12 to Watch: Jennifer Feikin

Jan 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In 2005 virtually everyone in the TV food chain-content owners, technologists, distributors-scrambled to figure out their Google strategies and how they align or compete with the Internet giant. Now, in 2006, the seemingly invincible Internet search engine has marched into the television industry with the introduction this month of the Google Video Store with a lineup including CBS, the NBA and smaller content providers.

As director of Google Video, Jennifer Feikin is charged with making the company’s video vision a reality. When Google Video launched in early 2005, it was simply an extension of the company’s search capabilities. Today Google Video is more than a search service for online video, though that’s still a critical function. It’s also an entirely new distribution platform for content.

That’s where Google is likely to strike fear in the hearts of traditional distributors such as cable and satellite operators, who have seen the broadband platform emerge as a viable competitor over the past few months.

That’s because the new Google Video Store is completely open. It allows content providers to set their own pricing and copyright protection, and anyone with video can upload it to the service. Video is available to rent or buy, and some is free.

This new iteration of Google Video represents a giant step forward from its beta test at the start of 2005, when Google ticked off some content owners who claimed their video was used without permission. Google subsequently retooled its approach to reach out to Hollywood and content owners, asking for their cooperation to offer their content online. That’s where Ms. Feikin comes in.

She has been working with content owners during the past year to develop Google Video Store, which appears to be a dream platform for content providers because they completely control the parameters, while Google simply offers the storefront. The revenue split of 70/30 also favors the content provider.

Despite the surfeit of activity over the past several months to offer TV content on the Internet, online video is still very new, Ms. Feikin said. “If all of the world’s video was online today, there wouldn’t have to be this group. … It would just be a part of our regular search results. There is only a very small percentage of the world’s video that is on the Internet. I feel we are at the very beginning of something that is going to be absolutely huge.”

Google faces hurdles in meeting its lofty goal. Competition is rampant; other portals are serving up video while content providers also offer video on their own Web sites. In addition, content must be digitized and rights secured.

But the “unprecedented movement” in late 2005 to offer video online indicates content owners are growing comfortable with those issues, Ms. Feikin said.

NBC Universal, for one, spent considerable time in the past few years cataloging the rights associated with its TV content and has recently struck deals to offer such content on video-on-demand, the video iPod and peer-to-peer file sharing.

“One of the things that has changed in last two years is a real sophistication to understand technology,” said David Zaslav, NBC Universal Cable president. “Technology is becoming a significant means for delivering content and is likely to become more significant.”

That’s why all eyes are on Google.

At A Glance

Title: Director, Google Video

How long in current position: 18 months

Year of birth: N/A

Place of birth: Baltimore

What to watch for: Google will need to build on the big splash it made at the start of this year with the introduction of the Google Video Store at the Consumer Electronics Show. Expect deals with more high-profile TV rights holders and smaller content players. Content providers will want to see strong consumer usage.

Who knew? Ms. Feikin lived in Malaysia in 1990 on a Henry Luce scholarship. While there she worked to strike down Malaysia’s mandatory death sentence for marijuana trafficking.