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Voyeurism and the future of Internet video

Taking reality TV to the next level is among the keys to success for young content companies, says Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire

By Bob Brown, Network World
February 08, 2007 02:04 PM ET

Network World - Boston -- Internet video of the future will be slicker, more widely distributed and more profitable, but the success of this medium to date owes much to pirates, proud parents and people who like to be watched or watch others.

So says Jeremy Allaire, formerly CTO of Flash-maker Macromedia and currently head of Brightcove, which provides technology that lets everyone from independent producers to major broadcast networks deliver video and other content over the Internet (Brightcove in January said it received $60 million in late-stage funding). His keynote address kicked off Wednesday's sold-out "Brave New Web" conference, a daylong discussion of where the Web is headed that was organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge and that was attended by about 400 people, including entrepreneurs, investors and academics.

"Voyeurism has sort of emerged as a new entertainment category," Allaire said. "I don't think anyone could have anticipated that. We had reality TV, but this is sort of taking it to the next level. The most popular content is highly voyeuristic, and that's something the Internet allows for on a global cultural scale."

Pirated content, which is "just consumers 'helping' copyright holders along" and people publishing videos of their kids' birthday parties and soccer games, also has contributed to the Internet video boom, he noted.

Allaire said that even though Internet video is getting lots of attention these days because of success stories such as YouTube, most people still don't appreciate the size of the opportunity. He said the global video industry is worth about $350 billion when you add up films, video rentals, cable, traditional broadcasting and more; and that the Internet video market "is truly a rounding error," amounting to maybe .01% of that revenue total. The Internet video market will be rewarded with a big chunk of change if it can shift even 5% of that global market to the Internet over the next 10 years, he said.

The growth of online video is being fueled by a number of factors, including the emergence of digital cameras, application-development technologies and hosting services that make it easier and cheaper to create and distribute video content. What's more, organizations such as newspapers and magazines (including Network World ) are themselves morphing into television programmers and video content companies.

"If you look at the share of dollars from that part of the industry and what percentage of their dollars will ultimately shift over to video over the next 10 years, it's pretty staggering," he said, pointing to Brightcove's belief that video on the Internet will one day be as ubiquitous as text on the Web.

Allaire said professional media organizations will have an enormous role in Internet video. Despite technologies that make getting video on the Web easy and inexpensive, "creating good video is really hard and really expensive," he said.

"What we're likely to see this year and next year is a flood of quality video programming coming onto the Web," Allaire said.

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