Google become the latest to distribute TV…

A few months ago I wrote a piece called Will subscription media kill broadcast? in which I stuck on the internet my long-held belief that the six major players in the distribution of pay-for video content online (the long-term replacements for large broadcasters) would be Amazon, AOL, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

If I’m honest, these predictions were not enormously hard to make, and it isn’t an enormous surprise to see the number of those companies that are distributing or have announced they are going to be distributing TV shows increase to four. Google are the latest to announce their plans to open an online video store (their press release). More importantly, it’s a completely open and neutral platform that will allow anyone to sell video (again – this time a litlte more smugly – as I predicted in this line, “If they have any sense, they’ll find ways to turn their hub status into a platform for a complete democratisation of content, becoming almost neutral intermediaries for large & small companies and creative individuals to put up and distribute their programming as they see fit.”)

The most interesting part of the whole enterprise is the debate about Google DRM. They’ve announced that the video will be DRM-able, but I’ve not had an enormous amount of luck finding out information about the approach they’re taking. Has anyone heard any more about this?

3 replies on “Google become the latest to distribute TV…”

Online video will only replace ‘broadcast video’ long-term if some enterprising company can get reliable set top boxes in people’s homes. Apple have had huge success encouraging people to pay through the nose for technology not becuase of what it can do, but because of how it works and what it looks like.
Can anyone replicate that success with a set-top box? I don’t think the online giants have the ability or the intelligence (yet) to deliver a product with the (relative) stabilty and ease-of-use that Sky or DirecTV have delivered.
IPTV will be niche until it happens. And even when it’s not niche, I don’t think we’ll ever see a global brand delivering it.
If the studios have any sense, they’d get together, set standards (as they’ve done with physical formats), and cut out the broadcasters/middleman. Why not release the Sopranos worldwide, simultaneously, via IPTV. Think of the money..

The fly in this ointment is DRM. A lot of us had this vague feeling that the tech industry would stick two fingers up at the content industry and keep everything open. But now the tech industry seems to want to become the content industry. Amazon, AOL, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Real and now Google have all jumped the fence and landed on the other side as content intermediaries no different from the old media businesses. So now they’re part of the problem not a potential solution. And sitting in the middle of all this is Intel who’s close ties with all these players mean that they’re more than happy to build in the hardware controls to support it.
Bye, bye, open computing.
What’s really puzzling about all this is that the old media businesses are struggling with falling or flat sales. Why on earth would these tech companies *want* to get into a business with falling profits, a dead business model and little future, attacked on all sides by disruptive tech? Even though iTMS is a great lock in that supports hardware profits, it’s a loss leader that barely breaks even in it’s own right. So that’s Apple’s excuse. What’s the excuse for all the others?

There was a line in the LA Times coverage that indicated that the google DRM currently only works if the player is online, connected to the internet while the video is being played.
In that case, I’ll bet it’s something similar to the copy-protection systems used for many games since about id’s Quake 3 and Valve’s Half-Life; an online “key server” which validates codes and who’s viewing what, “live”, as the video is cued up and played.
Since the online key server can act as a platform for trusted, known-insubvertable code to run, along with the video server, both being under Google’s control, it’s actually possible to build reasonably solid DRM on this model. That’s as opposed to the usual case, where a reasonably determined teenager can break it in a week of school-nights. 😉
also, +1 on what Julian Bond said btw! disappointing.

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