27 Apr Creating a public service for multimedia content
Founded amid the clamor – and managing to duck the hype – of peer-to-peer networking, Mike Homer’s Kontiki has evolved into a rich media delivery platform based on a “grid network” to accelerate the delivery of video and audio content. A skilled market reader and a clever product director, Homer has guided Kontiki around the land mines of P2P, digital rights management, and the like to build a platform and company that serves content providers from AOL to the BBC.
Now, Homer is leveraging this platform in a new venture, the Open Media Network (OMN), a “public service” network of free video and audio content. The outward manifestation of the non-profit Open Media Foundation founded by Homer and advised by long-time friend and colleague Marc Andreessen, OMN is basically like TiVo for Internet-delivered content, complete with a simple program guide, content subscriptions, and digital rights management to keep the service legal, make it convenient for consumers, and make content producers happy.
The OMN client is a combination program listing, download manager, and content player. The client also makes you – at your option – a part of the delivery grid, turning your system into a media server for other OMN clients.
In the last few weeks of beta testing, the program guide has been filled with a mix of content – from some exquisite independent films featured at San Jose’s Cinequest film festival and wacky political shorts from Undergroundfilm to a mélange of podcasts and video blogs. Much of the latter comes courtesy of OMN’s mission to be a public repository of rich media content. Any publisher, broadcaster, podcaster, and the like can add content to the Network. That content is managed centrally on the Kontiki platform, preventing unseemly, illegal, or rights-violating content from making its way to mass public consumption. A future version of OMN, due this summer, will offer producers a secure payment system so that they can sell premium content on the Network.”
“Our goal with Open Media Network is to provide a valuable public service that gives consumers an easy way to get both traditional and grassroots media authorized for Internet distribution and help usher in a new era in mass publishing,” Homer said in a news release announcing the network.
I’ve become a fan of OMN very quickly. My beta test coincided with a three-week business trip in Europe, where English-language television entertainment is scarce and CNN and SkyNews become droning background noise after one 15-minute news cycle. OMN, by contrast, offers an eclectic range of content – art films, documentaries, news briefs, along with the podcasts and video blogs. In these early days, the content is not always well organized, relying as it does on gross category cuts such as movies, TV, news, music, podcasts, and other wide-open categories. Within each of these, you have pages of choices, with each piece of content thinly described (some of the descriptions, such as those for many of the Cinequest works, are little more than tag lines from the film festival program). I expect the categorization scheme will improve quickly as OMN adds user ratings, and maybe an editor or two, to help describe and differentiate the content.
And there are a few glitches in the early production process. (For example, I’m left wondering how one film ends, apparently because the complete file was not uploaded into the system.) Still, OMN shows a lot of promise as a distribution network for both professional productions and, perhaps more importantly, for grassroots content.
This latter category distinguishes OMN in important ways: OMN creates a rich distribution environment for independent filmmakers and producers. It lets their work find an audience while also protecting their intellectual property and – ultimately – creates a way to generate revenue – three important values not simultaneously available in other content sharing services.
OMN is off to a solid start and will surely work out the glitches as more consumers and producers join the network. Indeed, OMN’s development depends on a growing community to provide the social feedback on the content and enrich the grid architecture to accelerate media delivery.
As compelling ex-patriot television, OMN excels. But most importantly, this network is a key component in the growing movement that enables individuals to become creators, as well as consumers, of rich media.
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