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Mid-Summer's Roundup: Emmys, Comcast, and Rovi

  |  July 21, 2009   |  Comments

Will television and online programming and advertising ever converge into one platform? Despite some obstacles, there's still promise.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances..." --William Shakespeare

Nothing suits a mid-summer's day like a bit of the old Bard. It grounds you. It reminds you to take the long view. Most of all, as the above quote suggests, everything old is new again.

It's not quite the dog days of summer, though we're heading there. As mid-summer reality TV series with their multiple humiliations wind down and we prep for what is hopefully some kind of return to normalcy in the economy, let's look at where we are with respect to that pesky online world actually becoming something more mainstream.

First up is a quick peek at the Emmy Award nominations that speak volumes about, well, how complex and possibly even misunderstood the conversation is involving online video.

For example, everybody's favorite online video program, "Dr. Horrible" got the nod in the cumbersomely named category, "short format live-action entertainment program." And that's rad, but here's how muddled things get. "Dr. Horrible" is up against three NBC Webisodes -- "The Office," "30 Rock," and "Battlestar Galactica" -- plus ComedyCentral.com's "The Daily Show Correspondents On Jon Stewart," and "The Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl Halftime Show." That's not exactly a triumph for the online world.

There's no YouTube star. And the only original online video bit comes from a major Hollywood player. Call it a pinky-hold versus a toehold as online tries to storm the castle.

Then there's the string of announcements coming out of Philadelphia involving Comcast's Online On Demand offering, interpreted by some as a sign that headway is being made in the online video arena. In addition to Cinemax and HBO joining Starz in the trial, everybody's favorite outlier CBS has thrown its hat into the fray.

CBS Interactive President Quincy Smith, who underlined that this is a trial, said he'd like to see more ads and that more ads will pay for premium content. Moreover, for CBS to continue to play, it would have to be a multi-channel offering, i.e. not just Comcast.

Considering that NBC, ABC, and Fox have teamed up to provide content on online video site Hulu -- plus CBS' latest move involving Comcast -- the four big broadcast television networks have accepted for the most part that there are enough eyeballs online that they need to capture. And that will lead to greater competition and, hopefully, more interesting programming and ways to consume it.

And then there's a smaller news development that may tie all of this together. Macrovision, a company originally known for its digital rights management technology, has rebranded as Rovi and has released a new kind of electronic program guide (EPG) called Liquid. Of particular note: Liquid is based on the ubiquitous Gemstar Guide that Macrovision purchased and is a highly familiar interface for television viewers.

Because Liquid combines online video seamlessly with your own personal media, as well as that old thing called TV, the technology will further blur and merge TV and online and help bring it to that bright shiny future where everything converges and it's just content.

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Todd Krieger

Todd Krieger is a creative thinker, a connector, and a believer in the power of a good idea. He likes playing among the diverse, and sometimes converging, worlds of publishing, entertainment, technology, and advertising and figuring out how best to leverage each for the benefit of the other.

His bona fides include stints at Microsoft, Yahoo, and Denuo (a boutique consultancy within Publicis). In that time he's produced hundreds of hours of award-winning interactive TV content, including NCAA Final Four Interactive and CSI Interactive. He also relaunched the broadway.yahoo.com vertical in tandem with American Express and helped bring to market the Internet's number one gossip site, omg.yahoo.com. While at Denuo, he worked with "The New York Times," Fox.com, and Condé Nast on how to transition their core print and broadcast assets into the digital world.

Todd has spoken around the world on issues of copyright, technology, and interactivity and has been published in "The New York Times," "Wired," "Premiere," "SPIN," and elsewhere. His book, "The Portable Pundit : A Crash Course in Cocktail Party Conversation" can still be found on Amazon. He lives in Venice, California.

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