BROADBAND REVOLUTIONIZING MEDIA DISTRIBUTION - TAPLIN
By Michael Bartlett
Broadband streaming media technology will fundamentally
change the way people get their entertainment, but don't expect
the media companies to stand idly by while their cash cow walks
out the door.
That was the message from Jonathan Taplin, the CEO
of video on demand Web site Intertainer.com.
"I have been around for three previous media revolutions that
prefaced broadband streaming media, so I don't use the word revolution
lightly," Taplin said today in his keynote address at the Internet
World Spring 2002 trade show.
Taplin's lengthy career in the entertainment industry began in
the early 1960s. He said he had the good fortune to be present the
night Bob Dylan decided to "go electric" for a performance
at the Hartford Pop Festival.
"Dylan got booed off the stage, but that night started a revolution
- it marked the beginning of the folk rock movement," he said.
Taplin served as a road manager for Dylan for several years before
switching to the movie industry in the early 1970s - where he discovered
the power and fickle nature of cultural trends.
He said the success of "The Sound of Music" prompted
the major film studios to bankroll a series of big budget musicals,
all of which bombed.
"Then came 'Easy Rider,' a movie about a couple of hippies
on motorcycles. It was made for $800,000, and it cleaned up at the
box office. That was the end of the era of musicals, and made studios
look at filmmaking and filmmakers in a different way."
The film revolution of the 1970s was launched on the genius of
a flood of eager young directors who suddenly were given a chance
by the studios, he said. This group, which included such soon-to-be
luminaries as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese,
were asked to come to the studios because of their youth, not despite
"There were many great movies made in this revolutionary era,
including 'The Godfather,' 'American Graffiti,' 'Jaws' and 'The
Taplin said the third revolution occurred in 1984, when large media
"Now, we are on the verge of a new revolution, a media universe
of incredible richness," he said. "But these media companies
will do whatever it takes to protect themselves from the broadband
The broadband revolution will begin with greater connectivity,
Taplin said. He predicted most Americans will have a 1-megabit-per-second
connection in their homes within a year.
According to Taplin, if you look at the last three decades of art
and commerce, there are several lessons to be learned about pop
culture, technology, creativity and especially the nature of the
distribution and marketing system for entertainment.
"Broadband in the home opens the way to turn the whole distribution
and marketing system on its head," he said.
In an attempt to tap into this new system, Taplin said Intertainer
is launching an alternative to traditional film distribution. The
service, called Film Marketplace, is designed as a way for independent
filmmakers to get their movies to the public and earn money.
Taplin said filmmakers pay a flat fee of $2,000 for a full-length
movie of two hours or more, less for a shorter film. He said the
fee covers the cost of encoding, encrypting and streaming the video.
The filmmakers would keep all revenue generated by rentals at the
All filmmakers are asked to submit a 30-second trailer to help
sell their movies. Marketing is viral, as each movie has its own
page - which allows budding directors to e-mail the URL to their
friends and ask them to rent their movies.
"It is an experiment," said Taplin. "We think we
can do it, but we will have to see how it goes."
One reason why Taplin believes alternative film distribution models
will be successful is what he sees as the end of American cultural
"This dominance has been built on scarcity, which is disappearing,"
he said. "It was thought for many years that only the American
market was big enough to support the entertainment industry. All
of that is about to change," he added.
What is selling in Brazil is Brazilian music, he said. The same
goes for England and Africa. "Gone are the days of Michael
Jackson selling 45 million albums."
With faster access, streaming media will bring an abundance of
entertainment choices. However, Taplin said he sees this as a critical
time for governmental regulation.
"In encourage each of you to go to the site of the Federal
Communications Commission, fcc-dot-gov. If you click on the name
of the chairman, Michael Powell, you can send him an e-mail,"
"You should tell him two things. First, make 750-kilobits-per-second
the minimum for broadband. Second, no broadband provider should
be able to filter out an individual URL. We don't want broadband
to become a walled garden."
According to Taplin, if providers are able to filter individual
URLs, it will limit consumer choices.
"There must be an open broadband Internet, and people need
to speak up now. This will be decided in the next three months."
The future of home entertainment should be about connectivity through
a variety of devices, Taplin said. He said Microsoft's Xbox and
Sony's PlayStation 2 gaming consoles really are broadband terminals,
and are at the forefront of a new wave of connected devices.
"Sony said it will put Real Player in PlayStation 2, and you
know Microsoft will put Windows Media in Xbox," he said. "For
$7 in parts, DVD players can add an Ethernet port and put a browser
"We will see IP direct into set-top boxes," he added.
"The cable industry understands IP is a more efficient way
of delivery than MPEG-2, which is what they've been using. In five
years, the number of channels over MPEG-2 will be drastically reduced,
and IP will be used for on-demand content."
Taplin said he foresees a future when multiple devices are connected
to a broadband connection, and digital TV sets will be plugged into
these "home media sources."
"We will get to the broadband Promised Land," he said.