NBBC, Apple iTV and Brightcove

It's another milestone week for Internet TV.  A few thoughts on two important introductions, and how Brightcove differs and enables themes from both.

NBBC is NBC's effort to move from the packaging/programming business as a broadcaster and into the realm of distribution for other media programmers.  Following a model we pioneered starting last year, NBBC seeks to offer content owners a means to distribute their content through third-party websites, and gain a share in advertising revenue sold by NBBC or the third-party sites themselves.

While the details are not yet public, we of course agree with the approach.  Publishers of any size should be able to create syndication offers and generate revenue from the distribution of their content throughout the web.  We have long held that there continues to be a supply-and-demand problem in broadband media -- not the problem of lack of supply of broadband video inventory for advertisers (this is actually not the problem; a lot of broadband video remains unsponsored, largely because publishers have not yet figured out a proposition that truly works for consumers), but the problem of millions of websites who want to participate in the broadband media business, but where they themselves are not video producers.  Matching content from producers to micro-audiences that are interested in that content is one of the central problems Brightcove is trying to solve with our syndication marketplace.

Brightcove's free distribution network allows any publisher or affiliate to participate in this revolution in television distribution.  Publishers can create broadband channels or make single titles available for syndication, and have the option to either sell their own advertising in the content and share a portion with affiliates (not all affiliates are created equal, a lesson learned from e-commerce affiliate networks), or to freely distribute with Brightcove and leverage our emerging advertising marketplace to find advetising revenue, and share with affiliates and Brightcove.

Here are a couple of good examples:

- Reuters, the global news agency, operates a video affiliate network with Brightcove.  You can sign-up here using our self-service affiliate console, and integrate a branded player into your site.  Reuters sells the advertising in it, and remits payments to Brightcove for distribution, and has the option to share revenue with their affiliates.  This is a great way for any website, even a blog, to get fresh media on their site, attracting and retaining visitors, while also having the prospect of commissions for CPMs they generate. 

- HINCity.  A niche content example, this publisher of urban lifestyle content offers up multiple syndication packages to web affiliates, providing any website with a focus on movies, cars, and music with unique original content.  With Brightcove Prime (an offer from Brightcove now in beta), this publisher has the option of integrating ads from Brightcove into their content, and gets free distribution and a powerful publishing platform as part of the game.

We believe in an open marketplace for Internet TV, and as such anyone with compelling programming can create a Brightcove account and begin syndicating today.  Likewise, any website that wants to distribute these offers can also do so, pending approval by whomever they are requesting content from.

While still in an open beta, Brightcove's syndication directory recently opened with hundred offers from publishers using our beta service.  Expect to see a lot more action here in the coming weeks and months.  Got content?  Publish away. 

Suffice to say, we're excited by NBBC's focus on this space -- while some media companies may be comfortable distributing with one of their competitors, we also believe strongly that there needs to be an independent distribution platform that is open to everyone on the Internet and is not itself owned by a media company.

Another key point to make -- syndication should be but one pillar in any publishers Internet TV distribution strategy.  Typically, at the center of the strategy is the development of a branded broadband channel that the content owner can operate directly from within their own website.  Our vision is that the same distribution platform can be used to distribute your channels and content on your own website and third-party websites.  The result is a holistic approach to distribution, and a common asset library, packaging, advertising and reporting system to work across these pourous web boundaries.

Most of our thousands of publishing partners are launching their channels on their own websites, building community and loyalty and revenue.  We've highlighted about a hundred of them that we really like in the BC Guide, available here.  From major news outlets, to the most popular music artists, to shows on travel, cooking, short films, parenting, childrens content, teen shows, travel channels, comedy, and classic television shows, the BC Guide is a good entry into branded broadband channels -- subscribe to the RSS feed, as we add 2-3 new channels every day.

The other major news from Tuesday was Apple's introduction of movie downloads and the promise of the 'iTV' living room device.  It's great to see Apple starting to focus on the living room, emulating some of Microsoft's work over the past two years.  It will be interesting to see whether consumers are willing to spend $299 for a wireless media bridge, while they could also spend $299 and get a game/home entertainment platform, DVD player, and wireless media bridge all in one with the XBox 360.

This, of course, begs the much larger question of whether open platforms for digital media will win over the closed platform approach that Apple has taken.  Apple tightly controls their device, media formats / DRM, and retail distribution.  No one can create their own web-based services to target the device, the DRM format is closed, and to get monetized distribution through iTunes you need to directly negotiate a deal with Apple.

On the other hand, Microsoft has offered up a dramatically more open strategy -- anyone can make a device compatible with their formats and DRM (the DRM format can be licensed cheap and there are C and Linux implementations), anyone can build a media service that works with both.  And they offer up best of breed devices that have a shot at transforming the living room -- I like the XBox 360 as a living-room hub more than the 'iTV', which feels to me more like the various wireless media extenders that have languished in retail outlets.

I also like the Microsoft approach here because it allows a company like Brightcove to compete on a relatively level playing field with other distribution companies.  Which leads me to some thoughts on what it's going to take to open up paid downloads and digital media commerce on a mass-market basis.

The world of iTunes and Amazon Unbox is the world of the super-aggregator retailers.  They present large and effective distribution channels for media commerce.  When one compares the world of digital media commerce today with the broader world of Internet e-commerce, it's clear that we are only just getting started.  While Amazon represents the largest online retailer, they are but a small percentage of the global e-commerce market, which is populated with tens of thousands of merchants offering focused and specialized products -- from Nike.com with shoes, to Zappos, to SonyStyle's CE products, to the niche stores in every vertical imaginable. 

Digital media commerce needs that same diversity, which takes us back to the idea of an open marketplace for broadband media.  At Brightcove, we've focused on creating a pay media model that puts the content owner in control -- where they, rather than the retailer, sets the price for their goods, and where they can make those products available in their own branded digital media stores, while also distributing them products through distribution hubs and out through syndication to web affiliates that relate to their content.  Most producers and media businesses don't themselves want to be retail platform operators, so Brightcove brings to bear all of the pieces needed to operate these stores -- the system for managing content, offers, stores, transaction processing, collections and support, and media fullfillment.

The Brightcove model harkens back to the other dominant paradigm of Internet e-commerce, which are open marketplaces for sellers and buyers.  eBay and many others pioneered self-service selling platforms, enabling a long-tail of merchants, but also providing high-value to major brands and manufactuers who wanted an effective means to sell products while maintaining control over pricing, merchandising and inventory.  With Brightcove's pay media service and marketplace, content owners are in control -- over pricing, packaging, branding and distribution, while benefiting from a common underlying payment and identity system for media consumers, enabling consumer portability across publisher and content owner offers.

We've just started our pay media beta, and will be opening up to anyone who wants to sell digital media in the coming weeks.  You can learn more here and sign-up for the beta

Here's a fun example of the effects of such an open system.  Shipwreck Central is a niche broadband site focused on diving and shipwreck enthusiasts.  The founders run a successful television production company who over the years have created many shows for distribution on popular cable channels.  With the advent of Internet TV, they fathomed that they could effectively reach a global audience of diving enthusiasts with their own channel, offering free content and selling content for download.  It's a great example of the fragmentation of TV media that we're experiencing today. 

This week they launched their own digital media store, where consumers can rent shows for $1 and download them to their PC (and play them back on their TV with any number of already available $299 living room devices).  Using the Brightcove pay media service, they're able to launch this in a day.  Let 10,000 iTunes flourish.

The momentum behind Internet TV distribution is now unstoppable -- let's make sure that open platforms and open marketplaces can help keep this new medium true to the values that have made the Internet the first open global media and communications platform.

We look forward to helping -- stay tuned, we've got a lot to share in the coming months!