By Tom Burton
Viacom has put online the entire eight year archive of its top rating comedy series, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in a move which will be closely watched by all the major networks, advertisers, telcos and the burgeoning new media video industry.
Non obtrusive advertisements have been placed around the content as well as a short seven second introduction, with car manufacturer, Hyundai grabbing some of the early advertising slots.
Selected excerpts had been available, but the move to totally open the popular TV series archive is the most ambitious move by a traditional media company to cash in on the burgeoning popularity of video on the internet. It follows a recent move by the New York Times to abandon its online premium subscriber service and open its entire archive, arguing advertising offered better growth prospects than subscription.
With broadband now widely available, video has emerged as a highly popular format. Entertainment TV recently surpassed news as the most popular on line video format.
Viacom is suing Google's video juggernaut YouTube for alleged copyright breaches and its move to promote its own content direct from its own branded websites represents a major strategic change for the broadcasters. Traditional media players have been reluctant to post their content fearing massive reproduction thru peer to peer networks.
Most of the major broadcasters and content producers have posted limited online inventory as they tentatively test demand, distribution and commercial models.
Viacom's decision to post its entire archive--while fighting YouTube in the courts--sets the scene for a battle between the established media players and their high profile entertainment brands against the user generated content sites, most notable YouTube.
Also watching closely the Viacom experiment will be the telco IPTV industry which has seen the market place change rapidly as the quality of online video continues to improve, with at least one platform/site, Vimeo, already offering 1280X720 HD quality direct from the browser.
Adobe is shortly to release its latest Flash Player software (beta now available), which promises MPEG 4 broadcast like quality and which will significantly improve the quality of online video for all distributors and platforms.
This threatens the attractiveness of the proprietary systems many telcos are now rolling out as part of their triple play IPTV strategies. The telcos increasingly find themselves jammed between the media companies pushing their own content brands on their own sites and the online distributors who can offer soon to be broadcast quality content across the internet.
For advertisers, the Viacom move also opens a powerful new channel to promote from and comes as Google last week launched new ad sense video units for use by online publishers and San Francisco based Blinkx released a non proprietary video ad platform for publishers.