After playing a role in disrupting music distribution with file-sharing system Kazaa, and upsetting telecommunications with Voice-over-IP service Skype, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis have now set their sights on television. Their project is code-named "Venice". Little is known so far, but given their precedent activities it's clear that it will be based on peer-to-peer distribution technology. Their austere homepage (where it's possible to apply to become a beta tester) says that they want to
combine the best things about television with the social power of the Internet - a project that gives viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before.
On his blog, Friis added recently a few more details:
It’s simple, really — we are trying to bring together the best of TV with the best of the Internet. We think TV is one of the most powerful, engaging mass medias of all time. People love TV, but they also hate TV. They love the (sometimes…) amazing storytelling, the richness, the quality itself. But they hate the linearness, the lack of choice, the lack of basic things like being able to search. And wholly missing is everything that we are now accustomed to from the Internet: tagging, recommendations, choice, and so on… TV is 507 channels and nothing on and we want to help change that!
Om Malik asked him a few additional questions, and Friis said that they will be using the same core technology on which Skype is built (which means that they're likely to use some of the users' CPU and bandwidth to make the system work). He added:
Like Skype, The Venice Project is simple - you download and you get free television. It is near television quality, and it needs about one megabit per second. [The business model will be] ad-based, close to the television model. We will do revenue share with the content providers.
So, to summarize:
- streaming peer-to-peer television (near-TV quality)
- free to the user (just download the client software)
- ad-supported (with ad targeting)
- deals with content providers (revenue-share)
- with "social TV" features (tagging, recommendations, etc)
Assuming that they can get the technology to work, the key portion will be the deals with content providers (which have tested the waters recently striking deals with iTunes - dozens of shows available for download - and YouTube and others, so it won't be surprising if they jump on board). I've found nowhere information about user-generated content, but it is to be assumed that it will be part of the model, too. So "Venice" could open up a venue for a potentially infinite number of "channels". If that happens, it will be a frontal competitor to cable operators but even more so to the many "Internet TV" projects currently developed by telecommunication operators.
UPDATE - This week's BusinessWeek has a story on "What comes after YouTube" where they also talk about the Venice Project:
Unlike Kazaa, the Venice Project won't let people illegally trade copyrighted works. Instead, the company is in talks with media and TV companies to create ad-supported channels for full-length, professional content. Individuals can also upload videos.
(Cross-posted on the TEDblog)
UPDATE 12 Nov 06 - Zattoo-ing from channel to channel