Video Grabbing Apps May Cause Headaches for Media Firms and Advertisers

As companies seek to balance the promotional aspects of video distribution with their desire to control content, software like the new Replay Media Catcher could poke another thorn in their sides. The streaming multimedia recording application, as well as similar products already on the market, could have implications for media companies and advertisers when it comes to grabbing their content or skipping video ads.

The Media Catcher application, released today by Applian Technologies, allows users to capture streaming Flash video and MP3 audio files for future viewing on their hard drives via a player component. Windows users can download such files from a site streaming a video or audio file simply by clicking “start recording.”

Yesterday, for example, it was possible to grab video files using the software from sites including About.com and ComedyCentral.com, both of which are placing more emphasis on creating and distributing Web video content and garnering related ad revenue. An About video demonstrating the best way to fold fitted sheets prefaced by a pre-roll ad for Honda’s C-RV downloaded as two separate files, one for the ad, and one for the actual content.

The $40 application lets users archive files and record multiple streams at once. In fact,
while capturing the About video and accompanying ad, a clip streaming on the Comedy Central site was also being grabbed by the software. Comedy Central’s owner Viacom yesterday announced a deal with soon-to-launch video site Joost to distribute and sell advertising into several hundred hours of Viacom TV and film content.

Applian also offers streaming audio recording tools that allow users to skip through in-stream ads. Such software produces a “similar kind of threat to what you have with TiVo,” said JupiterResearch Analyst Emily Riley, who said it probably won’t have any significant impact on media brands looking to protect and monetize video content, or on advertisers wanting to ensure their ads are viewed, and ad content is safe.

Over 25 streaming multimedia recording applications are available, according to Dan Rayburn, executive VP of streaming media industry site Streamingmedia.com. Though he believes content owners could be affected by software like the Media Catcher, Rayburn said, “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal….How many people really want to save Flash video to their desktop? Not too many.”

According to Jupiter, 11 percent of users download video from the Web. Riley estimates a small portion of those users would actually go so far as to download software to grab files or skip ads. “But this is still something that should be considered a threat by the media companies,” she added.

Applian CEO Bill Dettering hasn’t received complaints about his streaming audio recording software from industry organizations such as The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has been vigilant about protecting music producers’ and artists’ copyrights. He has had a handful of complaints from some content owners.

“Tivoing” is “a cinch” using Applian’s audio stream recording software, said Stu Singer, whom Dettering refers to as “one of our hardest-core users.” He employs the tools for most of his media diet. “Increasingly, I’ve been skipping through the commercials,” Singer added. He records about six streaming radio programs each week, and typically skips all ads in audio podcasts using the software.

The “Tivo effect” may not be such a problem on the Web, said Jason Glickman, CEO of video ad network Tremor Media. “It’s much easier to change technology and change code on the Internet side versus what’s happening on TV,” he continued.

“If is interoperable with other devices,” said Glickman, it could have a greater impact on content providers, distributors and advertisers. Indeed, as more users watch video on personal devices, the desire to download streaming video could increase. Applian, for example, offers software for converting video and audio into mobile device-friendly files.

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