TV and PC, Collision or Convergence?
On Monday night I attended yet another informative session by MassNetComms. The session "Is convergence finally here? Web Video and TV get ready to collide," wasn't just informative though, it was lively as well.
The panel was moderated by Will Richmond of VideoNuze and included Chris Gardner of ExtendMedia, Hilmi Ozguc, formerly of Maven Networks (which was bought by Yahoo last year), Andy Roberts of Azuki Systems and Neil Sequeira of General Catalyst. Best anecdote of the night? How one family wanted to watch a movie on the 'net so the dad placed his PC in front of the TV in the living room. I think that sums up the challenge and goals of convergence quite well.
So is convergence here? Maybe. Practically. Almost. Yes. That covers most of the thoughts in the room. Seriously, though the general consensus is that there is a minimum two year window before we'll see a "living room" convergence of the two. That is when your big plasma TV will be able to seamlessly run Hulu, iTunes, HBO and cable. There are challenges to be solved -- metrics, hardware, advertising costs and availability of enough pipes. Another issue is portability and how users will be able to watch content seamlessly on TV, PC and handhelds. Based on what I heard, that seemed to a be a more difficult task mainly for "live" feeds.
Advertising was a big discussion point given the difference between the number of ads that a Hulu viewer sees versus a viewer of NBC or CBS prime time programming. The consensus was that viewers watching TV on the PC platform were used to no or few ads and that expectation will have to be dealt with. Everyone agreed "free" ala Twitter and Facebook was not a business model.
I've been working with convergence companies for more than 10 years beginning with iMagicTV, one of the very first IPTV companies. While it was good to see that the market has moved so far over the last decade, the thing that really stood out for me is just how big a role Massachusetts businesses are playing in defining the new world of convergence. In addition to the companies that participated Monday night, there are number of others, including ScanScout, Backchannelmedia, BrightCove and Visible Measures.
So what do you think? What's the biggest challenge for the world of convergence?