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"Video is now over half of all traffic on the Internet," said Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire in his keynote at the recent Online Video Platform Summit, sister-conference to Streaming Media West. "Everyone is an online video publisher." But not everyone can get into your living room, onto the family's "premiere device" - otherwise known as "the television set" -- yet.

Family watching television 1958
By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood's Shadows

It was November 3, the day after Election Day in the United States. From my seventh-floor Los Angeles hotel window, I looked out at the city sprawled beneath to the ocean and to the south until the bend of the Earth, basking in the shadows of the nearby Hollywood Hills. It was my last day there, and since video has been a recent departure for me technologically - and very key to an internal video sharing project I'm leading - I was trying to assimilate what I'd learned.  The powerful influence of TV and its growing challenger online video were both paramount at the conferences, but the intersection between the two is still a matter of murky alchemy.

When Rishi Chandra, Product Manager for Google TV, took the stage the day before to keynote about Google TV ("TV, apps, search, and the web... together at last. Your TV just got smarter"), he began with the story of recently trying to convince his son to watch him on TV in an interview. His son was unimpressed: "I see you on TV every day, Daddy."  To kids, television is YouTube, YouTube is TV, and anyone can be there (and increasingly is there), anytime. From any place.

"My son has no concept that his dad might NOT be on TV -- he's got his own YouTube channel and sees us 'on TV' all the time," he said.

Chandra then traced the history of the "long-tail" of TV content, explaining that when cable hit broadcast TV, it essentially blew open a while new distribution platform.  Now, "The internet will do to cable what cable did to broadcast - many many times over. We're at the beginning of a revolution where TV content can be personalized - the web is a channel on your TV," he said.

Through all of this, he took pains to insist that Google is not, however, posing a threat to cable TV (see the Variety article written by my table neighbor for a recap on that slant). According to Chandra, TV should make the Web better, and the Web should make TV better. "We are not looking to replace cable -- but to add to it." In Google's world, the distinction between online video and TV video goes away. "You're just watching TV."

However, at the end of the presentation an audience member asked what I took to be the Question of the Hour and a whole lot longer: "So how do you define 'television' in this new world?" Is it just video content in your living room? Or a whole lot more? Chandra said he didn't know the answer but was pretty sure it's a revolution. YouTube is phenomenal, he said, but "TV is the premiere device in your living room, and if Google's having trouble getting into your living room, EVERYONE's having trouble."


The Answer Is Mobile

The answer may lie in the device itself, if you study the overriding messages from major players at the conference.  Chandra hinted at this, and certainly Adobe was on-hand to talk about how, current politics aside, Flash really is "device-anywhere."   Senior Director, Product Management Jennifer Taylor did a bang-up job live-demoing Flash video on a variety of different devices, nevermind that the conference connectivity did not support her in the endeavor. 

First, she demoed a movie from YouTube about HTML vs. Flash on a Google TV box. Then she went on to pull up Flash video on her Droid. As to how Adobe feels about HTML5, their main talking point is that HTML5 *is* HTML, and "Adobe has always been an HTML company," said Taylor.  Elsewhere at the conference we heard the sentiment that Flash not going away for the foreseeable future:  "For the foreseeable future, we're going to be seeing hybrid Flash / HTML5 applications," said Kaltura's Zohar Babin at an earlier HTML5 workshop.

And Back To My Living Room

Finally, Taylor talked about a partnership between Adobe and HBO GO, continuing the theme of wanting to get into our living rooms.  Friends, everyone wants into your living room: Perhaps TV IS your living room.  Or perhaps the new TV is really the iPad, if my six-year-old daughter and Rishi Chandra's son are right.  Because who can pick up a television and touch it and swipe it and tilt it to get it to work?

Nobody drove the case home better for the amazing growth of online video and its venture into my living room than Jeremy Allaire.  His keynote was called New Video Landscape: Multi-Platform Distribution, Monetization, and Fragmentation - and it should be online here sometime soon. From his richly statistically-backed presentation, these were some of the key "wow" points for me:

  • Video is now over half of all traffic on the Internet
  • Vevo and Facebook are 4th and 5th for video consumption
  • But the "rest of the web" for video is still nearly half the providers - companies like his Brightcove
  • Use cases of online video are becoming as broad as use cases for the Web
  • 60% companies plan to spend MORE on video initiatives in the coming year
  • Lots of growth and enhanced sales traced by using video marketing / commerce applications
  • Problem: platform / device fragmentation
  • Social growth of video content discovery -- discovering content by virtue of who you know (Facebook / Twitter) - big driver of video growth
  • 120 million US homes will have Internet-connected TVs by 2024 according to Screen Digest 2012. "And that's conservative."

These messages are so universal to business that any enterprise can hardly afford to ignore them. Content growth is exploding and mutating in the real world at the intersection between TV and the Web. Video platforms need to be sophisticated machines in any enterprise.

You Can Lead a Television to the Web, but ...

The final key point for me came from Chandra: In world of unlimited content, "Programming and curating content become more important because sometimes people don't know what they want." I can't help but wonder if this is what the masses really *want* from their TVs. Isn't part of the TV phenomenon just sitting and consuming?

In my room that night before after thoroughly scouring my Twitter timeline for election returns, I did something I never do at home, since I don't have cable TV: I switched on the TV, and just watched. I had had enough of the "real-time" world from my other channels, and I was ready to switch it off. Will I make the flip to look to my television device as the interactive real-time sensor I count on in my hand-helds? Will your content be there when I do?  I drifted away; my sleep was disturbed.