Television may still be a monolithic mass medium, but people are increasingly turning to mobile devices to view video as more content becomes available on screens not tethered to the living room.
The explosion of mobile video demand — projected to double annually through 2016, according to the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast — isn’t enough to mark TV for dead, but it’s a significant threat. Today’s audience has multiple screens and expects to shift between them without compromising the experience. As a result, producers who once created content for TV first or exclusively now must develop for viewing across many different screen types, from large HDTVs to Ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones. That shift has forced entertainment and media companies to adopt new approaches to producing and distributing content and measuring viewership across a variety of screens.
This multiscreen world presents huge opportunities for a video-savvy generation, according to Jim Louderback, CEO of San Francisco-based Internet television company Revison3, which was recently purchased by Discovery Channel for $35 million. Prior to the release of Tech Feed, a show for YouTube’s new channel network, the former journalist and cable TV show host shared his thoughts about how Moore’s Law is extending quality video entertainment beyond TV screens, and how digital video natives are pioneering new production and audience interaction.
Are mobile devices becoming the preferred way to watch video?
By far the biggest challenge for the mobile industry is bandwidth. We have a bandwidth crisis. What happens if I want to watch great-looking video and listen to music on my cell phone and my tablet as I’m roaming around? If everybody does that, nobody will be able to do it because there’s not enough bandwidth. It’s the tragedy of the commons. We’ll need something more like a Wi-Fi-oriented world, where you can actually plug into Wi-Fi hotspots that are a 100 feet or 200 feet of radius and are a much higher bandwidth than the cell system or 3G or 4G networks.
I actually see the phone as a transitional device that connects us to other people, allows us to communicate and access the world’s information and maps. But what if all of that stuff gets integrated into your body and the phone goes away? Maybe displays will pop up like holographs in our contact lenses or glasses. They are going be amazing things that happen over the next 20 or 30 years when the phone goes away.
What’s driving the growth of online video viewing?
All the screens in our lives, from the smallest smartphone to the biggest smart TV, are now video consumption devices. There are times when you can actually have a better viewing experience watching video on a tablet than you do on that TV on the wall. This is changing the way we consume entertainment because we can do it anywhere.
Just as Moore’s Law applies to computer processors, it also applies to screen technology. That means the number of pixels doubles every 18 months while the cost goes down. The iPads with Retina displays have more pixels than most big HD-TVs. More pixels mean a better viewing experience.
What are your viewing habits?
There are things I want to watch live and often I want to experience these with other people in a social way. These are best on the big screen, because it’s a big, shared experience. But there’s a whole other class of stuff that I watch that’s more personal. Everybody’s got their little personal things that they love to watch and they don’t tell anybody about. I don’t even like violence or guns, but I just love “Sons of Guns” on Discovery. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, like curling up with a good book. Then there are things we just put up in the background. I often run news or a talk show on every screen and speaker in my house so I can stay tuned in while walking around, then I stop and watch it wherever I want.
How is technology changing the entertainment industry?
What we’re seeing with technology and entertainment is similar to what we saw happen to music, magazines and newspapers. Before the Internet really become popular, if you wanted to be a writer and build an audience you had to go to somewhere like New York, join a magazine, start writing and maybe someday you’d get a column. What happened in the mid 1990s is that suddenly anybody could have a blog. You didn’t have to go to New York or L.A. or somewhere to make it as a good writer. The same thing is happening with video.
The Internet is allowing video entertainment creators to build an audience. This is happening in large part because computers are becoming so powerful, smaller and cheaper.
I grew up using a word processor and learned WordStar, MultiMate and Word like the back of my hand. Now teenagers and twenty-somethings are growing up as video editors. The democratization of having technology so accessible, growing up with it, having it be as natural and essential as water or like breathing, is giving young people an edge in creating great entertainment. It’s so easy now to distribute it and build an audience just by posting it to YouTube or Vimeo.
How has the Internet affected video production?
Before digital photography, the end of the entire cycle of making a picture was when you got the picture back from the photo processor. Now with digital photography, getting that image and seeing it for the first time is the beginning of the process. You get your digital camera, you see that image for the first time and now you can post it on Instagram to share with friends. I can put a funny filter or little word balloons on it and do all kinds of crazy stuff. There’s a whole process of things that now happens after I capture the image.
I used to work in cable at ZDTV, which became TechTV, where I was the host of a show. It was just such a race to finish the episode. When the episode was done, we were done with it. Same thing when I was editor-in-chief of PC Magazine. When that magazine finally went to the printer, it was done. Today, when my team finishes a video, they post it up on YouTube, our Revision3 site and other places online … and that’s just the beginning. About 40 to 50 percent of our content creators’ efforts happen after they post their video. My team has to interact with the audience online, reply to comments or share related content when the audience requests. It used to be that our job was done when we published it or when we posted it, but now it’s only half done.
The audience has changed because suddenly they’re interacting with the creators of content, and doing it in a collaborative way that influences the next thing in production.
This content was originally published on the Intel Free Press website.