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Streaming With the Major Media
Established players and challengers compete and converge to shape the future of video online. In this article, ESPN new media's former senior manager for international business strategy assesses the landscape and looks to the future.
Mon., Sept. 25, by Tejpaul Bhatia

A version of this article first appeared in the September issue of Streaming Media magazine.

This article is based on a presentation I gave at Streaming Media East in New York in May. It’s a snapshot of the most significant streaming media initiatives by the "Big Five" (Disney, NBC Universal, News Corporation, Time Warner, and Viacom) and the most meaningful disruptive forces in the market (Google, MySpace, Yahoo!, and YouTube), as well as some conclusions and predictions on what the industry will see in the next few product development cycles.

Given the task at hand, I will employ the same format as I did for the presentation. First, I’ll look at the incumbents and the disruptive entrants, as well as the primary lessons to be learned from each. Then I’ll draw some conclusions from what is happening in the market place, and finally, make some predictions that may or may not come true in the next few months or years. For the purpose of this article, however, I won’t dive into actual products or features that may be out of date by the time the magazine hits the newsstand. And once again, I apologize, but there will be no talk of codecs or streaming formats in this article.

The Incumbents
Disney
Key streaming properties: Disney Connection, Disney Blast, Toontown, ESPN Motion, ESPN360, ESPN PPV Online, Soapnetic, ABCNews Now, ABC.com

Disney is an organization that is close to my heart. In my four years at ESPN (whose parent company is Disney), I worked very closely with the Disney broadband properties to figure out efficiencies of working together and sharing information and technology.

Disney’s diversified business model approach to broadband video differentiates the company in the media landscape. Disney has properties that are ad-supported, licensed to ISPs, and subscription-based. As far as I know, Disney is the only company that is applying the cable television model to the internet. Disney sells Disney Connection, ESPN360, Soapnetic, and ABCNews Now to cable and DSL providers like Verizon for an undisclosed rate. The high-speed data operators provide the services to their customers at no additional cost to the consumer. It is not clear yet if the cable model is the right model for consumers, but it does bring in a sizeable piece of broadband revenue for the company.

Figure 1

Disney is also very aggressive with the free-to-consumer, ad-supported business model on the web. Properties like ESPN Motion and the controversial broadband release of Lost and other shows on ABC.com have been successful for the company.

Subscription products are available across the Disney properties as well. Disney’s effort with multiple business models has shown us that there is no clear winning model when it comes to streaming media. If anything, Disney teaches us that we are still in the very early stages of monetizing streaming media.

Key streaming lesson: Maximize your revenue through diversified business models and product offerings.