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The Great Land Grab: A Look Back at the Last Year in Media & Entertainment

This article first appeared in the 2010 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook, which is sent to all Streaming Media magazine subscribers. Click here for your free subscription.

A year of growth for the media and entertainment industries, 2009 was characterized by those industries solidifying the previous year’s gains in viewership, testing new models, and announcing—toward year’s end—new versions of old business models, such as subscriptions for previously free content.

On the technology side of media and entertainment, 2009 marked the beginning of a third attempt at a "land grab" of sorts, not just in core streaming technologies but also in outliers such as cable, over-the-air broadcast, and satellite. 

The initial 1997–1999 land grab was a "gold rush" of sorts, high on speculation on many fronts: domain names, business models, and technologies, where everyone claimed (but no one could do) full-screen—or even consistent quarter-screen—streaming to the desktop.

This was followed by the 2000–2002 technology bust, during which time the sales teams hyping unsustainable products went on to other things, but the coders and engineers behind the touted technologies went home—or to small startups—and began in earnest to fix the significant technical problems. The advances in technology led to a second land grab in 2004 and 2005. As technologies met their 1999-hype potential, companies began staking out quality half- and full-screen delivery of content, and content owners once again took notice.

The land grab of 2009 is a bit different, though. If the first two land grabs were speculators and homesteaders, respectively, this new land grab is about the "powers that be" amassing an "army" to march full force into previously staked claims, and to further sharpen and expand boundaries. In other words, this land grab is systematic, purposeful, and very process-oriented.

The land grab of 2009 is not about just one army, but rather multiple armies clashing for the same land: traditional broadcasters, cable, media syndicates, satellite, and telecoms. I see all of these groups, along with the armies they represent, lining up along the borders claimed by the homesteaders from 2005.

Each of these armies has labs to manufacture the material they need to fight, as well as smoke screens to use while the final battle plans are being formulated.

In the midst of all of this, the traditional streaming product or service provider, from the encoder box to the content delivery network (CDN), will forge alliances with one or more of these armies. Some alliances will form in an attempt to gain clients, while others will form in an attempt to retain clients.

Even the shows they attend will be different, or at least expanded, with the increasing importance of Mobile World Congress, the resurgent SUPERCOMM, and even the traditional television (NAPTE) and cable (SCTE Cable-Tec Expo) shows.

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