Channeling Online Video

YouTube and Yahoo Video claim to become more tv like. In a nutshell, the idea goes like that. Instead of just offering vast numbers of video files, you can subscribe to channels. According to Yahoo, a channel is a series of videos from the same source or user. If you like a channel you can add it to your Favorites page. YouTube-channels are somewhat similar. It’s just that every user (and his content) are defined as channels.

Of course, that’s not a textbook definition of a tv channel. As usually a channel wouldn’t rely upon a single source of content. But aggregate content of different sources to build a program stream, which is watchable.

Now listen to this. According to Reuters, YouTube wants to create a personalized programming experience akin to TV viewers surfing channels with a remote control.

On Read/WriteWeb, Richard MacManus ask himself: The “personalized programming experience” I can dig, but why compare that to tv channel surfing with a remote control? He’s right. Internet guys like to talk about video as rich media. Probably because tv (as the prime rich media example) is big and loud (and sometimes still stuffed with money. Compared to YouTube, any not too crappy cable channel looks like the rich uncle, with more people working on catering than YouTube’s total headcount).

But the real differences is not the quality of the content encoding (OK, YouTube videos tend to look like having been soaked in lukewarm dishwater for at least a week). The BIG difference makes the interface. YouTube et al rely upon the web, the richest interface you can get, displayed on high res screens, with keyboards and mice attached.

Remote controls are like keyboards poor cousins. Well designed for a single purpose, but not really versatile. So any interaction which is a bit more complex than switching channels and turning the volume down asks for pretty arcane user inputs. The screen as a displaying device is pretty much useless – if you want to display a certain depth of information. The resolution, be it PAL or NTSC, is abysmal. And even HDTV doesn’t solve this problem, as the viewing distance is too high. That’s why iTV or Video on Demand are such complex endeavours. You always have to reduce the information level to minimum, because there’s no way to display it anyhow.
Of course, linear tv ist still the 800 pound media gorilla – especially in terms of consumer hours spent on. It’s ubiquos, easy to use, totally ungeeky and sometimes even quite entertaining. And the imcumbent to beat in terms of spare time spent.

But what’s a personalized programming experience akin to TV viewers surfing channels with a remote control? Calling it channels might even be the right approach, as everybody understands the concept (a branded collection of content). But tying channels to content producers is quite off track. Even Spielbergs have their bad days and produce some stuff really do not want to watch. For a channel, what you need are aggregators, editors and program directors.

2 thoughts on “Channeling Online Video”

  1. you nailed it with this one:
    “Of course, that’s not a textbook definition of a tv channel. As usually a channel wouldn’t rely upon a single source of content. But aggregate content of different sources to build a program stream, which is watchable.”

    Great post!

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