ZillionTV, which has been running very intriguing videos on its web site for weeks now, has finally moved out of the shadow into the bright light of reality. There is a whole lot to like here, namely:
- ZillionTV started from a blank page, trying to figure out how to give consumers, content providers, advertisers and ISPs all something they needed and wanted. What they are proposing has value for many, including consumers. Seeing how many major studios are backing Zillion is probably the most important endorsement, however.
- ZillionTV assembled talent from all segments of the industry
- ZillionTV focuses on the broadband connection, which is the most important path into the home.
- ZillionTV keeps the content in the network, so the in-home device is cheap and there is less threat of illegal copying.
- ZillionTV is using Hillcrest Labs’ motion-sensing remote. I’ve been wondering who would be smart enough to use this device, which has been around for years now.
All that doesn’t prevent immediate skepticism over whether a new set-top box is needed or wanted. Witness the New York Times description of ZillionTV as “Another set-top box, with ads.”
What I think is different about ZillionTV is that it tries to preserve ad-based video, something that we all took for granted until a couple of years ago. This is the first solution I’ve seen to trying to use an IP-based video service to deliver relevant advertising. In the long run, this makes sense to me, because without advertising, content either shrinks is quantity, quality and availability, or prices go way up. Neither of those options is attractive to me. But nor it is feasible to think that advertisers are going to continue to pay the freight for content creation when so many of us are ignoring their ads or fast-forwarding through them.
IPTV providers have the ability today to offer targeted advertising but have been reluctant to do so, in part because of how early efforts botched the privacy angle, but also because the business case wasn’t clear. Verizon demonstrated the ability to do very high-level targeted and interactive advertising a while back but is not yet offering the service.
What ZillionTV does is give consumers incentive to watch ads and then make the ads relevant to them - if any targeted ad model is going to work, this could be it. By partnering with Visa, ZillionTV also is paving the way to creating a commerce model, which is a key part of the business model for which other IPTV providers have been searching.
So while ZillionTV is new and unproven, this startup is bringing a lot to the table, and ISPs would be smart to take notice.