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Video Downloads and Portable Players

The emerging video download industry based on portable video players will be a perfect test bed for full-length television shows, according to an analyst from ABI Research.

Vamsi Sistla, the firm's director of broadband, digital home and media research, says that we won't be seeing full-length episodes of hit television shows downloaded to portable devices in 2006. Instead, we'll have more of what's available now: "short-form video." These trailers, promos, and mini-episodes are only a few minutes long. But their brevity, according to Sistla, provides a golden opportunity.

"The mainstream broadcast model is an extraordinarily expensive way to trial new concepts and shows," he says. "Over 70 percent of all new shows don't survive the first season. The logic of trying short versions on emerging platforms at relatively low cost before committing to the expense of hour-long TV productions will soon be apparent to content owners."

For content owners, it's like conducting a customer survey: "Should this be a full-length show?" And while short-form and feature shows differ, a portable download hit is probably worth a full-length investment.

2005 was the year that both halves of the industry � equipment vendors and major entertainment content owners � tested the water. Apple's video iPod, the Sony PSP, and PMPs, have established the idea: a technology to distribute premium Hollywood content without worries about piracy.

Leading Hollywood studios and networks including Disney, ESPN and ABC have used 2005 to give the portable market a try. "So far," says Sistla, "they seem pretty happy with what the portable and mobile telephony industries can provide them. But a network can save much more on upfront program development costs than it will make by selling short clips for $1.99 each."

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