Earlier this year, we had the honor and pleasure of conversing with James McQuivey (Ph.D.), Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. James is a television & media technology analyst and a true thought leader in the online video industry. His focus is on analyzing and providing insight and strategic guidance when it comes to the future of media technology and his focus includes things like video on demand, online video, HDTV, digital downloads, Netflix, etc…. As he puts it on his own personal blog:
“That’s right, for a living I study things like HDTV, Blu-Ray, digital downloads, iTunes video, Netflix — if you can watch it, I cover it.”
We have split this interview into 2 parts because there was soo much valuable insight, we thought it would be good to break it up. This first part of our interview below includes background on James as well as some insight into his thoughts on the future of online video consumption. In our second part, James discusses the future of online video monetization, video discovery, and a concept he has coined,
“OmniVideo – a scenario in which you have access to all the content you could want, through any device, in any location.”
Below is Part 1 of our Interview with James:
Dr. McQuivey, can you give us a brief background on your experience with online video?
When I was a doctoral student in media research at Syracuse University in the early 90s, someone at Cornell University generated an application called CUSeeMee, an online video web chat tool. The frame rate was terrible and my dial-up connection to the university’s servers made it nearly impossible to get a decent connection going. But even looking at the 1-inch video image on my monitor, I remember thinking, “This changes everything.” The idea that video could be delivered over IP, to a computer monitor — though not yet satisfyingly — suggested infinite possibilities.
What is your role in regards to the Forrester Report?
As a principal analyst at Forrester Research, my job is to take the largest view possible of the industry. I can’t get stuck in product features — though I have to know them; I can’t spend all day philosophizing about the future — though I have to have a sense of what’s possible. In covering content, how it’s made, delivered, consumed, I come across important topics that need to be defined. But my focus is finding what needs to be said about the big topics, like will people pay to watch video online? The answer I gave in a significant report in March of 2007 was no. It still is. But more important than simply answering the question is explaining why. It’s the why that generates the most insight.
Is broadcast television going to go the way of the 8-track and betamax any time soon?
Broadcast is still around, will still be around as long as there is a Congress. And even in a five year timeframe, I see broadcast contributing half the viewing minutes in a consumers’ typical day. Behind that is linear cable. But very close behind that will be IP-delivered video to PCs, Internet-enabled TV devices, and mobile platforms.
Ten years from now, we could conceivably see a world in which linear broadcast and linear cable are mostly sources of content for our DVRs.
A lot of online video is still region-blocked. Hulu can’t be seen outside of North America, etc. Do you see this trend sticking around for some time or will things change and if so why?
Region blocking is here to stay through most of the next decade at least. Consumers won’t understand it, some will pirate while they wait for the rights issues to settle. But there is far too big a business riding on the regionalization of content for it to end overnight. Even once it gets resolved, regional filtering doesn’t go away; it just gets used aggressively to manage revenue. Sound greedy? You’d do it too if you made the world’s most popular movie. You’d want to make sure people paid a fair price to see it.
What role will the high-powered current generation game consoles play in the expansion of online and downloadable video content?
Game consoles have been in a potential position of power — especially the Xbox 360 since it was in so many more homes than its competitors. But the experience of using the Xbox 360 for content viewing is about as satisfying as cable VOD. Which means not very. I think the game consoles will ultimately be one of many devices you have in your home that can connect your video services for you. Your Blu-ray players will do the same thing, even the TVs themselves will enable this kind of flexible service delivery.
Is video changing the way we live or is technology changing the way we view video?
Video has the potential to be a much larger force in our lives. I’m sure people who read the earliest books that came off the presses of Gutenberg and those who followed him thought that reading was a big deal. But they had no idea that reading would not only reach nearly everyone, but would expand to fill every piece of people’s lives. You read the cereal box, you read the dial on your stove, you read product displays in the store. Now imagine that a hundred years from now, when every surface is a connected video screen — your walls, your shirt, even your cereal box — that people will wonder why static print was ever as common as it was. Video will have taken over. We’re wired for video, it’s part of how we process the world.