The Impact of Internet Video

The last hundred years or so have seen the introduction first of silent movies, then of sound movies, followed by television and color television. Moving images have great emotional and iconic power, and these technologies have had great cultural and economic impact.

We’re now seeing Internet-based video moving into the mainsteam. Netflix, for example, offers portions of their library for instant viewing, either on a PC or on a TV set (with adapter offered by several manufacturers.) Ventures, such as Snag Films (Ted Leonsis, Steve Case, and friends), have arisen to focus on Internet distribution of particular forms of content. (Documentaries, in Snag’s case.) Other ventures are focusing on enablement of Internet video for mobile devices. Improvement in wireline and wireless bandwiths makes it all feasible and affordable, and devices such as the iPad will make it increasingly convenient.

I’d like to discuss the emergence of Internet video from the standpoints of: Its impact on the structure of various industries, the investment opportunities and risks that it may create, and most of all its potential effects on culture and on the political environment. For starters, a few hypotheses:

1)Cable TV companies are going to have some issues, as Internet video encourages subscribers to buy only the Internet “pipe” and not the high-margin a la carte channels and channel bundles. The planned acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast surely reflects in part a reaction to this prospect by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

2)Cable news channels, especially CNN with its massive and irritating presence in public places, are going to have more and more problems unless they get very, very creative.

3)There will be significantly increased distribution opportunities for new and lesser-known film-makers. Will making a film become as popular as starting a band?

The above are just for starters, and not particularly well-thought-out. Have at it!

8 thoughts on “The Impact of Internet Video”

  1. #3 is an interesting point and kind of happening via You Tube a bit, yeah? Do home movies for family and friends count, too?


    (This post also reminded me of the recently released Wiki Leaks video from Iraq that is causing so much consternation.

    Images are powerful whether they are accurate or not, and whether we think we understand what we see or not.)

    – Madhu

  2. I am not sure that the infrastructure is there yet to support a lot of internet video, i.e. enough to replace TV fully, but I think within five to ten years my tv will be toast.

  3. I think I already watch more video via internet than on TV, not that I’ve watched much on TV for a while. The real power is that video becomes more permanent and accessible via services such as Youtube. The politicians haven’t caught up with the fact that what they say will be saved, and they’ll be checked on it in the future, not just by the sycophantic media, but by We the People, the ones that matter. In the past, we may have “known” they lied, now we can confront them with it. The game has changed; I hope not too late.

  4. Just “by the way”: #

    YouTube takes down Hitler ‘Downfall’ parody videos
    – Daily News and Analysis

    Too bad, I loved them.

  5. An equally interesting consequence is likely to be changes to common lengths of video content. For a wide variety of more or less arbitrary reasons television content tends to be sliced (at least in the US) into half hour and hour long segments, and movies tend to hover around the 2 hour zone (give or take half an hour for the vast majority of films). As traditional modes of video distribution give way to the freedom of the internet I think we’ll see more and more diversity in media duration. We may also see a blurring of the lines between episodic “television” and monolithic “film”. We’ll see, have already seen, TV shows that are a mere 5 minutes an episode and we’ll see media of, say, half a dozen several hour long chapters, and we’ll see everything else in between.

Comments are closed.