Televison Leaving the Living Room: A VON Panel

Moderator Hiawatha Bray, technology columnist for The Boston Globe: How many people actually watch TV on their cell phones or laptops?

Ted Malone, VP of SlingMedia: You can use SlingBox to load TV shows to Mac, PC, and cell phones — not Blackberry. Don’t release numbers. By 5:1 ratio, PC and Mac are major ways people watch TV when they travel. Still means hundreds of thousands watching on mobile devices. Top use is sports. Business travelers use it to access their digital video recorders. They can take their home TV with them.

Dennis Miller, general partner for Spark Capital: Veoh Networks served 16 million hours of video last month. Lots of scrutiny concerning intellectual property. Hulu from NBC is out in beta today. A lot of posturing, people suing one another in preparation for deals. Half of the studio wants to sue you, the other half wants to make a deal with you to distribute their content. A lot of unsettled law. TV is learning from music industry, looking to push content out at an attractive price point.

Michael Gordon of Limelight Networks: standard-definition on computer screens is acceptable quality, comparable to what’s on TV. But there are last-mile limits on higher quality, because of internet connections. More than half of households have broadband. Hiawatha asserts that rest of world has faster broadband. Gordon: yes in South Korea, but not everywhere else. U.S. does “a pretty decent job” and will do a much better job five years from now. Also will do a better job with “digital divide,” problem of internet haves and have-nots. Forecasts for broadband in 1998 and 1999 were considered foolishly optimistic, but they have happened. “It’s all going to happen.”

Hiawatha: This is very impressive technology, but where’s the money?

Dennis Miller: It’s very premature right now. YouTube founders made some money, but we’re in early days of monetization of the platform. CNN was called Chicken Noodle Network in early days, not expected to make money. It was so difficult to sell advertising time on cable that Ted Turner went on air trying to sell ads. Number of players, lack of metrics make it very difficult. It’s not a must-buy for advertisers now. There’s a lot of attention but not a lot of revenue right now.

Hiawatha: But if everyone is watching more TV this way, why isn’t it going to be a must-buy?

Miller: Advertisers are lazy. At the end of the day they want to buy their 30-second spot and go play golf. They are a very slow group of folks to move to the Promised Land. They are testing it. They all have their favorites, usually the one they’ve invested in. There are still a lot of places to put ads right now. Facebook is the It Girl today, it will be someone else next. None of the new social networks are considered by advertisers as places they have to be.

Ted Malone: it will be a gradual shift from TV to internet, not the throwing of a light switch.

Solid panel, but energy level has hit late-afternoon doldrums. Switching to Twitter…

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