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Column: Spinning the Web on the TV Set

Welcome to the wild orgy of content.

The media ecosystem of Internet video, mobile entertainment and traditional television is turning into a mad, beautiful mess where everyone is a competitor and everyone is a customer.

As Maurice Sendak famously wrote in “Where the Wild Things Are,” let the wild rumpus begin.

The newest entrant to the wild rumpus is Clearleap, an Atlanta-based startup that is kind of like a Brightcove for TV. Clearleap is reverse-engineering the Web video model by bringing Web shows to the TV set.

OK, that’s been the holy grail forever, right? Sure, networks and studios alike have been trawling the Internet for the past three years in search of a hit that could jump from the computer screen to the living room, with most efforts failing spectacularly.

But Clearleap isn’t trying to incubate a hit show online and bring it to the TV set. As a technology company, Clearleap simply offers the tools to bring Web video shows to the television, where they’d reside either on video-on-demand tiers or as part of the lineup of a linear channel, explained Braxton Jarratt, CEO of the company.

“Our mission is to build the infrastructure to make the things people love about online video work in a TV environment, like the diversity, the choice, the immediacy, the ability to get personalized recommendations,” he said.

The company launched officially last week with a handful of unnamed cable and telco operators as initial customers. They’ll use the company’s Web-based technology not only to bring Internet video content to the TV, but also to deliver more traditional local and national programming.

For the purposes of this column, I want to zero in on the Web-to-TV business at Clearleap because it represents the latest shift in digital media. The great big playground of Web video has been built on the notion of democratization: People who couldn’t get a show on TV for whatever reason could make a show for the Web and watch it succeed. Now some of those shows are funneling right back to the TV.

We’re coming full circle.

And with good reason. There’s niche content living on the Web that can feed niche cable channels. For example, some of Clearleap’s customers are using the tools to program new linear local channels with locally originated content. “You could have a 24-hour high school sports channel by dragging and dropping content from different sources and creating playlists,” Mr. Jarratt said, adding that Clearleap is currently lining up content providers for the service.

The technology also lets content providers and service providers share in ad revenue from the shows. In that respect, Clearleap is an audience aggregator, offering access to additional eyeballs for ad-supported content.

With its Web-to-TV-to-VOD-to-linear channel offering, Clearleap is competing with incumbent equipment providers like SeaChange or Tandberg (where Mr. Jarratt previously worked), with over-the-top devices like AppleTV that let consumers access iTunes on TV, and companies like ActiveVideo that are also aiming to bring Web video to the TV. ActiveVideo, however, is working more closely with traditional programmers like HSN, CNN and AccuWeather and is focused on interactivity.

Like I said, it’s a wild orgy out there and everyone wants a piece of the action, any which way they can get it.

Comments (5)

To me, this is great news. I am a web content creator, and this is just another natural progression. I think it will foster a lot of local creativity, and could also bring communities closer.
I do have a lot of questions! Resolution being one of them, advertising another. Sounds good for advertisers, yet I hope that they can create a way to make it less annoying than traditional TV spots.

Sam:

Paradigms that work fine on the laptop/smart-phone are simply not optimized for television.
Lean-forward media is not optimized for the lean-back physical and social environment of the television - and visa versa. I suspect the major content developers and providers are waiting for winning solutions to emerge.

Jake:

Pretty interesting. I can definitely see the convergence of the two coming together. I own a VUDU Box and it is becoming more and more connected to the net everyday. They added YouTube recently and that has been a blast. People want interactive TV now, and product makers are starting to realize this.

It seems like a new player comes to this space everyday now, so clearly there is industry validation behind the strategies.

It's nice to see so many new distribution and monetization avenues opening up for content creators and owners, it's almost getting overwhelming.

It seems like a new player comes to this space everyday now, so clearly there is industry validation behind the strategies.

It's nice to see so many new distribution and monetization avenues opening up for content creators and owners, it's almost getting overwhelming.

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