Kaushal Kurapati\’s blog

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Library Model for TV

Posted by kaushalkurapati on February 24, 2007

So what is the “Library Model”? You have a membership in a local library and you can check out certain number of books in a time period. How would that apply to TV shows? Imagine a connected network of DVRs or PVRs (digital/personal video recorders) and other machines (PCs) with video content on them. I should be able to pay for and pull anything from this network and watch whenever I want to. Simple! I am a subscriber who pays a flat fee of, say, $49.99 per month, which gives me permission to ‘check out’ 300 hours (10 hrs/day: 2.5x of what an average American wathces today) of TV shows/movies from the network. The network contains video content that users have chosen to upload and the network could in fact include libraries of shows from TV-stations themselves: NBC, HBO, PBS, BBC could charge per check-out of a show from their libraries and it will count towards your monthly subscription rate (flat or variable).

The power of this network is independence from a set broadcast schedule of course. It is on-demand video. But its much more than that. Lets imagine that the broadcast model won’t go away still. There is a certain power of ‘live TV’ still (sports, Oscars, you want to watch live I presume). The TV-stations may not put everything online or not every TV-station will put stuff online either. In such a scenario, the power of the network of DVRs kicks in. Users in the network may have stored interesting shows / movies that the TV-stations, movie-studios have not put online yet. I should be able to legally pay and pull the content from a networked-DVR and watch it whenever I want to. The copyright owner should get a cut for this model to work.

Ever since I have had a TiVo (since 2000), I have dreamt of this scenario. Even with a TiVo I am still at the mercy of what is being broadcast on the pipe. The recommender system on the TiVo is not smart enough to know all the shows I would like and so it misses some. But if I could tap into other DVRs/machines (PCs) that caught the shows I’d like, that would be awesome. I am willing to pay for this service and be legit about it but the technology is not there yet. Imagine a ‘search’ + ‘personalized recommender’ service over such a network. That is couch-potato-nirvana!

Isn’t YouTube doing this already? Well…no. YouTube has interesting material (sometimes) that users have uploaded but its missing all the great content produced by TV-stations and movie studios from across the world. Yes, they are trying to do content deals…not there yet.

Is Joost  the closest to this model? Yes and No. Joost just extends on the current TV viewing model, so it does not require disruption of user behavior. It is trying to minimize disruption to the current business model as well, which is smart in a way. Joost is trying to create a broad distribution platform for copyrighted video content. Content owners decide what goes on Joost. So it is a walled-garden approach. In that sense Joost does not come close to the Library Model described above. Viacom seems to be interested in finding an alternative to YouTube and has just licensed its content to be put on Joost. This reminds me of Yahoo giving a small search startup called Google to handle search, which was the right boost at the right time. Could this Viacom deal be that inflection point for Joost? It may just be.

Joost is not close to the full-viral p2p, library model for TV that I described because it is not letting users put anything and everything on its network. By tapping into millions of users’ libraries, video gems get on to the network that do not have any other outlet. 

Joost was chosen as one of the next net 25 startups to watch by Business 2.0.


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