Looking for Soccer Fan Videos

http://halbzeit.in/files/mediaplayer.swf

If you are a) into soccer (or fussball or football …) and b) own a cam corder (or a mobile which handles a video a bit better than my SE K610i), you’re invited to put your fan video on halbzeit.in, which translates into halftime.in and is our little video sharing site.
Why are we doing this? On YouTube, MyVideo, Sevenload, there’s already tons of fan related material. Sure. But a) we like soccer and b) we want to put the stuff on our tv channels (don’t try this with bootlegged flash encoded video material).
And not to forget c). Yes, on YouLoadMySevenVideo, there are already some trillions of uploaded videos. So your pretty cool fan action will have neighbors like this one.

The Bandwith Blob

Most telcos agree: the future of TV isn’t about broadcasting anymore. It’s on demand, IPTV, server based, what ever. The idea of the network as a programming entity will be replaced by networks as a technical layer, where the videos are hosted and delivered, and a social layers, which assists you in choosing programming you want to get.

Sounds godd – but has some ramifications. That’s why Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV As Vincent Dureau, Google’s head of TV technology, explained at the Cable Europe Congress 2007: The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.

Statements like this have always to be taken with a grain of salt. But to deliver high quality TV content you need either have to wait for multicasting to finally take off (whcih means just broadacsting). Or you need quite some barns full of servers and access to cheap bandwith (The Google Way of life). One nice looking solution might be peer 2 peer networking. Joost is doing a great job here, trying to push p2p from the digital fringe into the consumer mainstream. But mind that: currently, the biggest chunk of all Internet traffic is alreday related to p2p-file transfer.
How can you scale this as an ISP? Only if you own your network from core to edge, from backbone to the last mile. And you will have to host as many peers as possible, so that you can keep as much traffic in your own network. Even than, it’s a rat’s race. As one Cable Operator explained at the Cable Conference: People (Internet service providers) don’t like to talk about (the fact) that just to stand still, they have to invest.

Tom Evslin has a nice post on this. If we all shift to watching TV on the Internet, the total bandwidth (Internet and other) required INTO our homes will decrease and the load on the Internet backbone and the regional distribution portions of the Internet will be – well – interesting. Of course, his calculation is a bit misleading. Most of your home-bandwith of today, used for broadcasting, is one way traffic on a shared medium.

As there’s no such thing as a free lunch: where’s all the bandwith coming from? And who’s going to pay for it? That’s why operators want to build up their walled gardens. And charge everybody else for putting stuff on their networks. Question is: do we really want to upgrade the delivery network monopolies of today into virtual content distribution monopolies, with some wholly owned social networking attached?

Blaming Steve

May you live in interesting times. Naughty Steve tells the pop execes what’s wrong, and some are steaming. The probleme is. Steve Job’s arguments are rather flawless. And his contrarians sometime have to hide their real feelings behind the officialy rigid copororate points of view.

Jobs argument goes like this:
– The iPod plays music. The majors only want them to sell restricted music. They have a rather convincing 70% market share. So Apple offers DRM.
– Consumers don’t like restricted music that much. So they want to rip their CDs (In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves) and put them on their iPods. So Apples offers MP3.
By popular vote, consumers are filling up their iPods with unrestricted stuff (just 3% of the music listened to on iPods is bought at iTunes). Voilá: Forget about the DRM-thingy as the phantastic lock-in of the Apple iPod customer.

So why is Apple the undisputed leader in music download sales. And making gazillions with their shiny little iPods? Other people are selling downloads, too. As other companies built cutesy music players.
Music has always been a software/hardware business. That’s why Sony still owns a major part of a major label. The old thinking went like this: Own the software (A.K.A. music), push your hardware (your real money maker). Unfortunately, the walls of this fortress made out of love, money and eternal happiness crumbled a couple of years ago. The dematerialization of music (ooops, there goes the CD) lowers the barriers of entry into the music player market. Step into any electronics discounter, and you’ll find USB-sticks with head phones attached. Because technically speaking, all you need for a music player is storage and some cheapo computing power.
But now comes to the tricky part. The user interfaces. Yes, interfaces. Because you need two. One for the player (if it’s not just a sub standard iPod shuffle-like music stick). And one for the PC, which feeds/syncs with your player.
Ever tried Sony Connect? Do you think Windows Media Player is a masterpiece of usability? Here we go. iTunes is far from perfect. But it’s holy trinity of player, PC and managing software seems refined enough to make consumers stay. Of course, the brand isn’t that bad, either.

But is this a lock in? Probably not. Let’s have a look at the German market. The download market leader seems to be Deutsche Telekom’s musicload. Well, tons of tv advertising should have at least some effect. Now let’s look at the portable music player market. In 2006, 22% of all households now do own a portable MP3 player (up from 14% in 2005). High penetration you’ll find in the higher income bracket. Lower income brackets are finally slowly taking on.
This means: the early adopters are in Apple’s core market. The downscaling already starts. And with virtually all mobile handsets becoming equipped with removable storage and MP3 players, the scene will change dramatically anyway (Hello iPhone).
But let’s come back to the Jobesian argumentation. His point is clear and simple: we don’t want or need no steenkin’ DRM. And you guys just think you do. And why is this all coming up? It happened at Midem. Some industry execs couldn’t get stopped talking about DRM. Some people couldn’t get stopped talking about execs talking about DRM.
And with <a href="Midem“>The NY Times / Herald Tribune jumping in, the whole thing started to become really public. Because, as stated before: the public doesn’t like DRM either.

Why Steve is the better Bill

The music industry is an entertaining place. As honorary buffoons of the traveling trade show circuit, we were allowed to poke fun at their musty business models (“still trying to protect our flailing horse carriage factories since 1875”). Paint their potential saviours in gruesome colors (“some mobile network providers have higher earnings than the revenues of all you guys combined”). Or tried to scare the #%@! out of them by explaining some tech basics (“in 2010, a top of the line hard disk will be able to contain every piece of music which has ever been recorded – preferably preinstalled”).

It has been fun. But now it’s gone. The industry execs took over. They slaughter their holy cow DRM (well, almost). Make fun of their business models. Come on, it’s just not fair.

But why does this make Steve the better Bill? Read this: Apple – Thoughts on Music. And the we can talk about it a bit more.

PS The music industry is really an entertaining place. But people working in the industry tend to suffer from a very specific occupational hazard. They become a little bit hard of hearing.

Axel Ehssan Springer

OK, that’s a pretty German thing. Bernt von zur Mühlen asks in the media newsletter Medienbote: Where are the Web 2.0 Portal founders? Meaning: old media has had a tradition of reinventing itself from within. And gives some examples. Like Axel Springer (founder of the German multi billion Euro media empire Axel Springer Verlag). Or Helmut Markwort, reinventing for Burda the weekly news mag sector in Germany. Or Helmut Thoma, building up RTL from a softsex pirate station to Germanies leading tv network. His question: has old media now lost its knack? Instead of buildig up their future from scratch again, they buy their future.

Well, we talked about this one before. Real innovation (as in paradigm shifts) has never been the game for the incumbents. At least not in media. So he’s getting something wrong here. The founders are busily starting up their businesses. And the incumbents are busily picking the raisins. And everything’s just fine.

Bill sez: DRM s*cks

Well, of course he didn’t. But he meant it. Or how would you explain an advice like this, while meeting the politburo of the US blogosphere: People should just buy a CD and rip it. You are legal then. As Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington notes.

Now, what is this all about. DRM is a well loathed acronym of the digital entertainment world. Depending on your point of view, it either stands for Digital Rights Management. Meaning, as a publisher you can remotely control the access to digital data. Or Digital Restriction Management. Meaning, it’s a stupid/devious scheme to extend a business model of the 15th century (Johannes Gutenberg invents European movable type printing, thereby enabling mass media production) into the 21st century, which causes immense collateral damage.

To be honest, I understand both positions. Probably the most important digital media topic right now is the question of the content value chain. It’s a nice thing, that now everybody can get worldwide distribution. It would be even nicer, if this distribution could be monetized. In the current setup, producing user generated content means you become an active member of the attention economy. Attention economy always means, that all your efforts will pay out, if you get enough attention of a player with a more tradtional economic approach. It’s the American Idol model. Lots of people give their heart and soul, accept the possibility of public humiliation, to finally get an intern job at a global whatever conglomerate.

I theory, DRMing digital content would transform an infinitesimaly copyable digital file into ressource of virtual scarcity. Transforming it into a sellable good. Sounds good. Unfortunately, this just theory. In it’s current setup, DRMed content is cumbersome for consumers and adds layers of cost and complexity for copyright owners: choosing a DRM, licensing a DRM, paying for DRM – and paying for 1st level customer support, because the consumer does neither understand the tech nor the legal licensing stuff involved. And it can get worse. Just ask Sony BMG about its brilliant idea to infect consumer computers with black-hat-hacker-style root kits.

Of course, DRM is about Digital Restriction Management. Take a freely accessible set of data. Shrinkwrap it using DRM. And whoosh, you’ve restricted the total accessabiliy, and made those restrictions manageable, too. The concept is of course highly attractive. Let’s say, if you put some sensitive data on an intranet. In mass media, there a two different proponents. Traditional media companies, wanting to protect their traditional business model. And governements from überdemocratic countries like China and Iran. And that’s where the collateral damage starts. Because unfortunately, if you really want to shrinkwrap some media into a closed shop, you have to include pretty much all devices which potentially might be used to play such a file.

Which translates into: for protecting a nice old business model we put everything in place to jumpstart a dystopian surveillance society, modeled after Orwell’s 1984 and the East-German Stasi.

But I think, it really stands for Does it Really Matter. Correct me if I’m wrong. But even in a totally shrinkwrapped media world, you will have to leave some space for consumer produced media. Uncle Umpty will have to be able to make his dreadful birthday movies and post them somewhere in the digital realm. The next Robbie Williams will have to put some first moves and shakes onto a web site of his choice. And let’s not forget consumers. Yes, DRMed music downloads are picking up and the iPod saved the Apple. But the digital format of choice is still yer good olde MP3, no strings attached. When the Bill says: People should just buy a CD and rip it, he’s just stating the obvious. Guess where all the music is coming from, filling all those iPods. And the gazillion other MP3 devices out there in the wild, wild consumer world.

But let’s come back to the digital value chain. Is DRM evil? Nope. But it can be used for mighty evil things. So better be careful of the collateral damage. In its current implementation, DRM ist mostly stupid. Interoperability is a word consumers should not have to learn to hate (as it per se does not exist). DRM can be a nice thing in a confined setup. But it’s not a silver bullet. As a value chain of one chain link is a pretty feeble excuse for not being able to adapt to the brave new world of networked entertainment.