Posts from Television

Video Of The Week: Watching Videogames

I had a conversation with my son yesterday about watching games vs playing games. He told me he doesn’t watch a lot of videogame play on the web, but he has friends who are really into watching others play videogames.

Of course, this is not new. Amazon bought for almost a billion dollars a year ago. And more and more people are watching others play videogames instead of or in addition to playing them.

Here’s an example of why:

A Blast From The Past

I’ve been assisting with a project that is attempting to document the history of tech in NYC since Samuel Morse helped to bring the telegraph to market in the 1830s. I can’t help much with what went down in the 19th and early 20th century. But I can help with what happened at the very end of the 20th century. And in the course of doing that, I came across this video of Pseudo Entertainment’s offerings in the late 90s.

What is interesting is the similarity in many respects to the services that our portfolio company YouNow and Meerkat and Periscope have in the market today. The broadcast and consumption devices have changed (from PC to mobile) but the user experience is remarkably pretty much the same.

There’s something important in that realization.

Along the same lines, this conversation between Mark Suster and Ryan Hoover, starting at 8mins, is quite relevant. I love how they take it back to the early days of Howard Stern.

Feature Friday: Archives of Live Broadcasts

I wrote about the live broadcasting craze earlier this week. There are three significant players in this market, YouNow, Twitter/Periscope, and Meerkat. I’m a shareholder in two of them (YouNow is a USV portfolio company and we own a lot of Twitter stock personally). So I’ve been quite interested to see how this market is shaping up and I’ve been using all three apps this week.

I should say that I don’t see myself as a broadcaster. That may change. But I honestly don’t know what parts of my day are interesting enough to broadcast and would be appropriate to broadcast. I’m sure the USV monday meeting would be interesting to broadcast but it would not be fair to all the companies we talk about in that meeting confidentially to broadcast that. I’m sure the SoundCloud board meeting would be interesting to broadcast but I’m equally sure the company would be mortified that I would even dare to think of such a thing. I know that I will get some suggestions in the comments and if any are good, I will reconsider the “I’m not a broadcaster” attitude I have right now.

I did accidentally broadcast two seconds on Meerkat this morning.

That happened because I accidentally pushed a button and went live without realizing it (and tweet spammed almost 400,000 followers) to my great annoyance. That’s a UX fail as far as I’m concerned and I’m not sure I’m going to open that app again.

But I do see myself as a consumer of these broadcasts. We’ve been an investor in YouNow for something like three years and I’ve spent time watching broadcasts on YouNow. It’s a classic Internet content marketplace. There’s brilliance right next to silliness. But when you catch something brilliant on YouNow, it’s kind of magical. Tyler Oakley did a YouNow last night that had 120,000 viewers and he raised $20,000 for his Prizeo challenge during his live broadcast. You can watch Tyler’s broadcast via YouNow’s archive mode.

Which leads me to my feature friday topic – archives of live broadcasts. I’m getting real time mobile notifications on my phone from Periscope and YouNow and Meerkat and I’m also seeing invitations to join these live broadcasts in my Twitter feed. But I’m pretty busy during the day when all of these broadcasts are happening. I realize there’s value in watching live (the chat, the engagement, the favoriting, etc) but honestly I can’t tune in live very often.

What I’d like to be able to do, ideally right from my mobile notifications or the tweet, is to favorite or mark to watch later (I use the favorite button on many platforms as my “read later” button).

Twitter’s Periscope also has archives. I snapped this screenshot today from my Periscope app.


I watched my friend Howard”s broadcasts via this archive screen this morning, further confirming that I (and Howard too) are not interesting enough to be broadcasters :)

But regardless of whether or not that particular archived broadcast was any good, I think ironically archives are an important part of the livestreaming experience and I think the leading apps should support this functionality if they want to reach the broadest user base.

We Live In Public

I’ve written about Josh Harris here before. He envisioned all of the stuff that has happened on the Internet in the early 1990s, roughly ten to twenty years before it happened.  And he tried to bring much of it to market in the mid to late 90s, but the technology and the market weren’t ready for it. I talked a fair bit about Josh in my “history of the NYC Internet community” talk that I gave at Web 2.0 in 2008. Josh was one of the seminal figures of the NYC Internet community and we owe him a lot for what he imagined and what he made.

Josh’s ultimate project was We Live In Public, which is also the name of the movie about Josh that was released in 2009. In the We Live In Public project, Josh put cameras all over his loft apartment in NYC and livestreamed his and his girlfriend’s everyday life, which ultimately led to their breakup. It’s always been unclear to me how unscripted or scripted that project was, but it hardly matters. It was entertaining in a voyeuristic way. It predated reality TV and all that has come since.

I got to thinking about We Live In Public after reading The Verge’s post about our portfolio company YouNow. YouNow is the living breathing realization of Josh’s imagined world where everyone is broadcasting their lives in real time on the Internet. There’s been plenty of media attention to Twitter’s Periscope and also Meerkat, but YouNow has been at this since 2012 and has amassed a huge audience who tip the live broadcasters enabling them to make a business out of livestreaming their lives. If you want to take a look at how all of that works and what goes on on YouNow, give this a read.

I have been watching the livestreaming category emerge for years and it’s been fits and starts for sure. Most of the stuff that is getting livestreamed is hardly entertaining and many of us have more important things to do with our time than watch other people hangingat work or at home. But it sure seems like the category is alive and well and maybe even here to stay. Just as Josh imagined it would be twenty years ago.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

I saw on The Verge that HBO is finally going to make its excellent HBO Go service available “over the top” (sometime in 2015)

This is something I’ve wanted for a long time and have written about a bunch here.

It isn’t that I don’t have a cable subscription. I have many.

It is that I want a direct subscription relationship with HBO Go. I don’t want one subscription to be dependent on another.

That is also why I don’t like subscribing to services on my phone via carrier billing.

When its time to end a relationship with a carrier or a cable company, I don’t want to have to think about what other relationships I might be ending.

Direct relationships are best and I’m thrilled to become a direct subscriber to HBO Go.

Well done HBO.

The Aereo Ruling

The Supreme Court just issued its opinion in the case between the TV broadcasters and Aereo over the legality of the Aereo service. It was not particularly close. Six Justices felt that Aereo was infringing broadcaster copyrights. Three dissented.

I just read Justice Breyer’s majority opinion (available on the link above). As I read it (recognizing that I am a layman), the majority went with “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” argument. They felt that, as delivered, the Aereo service is essentially equivalent to a cable TV service and the rules should be applied similarly.

Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion rejects the “it must be a duck” argument and goes further to suggest that it ignores widely recognized “service provider liability protections” and will cause confusion for years to come:

The service provider liability protections are near and dear to Internet startups. Many of the companies we have backed over the years have relied on these protections to avoid getting sued out of business the way that Aereo may have just experienced. These are important protections and it is very unfortunate to see a majority of the Supreme Court set a precedent here that goes against those protections.

It seems to me that the majority opinion creates an incentive for engineers to build hardware that would be operated by individuals to create a similar benefit but that doesn’t look and act sufficiently like cable to be infringing. Our former portfolio company Boxee, which was sold to Samsung last year, built something similar to Aereo but instead of provisioning it as a full blown cloud service, required each user to buy a BoxeeTV to get similar functionality. Boxee was not sued by the broadcasters and is now part of Samsung which may not push forward with that part of Boxee’s business (I have no idea), so it’s not clear if that approach will be legally tested any time soon.

But I do believe that customers want to be able to DVR and stream HD content that they can get for free over the air from the broadcasters and I imagine that engineers are already working on other approaches to give the users what they want.

There’s a discussion of this issue brewing over at as well if you want to check that out.

Feature Friday: Voice Search For Your TV

So Amazon launched its over the top TV device this week called Amazon Fire TV. I took some time today to look it over.

It looks a lot like the AppleTV and Roku devices that many of us have.

But there is one  feature that Amazon Fire TV has that AppleTV and Roku don’t have and that is voice search.

voice search

It is unlikely that any of us have this device in our homes yet, but I thought it might make for an interesting discussion today.

Does talking to your TV sound like a better experience than picking up a remote and pointing it at the TV? Will the experience actually work. Or will it be another Siri that is more frustrating than helpful?

I am going to get one and try it out. But I’m curious what folks think about this voice search feature.

Maintaining High Maintenance

The New Yorker gives high praise for this web video series called High Maintenance. The episodes are short (~5min) and there are eleven episodes in all. It is about a pot dealer who rides around NYC and meets all sorts of strange and outrageous people. This bit from the lead actor in the New Yorker piece rings true to me after I watched a bunch of episodes last night:

The thing about weed is, we didn’t want to use it as a punch line. Instead, it’s this substance that, like chocolate, causes people to expose their own foibles. People become so human in pursuit of this thing. And the interaction they have with the person bringing it is often tragic, because there are a lot of lonely people out there who order it and then that is their human interaction for the day.

But here's the part of the New Yorker article that has me thinking outloud this morning.

When I spoke with Sinclair and Blichfeld recently, they were on the West Coast signing a script deal with a major network, newly on the path to converting “High Maintenance” into a full-length cable show.

It's a bit upsetting to me that the "major leagues" for filmmakers, writers, and actors who make it on the web is still the cable business. Why can't entrepreneurs build something that will work better for emerging web filmmakers than that? We have investments in Kickstarter and VHX, both of which are changing the game for filmmakers. We are also big fans of Vimeo, where High Maintenance is hosted.

But this High Maintenance story tells me that we haven't yet built enough technology, distribution, and monetization systems so that filmmakers can be truly independent and realize their vision and have the financial sucess that should come with great work.

So there is more to do here.

Video of the Week: Kevin Spacey at the Edinburgh Television Festival

I suspect most of you have seen this by now. It's been coming at me for the past 10 days from all angles. I must have had it sent to me a dozen times and I've come across it in social media another dozen times. But that's because it is spot on and excellent.

This is a 5min edited summary of the talk. For the full thing, go here.