The future of video will be the Internet

If you want to learn how the professional YouTube content universe works, have a look at Mark Suster’s Building An Internet Video Company in 2013. Suster (@msuster) knows what he’s talking about. He’s one of the lead investors of Maker Studios, one of the more successful multi channel networks (MCN) on YouTube, and has some other financial interest in this space as well.

His arguments are pretty valid. Why MCNs are successful, what roles YouTube fulfills, what changes are likely to occur. But with this slide here, I’m having serious problems:

People are consuming > 6 hours of video a day. That won’t change. The future of the Internet will be video.

onlinevideomarketsept2013-130925170533-phpapp01

Watch out: those numbers promise a bit too much.

What’s the problem? Look at the numbers.
– People are watching more and more video. OK.
– In 2012, online video has seen a 54% increase over 2011. OK.
– All video consume is increasing, except DVD/Blu-Ray (which is shrinking a little bit). OK.
So where’s the problem?

Look where the bulk of the number is coming from: traditional TV is a serious time hog. In a typical US household, a TV set is running for five hours and 11 minutes. Every day. And guess what: compared to 2011, this is an increase of 1%.

If we could break now please the scenario down into age groups? Then, you should see the following: the older the age bracket, the higher the total video consumption. And don’t just blame it on some Golden Girls watching Columbo reruns til they drop.

Thing is: not all media usage is created equal. How do you watch a video on YouTube? You choose, you click, you watch (maybe even until it ends). It’s a fairly concentrated endeavor. The screen is right in front of your nose. If it’s a tablet, you might even hold it in your hands.
TV is different. Mostly, it works like a companion device. Yes, there might be some serious watching going on. But the default state of the devices is the solipsistic soliloquy of a talking lamp. Philips’ Ambilight + hue might point you in the right direction.

A running TV set is some kind of anti-Feng-Shui device. It’s a constantly changing window into a potentially noisy outside world, which is trying to get your attention. It’s a weapon of mass distraction, as it reaches into millions of households. Concurrently, with the same optimized offers to take over your concentration. But it will not necessarily distract you from messaging on Facebook, commenting a YouTube video, cooking your dinner (or maybe your books). An average of five hours of usage per day means: it’s the ultimate second screen.

So I’m pretty sure that the future of video will be the Internet (for purely technical reasons, as in a network protocol). And I’m sure that the future of the Internet will be determined by video (insofar as the future of a network is determined by bandwidth consumed).

But will people keep consuming more 6 hours of video a day? Two of the most successful Internet applications of today have essentially linear broadcasts at their cores. Twitter’s timeline and Facebook’s newsfeed offer a constant stream of notifications. As with TV, they either grab your attention, or can be safely ignored. And any notification might stand for itself or point you to some text, an image, or a video.

See, we still could have a companion device hanging on the wall, spouting out its own stream of attention grabbing events.  But the more the generation YouTube sees the old tube as a relict from their parents pastimes, and as long as there is no substituting device for incidental watching (or a rebranding of the TV set as a great screen with a future), total consumed video hours will have to decrease.

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