Internet TV Pulls Focus

Apr 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Broadcasters convention traditionally has been the annual show where station group managers and engineers convene to kick the tires on new technology such as editing machines, graphics systems and cameras.

Not anymore.

Now the confab, like most components of the TV industry, is as much about Internet TV production as it is traditional TV production. The rush to provide and distribute shows on the Web and on mobile phones has permeated the formerly equipment-centric show.

This year’s event was marked by the presence of Google for the first time, with CEO Eric Schmidt addressing attendees at a keynote session. Other headline speakers talked up digital video and Internet TV during their addresses, suggesting broadcasters now accept as a given that they will be transmitting programs on the Web.

While the show floor remained full of the stalwart equipment suppliers who have grown up in the business, many now also offer Internet TV solutions alongside their traditional fare.

“Everyone is fully aware of how quickly the Internet is becoming a TV platform and is bringing about a thought process among broadcasters that they now have to deploy multiple systems,” said Laurence Moskowitz, president-CEO of MediaLink Worldwide. MediaLink Worldwide provides content-protection tools via its Teletrax subsidiary and works with broadcasters around the world.

The proliferation of new technology is changing the broadcast business, said Shane Robison, executive VP and chief strategy and technology officer at Hewlett-Packard, in a keynote address at the show. “Creative professionals can try out new things. Information technology is opening up new capabilities and ways to realize their creative and artistic vision,” he said. “We will never claim to have any expertise in creating the great magical content. And we are not experts in structuring the lucrative distribution deals. But [information technology] is playing a bigger role because we have heard there are two critical things you need in the media and entertainment industry. You need speed and you need efficiency.”

According to Current CEO Joel Hyatt, who joined Mr. Robison during his keynote, the cable network is starting to incorporate digital asset management tools from HP to keep track of the vast stores of video that come into the cable network. Current TV, now in 50 million homes, relies on both network-created and user-generated content for its programming.

“We are building a large library of all short-form content, all of which we own the rights to, which we can distribute any time, anywhere, on any platform,” Mr. Hyatt said. “Now we have to develop a digital video asset management system. We are totally tapeless, but this system will enable any of our producers or directors, anywhere in the world, to have real-time access to all the content.”

Several companies announced deals at the show that could streamline Internet TV production. For instance, video compression software firm On2 Technologies partnered with video processing technology company Kulabyte in a deal they say will make the process of encoding content for Flash Video 16 times faster for content owners. Flash Video is the most common format for Web video.

Microsoft said it will begin testing a new video format called Silverlight for Web video, as its answer to Flash Video. A number of Internet video companies, such as Brightcove, Akamai and Netflix, plus Major League Baseball, said they’ll support the new technology. Silverlight should work for both Mac and Windows and across browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.

“We are a huge fan of Flash, but there are features content owners have asked for and Windows Media provides, like content protection, that should reduce casual piracy,” said Adam Berrey, Brightcove VP of marketing and strategy.

Also, as evidence of how traditional broadcast suppliers are expanding their capabilities to incorporate Internet TV tools, Tandberg Television said it has partnered with Intel to create a broadband TV solution that will let programmers develop and publish video content on the Internet.

As further evidence of the demand for TV when and where consumers want it, SlingMedia CEO Blake Krikorian said in a speech that 35 percent to 45 percent of use of the company’s Slingbox is in the home, not on the road. Slingbox lets consumers watch TV programming — live, from their DVR or from video-on-demand — on their laptops anywhere they are. “[Consumers] could be watching in the bedroom, outside while barbecuing, in the kitchen. Laptops or desktops are now sitting in the kitchen and people are using that to get TV into their home,” he said.