Monday, February 23, 2009

Boxee and Future of TV

As many people already know, Hulu (at the behest of some content holders) recently asked Boxee to pull their shows from its service. If you don't know about this, read about it here, but the short version is as follows. Boxee is a great little open source program that helps you get your entertainment from your computer to your TV. Using it, you can watch everything you've downloaded on your tv, but also (until recently) tie in programs from Hulu, Netflix and others. You can also listen to music, look at Flickr photos and a bunch of other stuff.

Of course you can do all of this without Boxee, but it makes it a little easier as you can use your remote. Many people apparently have been using it to watch TV shows from Hulu. Apparently, some lawyer got wind of this and within days got Hulu shows pulled from Boxee. This is beyond stupid - as other bloggers have suggested before me - you can almost imagine what happened. Some idiot lawyer who doesn't understand the internet or where things are going heard that Hulu programs were on Boxee. At first, s/he thought, wow this boxee thing is great - more people watching our programs on Hulu means more eyeballs, means higher CPMs and that's great for us - more money. And they're watching it on their computer, what a crappy experience, so it won't cut into our business. Five days later, someone showed them that they could easily watch the same shows on their TV and the little lawyer's brain melted as it tried to comprehend this scenario - wait, they're now watching our tv programs on a tv and it isn't through our existing deals with affiliates and/or cable companies - yikes. That people can do this anyway, lost on this poor lawyer, so out go the cease and desist letters.

Sounds a lot like the smart business moves the music industry has made online. Already tons of people are saying screw this, I'll just go back to pirate networks. The netowkrs/content-holders could have helped build the future, but is instead fighting it. Hulu apparently understands how stupid this is, but they are stuck in a bad situation. Boxee is stuck in an even worse situation, but they are trying to do something positive about it. This weekend, they launched a wiki where anyone can help them build an argument, or pitch, to broadcasters about why they should work with Boxee. It's a great way to involve your audience in making your case, and I applaud it.

Right now, this argument is just about Boxee and Hulu, but as this debate widens it will likely affect how we access content in the future, or at least be one of the pieces of the puzzle. As cable companies start floating ideas like having their own free portal where you can access this content only if you pay for their broadband and/or cable service, such arguments become much more important. Eventually, this all ties in to net neutrality, as well as to the future of distribution - which at the end of the day effects the small indie player as much, or more than, the broadcasters. So, if you care about how these things pan out - join the action on the wiki!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Curation and Find

I keep telling people that the future of the internet if find. Everyone looks at me like I'm speaking in tongues, but what I mean is that if the last decade has been dominated by search, think Google, then the next will be dominated by find. Meaning we often spend lots of time on the web searching for what we really want, only to be inundated by lots of crap we don't want. Services that help you find what you want are becoming more and more important.

In film, we're all seeing thousands of movies migrate online, and I've been on many panels where the woe of the year seems to be that there's too many movies being made. But I've always felt like this is a ridiculous argument - I never went to the record store and said, damn, there's too many bands and albums out there. And I don't feel that way in the online world.

Instead, I've always relied on trusted sources to help me find the bands/music I really want to hear. Their recommendations, be it friends, magazines, zines, blogs, radio, or whatever - helped me navigate through the crap to find the good stuff. That's exactly what I think will define the best online services moving forward, especially with video - finding trusted source folks to help you find the gems you really want. This will take multiple forms, but over at my day job, we've been building a system to help people use this idea to find the videos they want. It's not perfect yet, heck we're still in beta 2.0 of a soft launch, but it's getting better.

Reframe is build around the idea of curation. We know there's tons of film sites out there, but hopefully Reframe can be a place, probably one of many, where you can go to find quality films that you want to see. We've got lots of great curators helping us - filmmakers, film critics, film professors, average joes, writers, walkers, and out staff, all curating lists of the best films, or their favorite films, on different topics. We selected the first batch, but now it's open to anyone, with the idea being that you can select who to follow and perhaps someone you never knew will become a trusted source.

Check out this post on how it works if you're interested and join us as a curator.

photo from Reframe - "Screening Room With Stan Brakhage" a film from Documentary Educational Resources directed by Robert Gardner