Thon Live

As a Penn State student, I should share with the world that this weekend is Thon weekend. The Penn State Dance Marathon is a student run event where thousands of students dance for 48 hours straight for cancer. They raise millions of dollars to help support the families of kids with cancer and to research for a cure. I personally am not very involved in Thon, although everyone on campus typically ends up contributing in some way. In the past we’ve had Penny Wars in my hall to raise money. You can see previous years’ Thon coverage on the Collegian’s site.

Anyway I have been pretty interested in the ways they are sharing the experience with the world online. They have a webcast running throughout the event, with shout-outs from participants and video of all the festivities. They’re playing it on one of the local access channels here and I have been tuned in all day (Yet another blow to NBC’s Olympic coverage). They are also running a blog with regular posts from Rec Hall. I am kind of annoyed by that, because I wanted to do a Thon blog on the Collegian site. Maybe next year. In any case, check out their coverage and if you can donate, because its a nice cause. And check out the Collegian’s site Monday for their coverage – I’ll be helping produce that on the website.

Update: The Thon webcast was watched by 25,000 viewers in 30 countries over the weekend, and 1/3 of those viewers donated money online. This turned out to be a major part of helping them beat last year’s record.

Old Media Hogwash

Ok this is old news by now, but I’ll still complain about it. Rupert Murdoch is a media tycoon who owns 20th Century Fox. He has also been hailed as a technology leader because he bought DirectTV and MySpace.com. I think he’s overrated. Listen to him talk about Fox’s video offerings in Newsweek:

We’re not knocked out by iPod so far… How many will want to pay $1.99 on Monday morning if they missed “Desperate Housewives” the night before? What’s been announced so far with iPod and Disney and NBC is very small-time at the moment… There are so many things you can do, particularly in other parts of the world, where mobile-telephone service is a lot more developed. We’re downloading minute segments-original “mobisodes”-of the Fox hit “24”… It’ll be a pretty serious piece of revenue for us someday, probably. We’ll be into all these things, some quite original and some of what others are doing.

I wouldn’t mind if Murdoch said they didn’t want to lock their customers into the Apple format or that they think quality of iTunes video was sufficient. I would almost accept the argument that you didn’t trust DRM as a way of protecting your content. But to say that they know what we want better than we do, that’s just stupid. Then to say the “mobisodes” are better, is ridiculous. How can 1 minute of Jack Bauer (actually, I doubt the 24 mobisode even has Kiefer) be better than an hour?

What really bothers me about all this is the presumption that content-owners know their customers better than the customers know themselves. Apple’s model has become very successful and has actually helped shows gain a larger audience (see The Office). I wonder what would happen if Murdoch would have let people could have test Arrested Development out for $1.99 an episode?

(On an aside, last night’s “finale” of Arrested Development was spectacular. Perhaps another network would be good enough to continue it. If that doesn’t happen, it was great while it lasted and they went out with a bang.)

Great Video, On Demand

Forget your digital cable package. It’s becoming clear to me that on demand video content is becoming increasingly available on your desktop, on the web. For example, I missed the Villanova-St. Joe’s game tonight (I’m from Philly area, so I take an interest in Big 5 basketball) so I thought I would check out the score on EPSN.com. Since their recent redesign, I have noticed ESPN has changed their game recap pages to include video highlights. They have always had video content on their site, but to have the actual highlights embedded right on the page is a wonderful feature. Also of note these videos don’t require Windows Media, Real, or Quicktime, just good old-fashioned Flash. Nice.

Last month Viacom’s MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon made news by adding a number of series to the iTunes Music Store. What hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is the fact that MTV and Comedy Central already have a lot of video content online for free. MTV Overdrive and Comedy Central Motherload services are pretty intriguing additions since they let you quickly access a wealth of content from their respective networks. They even have Windows Media Center add-ons which are pretty popular. I have found these services to be neat though they require more bandwidth than I really have at this point, but the amount of content is impressive. And MTV overcame an obstacle by putting together a nice plug-in to help it run smoothly on Firefox, in addition to IE.

User-driven media is quickly becoming the darling of the Internet, and video is no exception. iFilm used to seem cool, but YouTube is a much better source for amusing clips these days. Anyone (including me) can upload video clips to the site for worldwide consumption. Its range includes last night’s SNL skit to commercials to lonely teenagers lip-syncing pop songs. Google Video tries to do similar things, though it straddles the line between being an open marketplace and protecting content owner rights. A lot of video blogs are sprouting up on iTunes’ directory and others, including my favorite: Rocketboom. As you can see, free on demand video content is all around us and only growing. Tomorrow I’ll complain about the companies that aren’t embracing it.