This week, Jon and I had a chance to speak with Dmitry Shapiro, the founder and CEO of Veoh, which “creates a virtual television network that is able to distribute TV-quality, full-screen broadcast video to hundreds of millions of users with broadband internet connections” using P2P and proprietary technologies. Veoh is very exciting for many different reasons, but most immediately because it makes its competitors that are focusing on integrating video into websites look like they are behind the times. Small, pixilated videos shown in websites are acceptable for some users now, but in the long run that level of quality will not be acceptable. The fact that Veoh requires a downloadable program may at first seem like a potential stumbling block to mass adoption, but it is clear that right now Veoh brings value that video services like OurMedia.org or YouTube simply do not: the videos that are available through Veoh can be of significantly higher resolution and thus be more conducive to viewing long videos.
Veoh is well-designed and easy to use. It is clear they put a lot of intelligent thought into its formulation. For example, Veoh creates static links to reach specific content on the web, identifies clearly which videos work with the iPod Video and made parental controls to password protect videos deemed as “adult” or rated R. For publishers, Veoh makes it easy to upload videos via an RSS feed and select their desired copyright protection.
A hurdle Veoh must overcome is figuring out how to deliver relevant content to the relevant people. As Dmitry mentioned on the call, already people find it difficult to identify TV shows that are interesting because there are hundreds of channels. So what happens when you have 200 million videos? As I believe is the case with many high-potential online services today, much of the value will come with networks of friends who can recommend videos to their friends or identify which of their friends are in which videos. Drivers of the “democratization” of video content include inexpensive cameras and free video editing equipment, but all that content being created must be filtered to the right people, and a good way to do that is through networks of friends. Many of these emerging services are attempting to organically create those networks of friends, but that is a tall-task. As I have written here before, the real value in networks of friends comes when that friend network is so complete that it includes a significantly high percentage of one’s friends of friends. Without that network, the challenge of overcoming information overload facing long tail service providers becomes enormous; after all, how can you expect an individual user to wade through all of that content? Blog search engines work for blogs, but there might be a better way unique to videos. There is so much value to be had in linking content sharing and networks of friends that, in the long run, the services that survive will have to do it. The challenge is finding and linking with complete networks of friends. That said, who will do it, with whom and when? In some ways, it may not matter who does it first because the services with the complete networks of friends have the upper hand.
On the call, Dmitry said he expects the democratization of video to unfold in a similar way as blogs: there will be popular videos, and then there will be less popular videos that serve particular niches. I think he is absolutely right that as part of this democratization, people will become more skilled as video editors over time, just as web design has evolved over the last 10 years. What is interesting about blogs is that they have spread very naturally; it was not necessary to have explicit, complete networks of friends in order to get the word out. But keep in mind that the spread of blogs is as free as the air we breathe: no blogger is necessarily tied to a particular blogging service. That is not necessarily what would seem to be in the best interests of Veoh. What would be in the best interests of Veoh is to be “the” place where people go to share and sell content. To be “the” place, Veoh needs an edge. My argument is that edge will be better cultivated through leveraging complete networks of friends.
Overall, Veoh looks very good and I highly recommend downloading and trying the service. Get a tour of Veoh from Dmitry himself here. Hopefully Dmitry will check back to let us know how Veoh is progressing. You can grab the podcast by clicking here (mp3, 4.31MB).