Monthly Archives: April 2010

What, Exactly, Is a TV?

3200897644_31a7aacf05_m According to the latest release from Nielsen Wire, the average American home has 2.93 TV sets, a jump from 2.86 TV sets in 2009.

I’m sure glad they didn’t ask me to participate in that survey, because I’m not sure how I’d answer. But to help out the good folks at Nielsen, here’s how I’d try.

Let’s see. First, there’s the TV in the family room. It’s a 52-inch Westinghouse LCD, definitely a TV because it has an over-the-air (ATSC) TV tuner that’s not used, along with built-in speakers. It’s connected to a DirecTV satellite receiver — along with an Xbox 360, Wii, and a Sony Blu-Ray DVD player. I get "TV" via the DirecTV receiver, but I also get TV shows on the 360, Netflix on the Wii and Blu-Ray player, and YouTube on that Blu-Ray player. We’ll count that as a "one."

Moving on to the kitchen, we’ve got a 19-inch LCD TV, with built-in speakers and an ATSC TV tuner, again, that’s like a wing on a penguin. It lacks any classic "TV" sources, but it is connected to an Apple TV that is mostly used for Boxee — and through which I watch baseball games and other "TV" programs, purchased from Amazon or streamed via Boxee’s service. Is that a "TV"? It has a TV tuner, yet it isn’t used. But yeah, it’s probably a TV. So that’s two.

It gets a little harder when we move to the living room. There we’ve got a 32-inch LCD monitor that lacks any sort of over-the-air tuner at all, but does include built-in speakers. It is connected to another DirecTV HD receiver. Is that a TV? It’s used to watch NBC, ABC, Disney, MTV and the like — mostly on-demand, via the built-in DVR. But the set lacks a TV tuner — not that I’d actually ever use one, because I mostly detest live TV. But because it is used to watch traditional broadcast and cable, we’ll call that a "TV" too. We’re up to three.

Let’s go back to the bedroom. There we’ve got another LCD TV, an older Gateway model, which includes a TV tuner, but only the older, obsolete analog type. It’s got a Panasonic Blu-Ray player hooked up to it, which is used to watch movies on disc, but also TV shows and movies via Netflix, along with baseball and independent web TV shows like ours from Revision3 on that Roku. Is that a "TV"? I’m guessing yes, because it actually does have a TV tuner, and includes integrated speakers. Four.

Dropping downstairs to the office it gets even more confusing. There I’ve got a 42-inch Panasonic plasma display that lacks speakers and a TV tuner. It’s essentially a big computer monitor. Yet it mostly displays shows from DirecTV, along with games and video via a PS3 and another Roku. It’s a bit of a gray area, but yeah, let’s call it a TV. Now we’re up to five.

Out in the garage is another conundrum — a 24-inch computer monitor that’s clearly not a TV. But it’s also connected to a DirecTV receiver, along with my garage computer. Sometimes it displays TV, sometimes Windows. What’s that? A half a TV, half a PC? Sure, I’ll go with that.

But what about my office computer? It’s definitely not a TV, because it is used mostly for work (and some games). But I’ve got an external HDTV tuner connected to it, via a USB connection, and I use Windows Media Center to record broadcast HD shows — mostly NFL football games in season. Is that a TV? What about the three notebook computers we have that each run the DirecTV2PC software, which streams shows from the satellite DVR to those notebooks via my home network. Are they TVs?

Now we’re up to 10, for a house of three. A bit excessive? Yes, but I haven’t even started counting the smartphones, iPads and other "screens" that will be increasingly littering my house, and capable of playing "TV" of one form or another.

So yes, I definitely think the number is increasing. But if you count everything capable of displaying a video signal, streamed from a hard drive, satellite, cable or IP connection, that number will grow and grow and grow.

I’m glad I’m not the one doing the survey. Because I got me some TV to watch!

Top 10 Reasons Why Internet TV Won’t be Like Regular TV

I was lucky enough to be part of a really fun panel at last week’s Ad:Tech, focused on the funniest people on the internet.  Hosted by Kevin Nalts (Nalty), it was a rollicking hour-long look at great emerging web stars.  But to kick it off, we put together a top 10 list, ala David Letterman.  So with apologies to Worldwide Pants, here’s the top 10 list we put together…

 

10 On TV: 7 Clones of Modern Family…
  On the web we’ve got a Gay Leprechaun
   
9 On the internet you can actually WAIT until your show is over to go to the bathroom..
  Heck you can actually take the show with you in to the crapper..
   
8 LOLcats are cuter than Snooki!
   
7 TV’s best presidential impersonator: Dana Carvey. On the web…. It’s Alphacat!
   
6 No actual talent required!
   
5 On the internet we don’t have writers’ strikes… Heck, we don’t even have wrighters!
   
4 We’re trading grimy old analog dollar bills for shiny new digital dimes!
   
3 On television, innovation goes through Cable Labs.  On the web its all up to Steve Jobs!
   
2 On TV when your show’s cancelled it’s over..
  In the internet it lives forever.. And ever.. And ever.. And ever!
   
1 On TV it’s three men and a baby. On the internet we’ve got 2 girls, one cup

Moving On From the Streamy Fail

image I wanted to take a day to think about the disaster that was Sunday night’s Streamy Awards, before penning my thoughts on the dreadful event.

David Samuels from KoldCastTV , iJustine, Barrett Garese, Jace Hall and many others on Twitter have already shared their thoughts on the misogynistic, puerile, protracted and poorly executed event. Heck, in the aftermath, some predicted that it spelled doom for the nascent internet video industry, that we had so hoisted ourselves on our own petard of idiotic, juvenile jokes that we were unlikely to recover for years – if ever.

But after fulminating, ruminating and pondering, I’m not so sure. In fact, this might be just the systemic shock we need as an industry to finally grow up.

Let’s face it, we’re a young industry. Born just five years ago, even last year’s first Streamy event was more like the tentative steps of a toddler than the confident strides of a tween. But in one year we seem to have (aged) from cautious kiddie to full-blown adolescence, with all the attendant pain, suffering and ultimately growth that that awkward age brings.

As I searched for metaphors to describe last night’s carnage, I ultimately realized that it seemed most like a precocious teen, newly minted learners permit in hand, borrowing the family car for the night – and promptly wrapping it around the tree.

image The Orpheum theater had all the hallmarks of a classic awards programs thrown by our elders, including Oscar, Emmy and Grammy. With red carpet, two humongous jib-cameras, five additional cameras, and a fabulous looking audience.  The location has hosted numerous awards shows in the past, so it seemed ideal for the job.

Unfortunately, the evening quickly went downhill from the start, with technical glitches, directorial miscues, a torrent of dirty sex jokes that only reinforced the (wrongful) impression that we’re only about sex and sleaze, and a monologue that went beyond poking fun at the industry and was more like a spit in the face. And then there were two buck-naked streakers, flashing their dangly bits for all to see, that put the icing on the biscuit.

Yes, like an adolescent, the Streamys reached too far, attempted to do too much, and veered horribly off course. We know better, the producers seemed to say, as they flouted conventional wisdom by trying to load in, build sets and launch without setting aside a day for rehearsals. I’m not sure how the steady stream of bad-boy vulgarity got approved, but clearly someone was asleep at the wheel here as well.

So we wrecked Dad’s car. And there will be repercussions. We’ve got to repair the damage we caused, take responsibility for our actions, and make both amends and reparations.

We’re grounded, certainly, for at least six months. During that time we need to reflect on our actions, find new resolve to do the right thing, and do what we do best: develop and launch a broad array of entertaining and informative shows, build new audiences and communities, and strive to put this accident behind us. We’ve got a lot of trust to rebuild, with the sponsors who had their names and brands attached to the event, to the show creators and supporters who abandoned the theater mid-way through the four-hour show in disgust, and the viewing public.

But just as teens tend to learn the most from hard lessons and abject failures, our adolescent industry will come to a new maturity from this. We’ll take our lumps, learn our lessons, and not fall prey to hubris, over-reaching, insolence and potty-mouth humor. Well, at least less of the latter.

Because next year’s Streamy Awards will be better, I know. Growing up is hard; an uneven, rocky road. But often the best adults come from the most unruly, and irresponsible kids. The web TV industry has a lot of growing up to do – but in the end we’ll be a better industry because of it.

 

(star wars pix from Jace Hall, car from http://failblog.org/)

I Support Web TV and I Vote!

If you’re familiar with the history of Revision3, you know that the company’s roots go back to the pioneering cable network ZDTV, through its transition to TechTV, and then out of cable network G4, which bought TechTV in early 2004. And G4 itself is owned by Comcast. Revision3 founders Kevin Rose and David Prager both worked at TechTV, I was on the launch team as the top content exec, and almost half of our current employees worked there at one time or another.

And that’s a big part of the reason why I’m so concerned about how the courts have removed the FCCs ability to police net neutrality across broadband ISPs. Left to their own devices, it’s only natural to expect large cable operators, including Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon to start favoring their own cable networks and services, and slowing down competing services.

Heck, it happened back in 2007, when Comcast was ratcheting Bit Torrent traffic down, which negatively impacted us – as we used to distribute all our shows via BT.

But now, three years later, we’re an even bigger thorn in the side of traditional TV. Our shows are getting audiences that rival some of the best on cable TV, more and more people are abandoning traditional cable services for web-delivery of Netflix, independent TV, Hulu and other video sources, and new devices from Roku, Boxee, Syabas and others offer even more freedom of choice.

But today that choice is threatened.

READ THIS NOW: my latest post at GigaOm details Why We Cannot Let Neutrality Fail.  And get involved too. Write your representatives and tell them you don’t trust the big ISPs to protect your interests.

Tell them you watch Web TV… and you Vote!

Forget Click Fraud – Stream Fraud is Even Worse!

Internet video has an ethics problem. And if we don’t fix it fast, the expected flood of ad dollars moving to our new medium will slow to a trickle – if not reverse pace entirely.

It’s called "stream fraud," and it happens when a company reports a video play to an advertiser when the video was not, in fact, viewed. Some, including Todd Sacerdoti, CEO of video ad network Brightroll, think stream fraud is twice as prevalent as click fraud — and it’s only getting worse.

According to Click Forensics, during the last quarter of 2009, more than 15% of SEM clicks were fake. That’s a big number, but stream fraud could be pushing 30% or more — and that’s just criminal.

Stream fraud takes a number of forms. It starts when a publisher claims more views than were actually consumed. This is relatively easy to do, as the accepted industry standard today for a video view is a play-start, rather than some percentage of video view completion. It results in widely inflated view counts in almost every case: According to web video analytics company Tubemogul, more than a third of video viewers bail out by 30 seconds, and by two minutes, less than a quarter of starters have stuck around.

Here at Revision3 we don’t call it a view until we’ve delivered the entire video — admittedly conservative, but I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. I’ve written a lot about this type of overcounting of video views, but it’s only a part of the problem. At least a play-start actually shows some sort of interest, or intent, on the part of the viewer.

A bigger problem, in my book, is when video gets force-fed and autoplayed out of context and unasked for. Autoplay makes sense when it is in context and the user has an expectation that video will be played. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about an out-of-context video autoplaying on a page, without any user initiation, and about something completely apart from the content on the page or the links that led to it.

For example, let’s say you’re searching for a new camera. You click on a link for the Canon 5D that also includes a thumbnail picture of the camera with a sideways triangle layered on top. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for that landing page to play a video review of the 5D — as long as it’s above the fold and the user can easily turn it off.

By contrast, imagine that same user clicking on a link for a 5D review, and ended up with a pre-roll autoplaying, and then a video of the 10 most photogenic nude beaches. That would be a problem — although you could make a tenuous yet plausible connection between the camera and photogenic pulchritudity.

But what if a teeth-bleaching video were autoplayed in that player, or even worse in an ad-unit in the gutter column on the right-hand side of the page? That unasked for video is now even more unwelcome, because it has no content affinity and no relevance. It’s a fraudulent video play, clear and simple.

But even worse, what if that same video autoplayed below the fold. Our camera customer would come to the page expecting to read reviews and specs on the Canon 5D, and instead an irrelevant video would start blaring through his speakers, even though the player was buried at the bottom of the page. Those 10 to 15 seconds that it would take our frustrated shopper to find — and then shut off — the offending video would be counted as a fully delivered and viewed video ad impression.

Finally, let’s take it to the worst case, and unfortunately, this is something that happens millions of times each day. What if that same video ad played below the fold, in an ad unit, with the sound turned off? It’s certainly a better experience for our shopper, as he’d be scanning specs, blissfully unaware that a sketchy dental hygiene ad was playing at the bottom of the page. But even though the video was never seen, nor heard, guess what? A legitimate ad impression just occurred. And if he stays long enough, who knows — maybe an overlay or yet another pre-roll could be served up invisibly as well.

And that, my friends, is fraud, pure and simple. It’s the act of charging someone for something that in fact was not delivered. Whatever you think about impressions, if you’re paying for a CPM, you should — at the very least — get a legitimate M.

What can you do about it? First, read Sacerdoti’s post about five ways to beat stream fraud. That’s a start, but it’s not enough. The online video industry needs to come together and support an ethics code that will stamp out stream fraud once and for all.

I had originally volunteered to put together a set of content and editorial ethics for the IAWTV, the International Association of Web Video. But now I see the problem as much, much broader. So in addition to the content side, I’m going to draft some guidelines for the distribution, advertising and placement of web video too. I encourage you to first, support the IAWTV, and second, send me your thoughts on what the key issues are here, and how they should be framed. And if you want to get a deeper understanding of the issue, and how to get what you paid for, let me know as well, I’m always happy to exchange ideas. The most important thing: let’s keep greed from killing our industry before it can truly take off!

I’m BACK!

Sorry the site was down for 2 weeks..  I went to go post something, saw the button to upgrade WP, and pressed it.  What a mistake.  The upgrade only partially completed, and my site was kablooey.

But that’s what backups are for!  Luckily my hosting company, APlus, had a backup, restored it, and now I’m back.

I’ll never upgrade wordpress again!