Five Questions With… time, y’all! Today we spotlight Jim Lanzone, who, prior to starting “internet television guide” Clicker.com, was CEO of Ask.com and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Redpoint Ventures. Below, he submits the phrase “nanocasting” for approval, sings the praises of the Double Rainbow and explains why using Clicker.com is better than having a brain hemorrhage.
1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?
Just one? We have a bunch. But the biggest issue is obviously the subscription, multichannel video business and the threat/opportunity the existing ecosystem faces as programming becomes accessible online rather than through their old, artificially constrained systems. It’s just a fact, not a criticism. As my board member Bill Gurley wrote in a fantastic post earlier this year, the cable ecosystem has 32 billion reasons why it isn’t exactly racing towards the horizon in a way that satisfies their would-be online viewers. They’re leaving behind a massive market, and they have a lot to lose in the transition, not all of which might be salvageable for all players.
Of course, the rest of the world isn’t waiting for them and more great content is developing on the Internet to compete every day. The balance over the next few years for big media will be minimizing the dilution of the incumbent subscription model while defending against new content creators and distributors. This is especially true in non-fiction verticals, where a ton of high-quality content is already available online. High-quality scripted shows, and especially sports, are less at risk, but even there you have evolved online competition like MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, Hulu, Neflix, and even HBO.com’s new proprietary subscription service, throwing curve balls at the old school models. Not to mention all of the illegal content out there via Megavideo, torrents, etc.
It’s not all going to sort itself out overnight, which is why Clicker must surf the waves on behalf of our users, searching and organizing paid, subscription and ad-supported models all in one interface. Consumers who watch TV online need to know what’s out there, regardless of where it sits, or what payment model it’s available through this week. (Except the illegal stuff — we stay away from that. We want to be part of the future landscape, whatever it works itself out to be.)
2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?
Over-the-top. The term will soon lose its meaning. The world is headed toward all-IP content delivery and distinctions among specific platforms (like cable or mobile) will become less and less important. The smartest MVPDs understand this and are already preparing to compete on an all-IP basis (at that point, who will be going over-the-top of whom?). This all-IP vision is the future we’re building for here at Clicker.
Another one is “narrowcasting.” You think the 200 or so watchable cable channels are narrowcasting? Internet TV already makes this seem quaint. We need a new word. I submit nanocasting for consideration. Geeks love things that come in nanos.
3. If someone gave you $50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)
It doesn’t exist yet. This space needs its own version of Square, a little gadget that makes it dead simple to connect/broadcast one of your first two screens (mobile and laptop) onto your third screen (TV) in near-HD. Once that happens — and I know of more than one company going after this kind of product in stealth (though I’m not an investor in them, for the record) — you’ll no longer have your access, content options or user interface controlled by the same provider. You’ll just get online, throw it up to your big screen (or any screen you want as you walk around the house), use your iPhone or iPad as your remote, and access whatever free or paid services you want through an app or browser. When you have that, Internet TV becomes TV. Especially for the under-30 crowd. They will hear the word “cable box” and it will be as foreign to these kids as “compact disc”, “cassette tape” or “pay phone.”
On a related note, my favorite Onion headline of the year was “Americans spend 90% of their time staring at glowing rectangles.” Exactly. That’s the world I want to help create. Freedom for glowing rectangles. They’ve been discriminated against for long enough.
4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?
Today I shared on my Clicker Social profile that I was watching Season 4 of Dexter, which is newly available on Amazon VOD. Earlier today I shared a show from Shark Week called Air Jaws, which is currently running free on Discovery Channel online, and yesterday I shared the new Steve Carell episode of Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis, from Funny or Die.
I am also still infatuated with Double Rainbow. How can you not be? It’s so beautiful. It’s two freaking rainbows.
5. WILD-CARD: Clicker’s strategy is built on guiding people to the content they want to watch online — but let’s say, hypothetically, that the major sites providing said content, including Hulu and Netflix (s NFLX), all ended up failing. Does Clicker have a back-up strategy in place for such an occasion? Or is that hypothetical considered completely implausible?
Any time I think something is implausible I’m usually, quickly, given a hard lesson in being wrong. But no, Clicker was explicitly created to be the premier navigation and discovery vehicle for online television. So if there is no online television, we’ll have to revert to Plan B: selling remote control bottle openers. My guess is that our challenge, however, won’t be having an Internet television market, but winning the market to be the leading Internet television guide, since we’ve already seen that it will be very competitive on a number of fronts, from companies big and small.
In terms of the market itself, I think your question greatly underestimates how many major sites will be delivering content to the online TV world. I don’t think we’ll have an issue of “too big to fail.” Any one individual player may fail, but there will only be more players (big and small) and more professional content online as time goes on. The universe is expanding and so is our map.
Just look at the TV and Web Originals categories on Clicker. That’s a ridiculous amount of stuff to watch compared to cable TV. Given all that content, someone had to build a product like Clicker, because if you want to watch TV online, Clicker makes it navigable in a way that doesn’t give you a brain hemorrhage. And really, that’s how we measure our success at the end of the day. Are we better than a brain hemorrhage?
Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): The State of Social TV