would you want to use the same program to read a newspaper as you do to watch a movie? Joost's success or failure will depend on its ability to create a compelling user experience. It takes a combination of of high quality video, uninterrupted streaming, and a novel but useful user interface to do that.
Joost has most of those things down pat. The thing they don't have right now is full-length episodes of most current prime time television programs. And until they hammer out details with the networks to provide those shows, I think Joost will always appeal to a niche audience at best.
This article on Lifehacker.com lists a bunch of different ways to catch various TV episodes online for free. Since the name of the site involves the word "hacker", one can assume that some of these methods may not be entirely legal. Repeat at your own risk.
As someone who doesn't own any kind of recording device for the TV but has a great computer monitor, I tend to go to the network websites to catch episodes of certain shows. I'd hate to miss a week of Heroes or Bionic Woman and I'm glad the networks offer a chance to watch missed episodes online at one's leisure with minimal commercial interruption.
But Joost plans to test a system that will let you watch TV shows as they air live. PaidContent:UK reports that Joost will be offering live streaming television to US customers during the first quarter of 2008.
Programs that are transmitted live will also be available on demand after the live transmission is finished. For example, if you want to watch a sporting event, you can either sit down and watch the game as it happens or "catch up" with a game you missed. You'll be able to use Joost widgets to keep track of scores, bookmark favorite moments in a game, or share links with your friends.
Joost is probably the easiest IPTV service of the bunch to navigate with a remote control. And now thanks to a member of the Green Button community there's an unofficial Joost button for Windows Vista Media Center.
All you have to do is download and unzip the file and the batch installer file. It will add a Joost button to the TV + Movies menu of Windows Media Center. The button will also show up in the programs menu. When you click the Joost button Joost will open up. We know, it's surprising, but true. When you close Joost your Windows MCE interface should come back up.
This isn't the first time we've seen a Joost plugin for MCE, but the new Joost button is a bit more attractive than the old version.
And that, in a nutshell is why you probably don't watch streaming or downloaded videos on your TV. It's just too complicated. If your computer is next to your PC, you probably need to buy a new video card that will let you run a cable from your PC to TV. And if you're like most people your PC is in a completely different room and you'll need to get a $300+ box which plugs into your TV so that you can stream video over your home network.
But as Techdirt's Tim Lee points out, shelling out the money for additional hadware is only the tip of the iceberg. You also need to find the right hardware for your operating system and software. If you download your movies from iTunes, Amazon, MovieLink, or Vongo, you'll need to make sure you have the right hardware to support your online video store of choice. And if you use multiple services, good luck. Oh yeah, and good luck trying watching Joost, VeohTV, Vuze, or Babelgum using a media extender.
While we don't expect everyone to start using the same video codecs anytime soon, it's interesting to note that Amazon, Apple, and other online music stores are starting to offer DRM-free music. Maybe one day we'll see the same thing happen with online video and as long as your hardware can support a wide selection of codecs, you'll have no problems playing any video on it.