Pay And Get-Paid Video Downloads For the Masses

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 16:00

We're only a few days into the year, but already video over the web is looking like it will be a red hot area this year. If last year saw increasingly numbers of users swapping movies over the web, this will be the year that the movie and television industry will really start pushing video downloads on the web.

Broadband has reached a critical mass, with more than half internet users now surfing on high speed connections, and content suppliers and search engines are racing to deliver their goods to us. Media corporations have no choice. They saw what happened to the music industry when it tried to ignore and then legislate away the mp3 phenomenon. In the end, the music industry realised it must adapt or watch its revenues melt away. So the movie and television industry is reluctantly feeling its way into the online world to avoid the same fate.

Most recently we've heard Rupert Murdoch, head of media giant News Corp., announce that newly acquired youth portal will be offering video downloads. He anticipates the initiative, which will start in the U.K., will see a million downloads a day.

From today, subscribers to Sky (run by Murdoch's son James) can download sports packages and 200 films, growing to 1000, including Spiderman 2 and The Day After Tomorrow.

Another big announcement came just this last Friday from Google. The big G is upscaling its video offering in a Video Marketplace. Google, which already had free video hosting for content creators of any experience, is rolling out Digital Rights Management (DRM), which allows content creators to charge users to download and watch their clips. The content creator sets the fee, and Google takes a 30% fee for any sale. Google will host video for free for everyone, but only select content owners can use the DRM service so far. Google says on its web site that it hopes to make this feature available to the public soon. Flagship programmes on Google Video Marketplace are ITN, who are providing news and historical videos, as well as television content from US network CBS. Look out for episodes of popular crime series CSI, music videos from SONY BMG, Star Trek, and more. Fresh new content is promised "each day."

Both Apple's QuickTime and Microsoft's WindowsMedia have DRM systems built into their video software technology. But while their sites are brimming with television shows, pop promos, movie trailers, there still a sense that you are the consumer rather than the consumer-producer. Neither appears to be offering the general public free hosting services through their sites, let alone a DRM service. You have to pay an ISP who specialises in video DRM for that.

While Google's ubiquitousness is becoming disconcerting - it's rumoured to even be working on a new operating system to rival Microsoft - Google video pulls for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides high-resolution video hosting free accounts (if your video is very bandwidth intensive and/or hugely popular, Google says it will charge you a fee, after giving you prior notice). Google is rolling out DRM services for videomakers, as already mentioned. While critics suggest that Google should have used an existing DRM technology (Apple or Microsoft) rather than a proprietary DRM, there is no fee for the software for rendering your clip for Google Video. Apple charges filmmakers $30 to use its QuickTime Pro video rendering software.

Google's biggest weakness, ironically for a company that made its name for search, is its video search engine. In my experience, Google's video search results lack relevancy, and many of the listed video clips are often not available. With so much at stake, and video search engines such as Yahoo!, Apple, Microsoft, and the vidsearch specialist Truveo all looking to improve their offerings, I'm sure Google is rectifying that situation rapidly. As I wrote that I realise in one respect it is, Truveo just got bought out by AOL, of which Google owns a 5% stake.

DRM vs. Open

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