Adobe Media Player: Nice Features, No Content

AmpCliff Edwards recently wrote this insightful BusinessWeek article about the Adobe Media Player.  I'm a sucker for the latest online video service so I thought I'd give it a try.

The verdict?  Sure, it's yet another nice, slick utility that shows a lot of promise, but where's the content?  The product's home page features a video of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show (one of my favorites), but the service currently offers zero Comedy Central videos (these are listed as "coming soon").  There's a fair amount of content that you're likely to find on a variety of other services, but nothing special to lure you in to the Adobe platform.

On the plus side, if you're a fan of The Twilight Zone, as I am, you'll find a great archive of the Rod Serling classics.  Commercials are included, but hey, we didn't even have remote controls or color TV's (let alone DVRs) when these things originally aired!

YouTube Cutting Deals

Maybe Mark Cuban is wrong. Maybe YouTube can actually work things out with all the major copyright holders of the content that’s spread all across YouTube’s site. According to this announcement, UMG, BMG and CBS have all signed on to be partners with YouTube.

What a difference this is from the Napster days when the RIAA and all the major labels did everything they could to squeeze the life out of anything that smelled like unauthorized distribution. Kudos to the video industry for realizing that YouTube has significant momentum and there are real benefits to partnering rather than trying to crush them.

I wonder how much of an impact these deals will have on the look and feel of YouTube in the future. Here’s an interesting tidbit from the article noted above:

It also includes technology that will allow CBS to find unauthorized CBS content on YouTube and remove it, or choose to keep the content up and stream advertising next to it.

If this technology actually works, you’d think YouTube would allow its other partners to use it as well. The problem is that most people going to YouTube are more interested in seeing unauthorized clips from The Daily Show than they are in seeing cousin Billy take his first steps. The more deals YouTube can sign with all the key content owners, the faster those illegal clips will be replaced with approved versions; the latter will undoubtedly feature more pre- or post-roll ads, of course.

I wouldn’t mind more advertising on YouTube clips. In fact, if they sign up enough networks and other key content owners, I might just do away with my DVR. Why would I continue paying my cable company for content I can see for free online, especially since that would also mean I’d get to see it anywhere I happen to be with my computer, not just in my house?

Cuban might still be right, of course. It only takes one unhappy copyright holder to create a mess. But, I’d say things appear to be very interesting for YouTube, regardless of whether the Google rumors turn out to be true.

Mark Cuban Predicts YouTube’s Demise

Mark Cuban points out why YouTube is going to suffer the same fate as Napster: Copyright issues. It’s been interesting to watch YouTube become one of the most highly trafficked websites around, especially with all the copyrighted content that they serve up.

Perhaps YouTube feels that they’re protected because they publicly state that (a) if you’re uploading content you need to hold the copyright to that content and (b) they will remove anything that was uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission. OK, that’s YouTube’s stated policy, but it doesn’t take long to find countless videos on their site which clearly violate that policy.

So is YouTube doomed like Mark Cuban says it is? I don’t think so. Unlike Napster it appears that YouTube is working to partner with content owners. See this announcement regarding YouTube’s deal with Warner, for example. Will that prevent other content owners from suing? No way.

I think it’s smart for Warner and others to strike a deal with YouTube. That doesn’t prevent them from hosting content on their own site or cutting deals with YouTube competitors. The fact is YouTube gets a boatload of traffic, so assuming the content owners (Warner, in this case) feel the numbers make sense, why wouldn’t you partner with YouTube?

One final question: Why do you suppose Cuban singles out YouTube and doesn’t mention the same problem with Google Video, for example? That seems odd to me.

Amazon Unbox vs. Mickey’s iPod

It’s nice to see the experimentation by Amazon and Apple. I certainly like the notion of bringing all this digital content to the television. I’m just not that sure it’s going to be that big of a deal.

First of all, it’s not like consumers are starved for movie options. Loads of choices already exist. Besides the Blockbuster in every neighborhood, doesn’t every cable and satellite service already feature a fairly extensive list of on-demand/pay-per-view choices? Sure, they don’t offer every single movie ever made, so the Unbox/iTunes solutions bring the long tail into play, but I still have a hard time thinking that’s significant in this business.

Some would say Unbox/iTunes addresses the need for instant gratification. I can see where that plays a major role in some industries, but hasn’t Netflix shown that folks are quite comfortable waiting a day or two for a movie? I don’t know that instant gratification is such an important factor with movies.

Portability.  That’s critical, right? After all, everyone wants to watch movies on their portable devices. Yes, I’ve seen people on planes and elsewhere watching movies on laptops and portable DVD players, but that too seems like the minority.

Then there’s the whole “if you want a Disney movie you can only get it from iTunes, but for everyone else you can go to Amazon, but keep in mind the Amazon ones won’t work on an iPod…” issue. Yuck. I can only hope both organizations figure out how to make this more seamless for consumers who only care about watching a movie, not corporate politics.

Btw, if the Apple solution takes off, it will be yet another remarkable case of Steve Jobs being able to rope people in to a highly proprietary (closed) system. Wow. I thought those days were well behind us, which of course is why I’ve never bought an iPod and never will.

Warner Brothers Announces Studio 2.0

Isn’t this whole “2.0” thing betting a bit old? Now Warner Bros. is launching a venture called Studio 2.0 to create totally new content for broadband and wireless devices. FWIW, I think it’s the right approach. As I’ve mentioned before regarding the book industry, you’ll only get so far repurposing content to a new platform; the real advancements will only come when you build the content around those new platforms, not just repurpose something else.

Although it’s not apparent in the story linked to above, I hope Warner decides to go beyond just creating all the content internally and leverages the community in some of this. Yes, YouTube is filled with a lot of junk, most of which nobody cares about. But, there are plenty of talented writers and video professionals (or wanna-be’s) who could probably also contribute to Studio 2.0’s success. At the very least, Warner should have some part of Studio 2.0 focused on finding and signing all the new talent that continues to emerge on this front.