May 26, 2007
VOD vs. Online Video: Alternative Methods for Television Content

The approaches to non-linear television content has been a major point of discussion over the past year, both in my own writing and in following the coverage in the industry press, particularly in TelevisionWeek. In particular, there has been an interesting juxtaposition between using more traditional platforms, particularly cable television and satellite, versus using digital methods of distribution, such as working with new video distributors or a network's own Web site.

These questions were raised again this week with Daisy Whitney's story about Concert.TV, the VOD channel which is launching a broadband component to its online services, featuring similar programming to their VOD channel.

One thing is clear: there are a variety of methods that are cheaper and more sustainable for upstart businesses than launching a traditional linear cable channel. The question remains, though, how to make that presence felt. This bifurcated model, of course, solves a lot of those questions, but most companies do not have the resources to launch both simultaneously. Concert.TV launched as a VOD channel and then made plans to expand into broadband.

From traditional media companies, it seems that online video has been the more attractive option most of the time. For one thing, it is sexier. It sounds more exciting, and it involves a lot more unchartered water. In addition, it means taking some of the power and autonomy away from the Comcasts and Cablevisions of the world, whereas VOD continues to empower the same players, albeit in a new way.

The fact remains, though, that VOD has an ease-of-use and reaches a lot more people in a more traditional way. It is less a deviation from traditional television viewing habits than watching video online and might have the best chance of being more immediately mainstream.

Whitney points out that, with online video, "programmers can bypass onerous carriage negotiations with cable operators and launch a site with an immediate national reach. Advertising options online are also more flexible than on VOD."

In my own research into WWE 24/7 On Demand, I have found that they have had success in getting substantial expansion for their niche branded VOD channel to the point that they now have 83,000 subscribers, I believe, and their content has helped digitize and fuel substantial DVD sales in the process. They have also included some of that content from the archive on theIr Web site as well, as part of this dual approach advocated by an increasing number of powers.

For more on the positives of VOD, see this post from last month.

Also, see my writing about Lime TV.

Even as these two platforms battle it out for relevance and business models and their piece of the advertising pie, there's no question that there are a growing number of ways to circumvent the traditional linear system of television programming for new content.