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Outside the box thinking

TV viewership is under the gun. TVNZ have just heavily discounted their rates by up to 14 percent. The Herald’s coverage attributes that to a slump in the economy, but I suggest wider strategic forces are at play, including broad changes in media consumption habits and the beginning of the end of New Zealand as one of the last bastions of media homogeneity in the developed world.

Having already created a paradigm shift in the way that consumers make international calls with Skype, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom want to change the way you watch TV.

According to BusinessWeek magazine they plan to team up with TV production companies to show full-length, professionally produced content on their web-based network. Amateurs will also be able to upload video too, like YouTube or GoogleVideo. Advertisers will also be able to be involved, uploading their commercials.

The founders of “The Venice Project” - TVP (working title) say that the relationship with TV runs deep. They love stories well told but that the Internet adds the advantage of choice. Their vision is to combine the qualities of TV with this of the web.

The idea is currently in beta testing. The founder’s plan is premised on a viral uptake of their brand, as has been the case with Skype (and YouTube, Google…etc).

Before Skype Friis and Zennstrom were the creators of Kazaa, the file sharing site. Kazaa attracted the ire of copyright owners. The Venice Project will be a peer to peer network and content will be streamed, therefore avoiding situations where users are able to download content. In effect becoming a closed loop system. That, and the cooperation of content developers, should avoid kind of hostile reaction that Kazaa and Napster before it aroused.

The freely available software will include features which, according to BusinessWeek, will be  “… like those on a DVD player, including stop, pause, and fast-forward, as well as a search window to find new videos. An image on the left includes a menu of preset channels. And on the right, there’s a set of interactive tools that let you share video play lists with friends or family. An image at the top of the screen identifies the channel and the name of the clip you’re watching. All of the images can be expanded by clicking on them with a mouse.

One comment by Friis, one of the founders, is particularly revealing, “The Venice Project is designed as a vehicle for high-quality video-based ads”.

It seems TVP’s gambit seems to be to provide the killer app to existing broadcasters who have seen how the music industry missed the opportunity to acknowledge that consumers enjoyed music, but loved easy access and the choice to only consume the parts they wanted.

The name of the game is aggregation, in a sense the same way that Google has become one of the most powerful organisations on the planet without creating an iota of content.

But what does it mean here in New Zealand. On one hand it may be devastating to existing networks—who don’t have a great record with new technology—on the other it may be an extraordinary strategic opportunity for Kiwi production companies, talent and marketers.

We need to discuss this. How can it play to our advantage? The paradigms are shifting.

What do you think?

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