Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So yes I have begone my tardy immersion into the world of Twitter.
I'm going to be posting more frequently new articles. I've kinda let the weeds grow over the last couple of months.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Turn On, Tune Out, Click Here

Source: Wall Street Journal


October 3, 2008

Kenny Johnson, a senior credit analyst for Fox Home Entertainment in Garden Grove, Calif., recently took a hard look at his finances -- and canceled his c-television subscription.

With a newborn child at home and growing household expenses, he says the decision saved him and his wife more than $40 a month -- or roughly the increase he is paying at the gas pump every month for his commute to work. The couple held onto their DSL Internet connection, which costs about $38 a month.

Now the Johnsons access most of their television shows online, through Web sites like, in addition to the free broadcasts they pick up over the airwaves. They also bought a set-top box that allows them to stream shows via to their television set, including episodes of NBC's "The Office" and Showtime's "Weeds."

"To me, it looks just like my cable," Mr. Johnson says.

In the past two years, nearly every major network show and many of the biggest cable programs have become available on the Internet. The virtual library of content includes everything from "Desperate Housewives" and "CSI" to "The Colbert Report" and "Mad Men."

Some of the biggest hits online are memorable TV moments. More than half of the people who saw recent "Saturday Night Live" skits featuring comedian Tina Fey as vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin watched the skits over the Internet, according to a survey of 500 viewers on Monday by Solutions Research Group. Nearly a quarter saw them on YouTube and 21% saw them on or

Many shows can be viewed for free and are accompanied by a dollop of ads that's small when compared with the number of commercial breaks on television. As a result, some cost-conscious consumers are ditching their cable subscriptions altogether.

Brian Stauffer"I'm saving a lot of money," says Tony Leach, a product manager at an online stock brokerage firm in the Bay Area. Mr. Leach canceled his $60-a-month cable subscription two years ago and has watched all of his favorite television shows on the Internet ever since.

The online television bonanza reflects a scramble by networks and cable stations to avoid the fate of the music business, which is still reeling from the effects of piracy and early missed opportunities to capitalize on the Internet.

Complete episodes of about 90% of prime-time network television shows and roughly 20% of cable shows are now available online, according to Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. There are still notable holdouts, such as Fox's "American Idol" and current seasons of HBO series like "Entourage."

But by aggressively seeking to stay ahead of consumer behavior, content providers are also fueling the growth of this new form of distribution, and that could undermine the economics of the television business, critics say. More than 80% of U.S. households pay an average of $70 a month to get programming piped into their homes via cable, satellite or telephone companies. Most of the remaining households watch advertising-supported shows on their TVs -- programs that are broadcast the old-fashioned way, over the public airwaves.

The number of people watching all of their programs online is still small; some estimates put the number at just 1% of the total television audience. In part, that's because watching online isn't as easy as channel surfing on the couch, TV remote in hand. Viewers must either watch shows on their personal computers, or use a device like Apple TV, which allows them to download shows from the Internet onto their television sets.

Within the next several years, however, media and technology executives say that a host of new technologies will make television access to online video a mainstream phenomenon. Vudu Inc. already sells a $299 set-top box with a remote control that allows users to download television shows for $1.99 per episode. Microsoft and Sony both sell television shows that users of their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 videogame consoles can download over the Internet for viewing on television sets.

Netflix subscribers can buy a $99 set-top box from Roku Inc. that streams videos on their television sets. The service is included at no extra charge in the monthly Netflix fee for renting DVDs.

Stephen Webster/ Wonderful MachinePatrick Crowley, a 35-year-old free-lance Web designer who lives and works in a loft in downtown San Diego, has configured his computer and his space so he can shift easily between work and play. His Macintosh has a 24-inch monitor and sits on a desk on one side of his living room, where he spends most of the day working on projects for clients. After hours, the Mac serves as his entertainment center, which explains the couch, lounge chair and coffee table positioned across from it on the other side of room.

Seated at his computer, Mr. Crowley types into the Web browser. (The site is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Fox, whose owner, News Corp., also owns The Wall Street Journal.) That's where he goes to watch many of his favorite shows, such as the Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." He also downloads programs from iTunes, where advertising-free episodes sell for $1.99 each. His library has about 100 episodes, including installments of Showtime's "Weeds " and NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." He's even installed an application onto his iPhone that turns the device into a remote control for his iTunes video downloads, so he can change clips without getting up from his couch.

It takes about 10 minutes to download a half-hour TV show on iTunes, though Mr. Crowley says he can usually start watching it a few seconds after the download begins. Shows on Hulu and the television networks' own Web sites are "streamed," a method that allows videos to begin playing instantly but leaves no permanent copy on users' computers.

Since canceling his cable television service from Cox a year and a half ago, while maintaining his high-speed Internet connection through the company, his monthly service bill has gone to about $60 a month from $160. "It's a much more efficient way of watching TV," says Mr. Crowley. He figures he spends about $8 a month at the iTunes video store, and watches about as much television as he did before he cut the cable cord.

A survey of users in the second quarter of 2008 showed that 83% of respondents watched a show on the network's Web site because they missed its original airing. "We see no evidence of a substantial number of people choosing to watch online instead of on television," says Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC Universal.

Most television shows are available online only after a delay from their original air date, anywhere from a day to months later. Televisions networks take down many older episodes after a while, so users don't have a permanent library of some shows.

The online selection of live sports games is spotty as well. This season, for example, the National Football League will make Sunday night games available live on the Net, but those amount to only about 7% of all regular-season NFL match-ups. Cable and broadcast news shows typically aren't streamed live on the Internet, unless there's a major breaking news event like Hurricane Katrina.

Still, research firm Nielsen Online estimates that in June, 3.2 million Internet users watched more than 106 million video streams on, a site that wasn't available to the public until March. Walt Disney Co.'s delivered nearly 27 million streams to 2.9 million viewers that same month, according to Nielsen. The data include everything from behind-the-scenes clips and segments of shows to complete episodes.

Other research indicates that online video-watching is cannibalizing television audiences. According to a spring survey by Integrated Media Measurement Inc., a research firm that tracks media consumption, more than 20% of viewers in the firm's 3,200-person panel watched some prime-time network television online, up from roughly 6% in the fall. Half of those online viewers said they were no longer watching those shows on television.

"What this study is showing is that the long-vaunted convergence of the TV and the computer is happening faster than anybody thought it was happening," says Tom Zito, Integrated Media's company's CEO.

Craig Moffett, a cable-industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein, says he believes television and cable companies are recklessly pursuing Web viewers to avoid seeming like "Luddites," without considering the long-term consequences if too many customers pull the plug on their service in favor of free Web video.

A typical half-hour television show contains about eight minutes of advertising, while that same show online contains about two minutes of ads, or about a quarter of the "ad load," Mr. Moffett says.

Cable channels, meanwhile, may be taking an especially big risk because they typically get half or more of their revenue from subscriber fees shared by cable and satellite operators -- a business that could be jeopardized if people start canceling their pay-TV subscriptions. (Broadcasters like ABC, Fox, NBC and CBS don't get a cut of subscriber fees from cable carriers, since the networks' channels are also available free.)

Tensions are beginning to heat up between cable operators and cable channels over free Web video. Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable Inc., has been one of the most outspoken people on the topic, telling cable program executives to not expect to continue sharing subscription revenue if they keep giving their top shows away for free online. When asked how programmers have been responding to such comments, Mr. Britt says, "Not well."

Executives at several cable channels were reluctant to discuss the topic, at the risk of further straining discussions about Internet television with their cable-operator partners. "We can't just cut the cable companies out," says one of those executives.

Of course, Web watchers will still need fast Internet connections to get all that video, a potential boon for the broadband Internet businesses at cable and telecommunications companies.

Consumers' sympathy for the cable operators is in short supply after years of rate increases. Between 1995 and this year, cable and satellite prices have increased by 79%, almost double the level of inflation during that period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total U.S. cable-industry revenue from television subscriptions hit roughly $53 billion in 2007, plus an additional $23 billion when Internet access and telephone fees are included, according to Bernstein Research.

And while cable operators say that the industry has provided far more value over the years, with everything from more channels to video-on-demand, most consumers actually use only a small portion of the cable-television offerings they pay for. Last year, the average home received 118.6 cable channels but only tuned into about 16 of them, or 13% of the total available to them, according to the Nielsen Co.

Jeff Pulver, founder of Inc., which makes it easier to locate Web television shows, says he believes the Facebook and Google generation won't look askance at getting television shows from the Internet.

Still, adds Mr. Pulver, who also co-founded the Internet phone company Vonage, "Some people will [continue] to subscribe to cable, the way their grandparents did."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Streams of Thought: H.264 Wins—Now What?

With Microsoft's announcement that it's adding H.264 playback to Silverlight, some would argue that H.264 has emerged triumphant in the codec wars. So what does that mean for the future of online video?

by Tim Siglin
September 9, 2008

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H.264 set the stage for dominance a few years ago for a common live, on-demand, and broadcast format. Compared to MPEG-2 (the format of traditional digital television and DVDs), H.264 offers two to three times greater compression, making it much more attractive for network delivery as well as for HD video.

The need was simple: a common decoding format that could be used across the streaming, videoconferencing, and IPTV segments. H.264 enables content created for one type of device to be easily delivered or adapted to another, at least in theory. The European-embraced ideal that a standardised open format drives competition and reduces the cost of devices, thereby expanding the addressable market, also means that devices as dissimilar as home computers (Windows, Macintosh, and Linux), the leading mobile devices (iPods and iPhones from Apple or handsets from Nokia and Sony Ericsson), and DVRs and IP set-top boxes all use H.264 at their core.

Also, with a common format consumers and businesses are encouraged to create and share more media, as they know that broad distribution is possible. Because of this, consumers, media companies, and vendors alike all benefit from increased growth, innovation, and choice.

True, there are still other formats out there: Microsoft has VC-1 and On2 Technologies has VP6. But even these two powerhouses are embracing H.264: Microsoft’s IIS 7 server component supports H.264, and it has just announced it will demonstrate H.264 in Silverlight later this week at the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) 2008 in Amsterdam. It will be available in 2009. For its part, On2 owns Hantro, a European company that uses H.264 for embedded video delivery. There are more announcements to come from both of these players, one suspects, as the H.264 juggernaut continues to roll forward.

Now what? Will the streaming, broadcast, videoconferencing, and on-demand video worlds all suddenly stop innovating, having been conquered by H.264, an analogue of Alexander? Not exactly. We are entering another round of Pax Romana (to mix metaphors), yet big challenges lie on two fronts. First, the player. This is a large issue, as the format wars have given way to a player war. Since H.264 can be encoded in any way a developer sees fit but must meet a particular decode standard to qualify as H.264 video, the decoders in players are very important.

Consider, for instance, Sanyo’s H.264 camera. The Xacti HD1000 camcorder is an H.264 1080i camera that captures full 1920x1080 (1080i) at 60 frames per second using a newer CMOS sensor. It captures on an SD or SD High Capacity (SDHC) chip and looks rather good. In tests with this camera right after its release, the files could be dropped into QuickTime Player for immediate playback, as they were .mp4 files.

Unfortunately for Sanyo and its customers, Apple “fixed” something in QuickTime that suddenly made all video clips shot on the Xacti HD 1000 unreadable in QuickTime Player, iTunes, and almost every other third-party application that relied on the underlying QuickTime engine. This is just one example of what’s happened several times across both the Macintosh and Windows platforms as H.264 encodes are written not to spec but to fit a particular player.

That issue, writing H.264 to spec, is the second—and bigger—challenge we now face.

Often, as was the case with AVCHD, the format isn’t quite up to H.264 spec, so it’s couched in terms like “based on H.264” or other marketing speak. AVCHD is a format that was jointly created by JVC and Sony in an attempt to get a tapeless format that is approximately 25% better than HDV in terms of recording bitrate. Unfortunately, AVCHD isn’t H.264 and, as such, requires conversion into another format for video editing. The conversion that Apple does creates image quality loss, and Adobe has yet, as of the time of this writing, to come out with a native AVCHD solution (the third-party solutions they recommend are only single-platform fixes).

Enterprising companies such as Blackmagic Design have figured out that they can capture directly off the HDMI output from an AVCHD camera and encode it to another format, but that in itself creates issues for editing (no timecode via HDMI) or streaming (an uncompressed stream that needs to be compressed).

So today we’re finally at a point where the pieces of the H.264 ecosystem have come together to form a common platform of acquisition and delivery. That deserves a celebration, but it’s also a reminder to all the players in the various segments to make sure their interoperability and adherence to the H.264 spec is of paramount importance.

Otherwise the frustration of “almost being there” will create as many problems as we had during the format wars.

The power of the audience

If you've taken a look at this blog you'll notice that the role of the audience (consumer) is underlined many times. Be it Peter Hirshberg, or Marshall McLuhan, Charles Leadbeater or Yokai Benkler- even John Cleese's blog and Seth Godin's comments on white bread, the audience/ consumer is recognized as being an integral part of the processes surrounding mass media.

What's my point? I guess I'm saying that New Media is a mass medium like TV or anything else and that understanding how the end user functions and feels is crucial in the creation of the communication loop.

It's not the Web it's us, it's not TV, it's us, it's not the film fest, it's us. How is this important? In designing any campaign of any sort- or even understanding and implementing copyright laws for the Internet for that matter- using the tools available to us today, you must engage an audience of consumers and there are many ways to do that.

Engaging an audience requires that we understand some of underlying dynamics of the various sub-cultures making up the audience. The speakers posted in this blog certainly address this very well. The most important thing to walk away with though is providing the audience with something to do, as Marshall McLuhan would have said. The reason the Internet is far more interesting to most people than Television is that it has been created to allow the users to decide for themselves where to go and what to see. It is the ultimate source of instant gratification to date. It provides the audience with New Improved TV!!!

Having said that, understanding what that means is crucial. Marshall McLuhan describing the advent of new mediums would say that the older medium is the content of the new medium. What he meant was in their beginnings Film’s content was the narrative- the novel, TVs content was the Film, to extend that idea the Internet’s content is TV. But we know, that’s only scratching the surface.

What McLuhan was talking about is the creator’s of these mediums initially impose a certain way of using a medium and that lasts until the audience takes control by creating there own content for these media. Sounds like what I call Technological Determinism and the power of the audience. Marginal enthusiasts take a medium and create content that suits there needs and desires- we call this cultural appropriation. Then, thought leaders and aesthetic leaders pull this re-appropriation into the center where it becomes a major new trend and best of all, copyright and legal ownership is imposed.

Back to the Internet: Web 2.0 is only the beginning, don’t believe the hype, don’t invest in any big ideas just yet, watch the those sub-cultures on the margins of the larger audience (i.e. consumer pool), and always try to engage your target audience by providing them a sense of empowerment. People need to connect- let’s help them do that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Le multiplateforme pour gérer tout le cycle de vie d’une production audiovisuelle: Entrevue avec Philippe Pelletier

Charles Prémont,
vol. 14 no 37 - 8 septembre 2008

Si les majors américains ont fait le passage vers la déclinaison sur plusieurs plateformes de leurs productions, il y a encore un bon bout de chemin à faire au Québec. Philippe Pelletier, Chef de service Nouveaux Médias chez Technicolor, met beaucoup d’énergie pour promouvoir l’idée que l’avenir n’est plus dans le DVD, mais bien dans le format numérique. « Il est temps de se demander comment le consommateur veut recevoir son produit. Autrement dit, il faut se mettre à gérer tout le cycle de vie d’un produit », dit-il. Une façon de penser les affaires qui, selon lui, pourrait être une réponse au P2P.

«Si on fait un modèle qui anticipe les capacités de chaque plateforme et qui mise sur ce que veut le consommateur tant en qualité de service et de prix, il n’y a pas de raison pour que les
gens continuent à aller sur des sites pour télécharger des torrents», dit Philippe Pelletier. Le problème réside selon lui dans le fait que l’offre qui se trouve présentement sur le Web n’arrive pas à la cheville de celle des sites de pirates. «Oui, aller télécharger des torrents, c’est long, mais tout est là. Si j’ai une boutique en ligne qui me permet d’acheter n’importe quel film pour trois dollars et m’offre du contenu exclusif en plus, pourquoi irais-je risquer d’attraper un virus sur un site de P2P», demande-t-il. Pour y arriver, il faut changer quelque peu la façon de penser son projet. «On peut vouloir faire un film, ce qui est très correct, mais on peut aussi vouloir faire un projet. Chaque plateforme a ses particularités et il faut savoir s’adapter à chacune d’elle si on veut en tirer le maximum. Aussi, l’ordre dans lequel on pense notre projet n’est pas nécessairement le même. On peut commencer par le film pour dériver vers le Web et le mobile, mais on peut aussi commencer par le mobile pour se rendre sur le Web et, éventuellement, à la télévision», explique Philippe Pelletier. Un bon exemple, selon lui, est Le Cas Roberge qui a profité de ses capsules Web pour promouvoir le film.

L’intérêt d’une déclinaison sur plusieurs plateformes réside dans la promotion de la marque. «Il faut faire ce que j’appelle du “brand streaming ”, c’est-à-dire qu’il faut reprendre la marque le plus souvent possible sur le plus de plateformes possible. Le but, c’est que l’idée circule pour diriger les gens vers les plateformes qui sont payantes. Quand on pense à une mise en marché de cette façon, il ne faut pas s’imaginer que toutes les plateformes seront rentables, mais bien que toutes les plateformes qu’on utilise contribueront à mousser les ventes de celles qui le sont», explique Philippe Pelletier.

Selon lui, le Québec est un microcosme idéal pour ce genre de modèle de mise en marché. «Les plateformes comme le Web ou le mobile se prêtent très bien aux productions à très petit budget. Il faut aussi penser que les plateformes sont accessibles à la grande majorité des gens. Faire que son film soit disponible sur le Web en format HD peut toucher plus de gens que d’en faire un disque Blu-Ray», dit-il. Les coûts pour décliner son produit sur plusieurs plateformes sont loin d’être prohibitifs à son avis.

Des obstacles technologiques et industriels importants restent cependant à franchir avant qu’un modèle d’affaires basé sur les multiples plateformes remplace celui qui est en place présentement. «L’important, c’est d’avoir une bonne boutique en ligne, une qui soit capable de soutenir un grand achalandage. Si on y offre des prix alléchants et des avantages, les gens vont se diriger vers le Web pour consommer leurs produits culturels. Le magasin iTunes est déjà un des plus grands magasins de produits culturels au monde. Ils s’attaquent directement au marché du DVD et je ne serais pas surpris qu’ils réussissent à le dépasser », dit Philippe Pelletier.

Selon Philippe Pelletier, la déclinaison sur plusieurs plateformes offre beaucoup de potentiel, tant dans les formats grands publics que dans les productions spécialisées. «Il faut arrêter de penser qu’il n’y a qu’une plateforme légitime pour son produit. Le Web et le mobile sont des modes de consommation faciles. Les gens de l’industrie se plaignent de la perte de revenu engendrée par l’Internet, mais ce n’est pas dire toute l’histoire. Quand des milliers d’admirateurs bloguent et mettent des extraits de notre produit sur YouTube, ce n’est certainement pas que négatif. Les humains veulent faire partie de quelque chose, ils veulent être au courant et vivre des trucs ensemble: on ne peut pas aller contre ça», explique-t-il.

Peter Hirshberg: The Web and TV, a sibling rivalry!!!!