Google, Internet, Video

Google Video Loses the Plot

First: I have to caveat everything I write here because I haven’t been able to look at or use Google Video yet. That the service was announced, but not launched, is in and of itself lame.

Second, based on what I’ve been able to learn about Google video, it would seem they have not really done anything useful. Instead, they appear to have picked a strategy that adds to the tower of Babel that is the downloadable video internet marketplace today.

What should they have done? Simple, same video marketplace idea, but without a DRM solution. Give us paid-for content, but in a more-or-less standard wrapper — MPEG4 or the H.264 flavor, that works on the largest variety of devices and that can be burned to DVD without restriction.

I would guess Google will argue that they are doing that (the Charlie Rose example that has been cited), but that they’re also want to offer media companies and producers a choice between that approach or some form of DRM distribution. Indeed, here is their pitch:

Owners also have the choice to offer their content with
or without copy protection – enabling them greater control over its
distribution.

Sure, it sound sensible and logical. But, by giving this choice they’ve made a real mistake, because they have forfeited the market-making impact they could have had, and their opportunity to build a video marketplace that actually provides consumers a decent experience. Most media companies and producers offering paid-for content will choose to have their content copy-protected, and unless I’m missing something, that copy protection probably won’t work with a significant range of devices (and I doubt it will provide for DVD-burning, so sneakernet won’t be an option, either).

So what Google has ended up with is a second-rate (at best) initial content offering and a third-class consumer experience. With a little bravery, they could have focused on a first-rate consumer experience — and a solution without DRM is the only consumer-friendly option for now. Combining first class consumer experience with their market-making traffic would have made Google a real threat. Indeed, with that combination, they would need just one success — one — to get the ball rolling. One example of a video selling 1 million, 2 million, or 3 million copies, and they’d have folks beating down their door. And without a connected device strategy (like Apple), it would be a lot easier to sell that many copies of a video if it could be burned to DVD; or copied to a Tivo; or to an iPod.

PS: my support for a non-DRM solution isn’t borne out of some anti-copyright agenda. It’s just a practical view, outlined here.

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