Allan Leinwand, Venture Partner at Panorama and occasional contributor to GigaOm, recently queried as to whether the WGA strike represents an inflection point for online video. Specifically, he wonders if the strike will “drive mainstream America off their couches and onto their computers for new video content…[that] Mom and Dad would want to sit on the couch and watch.”
The principal value of television distributed over IP is its openness, so efforts to bring long-form, highly produced web-video content to the living room must embrace that fundamental value proposition with an interface that’s as easy to “surf” as my Time-Warner channel guide.
As New York Times technology blogger Saul Hansell has noted, we need a [functional] browser for TV’s. So far, nobody has come close and early debuts from this year’s Consumer Electronics show seem neat-o but not revolutionary. Applications meant to bridge the gap between internet and television are either too cumbersome, like VeohTV and Miro, or they’re too closed, like AppleTV, Joost and XBox. Until the experience of internet-TV shares the openness of the internet with the mindless passivity of traditional TV, Mom and Dad ain’t watching.
But that doesn’t suggest that there is no immediate opportunity in professionally produced online video. The writer’s strike is too far ahead of technology to create any noticeable shift in viewing habits for long-form, lean back content. If the picketers stick around for several more months, affording technologists the time to develop some kick ass, user-friendly device that spans the last mile, then long-form entertainment of the quality and style our parents are accustomed to viewing on TV will emerge.
More important, we’ve witnessed the emergence of an entirely new entertainment product. Trends change, and so has the entertainment medium.
As the experience of internet-entertainment has become more robust and dynamic, we’ve seen younger generations migrate from their living rooms to their desktop computers for entertainment. Hybrid products like iChannel and those created by Next New Networks are actually designed to be consumed in an active environment. The entertainment product becomes more than the videos themselves; it’s a multi-dimensional experience that links communities through various interactive elements…in addition to video.
We put our money on the emerging market of this new, dynamic entertainment product.