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10/25/2006
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Entertainment Execs Envision Internet TV For The Masses

Consumer-generated content isn't alone on the Web. Now the professionals want to get more involved, too.

Can't find anything to watch on traditional television?

Try turning on the PC.

With user-generated video content on the Internet booming, so is the market for professional content as more television programming moves online, executives said this week at the Digital Hollywood conference in Santa Monica, Calif.

For example, four-year-old Narrowstep, which serves-up more than 100 TV channels on the Internet, says it signs about four new channels weekly in Europe and four monthly in North America. The United Kingdom-based company recently signed on a channel run by the Vatican.

The Rome Reports TV News Agency broadcasts to more than 400 million people worldwide, Steve Beaumont, president and CEO, said in an interview. "People now have access to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church anywhere in the world, any time night or day, through multiple devices," he said. "They give you some free content and then you subscribe to the rest."

Advertising typically appears within the content similar to traditional television, as well as banner and button ads. There are also some subscription-based services.

Industry enthusiasts predict most of the content found on the Web will appear through IPTV set-top boxes on the televisions throughout homes, and on mobile phones.

Greg Foster, vice president of corporate development at Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc. Foster, talked about some of the challenges of Internet TV this week at the conference.

"It's our challenge to look at the broadband world" because, he estimates, there likely will be "hundreds of thousands of broadband channels available." Foster said.

'There's not a silver bullet for cable networks like us to translate success into the broadband world," he added.

AT&T Operations Inc. Senior Vice President for Programming Amy Friedlander is working to secure content deals, gaining the rights to broadcast content on television, mobile phones and PCs. The strategy, known as U-Verse, will give consumers access to similar programming content across all three screens.

"Most of the content providers are now willing to experiment with broadband, whereas six to nine months ago that wasn't the case," Friedlander said, in an interview at the conference. "The notion of three-screens is just at the very beginning, but it's opened up some interesting conversations."

Along with the U-Verse set-top box, which lets consumers watch one show and record three others simultaneously, Internet TV will also provide choice to personalize content.

Consumers will see many niche channels pop up to target individuals. But attracting viewers or leading them to the content, Friedlander said, becomes the challenge because the average person watches between eight and 12 channels, whether they have access to 100 or 1,000.

And there are new Internet TV stations popping up daily. StarChannel.TV, for example, focused on astrological and new age, will launch on Oct. 31. Topics range from tarot and mediums to astrology and numerology. The Ski Club of Great Britain announces the launch of the UK's first dedicated snow sports Internet TV channel. TvBistro.com launched last month to provide consumers worldwide with access to free Internet TV channels from 15 countries and in six languages.

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