Video Services Evolution - Part 4 of 5

Rich Reader · March 23, 2009 · Short URL:

What, Where, When, and How

Reed Hastings - (Chairman and CEO, Netflix )  presented "Internet on TV or TV on the Internet?", the first of the afternoon keynotes at NewTeeVee Live 2008.  I transliterate without quotation marks, though have attempted to transcribe with a minimum of interpretation (which I may do onscreen).

In this fourth part of his presentation, Mr. Hastings assesses where video services are at in terms of offering the optimal user experience, and suggests a roadmap toward a standard that benefits everyone. He says that:

About 15% of what you want to watch is available on the web.

The way that you want, On Demand is at 100%.

The where you want is largely confined to the laptop, giving youth the opportunity of privacy.
Discover what you want. Amazon has been doing great work in helping people to find books, while Apple has accomplished much in music with the Genius Bar, just like Netflix has focused on personalization in movies and TV shows.
Overall, we're about 25% of the way toward what information to collect, how to use it, increase transparency and usefulness of all of our social recommendations, collaborative filtering, and other techniques.
In terms of what you want, we started out at zero a couple of years ago. With the advent of and Hulu and Netflix streaming, available content will grow in a normal linear fashion.
Where you want, it's “how does the web get to the TV?” It's a hard and interesting problem.
For Netflix, there have been a series of partnerships with XBOX, Roku, LG, and Samsung and TIVO
Each content provider has a unique proprietary encoding to the NetFlix interface. It's a resource-intensive, brute force approach.
It's too much work for the whole industry (thousands of sites on one side, hundreds of devices on the other side, requiring a custom interface for each of these hundreds of thousands of nodes) to encode all content for all devices. It's an N-squared problem that's slowing down the market tremendously between the devices and the media sites. We need a generalized standard for media companies to publish to and for device companies to support. Then we'll have lots of devices and media sites which can bridge to the television sets.
The problem with arriving at this type of standard is that from the time that discussing, drafting, squabbling over proprietary advantages, implementation, and roll-out is so large that it could take 1 to 3 decades. (ed. note: Is Mr. Hastings exaggerating the difficulty?)

The simple solution is to make the web the standard, and that the browser plays on the television. It's the web on television augmented with video codecs like Flash and Silverlight.
10 years ago WebTV failed. dial-up, SD, and remote tech sucked.


The new web-based video ecosystem is now ready to roll.  Broadband, HD screen, and (finally) real breakthrough will be in the remote (which will re-emerge at CES 2010 as a simplified onscreen pointer).  The WII is a good start except that it doesn't do Flash or Silverlight, and it's SD only.  Playstation is HD, but does not do flash. And the XBOX has no browser support. ROKU and APPLE TV are good as standalone solutions.

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