Brightcove, Revisited

Some clouds on the horizon…
I love the Brightcove business model; low barrier to entry, simplified consumer/producer participation, economic incentives for contribution to the network, etc… Assuming Brightcove can pull this product together and convey the message, they’ll do fine. But there are also some potential problems…

1. Open Access? While Microsoft and TiVo appear largely willing and able to open their devices up to any content, the cable and satellite guys, and most likely the telco guys, are all going to be less generous with access in their “baby” proprietary networks. Given the potential for cab/sat/telco set-top boxes to become the primary gateway between the open Internet and the consumer’s TV, a lot of TV’s could initially be closed off to Jeremy’s content. However, standards such as Media RSS will eventually enable any appropriately formatted content asset to travel through a sanctioned aggregation point (like Yahoo!) and on to the end-use device, regardless of who owns the network. The cab/sat/telco guys would like to continue dictating what we can watch, but eventually consumers will make those decisions, or they will go elsewhere. But this creates a second problem…

2. Open Standards? Open standards will help the market grow rapidly and drive increased participation in the overall community. However, the more prevalent open standards become the further Brightcove’s (existing) value propositions erode. If anyone can publish a video asset in a standard format (such as MPEG-4) and label it with a standard set of tags (such as Media RSS) and protect it with a standard DRM solution (such as WM9) then Brightcove’s main value proposition lies in the size of it’s network. If Yahoo! is cataloging any appropriately formatted RSS feed, then Brightcove will be hard pressed to aggregate a larger group of consumers than Yahoo! Same goes with the advertising network. Pretty soon, consumers begin to wonder why they’re using Brightcove to publish their content and Yahoo! to do everything else.

3. Yawhoo? With Terry Semel at the helm, Yahoo!’s foray into entertainment has been aggressive. By forming tight relationships with distributors such as Comcast and SBC, Yahoo! is attempting to become a super-aggregator of rich media content. Recent deals to simulcast shows like “Fat Acress” with Showtime combined with their strong support for Media RSS standards should telegraph their aspirations. If they manage to tie up enough (potentially exclusive) arrangements with the old media goliaths, while simultaneously aggregating large quantities of niche media assets, they can scale the network quickly enough to make competing with them very expensive.

4. How Fast? In order to participate in this market, you have to get in early. Unfortunately you also have to be ready to wait for the market to mature before you make a killing (just ask iFilm and Atom). How long is the delay from adolescence to maturity going to be? How do you aggregate consumers before you have lots of compelling content and without spending a fortune on advertising? It’s early and this evolution is not going to happen tomorrow. Jeremy had better not ramp things up too quickly with that $5.5MM, or I think he might find himself with a cost structure that’s unsustainable.

Brightcove’s vision is bold, and one that Jeremy probably needs to downplay a bit to make credible with some. I mean, really, he’s essentially attempting to blow up the existing broadcast TV and movie supply chains and replace them wholesale with something new and more efficient. Oddly enough, there are a few incumbents with billions in cash that have their own vision of the future (and those visions probably don’t include Brightcove operating the market and collecting a toll at every exit.). The only thing worse than pissing off one gorilla is pissing off ten.

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