Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Trouble With Transmission

As a youngster I remember climbing the mountain behind our house and being part of a relay trying to get a signal, via various boosters and a very long aerial line, from the nearest transmission towers, which were seven and twelve miles away.

You see, the problem with TV broadcast signals is that they require 'line of sight' and operate at reasonably high frequencies, so the signals can't get around corners.

In the Western fringes of Snowdonia we grew up listening and watching RTE, the Irish broadcaster, and not BBC as a result.

Today I'm in Reading in the heart of the industrialised South East of England, the so called UK Sicilon Valley, just a few hundred yards from the headquarters of Microsoft and Oracle and my broadband has died.

Once a year over a hundred thousand people descend on Reading for a rock festival. The problem at the moment is that they are all millennials, so wouldn't dream of worrying about line of sight for their TV signal.

My issue is that, in the largest town in England, I cannot get a signal from a broadcast tower, due to a seven storey residential tower block to the south east of our riverside house. As a result, I am also a cord cutter, like the millennials. And now I cannot get a decent broadband feed.

The other problem with traditional broadcasting - digital or analogue - is that it involves equipment which looks like the molten carcass of an ancient monster. TV aerials are ridiculous contraptions. The broadcast towers equally so.

All of this leads me to wonder why the technology developed by the defunct Aereo could not be combined with software that detects video streams in a device with an automatic rollover between the broadcast and IPTV?

In other words, why can't a computer detect when a broadcast signal makes more sense and allows a device to connect accordingly?

Around ten yeras ago I proposed a similar system that rolled over between cable and internet to my clients at Virgin Media and they still haven't really cottoned on.

The trouble with technology is that everyone ploughs their own technical furrows and fields and forgets to look left or right at how they could share, improve and work better.

But, hybrid transmission is an idea whose time has come...

Escaping The YouTube Trap

Let's face it, YouTube provides a great service for video producers and program makers - a free uploading and hosting service for all your videos with a ready global audience.

So why are more and more TV and video professionals turning away from the service ?

Well, the reasons are manifold.

Some will read the fine print and realize that they are compromising productions that they may have spent a great deal of money producing.

Others will realize that they are espousing valuable money making opportunities.

More and more are realizing that YouTube is a horribly cluttered environment that may have its role, but it is not a solution for online video management.

As other social networks such as Facebook become equally important for video,  then there's a need to look beyond YouTube.

Also, as more and more video professionals look to manage their productions and services in the cloud, YouTube is clearly not a platform to use for this.

As YouTube gets closer and closer to being a broadcaster, there is a clear conflict in giving content to them for free (or for the promise of ever reducing ad revenues).

But what if you already have a load of content on YouTube ? Well, Rights Tracker has just introduced an easy way for you to transfer this content to your own professional managed account on Assetry Screen, where you will have secure control over all of your content.

All you have to do is enter a YouTube URL and the system will do the rest for you! Better still, you can add any valid video URL and the system will ingest and prepare your video for you.

It's never been easier to cut the YouTube cord and move your cloud video strategy to the next level.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Gold Medal For Rights

With the 2016 Olympics in full flow, perhaps the most tightly guarded rights in the world come into mainstream play.

The IOC is, above all, a rights holder, and therefore needs to keep a tight rein on how it allows its rights to be used in the era of social media.

It has issued extensive guidelines, which start with the words: "the IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in 'social media'."

It then goes on to issue four pages of restrictions on this 'encouragement':

Still, to be fair to the IOC, they have made their position public and clear.

Of course, managing and enforcing these rights is tougher and the IOC enforce something called penumberal rights. These include the five Olympic rings logo, the Olympics motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius, the Paralympic Agitos logo, the flames and terms like "Olympic games", "Paralympic games"' "Rio 2016" as well as "games”, “Two Thousand and Sixteen”, “2016” and “twenty sixteen”) and a second group (“gold”, “silver”, “bronze”, “Rio”, “medals”, “sponsor”, and “summer”.

The above enable the IOC's representatives to threaten civil and even criminal sanctions on anyone they deem to be in contravention. At London 2012 these included a butcher near the sailing venue who had fashioned sausages into the form of the Olympic rings and a long established cafe called the Olympic near the main stadium in East London.

However, even a cursory search of social media shows their guidelines being breached in a wholesale manner. DMCA provisions mean that a lot of illegal material can hit the internet legally. But, the IOC are doing one thing right in response - they are flooding social media with official content.

Managing rights isn't just about being protective in the social media era, it's about being proactive. The internet hates a vacuum, so just withholding and restricting rights no longer works. 

So, on rights, a gold medal to the IOC, then, for a job well done.

Monday, August 01, 2016

A New Way Of Selling TV

In most industries, the internet has brought huge efficiencies and, sometimes a new world order. From travel agents to record stores, the effects have been sweeping, and are still going on for industries like taxis and hotel rooms.

But the TV industry seems not to have noticed. Well, not much anyway. Massive new customers have appeared for programme makers in the form of Netflix, Amazon and other online streaming services. But the selling is still largely done by personal contact at events such as Cannes, NATPE, MIPTV and MIPCOM.

But the time has come for this to change. 

The internet has proven itself to be an effective means of showing high quality video and for building global marketplaces.

Finally, there's a platform that combines these capabilities, providing a global marketplace for content owners and producers.

Assetry Screen from rights management experts Rights Tracker provides an easy to use platform for preparing, managing and distributing content to potential clients in a closed and highly secure online marketplace.

It enables content owners to create video websites, online screening rooms, players and branded channels. Distributors, producers and broadcasters can upload and manage assets, create screening lists, set permissions, and invite contacts to view.

The TV content industry is going to experience a revolution over the next few years and Assetry Screen enables content owners and producers to get ahead of the curve.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vevo Is The Music Industry's Secret Weapon

A musician currently gets around eight times less if their song is played on YouTube than they do if played on Spotify and, not surprisingly, are finally asking -'why?'.

Artists as such as Taylor Swift, Kate Perry, Billy Joel, Lionel Richie and Rod Stewart are petitioning for change (there goes my playlists...) and negotiations are onging between the industry and the Google video service.

Common wisdom has it that musicians need YouTube more than YouTube needs musicians, but is this actually true any more ?

A service owned by the music industry, Vevo, actually provides over half of the music video plays on YouTube and has other outlets such as its own apps for Smart TV and mobiles.

There's little doubt that other major online players from Apple to Facebook and even Twitter and the Verizon owned AOL are keen to break the YouTube monopoly.

As a result, Vevo is a very valuable property that might do best by staring a bidding war between these players, or setting a minimum royalty level for any service taking its videos, ostensibly becoming a clearing service and agent for the digital age. 

There is one factor complicating this, which is that YouTube hides behind DMCA legislation (which has recently been strengthened by judicial decisions) and can keep playing any music video until it receives a take down request, without sanction. Whilst YouTube was a hosting service, this was perhaps defensible, but today it is a content producer and broadcaster in its own right. But it has this safe harbour provision behind it in negotiating rates for musicians downwards. Spotify does not have this luxury, nor do traditional broadcasters.

Artists need to put their money where their mouths are and pull their copyright from YouTube to strengthen their case and then use Vevo as their trump card.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Brexit & The Media Industry

Image result for brexit

Someone asked me yesterday what Brexit would mean for the media industry. It's something I've written and talked about here and there, but the actual consequences now that this eventuality has befallen us demands greater consideration.

First of all, there's the macro economic climate. The pound is weak and tax is being lowered, meaning that investing in the UK becomes cheaper and discourages buying from abroad.

However, from all the discussions I've had, the psychological impact of the divorce from the EU will put off potential partners not just from Europe but around the world. I keep on hearing the phrase 'little Englanders' from all kinds of people dismayed at the outcome of the referendum. It does not bode well.

However, the break up will derail the grand plan to make the EU one market for content, which was set to hit the rights industry very badly. This also has the added benefit of keeping things complicated for the US Big Internet companies trying to take over the media industry. As proposals stood, they could have waved their chequebooks and pretty much bought or wiped out the whole media sector in Europe in the straight-to-streaming (STS) era.

The fact that the UK will not be signing up to TTIP for the near future is also a book to our creative companies and will give them breathing room to try and compete again with US companies. Moreover, already the tax regime seems to be levelling out after the Chancellor's announcement on reducing Corporation Tax.

Pretty much every major UK media company has already been taken over by major US players, and they are likely to be impacted - Liberty Global and Virgin Media had firm plans to build pan-European businesses, ready for the time when sports rights for most of the continent would be sold as a block. They will continue to have to treat the UK, the most lucrative of all markets, as a separate entity, which means that footballers' agents will be dragging on their cigars at the Leave vote.

Meanwhile, the move may well take ITV off the marketplace, since it will prove to be a somewhat less attractive stepping stone to pan European ambitions for the likes of Discovery and even Comcast.

The BBC is also probably in a better place, with its future already recently settled, it would be difficult to see any UK politician daring to undermine our national treasures for the foreseeable future.

The UK has a tradition of heavily subsidising the creative industries, from the promotion of local TV stations to tax breaks on film investment, and with the 'austerity government' coming to an end it's likely that there will need to be further inducements in the future to 'make up' for the effects of losing EU funding, such as it is. The media industry needs to be lobbying heavily as soon as the UK has an effective Government again.

It's difficult to predict what will happen to cross border productions: this is already a mishmash or regional, national and pan European funding. Obviously, in time, the European funding will go away. However, the UK is the stepping stone to the global English language market so it's difficult to see a major impact here, although some producers and distributors dependent on EU sources of funding have been distraught.

Movement of actors and talent will become more problematic, especially for UK talent wanting to film or work overseas. But more important will be that recruiting staff for developing web and mobile will become tougher unless the UK stops churning out graduates who cannot code.

Also, it's worth considering things far more difficult to quantify and predict. The zeitgeist of the media industry is made up of millions of moving parts and they have been thrown into a state of turmoil. There will be a creative backlash without doubt, although it is depressing how un-political the media industry has become. Perhaps that will change on the back of the ill-founded will of the British democratic process.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Channel Rights Set For Revamp

Stories are circulating that the Government is set to repeal section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which means that cable companies (that would be Virgin Media by now) do not have to oay ca riage fees to national channels such as ITV and Channel 4. It's more than possible that this provision will be extended to Sky also.

The resulting situation might see the BBC and ITV getti paid for their channels on cable and satellite, but with a significant distribution cost on internet delivery.

Whereas there is a fair amount written about rights around programmes and TV brands, little has been said about the rights of whole channels (or apps, or services, or whatever we should call them these days.

Could the logical conclusion be that the likes of Netflix become the carriers and pay ITV and the BBC to add their content to their lineup ?

Or will it result in the concept of a channel bis coming irrelevant, with TV broadcasters more akin to publishers, expoliting their rights across multiple distribution channels and seeking the best return from each.

One thing is for rtain, it's going to be an uncertain and rocky ride for every comoany involved in the TV delivery ecosystem.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Safe Haven In Any Storm

In 2009 Capitol Records sued Vimeo over copyright infringement, and in yet another example of how slowly the legal process moves, the case was last week dismissed in Vimeo's favour, citing the DMCA again, but seemingly broadening its interpretation in favour of service providers.

Essentially the ruling upholds the key tenet of the Act, that unknowingly hosting content without the necessary rights clearances is not illegal, provided the hosting company then takes down the infringing media. But in this instance it was ruled that the law was on Vimeo's side even though some of its staff were aware of the infringements and may have even posted them themselves. The rationale, seemingly is that these were a tiny part of the service's overall content.

There are a number of troubling elements to this judgement, perhaps the most important being how modern publishers such as Google, Apple and Vimeo obfuscate their roles as publishers and circumvent regulatory scrutiny as a result. Imagine if CBS had broadcast a show to which it had no rights and then argued that it was sorry and anyway, it was inly a small part of its output.

Ironically, this is a similar argument to Uber not employing its drivers and Air BnB not being a hotel company.

The DCMA has been essential in enabling the internet to flourish, but it should protect genuine arm's length businesses such as ISPs not companies that compete directly with broadcasters and publishers.