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Online Video In 2011: Connected TVs, Social Recommendations, And Standards Wars

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Editor’s note: Online video is going through many changes as people begin to connect their TVs to the Internet and social sharing over Facebook and Twitter influence what people watch as much as search. In this guest post, Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of online video platform Brightcove, gives his view of where online video is going next year. Allaire’s last guest post for us was on the standards war in mobile video formats.

Web video is just getting started, and 2011 promises to be yet another year of transformation in the online video landscape. The stage is set for mainstream connected TVs, Over-the-top adoption, and even more videos watched directly streamed from website. Here are the five biggest trends in online video that will play out in significant ways for end-users and publishers alike.

1. Connected TV Platform Wars

The past year saw the definitive emergence of platform wars in the handheld computing landscape. This year will see those wars expand into new territory, the Connected TV platform market. Input 1 on the TV is the new homepage or start screen. We should expect that the battles will look incredibly similar to the market that emerged for smartphones over the past several years, but with some other entrenched players. Google vs. Apple vs. the dominant TV brands. In fact, these platforms will largely be based on a similar architecture, offering app and content publishers a common model for creating device-oriented applications and Web experiences.

Apple will ship an iOS-based Apple TV display and will open up Apple TV to third-party apps beyond Netflix. Developers will have a common model for building apps across the phone, tablet and TV, as well as a suite of new APIs for phone and tablet apps to interact with TV apps (think remote control type activities, gestures for games, etc.). Its platform will also support HTML5 with a set of design standards for TV Web 10-foot experiences.

Google, which has already put forward its first rendition of the same, will expand on this and create models that integrate Android apps across all devices.

In addition, the largest of the TV CE manufacturers (e.g. Samsung and LG), will put their best foot forward with TV App SDKs, App Stores and TV Web standards based on HTML5, looking to leverage their massive volumes and strong position in the living room to fend off Apple and Google from owning the consumer experience and app distribution relationships.

Expect by the end of the year a frenzy of publisher and developer interest in creating TV Apps and TV Web experiences as the volumes of products shipping by the end of 2011 will be in the tens of millions and very attractive as a target platform.

2. Over-The-Top TV Subscriptions will emerge, but largely fail

The long coveted idea of Over-The-Top (or OTT) TV distribution (through services such as Google TV, Apple TV, or Boxee), which would lead in turn to tens of millions of consumers “cutting the cord” with their cable provider will further take hold in 2011, but will largely disappoint consumers.

While library video on-demand subscriptions through services like Netflix, Xbox Live Marketplace, and Amazon VoD offer users great and broad libraries of content, they don’t yet offer a compelling substitute to a cable subscription.

In 2011, we’ll see the first wave of attempts to create more rich TV subscription bundles that are available over the Internet. Expect Netflix to start paying for more recent and popular TV shows, and for Apple to potentially offer a low-priced ($25/month) TV subscription product with a collection of recent hit TV shows. But most major broadcasters and studios won’t bite or participate in a meaningful way, leaving consumers still feeling like these products don’t offer enough. The absence of a broad offering of live sports will be a major factor keeping cords from being cut.

At the same time, your existing cable subscription will start to offer a greater range of content over the Web, and likely top-tier cable companies such as Comcast / Xfinity will make their online video products available through open devices and apps, blurring the lines even further.

We’ll have to wait until 2012 when the scale of Connected TV adoption is large enough that online TV subscription providers will be willing to write big enough checks to get the best available programming.

3. Facebook and Twitter will become larger sources of video traffic than Google search

In a recent jointly published study by Brighcove and TubeMogul, we reported that the fastest growing source of traffic to videos on publisher websites were social platforms Facebook and Twitter. This growth is accelerating and the role of these platforms as primary content discovery and viewing environments will reach a point by the end of the year that they will soon be as large and important as Google search.

Increasingly, online video publishers will treat Facebook.com as a Web publishing platform that is as important as their own Web domains. Facebook will welcome and embrace using its site as a media distribution end-point, offering rich tools and a business model that doesn’t require that it share in advertising revenue generated from impressions on its site. This will be highly attractive to publishers and we’ll see more and more VOD type applications launched concurrently on publisher sites and Facebook.com.

4. Video Ubiquity—Every Company is a Media Company

While a bit of a cliché, we’re seeing this happen at an accelerating pace. In 2011, if you are a professional institution, organization or business of any size, you will have an online video strategy. Video is becoming such a central part of how one communicates, markets, educates and informs online that every pro website will be publishing some form of online video.

It will first feel a lot like the brochureware era of the first generation Internet, with a lot of poorly-conceived and poorly-executed content. But a new era of Web video production businesses will emerge much as the Web development industry of the mid-90’s emerged, and organizations will start to iterate and experiment with how to best accomplish their online objectives using video.

5. Battle Over Video Delivery Standards Heats Up

Google’s recent announcement that they are acquiring Widevine adds fuel to what is already an important platform war over how video is consumed, secured and delivered both on PCs and increasingly on non-PC devices.

Several alternative stacks are emerging for encrypting / securing and then, in turn, delivering video in a high-quality and reliable manner to all platforms and devices. Apple offers Apple HTTP Streaming which both secures video and provides for adaptive delivery to both HTML5 and iOS Apps, but is proprietary to Apple’s devices and software.

Adobe offers its own DRM services and HTTP streaming standards, both of which are proprietary but are designed to work across client and device platforms that support the Flash runtime.

And now Google will get in the mix with Widevine’s technology, which also provides a method to encrypt and secure video files and deliver them to nearly any device or operating system using adaptive bitrate HTTP streaming. We should expect that, like with On2’s video codecs which were open-sourced as the WebM video standard, Google will open source and freely distribute the Widevine technology, as well as bundle it as a standard part of the infrastructure in Chrome, Chrome OS and Android browsers and operating systems.

It all adds up to more Web videos on more devices and points to a day when we won’t be able to tell the difference between the Web and TV.

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