WATPA: FW: Internet TV: Don't Touch That Mouse!

From: Norm Jacknis <norm@jacknis.com>
Date: Fri Jul 02 2004 - 21:24:03 EDT

We've talked about the convergence of television and the Internet -- so this
article should be of interest.

Enjoy the Fourth,


July 1, 2004 NY Times
Internet TV: Don't Touch That Mouse!
SAN JOSE, Calif.
SIR MIX-A-LOT'S salacious 1992 hit "Baby Got Back" blasted from the house
stereo system at 7 Bamboo, a karaoke bar here, on a Friday night. Two bar
regulars momentarily turned rap stars, billed as Toqer and Woody, gyrated on
the corner stage and praised big behinds as the audience joined in with
off-key wails.
It was great entertainment for the regulars at the 'Boo, as well as for 14
others who were watching the performance online from as far as St. Louis,
Uruguay and Australia and as near as the next town.
Shortly after Toqer and Woody finished the song, Woody's cellphone rang.
"That was my friend," said Woody, who is Woodrow Mosqueda away from the
karaoke stage. "He just saw us online and he's on his way here!"
The medium was a Web-based television station called ToqerTV, an enterprise
that makes Toqer, also known as Robert Cortese, the establishment's
31-year-old karaoke jockey and Webmaster, immensely proud.
"I am a modern-day Marconi," Mr. Cortese said as he tended to his computer
beside the stage. "People may mock it, but 10 years from now, all our
content is going to be delivered like this."
Mr. Cortese, whose pompadour is distinctly more 50's greaser than rapper,
developed the station himself, solicited the bar's permission to stream the
show on the Internet, created a Web site and chat room and even started
selling merchandise in support of what he considers the first all-karaoke
television station.
Its content may be unique, but its approach is not. ToqerTV is one of over
100 independent television stations streaming over the Internet, covering
almost every imaginable interest.
Increased broadband access and enhanced streaming technologies have boosted
Internet video from the blocky slide shows of the past to presentations that
can begin to rival conventional television. Programming has expanded, too.
With the adoption of popular media players like RealPlayer and Windows Media
Player, avid video hunters can download and watch movies, sports programs
and television news.
With the Winamp media player (www.winamp.com), many of the independent
stations can be seen as well. Although Winamp's company, Nullsoft, was
acquired by America Online in 1999, the group has maintained a close
allegiance with a core group of users who take advantage of its free and
powerful media tools - the perfect mix for such low-budget operations.
Earlier versions of Winamp helped to popularize the MP3 music format, and
thousands have used its Shoutcast server technology to build their own
online radio stations. Nullsoft Video seems to be quickly following in
AOL has done some of its own programming on the player, airing high-quality
videos of performers like Bjork and Radiohead, and also putting together
select video clip submissions in a special "public access" channel.
A vast majority of the stations, however, are the work of individual
programmers who serve their own video clips amassed, legally or not, on
their hard drives. Japanese animation is very popular, as are the latest
episodes of "The Simpsons," "South Park" and "Invader Zim."
Others turn to yesteryear for inspiration. Webranger Nostalgia Broadcasting
(www.webranger.net) runs five channels of classic movies and television
Airing vintage material is an old hobby for the station's creator, Kevin
VandeWettering, 41, who broadcasts from his home in Hillsboro, Ore. "I've
been doing an old-time radio site since they invented the Internet," he
Mr. VandeWettering switched to video as soon as the technology became
available. "I like vintage film," he said. "And I like to share."
The old films he runs span the genres: everything from Abbott and Costello
and "The Lone Ranger'' to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Mark of
the Hawk" with Sidney Poitier. He trolls through online auction sites and a
nearby Goodwill store for material published without copyright notice, or
whose copyrights have expired.
He has never run into legal problems, he said, and he intends to keep things
that way. "It's challenging to find out what I'm not going to get sued
over," he said.
That challenge does not apply to stations like ToqerTV, whose programs are
entirely original.
Winamp TV carries many personal Webcam stations, garage-band music videos
and "frag movies" - video taken mid-action from first-person shooter games.
(Watching them is much like watching an older brother hog a video game, to a
fist-pumping soundtrack.)
One of the biggest independently produced successes on the Internet takes
the frag movie concept to hilarious ends. The series "Red vs. Blue" places
dialogue over video snatched from the multiplayer shooter game Halo to
create short sitcoms.
"Red vs. Blue" began as a free weekly download at the show's Web site
(www.redvsblue.com). The creator of the series, Mike Burns, lost count at
over 750,000 weekly viewers. "I would have thought that everyone who wanted
to see it had seen it," said Mr. Burns, 31, who works by day at a computer
help desk and does most of the show's programming on his days off. "But
after we started on Winamp TV, we're getting e-mails from new viewers all
the time."
For Mr. Burns and his small group of collaborators, Internet programming
provides a fresh audience for their creative efforts. "There are very few
people doing this on a regular basis," he said. "It's like when cinema was
As fans download and discover the programming on Winamp TV, the audience
grows. AOL counts 18 million installations of the video-enabled Winamp 5
player, although the player's traffic counter usually lists a number closer
to 2,500 active viewers. One avid Winamp TV watcher, Dave Childers, 39, of
Mobile, Ala., spends five hours a day tuning to online broadcasts. "I don't
watch regular television much anymore," he said.
Mr. Childers's favorite channels are Korean music show OhMyTrance (www
.ohmytrance.com), and Rant TV (www .ranttv.com), which runs documentaries of
dumpster diving and radical political talk along with instructions on how to
hot-rod a sports car illegally. Mr. Childers is partial to Rant TV's Sean
Kennedy, the host of an uncensored fringe talk show, who appears in a kung
fu uniform. "You would never see that on network TV," he said. "They'd haul
the guy off."
Alex Blum, America Online's vice president for broadband services, cautions
that Winamp television is an advanced tool for technically minded
enthusiasts. "At this point, it's kind of an experiment," he said. "We put
some tools out there, but it's not easy. The jury's still out on whether
this is a mass-market thing."
Tom Wolzien, an analyst with Bernstein Investment Research and Management,
said that the success of such programming depends on how well independent
broadcasters can keep up with viewer demand, given the cost of the servers
and Internet connections required. "The real issue is, where is the server
located?" Mr. Wolzien said. "How do you get it from your garage to the Web?"

Once that hurdle has been overcome, he said, anything is possible. "If you
think of the stuff that's come out of 'Saturday Night Live,' " he said, "a
lot of it has just been two guys sitting on a couch."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Received on Fri Jul 2 21:26:27 2004

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