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New Ways of Delivering Content Highlighted at NAB

17 Apr, 2008 By: Dan Bennett

LAS VEGAS — When Jason Kilar and his team at Hulu.com were preparing to launch a Web site offering instant access to vast amounts of entertainment content, they wanted a site so simple to navigate that people could find what they needed in 15 seconds or less. It would have to be so easy to use, Kilar said, that even his mother could manage.

Not long after she went to the site, Kilar said, his mother “was knee-deep in ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents.’

Kilar was a keynote speaker at the annual National Association of Broadcasters show held April 11-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Kilar began his career at Disney before spending a decade at Amazon.com, where he helped lead the company's entry into the video and DVD markets. This year, NAB emphasized content more than ever before and put it on an equal level with the vast new technologies sweeping the industry.

Hollywood types such as film directors Doug Liman and Barry Sonnenfeld spoke about the future of content and integrated methods of delivery, as did producers of the “C.S.I.” and “Lost” television series. Actor Tim Robbins gave the major opening address.

Kilar's presentation on Web delivery embodied a vital message of the vast NAB confab — that content must be available on the consumer's terms. For Hulu.com, already a go-to site after only one month live, those terms mean free access to a vast selection of hit shows, clips, movies and more. Hulu partners with such leading content companies as NBC, FOX, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Bravo, E! Entertainment Television, FX Networks, National Geographic, Oxygen, Sundance Channel, Sci Fi Network and USA Network. This content is distributed through Hulu's partnerships with AOL, Comcast, MSN, Yahoo! and MySpace.

“Online video viewing has more than tripled in the last year,” Kilar said of the industry. “It's a strong trend. Clearly, users are embracing media when it's made available on their terms.”

By making the experience as easy and clutter-free as possible — not to mention legal — Kilar said, Hulu gained a distinct advantage.

”If the content is legally available in terms of full episodes, we want to take you there,” Kilar said. “We have a lot of ways to browse, and more than 250 TV shows, from current hits to classic content.”

Users can embed entire episodes and share with friends, or they can embed certain portions of the content. The content is supported by online advertising from such companies as Chili's and other brands.

The time for content on consumer terms comes at a moment of transition, Kilar said.

“There is no doubt that over the last two decades, watching certain programming from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in your living room has decreased,” Kilar said. “A lot of people are spending more discretionary time online. The living room experience is never going away, but more people will go online for their content. It's a fantastic medium that is always changing. Content owners must think offensively, and become relevant in the online environment.”

Kilar used the example of “American Idol,” saying the series enjoyed 25 million viewers.“That leaves a non-audience of 278 million,” he said. “We can do better than that.”

The trend will also affect the DVD industry. Kilar described an e-mail from a customer, who said he became a fan of the series “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” through Hulu, then went out and bought the first two seasons on DVD.

“Premium online video is one of the biggest trends I've ever seen in my life,” he said, adding that such a delivery method won't eliminate established entities such as cable companies, but enhance the public perception of content and benefit all providers.

New delivery methods discussed at NAB also further introduced such concepts as 3-D television. With 3-D movies in theaters now a proven attraction, content providers and electronic manufacturers are looking to move that experience to the home.

A new alliance seeking to advance the adoption of 3-D entertainment in the home launched at the show, involving 22 companies, including Disney, Philips and Samsung. The 3D@Home Consortium includes high-tech industry leaders who will work together in an attempt to bring consumers quality, affordable in-home 3-D entertainment. Also involved are Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Imax and numerous electronics and technology companies.

"This strong international group of founding companies is a testament to the widespread interest and possibilities in stereoscopic 3-D home entertainment," said U.S. Display Consortium CEO Michael Ciesinski. "We expect many more to join in the coming months with our efforts to help speed adoption of 3-D in the home to begin immediately."

Primary short-term goals include technical advancements, development of educational materials for consumers and the development of industry standards. Gaming, sports, movies and other entertainment are part of the long-term plans.

"In 2008, millions of TVs capable of showing stereoscopic 3-D content will be purchased by consumers," said Chris Chinnock, founder and president of Insight Media. "The value of … TVs sold in 2008 that are capable of showing HD-quality stereoscopic 3-D content is expected to exceed $2 billion dollars, making this market large enough to attract the interest and attention of many players."

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