It's CES season, with announcements coming thick and fast, so it's high time for my 2009 Almanac, where I make predictions about development in the year ahead. You can read last year's Almanac and my more recent review of how well I'd done here.
The Death of the STB - The biggest theme of this year's CES show will be the death of the set top box, with LG launching a screen with Netflix embedded and Intel working with Toshiba and Samsung. The screen manufacturers have finally realised that they, actually, own the eyeballs, and are likely to try and leverage this in the near future. In the past they might have used this as a means to leverage sales of their commoditized plasma and LCD screens, but now they're more likely to look to take a share of ongoing rentals and downloads, having learnt the lesson the hard way from the likes of Apple.
Major Vendors Take Video Seriously - Twelve years ago I started to stream video over the internet. Now, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer thinks that this is a good idea. Welcome to the party, Steve! But the real reason that Microsoft and Intel take this seriously is that their mainstay - the corporate market will be spending in this sector and nearly nowhere else over the coming year, since video networks will be cheaper than flying executives business class and putting them up in four star hotels and arranging huge conventions for salesmen and resellers.
Corporate Takeup - I'm cheating here since I seem to predicting this year after year, but already 2009 has seen a flood of enquiries to VidZapper from corporates, educational establishments and government agencies wishing to launch their own channels and I suspect Internet TV will prove reasonably durable during the downturn since it presents a cheaper, more accountable way of doing video market, now that objections about bandwidth, etc.. have largely disappeared.
The Small Screen - Of course, the other major trend is going to be smartphones - just as the concept of carrying all of your record collection in your pocket seemed pure fantasy a decade ago, so perhaps does the same concept for video now; as Blu-Ray struggles we're moving into the era of downloads taking over from DVDs and the new format may well be marginalised. Downloads will be the theme for the next couple of years, but in time both music and video will become virtual objects, living on remote servers (indeed, one of the best ways for rights owners to protect their content will be to centralise control rather than having millions of copies flying around the internet).
Rights - whilst on this theme, we're moving into the age of more complex, and perhaps more flexible, rights management. Rights owners will need to sweat their assets as new budgets are cut; I expect it to be a busy year for the company where I am Non-executive Chairman, Rights Tracker. I still think it's early to predict that someone will set up a company that effectively sells and deals in secondary and unused rights online, but that day can't be so far away.
Stagnant Ads - the ad market is not likely to see any great moves forward this year, despite the success Hulu has been having; expect more complex sponsorships to come to the fore as every quieter ad agencies finally have to get clever about their business.
CDN Clearout - CDNs are likely to suffer from more competition and from the advent of cloud services. Already Amazon's S3 has seen great takeup amongst Web 2.0 startups.
Universal broadband - with Governments all over the world now determined to invest in infrastructure to ease their ailing economies, expect initiative all over the developed world in the provision of better broadband services for everyone.
Mergers and Closures - inevitably the coming year will be one of consolidation, and services such as Bablegum and Joost may struggle to survive unless funded by the deep pockets of their respective founders.
Tune back in next Christmas as I again review how well I've done with my crystal ball!