There’s been news out that Time Warner will be making its back catalog of old TV shows for a new Internet service.

Digital analyst Phil Leigh is actually a bit impressed, and has this to say about it:

Congratulations to Time Warner …for taking the biggest step yet to launch an “Internet of Video”. The plans by Warner Brothers to make their back catalog of old TV shows available for a new Internet service, termed In2TV, early next year is to be vigorously applauded by those of us who want to see Digital Media come-of-age. They have 4,800 episodes from more than 100 old television series that they’ll be distributing at the AOL portal.
 
There are five reasons why we think this is significant.
 
First, the content has genuine value to consumers. Some of the programs include such formerly popular ones as Maverick, Welcome Back Kotter, Eight is Enough, and The Fugitive. It is not oddball programming from the lunatic fringe.
 
Second, they’re free. Programs on In2TV will be advertising supported, but will have only one or two minutes per half-hour episode as compared to today’s standard of eight minutes on regular network shows.
 
Third, more than any initiative since satellite television, this one promotes the benefits of competition into the video-to-the-home market where the Cable TV companies have been exercising the power of a gatekeeper for too long.  Cable companies have abused their near monopoly power in two ways. First, they sometimes require program originators to pay them money for the privilege of being “carried” on the system. In such instances they “double dip” by charging the viewers a monthly fee to see the programs. Second, they often structure subscriptions in such a way that the consumer has to pay for things that she doesn’t necessarily want in order to gain access to the services she does want. For example, you often cannot get video-on-demand without first becoming a digital cable subscriber. That means you pay an incremental monthly fee, merely to have the “right” to pay a “pay-per-view” fee as well.  
 
Fourth, AOL will be using Peer-To-Peer technology in order to economically distribute the video. This is significant because it underscores the point that the first uses of a technology are not always good predictors of the ultimate uses. As anyone not living in a cave for the past five years will recognize, the P2P concept was first popularized by Shawn Fanning’s Napster and was universally condemned by the media companies owing to the initial use characterized by the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music files. Time Warner’s intent to employ legitimate P2P distribution via Kontiki’s network illustrates how important it is that courts avoid outlawing an entire technology merely because its first user engage in illegal activity.
 
To see an audio-visual interview with Kontiki’s CEO, visit www.insidedigitalmedia.com and click on the show for October 24, 2005.
 
Fifth, it seems almost certain that the initiative will evolve into the first major application of video podcasting. People who want to watch the programs are very likely going to want to subscribe to them. For example, if you are a big fan of James Garner’s Maverick, you’d rather have each episode automatically delivered to your computer than to be required to visit the AOL portal to see if additional episodes have been posted. If In2TV does become the first important instance of video podcasting, it is likely to be good for Microsoft and, not-so-good for Apple. That’s because it will promote the awareness that RSS delivery of Digital Media is not exclusive to the iPod. Most subscribers will be viewing these programs on their computers. It is not yet even known if they will play on the iPod.

 

Alex Eckelberry