Ideation: Flip Video News Network (a RIGHT HERE NOW service)

By Mark Sigal
March 4, 2009

Flip-Pix.jpgIn Why TV Lost, Paul Graham of Y Combinator argues that broadcast media is finished, destined to be Darwin-ized by the Internet.

He argues that what used to be the power drivers of TV as a broadcast media device were:

  1. Synchronicity: everyone had to watch the same program at the same time.
  2. Locality: news and local programming drove a network-affiliate model.

TiVo was the foreshock, but Internet media now lays clear that the days of forced synchronicity are gone forever.

Moreover, the forced tie to locality is irrevocably broken from a content perspective (but maybe not from an advertising perspective).

In its place is emerging an open, social model that makes media flow cheaply and fluidly.

I have blogged about services like Boxee and, the hybrid of which is best thought of as a composite of Personal media libraries, the Internet media libraries of both Big Media (CBS, Daily Show) and UGC/Shared Media Networks (YouTube, Flickr), and the Real-Time Web, with a dash of social sauce.

Something that Graham says in his excellent post is the foundation for an idea that I want to present in a moment:

"The other reason networks like live shows is that they're cheaper to produce. There they have the right idea (i.e., cheap production costs), but they haven't followed it to its conclusion. Live content can be way cheaper than networks realize, and the way to take advantage of dramatic decreases in cost is to increase volume. The networks are prevented from seeing this whole line of reasoning because they still think of themselves as being in the broadcast business--as sending one signal to everyone."

He concludes by saying, "Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal."

The Idea: "We're building a Flip Video News Network"

Imagine CNN for the broadband era. A real time news network with bureaus/beats all around the world. Best of all, we're building it on the free or cheap.

In my original version of this concept, I focus on a lifestyle theme, and five segments (each with static sub-topics so programmed media "units" are relatively predictable). Over time, like MTV and SportsCenter, it grows from one news program to five news programs and ultimately, five discreet channels.

The concept is fairly simple. Leverage the universe of Flip Video users. Why? Flip Video cameras are cheap, highly mobile and deliver "good enough" quality to be enjoyed on big screen TVs.

"Post and Host" (the basic upload/encode/watch model popularized by YouTube) works great so why not build a network whereby would-be reporters get a Flip Mino (or Mino HD), sign up to create a segment and commit to specific programming levels.

In tandem, we provide them simple tools to deliver segments that are well-formed in terms of length, live (ala Justin/tv) versus recorded distinctions, reporter status, recurrence and programming metadata.

We can then use of all this data to systematically compile programming (most popular, custom list, editor's choice), filter it down, catalog it, plot it on a social graph and weave it into the real-time web fabric as a inherently social medium.

On top of this, we overlay a custom player specifically designed to take advantage of all of these exposed "programming handles."

While we ultimately let the market dictate what it wants, in the early stage we cultivate two different content universes:

  1. Public Access, which is uncensored and unmonitored
  2. Brand-Friendly, which reconciles big brand sensibility and its requisite tradeoffs

One can imagine both premium content and private network models emerging as part of a content/audience segmentation play, but fundamentally, the gambit is that you can optimize ad units, target more richly, and deliver a sufficiently customized experience to enhance engagement levels.

Is there a fatal gotcha that I am missing? Could it be compelling? Does it scale as a focused but fluid network model?

Related Posts:

  1. What it Means to be a "Social" Media Center: Boxee, Apple TV and Square Connect
  2. Pattern Recognition: Winning Blue Prints, Moneyball (NBA-style) and
  3. Gallows Humor: The Media "Business"
  4. The Programmable Fan Site: A New Media/Ad Unit Model

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