Video Companies: What Keeps You On Top – Or Off The Bottom?

We've been discussing the video wars here (part of the Everything Wars) for quite some time–indeed it seems we started pretty much around the blogs founding. Now, years later, though Netflix still dominates all there are quite a few services – Hulu, Vudu,, possibly even Facebook, and so on.  It seems a lot of people want a piece of the video market, even if they're not quite sure why, how, or what they want.

Now, as noted, Netflix still dominates, and if I may say, rightly so – they've been at this for years and did a good job.  But nothing is forever and there's a lot of competition, lots of current and future legal battles, and always the chance for people to do stupid or smart things.

So, assuming that Netflix's dominance isn't assured, and because this is an area of heavy technical and cultural importance (and thus progeek fuel), i wanted to speculate on just what a winner will need to do in this seemingly ever crowded market to survive, prosper, or dominate.  (Are you listening, Netflix?)

Here's my take:

  1. Niche or go big, but there's no middle ground.  You either have to do it all or you have to do something specific people want and will be loyal to.  There's plenty of room for carving out one's own kingdom.
  2. There may be many services, but people will only have room for one – or two – in their lives.  We're used to all-in-one cable, we're used to having one electrical utility, and so on.  I don't think people will gladly use three or more video utilities equally – at most I see them using two.  You have to be "the one" to enough people, or the "two" for a lot.
  3. Prepare the lawyers.  This is huge, profitable, and a point of major competition, and it seems every few weeks something legal happens.  Companies involved in video need to be lawyered up.
  4. Someone can come out of nowhere, so stay prepared.  Look at Wal-Mart, one could argue was a bit of a surprise, the idea of films on Facebook was a surprise, and just consider what OnLive could do . . .  no one is safe.
  5. The more devices showing your stuff the better.  That's a given, but the device delivery has to be good to keep people's attention.
  6. Be ready to fight for bandwidth – as we've seen already.
  7. Retain top talent.  Look at the way Silicon Valley has people heading for hot companies – nothing says this isn't going to happen in the Video Wars.
  8. Find a way to distinguish yourself.  This is a critical area – because too many companies look alike.
  9. We freaking hate advertising – but will tolerate it to a point.  I think not being ad-filled is going to make people very happy.

So that's my take, my fellow working geeks.  What do you think the video service companies need to do to survive and prosper?  For that matter who do you think can and can't do it?

Steven Savage