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Streaming, is this the answer to Piracy?


By vishalsood - Posted on 13 July 2009

As a part of my routine reading exercise, I came across a recent blog post by one of my favorite personalities online – Fred Wilson.

In his blog post Fred discusses how streaming is getting the better of piracy.

I have to agree, once you get good quality content online, in a way that does not take too much time/effort, you are willing to pay. Netflix success is a great example here. Hulu is another testament to this and so are many other online services that deliver online video. It is appalling that sometimes the only way to get certain content online is by actually engaging in piracy. This has to change. It will.

Here’s a quote from the blog post:

Yesterday morning I was talking to my 13 year old son Josh. He's currently obsessed with the TV show Friday Night Lights. He's going back and watching all the old seasons. I asked him how he is doing that, expecting to hear "bit torrent". But instead he said "Netflix Watch Instantly". I was so happy to hear that and asked him why. He said, "bit torrent takes too long.

This is a great example of the fact that if you do streaming right, even 13 year olds would prefer that over their “top secret” torrent client. Doing streaming right involves good quality, great experience, convenience and good ROI for the content owner / distributor among other things.

I own a XBOX and I use it to watch movies with Netflix “Watch Instantly” service. Even though I feel the online catalogue for Netflix could be beefed up, I am still a fan of the service and ease of use is enough for me to continue being a subscriber. It is implicit the quality has to be good, which it is.

One more area that will give online streaming a much needed boost is Live Streaming. There were multiple technologies used recently to stream Michael Jackson memorial live. NewTeeVee (a popular media blog) has a great post summarizing them. The product I work on (Smooth Streaming) was used in one of these broadcasts (see screenshot below). On offer was a live stream of the event in HD. Now imagine all of remote MJ fans who wanted to be a part of the memorial but could not. This gave them a chance to be a part of the event.

MJMemorial

Here’s another example. In India we are crazy about cricket. Now, the most common way of watching cricket today (from here in US) is to look for a blog post and then follow links to watch live broadcast through a torrent based client. The quality of these broadcasts is at the best, pathetic. I know a lot of people in my friend circle who actually use paid sites to watch these matches as the experience matters to them. The point is that users are willing to pay for experience.

Fred also links to a related Guardian article that puts numbers to support the title of this post.

Once we have reliable and worthy streaming online, there would be enough avenues enabling monetization of the delivery and production. Here is a recipe:

  • Always remember, the first important thing is to draw attention on your site. To draw attention, the most important thing is to have good experience and quality.
  • Once you have that, traffic would follow.
  • To retain and grow traffic further, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could then bring social aspects to your site. With these tools, viewers on your site can share with their friends/followers what they are watching, participate in real-time discussions with them and thus increase traffic virally.
  • Once you have traffic, there are various well researched monetization models but I don’t plan to go into them here.

To summarize in Wall Street terminology I am extremely bullish on online streaming and shorting piracy.

Disclaimer: I work on the Smooth Streaming (part of IIS Media Services) and I love what I do.

Vishal Sood

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