My TV, My PC

For years I’ve been my own best Guinea pig for testing new tools, technologies, techniques… anything I could use to tell a story or that might impact my customers and audience. And because of my first career as  producer and director, web video has held special interest that way.

Years ago when a defense industry client introduced me to Internet protocol networks, I saw the possibilities immediately and asked their lead engineer, “Can this handle a digital video signal?” His response, as clear to me now as it was then, was “Sure it can, but nobody’s interested.”

But I was interested and thought others would be too because, as an independent producer, getting an idea, script or finished program past the myriad gate-keepers between me and my audience – studios, theater booking agents and network programmers – was like running blindfolded through a densely packed minefield. And the thought delivering my shows directly, without an intermediary, was intoxicating. So two years later, days after finishing the music special Caliente y Picante for Home Box Office, I started my first digital media product development business.

Fast forward to the present and my vision of 20 some odd years ago has largely (finally!) materialized. To whit, the media monitoring company comScore released this excerpt from their Video Metrix service:

RESTON, VA, January 5, 2009 – comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released November 2008 data from their Video Metrix service showing that U.S. Internet users viewed 12.7 billion online videos during the month, representing an increase of 34 percent versus year ago. Other notable findings from this report include:

  • 77 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The average online video viewer watched 273 minutes of video.
  • 97 million viewers watched 5.1 billion videos on YouTube.com (52.3 videos per viewer).
  • 52.5 million viewers watched 371 million videos on MySpace (7.1 videos per viewer).
  • The duration of the average online video was 3.1 minutes.
  • The duration of the average online video viewed at Hulu was 11.9 minutes, higher than any other video property in the top ten.

Add to this the imminent demise of analog television, the beginning (in this country) of video streaming to mobile phones and PDAs, and the empirical observation that the younger the viewer the more online video is viewed, and you have a sea-change. Of course the flip side of all that change is huge opportunity for producers, creatives and viewers. What, me worry?

As I have with other new tools, technologies and techniques I’ve tried to observe my own behavior with web video to understand what works, what doesn’t and where the opportunity lies. What I’m finding is that, instead of tuning in to network or cable television, my attention is largely drawn to the (mostly) edgier fare that can be found online. After all, who needs the same-old same-old on Time-Warner, Comcast, Cablevision or Cox for $$$/month when you can call up what you want, when you want it online. And though hardly a scientific survey here are a few web videos playing on my new TV, my PC.

Rocketboom was one of the first and consistently produced webisodic video series. In this self-referential episode they look at another web video phenom, the Star Wars Kid.

For more episodes of Rocketboom visit http://www.rocketboom.com

LStudio, elegantly packaged with an Apple cover-flow like interface, presents several original series including the hilarious Web Therapy.

For more episodes of Web Therapy and other programming, visit http://lstudio.lexus.com

Salad Fingers has been streaming on the web for three years and simply defies polite description. I can report that no actual children were harmed in the making, however, and I’ll give props to Donna and Casey whose sense of humor and ability to perfectly mimic the characters’ voices brought it to my attention.


For more episodes visit http://www.fat-pie.com/salad.htm

Do you watch re-runs of Seinfeld? I sure do and know almost all the episodes by heart. What’s next? Take three actors with a passion for their craft, add low-cost video equipment and a unique interface that invites exploration, and you’ve got 50 to Death. And in a stranger-than-fiction moment this made-in-New York original has become the number one comedy web series in New Zealand.

50 to Death

Be sure to tune in to  http://www.50todeath.com/ for Season 2 on February 1, which series originator Norm Golden tells me is kicking off with a two-part adventure titled “Twisted”. I can’t wait.

No coverage of web video would be complete without mention of The Criterion Collection which recently launched an excellent video-on-demand website, the fast-rising Hulu, or that mother of all web video sites YouTube.