One of the single greatest boosts for the value of the branded generic top-level domain (gTLD) might be Google's Chromecast, particularly for companies already in the content distribution business. At $35, delivered in two days free from Amazon Prime, it transforms your tablet, phone, or computer into a remote control to surf the Internet on almost any flat screen in your house.
While the trend toward consumption of content via the Internet is nothing new, and other devices like Apple TV and Roku provide Internet-based TV access, the cost-effectiveness and ease of use of Chromecast means the less tech-savvy can sit on their couch and search the Internet. This simple device could push the tipping point on Internet consumption of content.
On the flip side, the continuing consolidation of the cable industry with Comcast's bid to acquire Time Warner Cable means there will be fewer choices in cable providers and more choices online. For the millions of Americans who still rely upon cable as the only source for content on their flat screens, the consolidation and potential change in offerings and pricing could be enough to push them over the technology edge.
Interestingly, Comcast, applied for several gTLDs, including .COMCAST and .XFINITY, potentially forecasting the future shift to online distribution and arming itself with the technology it will need. Time Warner Cable, long recognized as behind the technology curve with its devices, did not apply for any gTLDs. Dish Network applied for several gTLDs, including .BLOCKBUSTER, .DATA, .DIRECT, .DISH, .DOT, .DTV., LATINO, .LOCKER, .MOBILE, .MOVIE, .OLLO, .OTT, and .PHONE. Other big cable providers include Rogers with .CHATR, .FIDO, and .ROGERS; EchoStar with .DVR, .HUGHES, .SLING, and .STREAM; Frontier Communications; and Now TV. As the cable industry consolidates in harvest mode, the industry leaders have applied for new gTLDs, prepared for the next generation of surfing channels online. Of course, these leaders are also providing access to the Internet so they are already in place for consumer behavior shifts ahead.
Additionally, fiber optic cable networks like Google Fiber, Verizon, AT&T, and others are delivering service to the home at more competitive rates, making fiber speed accessible to consumers. In the past, consumers were not willing to shell out more money for higher-speed access when it didn't make that big of a difference to them. But if they shift spending from direct cable subscriptions to fiber access, using their Google Chromecast to turn every device into a remote control, the shift away from cable and into the digital world becomes within reach for average consumers.
In the gTLD space, many traditional networks and content distributors applied for new gTLDs, including ABC, Fox, Bloomberg, CBS, Comcast, HBO, Showtime, The Weather Channel, Netflix, XBOX, PlayStation, and others. Alongside traditional content distributors, Google applied with 101 applications and Amazon with 76 applications. L'Oreal applied for big generics like beauty, hair, makeup, and others, giving them the opportunity to build out channels of content for not just surfing but searching, shopping, socializing, and more. The key benefit for these companies is that by owning their own gTLD, they actually own the top-level domain. So, if you go to guide.weather, you may be able to surf everything The Weather Channel has to offer. Likewise, Google's .Channel could become just that. For brands, their gTLD is completely closed and owned by them so they can create the best possible digital experience and track the all-important data across their own digital channel.
Other gTLD applicants who could build out channels of content include, the MLB, NFL, and NBA. In the future of their digital world, the consumer can access everything they want from their couch with a tablet or phone as the remote. The gTLDs unchain these companies from the home page concept online to create the ability to provide directories of content and unique memorable landing pages or experiences to invite consumers into their digital world in new and interesting ways.
Brands that opted out of a gTLD could be impacted by not owning this technology in the future. A few of the more notable missing players include NBC, Disney, Facebook, eBay, MTV, E TV, National Geographic, Animal Planet, AMC, and Twitter. There were also no celebrities buying up their own gTLDs. While these companies can still build out their digital world of experiences in existing digital real estate like .com or in any of the 900-plus new generic top-level domains, they will lack the same marketing and technical capabilities from their competitors who have their own gTLD. gTLD owners can innovate and consider disruptive digital experiences without worrying about whether a unique, memorable landing page is available since they own and control the entire top-level domain. Additionally, new technologies are in development to capitalize on the technical capabilities of the gTLD.
Regardless of whether your company owns a gTLD, consumers are clearly in charge of their own digital experience. The introduction of a cost-effective device turning tablets and phones into remotes to surf the net form the living room makes Internet-based TV accessible to millions. The consolidation of the cable industry means it's headed for harvest mode and preparing for the next generation of consumers. And the connection of fiber optic speed at more reasonable prices to the home means consumers are near the tipping point on how they consume their content. gTLDs add one more layer to evolving the digital experience for consumers.
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Jennifer Wolfe is founder and president of Wolfe Domain, a gTLD digital brand strategy advisory firm providing comprehensive guidance to global brands, interactive agencies, domain registrars, and legal counsel representatives on establishing a holistic gTLD name-anchored brand strategy for the next generation of the Internet. As a forward-thinking, accomplished, award-winning attorney and executive leader, she also serves as managing partner of their affiliate law firm WolfeSBMC, specializing in advising on intellectual property and brand campaigns and new media law. With a depth of entrepreneurial savvy, brand knowledge, and legal expertise, Wolfe brings a unique perspective to creating holistic generic top-level domain (gTLD) name-centric brand strategies that effectively bring cross-functional teams together and serve as a catalyst for business innovation.
March 19, 2014