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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reflections on the Consumer Electronics Show: Video Content is Everywhere, But the Game is Changing

I got back from the Consumer Electronics Show last night...and one reason that I didn't post much to CinemaTech while there was that I was covering the show for Variety, which entailed scurrying around from keynotes to interviews to press conferences to the vast halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I was also a bit overwhelmed at how much is happening all of a sudden: at the show, there were new ways for video content to get onto TV screens, laptops, cell phones, and cars. (Motorola CEO Ed Zander showed a bicycle outfitted with a cell phone holster, too -- which I'm sure could play video.) I think of these as "connected screens," capable of not just receiving over-the-air or cable broadcasts, but of getting video content from the Net.

As of January 2007, it seems to me that the capability problem is nearly solved. Just about any new device must be able to show video.

But: distribution is still uneven, and marketing (getting your content seen) is continuing to get more difficult.

What do I mean?

Not all of these new products and services will let the user watch any piece of video content she wants; many are still "walled gardens," with content partners carefully selected. Content producers need to focus on placing their stuff everywhere that meets their needs (either earning revenue or building a reputation.)

And second, as more content floods onto these screens, it'll get harder than ever to get someone to sample your stuff, whether you are an independent producer or whether you are NBC. Once they've started playing a clip, your task is to hold their interest for more than a few seconds, since, unlike a television, these new devices are multifunctional. (When you get bored, there's always the option to play a game on your laptop, or use your cell phone to send a text message.) And in a world where channels are increasingly irrelevant, content producers need to pay attention to ways to build a loyal following, by building mailing lists, maintaining RSS feeds and blogs, or getting viewers to "subscribe" in some other way to a continuing string of videos.

Is there good news for video producers and media companies? With consumers letting more of these "connected screens" into their lives, they're going to spend more time watching video.


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