There have been some great announcements in online video distribution this week, which I think Gigi plans to cover in a later post. However, if you haven't been paying attention to all your news feeds this week, you might think that all these announcements were agreements made between large distributers and large studios (and their affiliates), but not much for the little guy. Not true, not true!
The gang over at the Participatory Culture Foundation / Downhill Battle / Democracy / VideoBomb group (whew, they're keeping busy!), has been having a “sheeps week.” A what? Traditional TV has “sweeps week” when they pull out all the stops to attract larger audiences in attempt to get higher ratings (and presumably higher ad revenues). These guys do IPTV, so they decided to call it “sheeps week.” Why? Hey, it's the wild-west of the Internet, they can do what they want. Whatever, I thought it was a clever play on words.
I'll talk about the announcements we have so far from sheeps week in a second, but first I want to give these guys some deserved praise. We focus a lot on the YouTubes and MySpaces of the world… and although those sites may have tons of traffic, in truth, they haven't really focussed on the technology used to cheaply and efficiently distribute anyone's video content easily to consumers. Every time the Participatory Culture folks come out with a new app or service, they find another part of the problem that needs solving.
Starting off, they seemed to ask: “How can creators serve up content cheaply and efficiently?” The answer was Broadcast Machine, which allows anyone with a standards based web server to start distributing their video content in a RSS-subscribable fashion using minimal bandwidth (read-low cost if your video becomes popular) with BitTorrent.
“Uh, but there's no user-friendly way to download the RSS/BitTorrented-content, now what?” Enter Democracy Player which simplifies the process of downloading and viewing in a elegant package.
“But how to I make people aware of my awesome video content once I've setup this server and RSS feed?” -or- “How do I find RSS feeds to fill up my Democracy Player's playlists?” Enter Video Bomb, a website that is a hybrid of YouTube and Digg and helps creators and consumers make others aware of all this video content. Pulling from Video Bomb is the Democracy Player's built-in Channel Guide (think of it kind of like the iTunes store in the iTunes player).
It's an amazing set of tools that the Participatory Culture Foundation should be thanked for. And did I mention that all of this software is open-source, standards compliant, cross-platform, and free? Video content creators, you no longer may claim an excuse for being unable to easily distribute your content online in an open way.
Back to sheeps…
Monday: The group released a new version of their Democracy Player, v.0.9. It adds some nice organizational features like playlists and folders. It also enables Flash-formatted video for the first time (a feature I personally have been waiting for–take that iTunes!), drag-n-droping of videos, and some useful GUI spit-and-shine. Thanks to the open-source coding of the app, Steven Ansell was able to create some cool-looking customized icons that Mac users can add.
Tuesday: They announced “The Channel Channel,” which addresses another problem of how to expose others to and promote video RSS feeds, or channels. How do you know what's good and what's not with the short attention span we increasingly all seem to have–especially with online video. You're not going to spend all your time on YouTube or Video Bomb, browsing video-by-video. Instead, The Channel Channel his gives content creators (and I suppose even fans of a creator's content) a way to provide and promote a short preview of what can be found on their video RSS feed. Think of it as a IPTV preview channel.
I look forward to finding out what sheeps week delivers on Thursday and Friday. Wouldn't it be nice if we had some sort of open-hardware device to view all this content on an actual TV? I can only hope that on Friday, Nicholas, Holmes, or Tiffiniy will pop up like Steve Jobs and give us that infamous “one more thing.” Hey, I can wish, right?