Friday, May 11, 2007

Video Discovery 'Market Opportunity' from evoketv business plan

Here are parts of the evoke tv business plan written in May 2006 - exactly one year ago. It is interesting that despite everything that is going on in the online video space, there are no clear big winners in the video discovery space. I wonder whether that means the opportunity never existed, or that it is still wide open. In either case, I thought it worth while to post the "market opportunity" sections of the evoketv business plan:

eVoke TV

The Social Space Between the Internet and Your TV

May 2006

Executive Summary

eVoke TV provides an interactive space for media viewers to connect with each other, and to discover and organize their video content, whether it’s on TV or on the internet. Conceived around the idea of ‘Soft Convergence’, eVoke TV combines social media concepts with the traditionally static ‘TV grid’ functionality, to create dynamic communities around the video discovery experience.

Soft Convergence: With the rise of broadband connectivity, more and more TV viewers are watching television while connected to the internet. Many are using their wifi connected laptops to find programs to watch on television, or to look for more information about what they are watching. This virtual connection between the PC and the TV screen is what we call the soft convergence of media - there isn’t a physical connection between the laptop and the TV, but the laptop is helping us find content, and knows what we are watching.

Video Discovery: A virtual connection to TV/video media becomes even more relevant as we try to find the increasing amount of media which is becoming available online. Over the past several months, we have seen thousands of videos posted on sites like YouTube and, while at the same time, the major networks have announced that they will make more TV programming available on the internet. Yet, most internet technology companies have solely focused on helping to deliver that content, thus making sure that users have access to a plethora of choices, when they want it, and where they want it. Little has been done to help users make those choices, to help them find content they might like – in other words, to help them discover what they might like to see. That is the opportunity facing eVoke TV.

Our goal is to become the equivalent of the ‘TV Guide’, for this new era of quasi-infinite content choices. We know that current mechanisms for finding content, such as the traditional ‘TV grid’, are hardly satisfying, even to parse the few hundred channels available to us via cable or satellite. The new era of quasi infinite ‘on demand’ content choices, requires an appropriate form of content discovery mechanism, one that is based the dynamism of social media and leverages the rise of social networking.

Market Opportunity

Over the past several months, we have seen an astounding explosion of video content online. Not only have sites like YouTube and Google started to allow individuals and corporations to upload video content on their sites, but the major networks have all announced that they will be offering various popular TV programming available on line. Yet, most would agree that we are only at the beginning of this trend. Over the coming years, there will more and more video content available on line. Many great companies and technologies have positioned themselves to deliver that content to us – the Googles and Youtubes are hosting video content on the internet, cable and satellite providers are hosting it on their networks and delivering it via ‘video on demand’ services, technology enablers like Akimbo are helping content producers deliver it to audiences via the internet and cable, various transport mechanisms like TiVo and Slingbox are allowing us watch TV programming any where and at any time.

With all this investment in the technology of media delivery, we know that there will be a plethora of content available to us through various delivery platforms. But with all that content available, the next important question will be: How will we find our way through this jungle of content to watch something we might like? How will we discover ‘good’ content?

We believe that the companies that provide answers to this question will be in a position to become the ‘Google’ of video – the starting point of choice for consumers to find the video content they might want to watch. As such, the opportunity facing eVokeTV is not dissimilar to the opportunity facing search companies and online portals in the late nineties as internet text content was poised to explode.

Algorithmic Search vs. Social Media

The great winner of the internet “text discovery” battle (aka search) was arguably Google and its search algorithm. But search algorithms may not be the best solution to the “video discovery” problem. (Google’s own video search efforts seem to have taken a back seat on its web site, and although companies like Truveo, acquired by AOL, have shown that there is a market for algorithmic search, it is quite intuitive that algorithmic search is inherently disadvantaged in finding creative content. How can I search for ‘something cool to watch’?)

We believe that social media – that is, ways to find content based on the implicit or explicit recommendation of others – provides the most natural and efficient way to find creative content. We have all passed on funny video clips to each other, and we have all received a link to a YouTube video from friends. We rely on our social circle of friends to tell us about interesting content. We watch the TV shows recommended by our friends or the pundits and critics. We like to watch the most popular shows, just to see what every one else is excited by, and in the process, we can become hooked. Even YouTube and Google Video use community-based navigation (which allow users to see the most popular clips for example) to help us find interesting content. However, we know, be it only because of the very distributed and ad hoc nature of the internet, that neither YouTube not Google, will be hosting all the best video content.

During the past year or so, we have seen various companies such as and digg experiment successfully with social media methods of content discovery, by allowing user generated content to play a part in the discovery process. We have also seen social networking sites such as myspace create powerful ways for individuals to connect with each other online. We believe that the most successful video discovery websites will use lessons learnt from such experiments to create the most conducive environment for video discovery.

The relevance of Television

We also believe that the best place to start creating a guide to online video content is with the medium which currently hosts the most popular video content – that is, television. As the two worlds of online video and television video converge, and as the great technologies mentioned above allow us to see video on either venue, the best video guides cannot but incorporate television content.

There are several important reasons why television needs to be a critical component of the video discovery process. First, consumers are still watching a considerable amount of television programming – more than 8 hours a day according to Nielsen. Second, much of popular online video content is still directly related to television. For example, Saturday Night Live’s “chronicles of narnia” clip was downloaded more than 5 million times. CNN newscasts and online sports programming appear on both mediums. And many programs, such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show or Lost, are creating specific online content related to the original TV programming. Third, preferences in television viewing are potentially powerful indicators of preferences for online video content. Many technology enthusiasts are sci-fi fans. Someone who watches the Soccer world cup online may also be interested in the latest clip on YouTube showing soccer’s greatest moments, or for that matter, Nike’s latest funny soccer related advertisement.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, with tens or even hundreds of channels available to many cable and satellite television consumers, finding things to watch on television is almost as hard as finding things to watch on line. There is so much content available, so much of which we are not interested in, that current methods of finding television programming are quite unsatisfactory. The traditional ‘TV grid’, which shows us every program on every channel available is simply too cluttered. There is too much irrelevant content. As such, solving the video discovery problem on the hundreds of television channels, can guide us to solve the discovery problem when we are faced with quasi infinite content on line.