Monday, September 04, 2006

Re-thinking portable/downloadable video

I've been thinking a lot about how hot everyone seems to think downloadable short films for iPods, cell phones, etc. will be. I do think there is a market for it, but I've been wondering how popular such a thing will be in the long run. This summer I taught a course called Microcinema about making these films and really felt there was a big future here. Now I'm less sure.

First, of all, I wonder where and whenexactly people will watch video on these devices. I always hear and read that people riding the bus, waiting in line, etc. will be able to watch a short film or clip or whatever. But how many people actually ride the bus or train, and wouldn't they be more likely to watch longer form video (if they choose to watch video at all)? And how often do we really stand in line? While there may be a market for selling media to people for every moment in their lives, its seems video will still succeed most in situations where people devote themselves specifically to watching the video (though TV is often a background activity, any video on an iPod or cellphone has to be a dedicated, primary activity).

Second, until a convenient method for subscribing and transferring video to a portable device comes about, downloading video seems more trouble than its worth for most people. Obviously, podcasting is pretty convenient, but to podcast short form video, you need a serialized story (which I think does hold potential) or a service or channel selecting videos for you. And transferring to the portable device is something you really have to choose to do, versus it just happening (DVRs for example).

Finally, who will be the viewers of this type of video? Obviously, this is aimed at younger demographics with the hope that it will become mainstream for them. But even younger users, who will take the time to find the content, subscribe and transfer it, and watch it in their free time? It kind of seems that the typical person in this demographic may not devote their time to this. Rather, it seems the more techno-savvy, media-savvy people will be the primary users (and I don't think all or even most young people are truly techno/media savvy).

I'm curious whether Microsoft's Zune will chance anything as you should be able to download content directly to the player...


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