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From contributor Ron Williams…

I have read in recent days that Rick Sanchez as been fired from his CNN anchor job for making what was claimed to be “anti-Semitic” comment regarding Jewish control of the television networks.  Recently Mr. Sanchez has started making the rounds of other television shows apologizing for his comments claiming that they were both “anti-Semitic” and wrong.

I watched with some amusement the ABC View program with the commentators bending over backwards to deny that his comments were true and to assert that even if they were not true that they were somehow anti-Semitic.  If Jews predominate the entertainment industry, so what?    I am somewhat at a loss to understand why Jews predominating the entertainment industry is anymore anti- semantic than saying that blacks predominate in basketball is racist today.  It seems that these commentators on the View and others protest too much.  And they do so without offering any proof that the statements are in fact anti-Semitic. They offer no explanation or support for the assertion that these comments, whether true or untrue are in of themselves “anti-Semitic.”

Furthermore, I do not believe that the comments were in fact an accurate, and therefore should not be considered “anti-Semitic”.  I worked several years in the entertainment industry as an entertainment attorney.  I noted empirically that a large number of Jewish persons were in control of the creative and decision-making positions in the entertainment industry, including music, motion pictures, publishing and television.  If in fact that is the case, then stating a truism cannot be “anti–” anything.

The concentration of Jewish people in the entertainment industry as historical underpinnings.  At the turn of the previous century, Jewish performers were highly concentrated in the Vaudeville circuit.  In addition, I believe you will find that a significant number of the vaudeville houses were also owned by Jewish proprietors.  Additionally, you will find that the majority of the songwriters and performers were Jewish.  Jewish entertainers from George P Cohan, Al Jolson to Fanny Brice dominated the vaudevillian circuits.  I understand that not every performer who was popular was Jewish, but there is no denial that Jews dominated the vaudeville circuit.  A similar situation existed in both music publishing and performance.

In the early days of the film industry, Jewish entrepreneurs also dominated the production and performance in motion pictures , and the financing for these motion pictures came from Jewish controlled banks in New York.  This pattern has continued through to today.  I challenge anyone to look at the rosters of the key executives who control of the creative aspects of all of the major networks, the motion picture industry, the music industry and publishing and show that the predominant group controlling these industries are not Jewish.

Having said this, I find no problem with these industries being predominated by Jews.  In the early days, entertainers were not held in high esteem.  This is an area that Jews could succeed.  That is often the case for groups that have suffered discrimination by the majority population.  One need only look at national athletics both historically and today to see this pattern repeats itself.  You can follow the progression of discrimination against various ethnic groups with their progression through the professional boxing ranks.

Today, no one can dispute the fact that national football and basketball are dominated by African Americans.  Also note the significant number of Spanish-surname ballplayers we are seeing now in professional baseball, players coming from countries such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where sports is seen as a way out of poverty.  WHEN ANY GROUP IS DENIED the full range of professions in this society, it is only natural that they take the path of least resistance to achieve success.  African Americans for several generations now have seen athletics as one of the few viable path to economic success.  That is probably why you see more African Americans in football and basketball.  It is not because African Americans are carefully better football players or basketball. In turn of the previous century, entertainment was an available track for success.

This overreaction is even more dramatic when I see commentators like Glen Beck make all kinds of wild assertions about the President and other African Americans with impunity.  I also note that Glen Beck make their assertions on their programs while Rick Sanchez made his comments on another program w2hile being interviewed.  It seems as if his First Amendment rights have taken a back seat on this issue.  Again methinks they protest this too much.

So before we see Rick Sanchez do an endless round of apologies for his statement, people demanding his apologies should show that his statements are in fact incorrect.  But more importantly, whether they are correct or incorrect, his statement should not be a reason for his termination.  If the statements are not true then slapped him on the wrist for making an untrue statement.  But I believe that upon examination will be shown that his statements are in large part true. And whether true or not, I believe there is nothing wrong with a situation where Jews would be in control of the entertainment industry.  Just like there’s nothing wrong with African Americans being the predominant football and basketball players or that Hispanics are now coming dominate boxing. If Jews control the entertainment industry, so what.

[Ron Williams is a retired attorney living in The Woodlands, TX, and a welcome guest contributor to Social Mode]

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Read a great piece today (which I found on Slashdot…) on the state of violence in video games.  It’s remarkable in that it’s author is a life long gamer (like myself) and he starts to drop some value anchors.

If we come to that, should it be illegal to simulate player imposed suffering of photorealistic humans in video games? If so, where do we draw the line with regards to realism? For example, BioShock is “OK” now, but how much more realistic will the virtual human’s appearance and behavior have to get before virtual murder is considered genuinely and irreversibly harmful for the player?

Will it matter if it’s done “by hand and knife” in a holodeck-style brain-machine interface, or if it’s executed through a 10-button game controller? Will it matter if it’s a quick death or a slow, drawn-out one? Will it matter if the human-killing enacted by the player fits the legal definition of murder or if it is done in self-defense?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that they won’t come easy, especially if the game industry fights back against government regulation. As we grow ever closer to 100% graphical and situational realism in games, hopefully game publishers will decline to encourage the stunningly accurate simulation of gratuitous human suffering.

My concern is not that these violent simulations described will happen; they probably will at some point. I’m concerned that we as an audience will continue to consider gratuitous virtual murder a form of mainstream entertainment. The kind of violence I’m describing should be relegated to the bottom, back-corner shelf of any game store — not by law or punishment, but by consumer demand.

This is a great debate to engage in now!  We can define the values and shape our behavior.  If we don’t actively define them, it will still passively happen and we may end up having to unlearn a bunch of values.  And, as Mr. Edwards points out, we just don’t know how that will turn out.  At some point the realism of the games and the idea that you are controlling something virtual will erode and we’ll have real trouble telling the difference between what is real world behavior and what is virtual.  When and what that looks like we just can’t say.  We already have real legal and social issues regarding what happens on social networks – and those are not realistic and/or even close to as full person engaging as modern games.

I’ll give you one my own experiences… and for those that have played a first person shooter on the PC or X Box live know just how insanely over the top scary the live voice chatter between people can get.  When I was actively playing Halo 3 you would hear multiple times a session about how other players want to ass-rape, gang bang, whack and kill those fags/mutherfuckers and their mothers.   This language and threats would be made whether there was a 10 year old on the other end or a bunch of adults. I’m not using made up language here.  One time I let the audio escape out of speakers instead of my headset and it kinda freaked my wife out. “People really talk like that on there?” Yes. Yes they do.

Do I think that language itself means someone will go out and do those things? no.  Do I think repeated exposure and reinforcement that associates that langauge and winning and “earning buddies or friends” starts to seep into non-gaming behavior?  Absolutely.

I now report all language like that.  I don’t know if XBox or Microsoft aggressively pursues it.  I hope so.  One time I even tried to track down someone I thought crossed the line with another player.  This is an impossible task.

My thinking on this is related to other conversations about the impact of news media on events and the slippery evading authorities behavior encouraged during the #iranelection stuff on Twitter.

The last 12 months have been a whirl wind of big things… presidential shifts, big world events, wars, economic troubles, unemployment, technology advances, health care… just huge value disruptors.  There’s an obsession with Real Time right now.  More Data Faster!  The challenge is you can’t reflect on values in real time.  you can’t set anchors and see where you stand against them.  No, we don’t have to stop and reflect – we can keep charging ahead.  That approach will have different consequences than if we stop and reflect.  I can admit I’m a bit frightened by the consequences of this relentless acceleration towards more data faster – technical progress at all costs – we’ll sort it out later.  (And those that know me understand I’m not exactly a patient person and love change)…

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Latest data has Oscars Ratings up about 6% (see here and here), a little above 30 million viewers.

This was inline with what I imagined.

If you’re looking for Winners and actual info on the show, here ya go and here.

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With all this viewership moving from TVs and set tops to the Internet, it makes no sense that TimeWarner, Comcast, Adelphia, etc. etc. continue to be ok with start ups partnering with studios to go around their business.  Worse, the users are sucking up bandwidth via their cable and fiber connections mostly pulling content from CDNs like Limelight, Akamai, ArcoStream, Edgecast, etc. etc.

If the cable companies just purchased the CDNs they would have a much more defensible part of the digital media chain.  Heck, they should even buy some of the p2p networks and/or sling media.  If they had the pipes plus the delivery outposts, they could make some really smokin services.

Instead of doing that they fight the p2p users and let folks like Move Networks, Joost and YouTube steal their users and their licensed content.  As it stands now the cable companies are just the cheap source of video content we can all encode and move around the Interwebs.  (and not watch commercials…)

C’mon man!

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Check this out for what should be cautionary news for all the bandwagon businesses trying to make video advertising the next great get rich quick scheme.

The key facts in January 2008:

  • More than 139 million US Internet users spent an average of 206 minutes per person viewing online video in January.
  • Google Sites also attracted the most viewers (80 million), and they spent an average of 110 minutes watching video.
  • Fox Interactive attracted the second most viewers (53.9 million), followed by Yahoo Sites (36.3 million) and AOL LLC (21.9 million).

Other Notable Findings from January 2008

  • More than three-quarters of the total US internet audience (75.7%) viewed online video.
  • 78.5 million viewers watched 3.25 billion videos on YouTube.com (41.4 videos per viewer).
  • 49.4 million viewers watched 534 million videos on MySpace.com (10.8 videos per viewer).
  • The average online video duration was 2.9 minutes.
  • The average online video viewer consumed 70 video

Look at that. Compare it to TV numbers:

 The total average time a household watched television during the 2005-2006 television year was 8 hours and 14 minutes per day, a 3-minute increase from the 2004-2005 season and a record high. The average amount of television watched by an individual viewer increased 3 minutes per day to 4 hours and 35 minutes, also a record. (See Table 1.) Meanwhile, during primetime, households tuned to an average of 1 hour and 54 minutes of primetime television per night, up 1 minute, and the average viewer watched 1 hour and 11 minutes, which was the same as last year. (See Table 2.)

Although teenagers typically drive the consumption and development of new media platforms, teens age 12-17 viewed 3% more traditional television during the full day than in the 2004-2005 television year. This increase was driven primarily by teenage girls, who increased their Total Day viewing by 6%. Increases among teenage girls were particularly high during early morning (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) and late night (11:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.) viewing, which were up 12% and 6%, respectively.

Younger children age 2-11 also watched more television during 2005-2006, increasing their total day viewing levels by 4%. Viewing by children increased 3% during primetime, 5% during early morning and 6% during late night.

Most people consume more TV in one day than all online video in a month.  Sure, you can say that online video is moving very quickly.  However, eventually you run out of time in the day and the slow down at the beginning of 2008 might be an indication of that.

Online video viewing is cutting into TV viewing behavior (time watching isn’t the only metric to pay attention to!), despite what the publishers want to claim. Skipping commercials, less direct attention, time of day watching, brand recognition, quality of shows, what shows, DVRs….

Unfortunately, the behavior of online video viewing is not in favor of advertisers.  With TV we have 60 years of product placement, crazy amounts of ads every 6 or 7 minutes and we all grew accustom to not having any control over the TV experience.  With online we have 10 years of finding as many was as we can to ignore ads, delete them, steal content, embed ad free videos, and so forth.  Worse, the way TV ads are sold is very different than online ads and the money associated with web ads is not even close to TV.

Let’s consider the online video advertising model as it stands now.

At best users are watching 3.5 hours of online video a month. That means at best they are seeing 60-80 video ads (1 every 5 minutes I estimate) versus the over 1000 TV ads we all see per month. Let’s say the monetizable videos (no adult, no copyright violation, no crap), say 50% of all videos, go for $30 CPM (hahahaha, it’s closer to $20 or less, I’m certain). That means total video advertising revenue on the internet (maximum amount) is about $60,000,000 per month or $.50/user. It costs between $3-10 million just for bandwidth on those video. It costs another $10-20 million in hardware, space and power to service the sites, encoding, and security. Labor is probably $2-5 million. Cost of Sales (commissions and all that), is probably $10-30 million.  Doing the math, we end up with a cost between $25-65 million without factoring in general business expenses like office space, benefits and so forth.

Google doesn’t even really put video ads in there, so really 3.25 billion of the 4 billion videos are without high CPM ads.  Google does do the companion 300×250 and the overlay, but there’s no way those are going for $30 CPM on even good content like this.  (Then again, the video is cool, but the comments and rest of page is pretty terrible.)  So really we should haircut the $60,000,000 number by 50%, just to make it easy.

Some media companies have a different view, or they need to promote alternative data.  NBC digital put data out recently.  The numbers seem so impressive until you think about them.  40 million video streams…  that’s not very big.  Not at all.  TV dollars aren’t going to go anywhere because we have 60 years of behavior to change before the numbers move at all.

Oh, wait, let’s consider the data from Blinkx and Harris Interactive. Pretty funny study.

All told there’s no possible way anyone is making money on an online video experience.

Not even CDNs are going to make money from this video crazed Internet business building.

YouTube has updated their API so that any publisher can flat out repurpose the main guts of YouTube.  This effectively nukes the main growth area for CDNs.  Combine Amazon s3 with YouTube API and you have no infrastructure play left.

The YouTube API is going to change the video ad world too.  Once major publishers moveover, and they will because the cost is nothing, Google will own most of the sales relationships and it will just be easier to take Google ads, like it already is for most other types of online content.

Another huge point is the complete lack of advertisers for online video advertising.  Who can possibly afford video ads and their lack of traffic generation?  Only big brands who don’t need to worry about whether they get a click to a shopping cart or can arbitrage the traffic.  That limits the advertising pool to about 5000 companies and 200 agencies.  Whereas every website and commercial operation online can and does buy Google Ads, Yahoo PPC, or some other text or banner ad.  That’s probably well over 10 million advertisers in the Pay Per Click pool.  That’s a marketplace.  Video ads have NO MARKET PLACE.  At least television developed a local ad model.  Online video doesn’t have anything like that.   With no market place driving prices, there’s no way to equate the value to anything and, generally, that means the price will keep going down.

There’s so much more to look at in all this, especially in raw user and advertiser behavior.  I wanted to look at the numbers for now just to get a sense of things.

~R

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