feel confident in saying that the year 2000 will be a breakthrough
year for the video Web. I don't mean that the world of online video
will fully "come of age" this year, but there is little question
in my mind that this new video platform will soon establish itself
as an even more vibrant, viable and strategically significant component
of everyone's ever-morphing Net experience.
opinion was underscored by the intensity of December's Streaming
Media West conference and exhibition in San Jose. First off, 1999's
Streaming Media West show was roughly ten times the size of the
previous year's inaugural event. Secondly, December's
event was blessed by the "pope of high-tech," non other than Mr.
Bill Gates, who gave the opening
partially as a result of Mr. Gates presence, the show was a veritable
frenzy of activity involving Internet start-ups as well as established
video vendors. A virtual barrage of announcements melded online
video programming developments with new hardware and software releases
and an amazing array of new service offerings that will make webcasting
easier and more accessible for everyone from high-end entertainers
to entry-level video enthusiasts.
month's feature-length Video Web column is an overview of the state
of the streaming industry, and I will use some of the announcements
and business developments that were revealed at the Streaming Media
West show to illustrate the trends that are transforming this still
GATES' OPENING ACT
Mr. Gates emphasized in his Streaming Media keynote, he and the
other players are putting the pieces in place for your video Web
productions to reach a target audience "anywhere, anytime and on
any device." Detailed descriptions of the array of new set top boxes,
portable electronic devices and easy to use networkable cameras
would require an article of its own. (For more on this, please see
December, 1999's Video Web column, "New
Camera Gadgets' Network and Edit.") Mr. Gates'
prime example was video playing on a palm top Casio Windows CE device.
hard to believe that an "industry" that's only four years old (the
world of streaming media) can be growing so fast. Yahoo
Broadcast.com founder and CEO, Mark Cuban, whose keynote immediately
followed Gates, quipped: "After only four years in the streaming
business, who would have thought that I would have Bill Gates for
my opening act?" Cuban also pointed out that there is already more
video currently available -- more titles, more segments, more video
everything -- on the web than in the biggest Blockbuster store.
Bottom line, just as people are fond of saying that "the Internet
is changing everything," with the increasing accessibility of broadband
connections, the world of video communication and distribution is
being unquestionably and irrevocably altered. And "we ain't
seen nothing yet."
to a press release from Play
Inc. announcing its new PSMG Affiliate Program (see below),
"With 137 million homes broadband ready, analysts from Paul Kagen
Associates forecast that the market for Internet broadcasting .
. . will be just shy of $20 billion by 2008." PSMG's VP of business
development, Stephan Bouchard adds, "The potential for content creators
and advertisers is staggering."
the biggest component of the video Web's growth is the rapid
deployment of broadband Internet connections in offices and in homes
by every conceivable from of telecommunications and cable company
-- and with wireless broadband just around the corner.
service provider InterVU's
marketing VP, Stephen Condon told me that just a year ago, none
of their webcasts offered a high-bandwidth stream. Now, not only
do they offer 300Kbps streams as a matter of course, but they are
also finding that the broadband versions of their streams have become
the preferred data rate. Condon said that a majority of users who
are accessing events hosted by InterVU are requesting at least the
100Kbps stream. This is a result of not only the growing proliferation
of cable modems and DSL connections, but also the number of users
who are accessing webcasts via corporate and university networks.
the continued enhancements to the streaming world's network infrastructure
(which Gates referred to as "provisioning networks in a rich
way") will take years to complete. In the meantime, an increasing
number of service providers including Yahoo Broadcast.com, the Real
Broadcast Network, InterVU, iCast, Akamai and many others are providing
increasingly massive hosting capabilities for large scale webcasters
who are attempting to reach relatively mass audiences.
this dimension of the video Web's explosion, the debate over
distributed unicast networks vs. multicasting, live vs. on-demand,
more choices and variable levels of service, will continue. I offered
a preliminary overview of some of these issues in my article on
the QuickTime TV launch (see "The
Pomp & Promise of QuickTime TV," Videography, September
1999) including a "second opinion" from Yahoo Broadcast.com's Mark
line, remember that the web is extremely multi-faceted, and that
it should never be thought of as "one thing." This may
be even truer for the world of webcasting.
VIRTUAL BIG TOP
year foreshadowed this year's entertainment developments with the
massive distribution of the Star Wars QuickTime trailer, keyword
accessible archives of Clinton's Monica testimony, and the Victoria's
Secret Super Bowl promotion and webcast.
is proving that the video Web is ready for prime time by gearing
up to launch the first streaming, pay-per-view movie service targeted
to broadband Internet customers. Currently a limited sampling of
movies is available on a preview basis, but the service promises
that 750 feature titles will be available when they do their consumer
launch this Spring.
more big-name entertainment players are working in the wings, getting
ready to make their entrance during the next year (or so). As already
demonstrated by Atomfilms.com,
most free webcast content will be short-form. This is also reflected
in the plans of the Dreamworks SKG/Imagine Entertainment and their
start-up entertainment site, Pop.com, as well as by the Warner Brothers
e-enterprise, Entertaindom.com, among others.
same is true for South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker
who recently got the ultimate in webcast compensation when they
received an equity position (stock) in an Internet start-up. The
South Parkians are slated to develop a series of 39 short cartoons
exclusively for Macromedia's shockwave.com entertainment site (see
Innovates Web Media," Videography, July 1999).
importance of being able to search for "the news you want,
when you want it" was most dramatically demonstrated last year
by Virage and AltaVista during the Clinton impeachment trials. This
approach was further validated by Reuters who used the Streaming
Media West show to announce a $20 million dollar equity stake in
Virage, the Web-oriented video search and video indexing software
my opinion, all of this content development and acquisition activity
is just the start of something big, WAY big. Big enough to make
Barnum and Bailey blush.
Streaming State of the Video Web continues on the Next