One way cable can slow disruption from free and cheap Web video: By turning your cable box into the best Web video machine in the world. So here’s some (minor) progress.
Three Web video firms — Diggnation publisher Revision3, Next New Networks, and Blip.tv — have signed on with Clearleap, a company that aims to connect TV providers with Internet content. The idea is to provide cable companies with new content, and Web producers with more exposure, easier access to the living room, and additional ad inventory.
Clearleap’s platform works by hooking into cable companies’ (or satellite or IPTV providers’) back-end systems. It’s basically a giant RSS reader that feeds video and show data into cable systems much faster than many providers can do today.
What’s the problem today? Getting Internet video into many cable systems is often a cumbersome process: Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt tells us it often includes physically shipping a hard drive full of video somewhere, beaming video over satellite, and waiting for someone to enter the metadata manually. The process can take days or weeks. But Clearleap, Jarratt tells us, can do this much faster — syncing hourly or daily, using the Internet. In the future, it’ll even be able to do live video.
What’s the point? This could make your cable set-top box — already plugged into your TV and a dedicated video network — a better browser for Internet video than a new, rival, “over-the-top” device. (Those include the $99 Roku player, Apple TV, network-enabled Blu-ray players, etc.)
And bigger picture, the idea is to help slow the rate that the Internet disrupts cable and other pay TV platforms.
Having Diggnation on your set-top box is not going to save Comcast or Time Warner Cable in the long run. But if cable companies are going to remain viable as free and cheap video proliferates across the Web, one of the things they need to get better at is bringing more new video into your living room — including everything that’s worth watching online.
Atlanta-based Clearleap, which has raised a little more than $12 million in financing, is still in its early stages. The company is doing trials with some pay TV providers, covering hundreds of thousands of homes. But to make it big, huge pay TV companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, etc., which reach millions of homes, will need to sign on. So will more (and more important) content providers. That could prove to be challenging, as the companies with the most valuable content — like TV networks and aggregators like Hulu — may not want to deal with a middleman.
But everyone needs to start somewhere — and this is a good trio of Web video libraries to go after potential partners with.