You Oughta Be In Pictures

Streaming media’s time has come, according to Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. Gates proclaimed this prophesy this week in San Jose, Calif., at a streaming video industry conference.

According to Gates, streaming media’s time has come because now Microsoft is ready. In other words, forget everything you’ve read about broadband and convergence until now – Microsoft has finally arrived at the party.

Not to be slighted, RealNetworks proclaimed their market dominance in a flurry of press releases and briefings. Users have downloaded Real Media Player software about seven millions times, according to a recent Nielsen report, beating out Microsoft’s Windows Media Player and Apple’s Quicktime.

While Microsoft is proud to announce its arrival at the party, RealNetworks can boast the real (excuse the pun) party was in February with the much-viewed (a reported 30,000 downloads an hour) Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Show.

As more users get cable modems or DSL, is the age of the TV-PC convergence near? Jupiter Communications researchers say that while downloadable audio has caught on, video as entertainment will not be the killer app on the web anytime soon.

The Streaming Mimi’s

Witness the Warner Bros and ABC foray into online TV with a recent Drew Carey sitcom episode. While we applaud the experimental and risk-taking nature of this online/TV hybrid event, seeing Carey’s Halloween-all-year sidekick Mimi Bobeck telling users, “Hands on the keyboard,” make us wonder if they should go back to the drawing board.

Warner Bros. teamed up with Microsoft for the Drew Carey event after a flap with RealNetworks over branding. Industry rumor had it that RealNetworks made galling demands to brand their name all over the content.

Why Warner Bros. thought Microsoft was a better choice in the matter is still a mystery, but that’s for another time. In the end, Warner Bros. said the technology should remain invisible because what really matters is the content.

It does bring up the question about what, exactly, is to be branded (particularly among the general consumer) as the streaming video and broadband battles heat up in the next few months. The content providers, of course, believe content will drive user interest. The technology is worthless without it, they say.

But in the Never-Never Land of Branding Meets Wall Street, the technology companies are eager to see their own names in lights.

It’s So Fresh, It’s From The Future

While Hollywood and the folks in Seattle (home town to both Microsoft and RealNetworks) battle it out, public relations and marketing people need to think about how they can use the technology to reach target audiences.

Third-place contestant in the online book wars Borders.com recently announced it will start using streaming video to deliver visual extravaganzas such as author readings and book signings over the Internet.

Just a few Internet years ago, self-proclaimed futurists obsessed with three-dimensional, virtual worlds were carried away with VRML on the Web – overlooking virtual reality’s scarcity on bellwether media such as CD-ROMs. Similarly, it seems Borders.com has made a leap of Internet faith before first recognizing that the unquestionable popularity of “books on tape” does not include videotape.

As far as content is concerned, it looks like streaming video is far from ready for prime time.

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