I’ve now had a a little more than a week to figure this out. As of right now (7/7/14), TiVo is still functioning as it always has. I don’t know how long it will work in it’s current form however. iTunes is still not working. I am working on a solution for both that will still be free for me. Expect that to happen some time this week if all goes well.
So, it’s later in the day today (6/25/14), and I have discovered that TiVo is still working from what I can tell. I’ve had both my TiVo contact and one of my TiVo viewers confirm that the videos still play. I’ve also loaded the RSS feed that TiVo uses into my RSS reader and I am able to download the videos. So far, so good. The real test will be next week when I upload a new episode. Hopefully everything stays the same.
From what I can tell, TiVo downloads episodes as they are released for Web Shows, which is where my show is. So even if the feed has stopped working, the videos would still play. If we are good next week, then it looks like I won’t have to worry. For now. blip.tv is where the video file is stored. At some point they may cut off the ability for TiVo to actually download the file.
iTunes is still broken. The feed for that still won’t work. I’ve tried using the TiVo feed, but that doesn’t work. I’ve tried quite a few other things with the same result. The funny thing is the feed that iTunes had been using isn’t too much different than the TiVo feed. And all the feeds I’ve tried work with mixed results in the RSS reader.
For now, I’m not going to worry about iTunes too much. I’ll continue to try to find a solution that won’t cost me an arm and a leg, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. TiVo is my main concern at this point.
I now return you to the rest of the post.
Well, everyone, the day I was hoping I could avoid has arrived. blip.tv finally cut off access of my videos to iTunes. As a consequence this also cuts off my main source of viewers – TiVo. You see, the way both services get my videos is by something called RSS – Really Simple Syndication. I won’t go into all the techy stuff on how this works. The easy explanation is that this is a “feed” that lists all my episodes along with the video file. Unfortunately this video file now displays a message notifying the viewer that you need the blip.tv player to view the file.
A few months ago, blip.tv told it’s producers that they were stopping iTunes support. The feed we used would no longer work. So I tried to figure out a way around it. TiVo also uses an RSS feed. So I tried a feed just like it for iTunes. When the deadline came and went at blip.tv for iTunes, nothing changed. That is until Monday. I got a nice little e-mail from Apple informing me that my Podcast had been removed from the directory due to an issue with the RSS Feed. I quickly surmised that this would be the case for TiVo, and it was. I checked both feeds and got the same thing. You need the blip.tv player.
I’ve scoured the internet for the past couple days searching for a viable solution. I’ve tried somehow using my YouTube channel as the source. This doesn’t work as the feed from YouTube isn’t compatible with iTunes or with TiVo. TiVo informed me that the videos that come from the feed are Flash. I had thought YouTube had done away with Flash a long time ago, but that appears to still be the default format. If you’re using a device that can’t handle flash, then YouTube will give you a different format a la iOS devices.
I’ve looked into free and paid video hosting services too. Either the free is too restrictive or the paid is too expensive. I earn very little money from this show. The ad revenue is in the pennies per week. The donations are almost nil. I do thank anyone that has or is currently donating, but their donations don’t come close to what it would take to host my videos.
Just to put it in perspective. At the minimum of the kind of viewership numbers I have per episode, it would cost about $250. And that’s lowballing it. On the high end for the occasional video that goes a bit viral, we are talking about $900. For one episode. Multiply these numbers by 4 when I do my normal production. Plus add in that I have over 300 episodes, so any one of those episodes could also be watched during a 30-day period and that could possibly add another $500-1000 per month.
This is an expensive operation I’m doing even without video hosting. The time, effort, and money I’ve put in is way more than most people would even consider. If I told you the yearly expenses I have that are associated with my 1337 Wine Brand, you’d say I was crazy. To add possibly another $10,000 per year to that isn’t viable.
I’ve maintained that I am one of the only self-produced wine shows on the internet, and also the best produced independent wine shows on the internet. I’ve been able to claim I’m the only current wine show on iTunes. The only current wine show on TiVo. I’m on Roku via blip.tv and my good friends at ifood.tv (I get way more Roku views from the ifood.tv channel). I’ve been on some other services like Dailymotion, Vevo, and Veoh (ok, I don’t think I have any videos on Vevo or Veoh, just an account). I am on Vimeo. And, of course, YouTube. My distribution is really unmatched from what I’ve seen versus other self-produced wine shows. I’m considering adding my stuff to Dailymotion again. They used to have file size caps from what I remember. Now, they don’t.
So what does all this mean as far as TiVo and iTunes. The short term answer is I won’t be on either. I will have to hope that the viewers I had on both with search out my show. They will remember I have a website, or a YouTube channel, or I’m on other places and seek me out. Maybe they’ll find me and watch in those other places. Places where views actually translate into revenue. iTunes and TiVo give me $0. Literally. $0 since 2009. If I had those views on the blip.tv player, I’d at least have a few more ducats. So this may be a good thing in the long run.
Eventually I may have a solution to this. One of my partners is still evolving their service and may have an RSS feed that I can use for iTunes and TiVo. However, this may come at a price. That price could be truly financial, or they may say the feeds are using too much bandwidth.
And that, my friends, is really what this is all coming down too. blip.tv has been shrinking the services it distributes to over the years. Slowly eliminating those places where that can’t mandate that you use their player which shows that ads that earn them money. This is why so many video producers have flocked to YouTube since the beginning. It’s free and it get’s lots of eyeballs. But YouTube used to not be the place to go for long-form video or HD video. The flash video was crappy. You couldn’t have anything longer than 10 minutes. File sizes were small.
So you had a lot of other video upload sites come along. Some were geared to being an enterprise solution. Some were marketing themselves as an alternative to YouTube that would entice you with higher resolution, longer videos allowed, larger file sizes, revenue sharing, etc. And the big sell for me, redistribution to upwards of 20 different sites. And that’s where blip.tv came in. And to go even more back in the past (yeah, like 4-5 years internet ancient history), TubeMogul. Both of these “upload once, distribute to many” sites were great. Upload for free, or a small monthly fee in the case of blip.tv. TubeMogul had a low file size limit, but I was able to get them to increase it to 500GB for free. Back then I was doing SD video, and my file sizes were around 500MB with half-way decent SD quality.
But as these companies started either running out of VC money, or just getting pressured by their investors to start making money, the freebies started going away or coming with strings attached. I had no problem doing revenue sharing. This seemed to become the preferred method to keep independently produced videos coming. For those companies (and it’s not just blip.tv and TubeMogul, I was on a few others) that weren’t one-stop shop places to redistribute, but were the final destination for videos, they started charging real money to host. I mean hundreds of dollars per month. And that was just the storage fee, forget the bandwidth charges they would charge.
Video is expensive. No, really, it’s frickin’ expensive to serve. It didn’t get too bad for the rest of us until Netflix started their streaming service. And this, my friends, is where the whole ‘Net Neutrality thing comes in. I’m not going to debate whether we need it or not. The reality is that consumers want streaming video more than ever. Whether it comes from Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, their Roku, TiVo, PS4, XBone, AppleTV, etc. The public’s appetite for streaming video is increasing exponentially. And this is why the content providers and ISPs (Internet Service Providers like Comcast, Time Warner, UVerse, etc.) are in a fight over giving some types of internet data preferential treatment over others. And ultimately who is going to pay for it.
On the one hand, you have the content providers. They earn revenue via subscriptions, ads, and other sources. Like a newspaper, the subscriptions don’t come close to covering the true cost of bandwidth. Don’t get me wrong, the monthly fee that Netflix charges does defer a lot of the cost, but they can’t survive on that alone. They also charge ISPs and other companies for their services. Then you have the ISPs and the companies that are the backbone of the internet. It costs them a lot of money to move all that data around.
Before video, the amount of data any one person accessed wasn’t much. E-mails are pretty small if they don’t have an attachment. Websites are also small. All the fear mongering of data caps from several years ago were just that. The average person only did a fraction of 250GB/mth that was a typical cap in normal internet access. It was people like me that searched for streaming video, downloading lots of files, etc. that used it up.
Before all of this, the ISPs and really the backbone guys; the ones known as T1 providers (Level 3 Communications, TeliaSonera International Carrier, CenturyLink, Vodafone, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T Corporation) had peering and transit agreements. Between the T1 guys they have peering agreements. Essentially the bandwidth cost of moving data between each of these companies’ networks is roughly equivalent. So if they billed each other, it would be close to a zero-sum outcome. But, inequalities can occur. Once you get to the companies below them, that is where it gets more complicated (transit agreements). And when you have companies like Netflix that have to pump out incredible amounts of video over these networks, it gets expensive. It also strains network capacity. It creates bottlenecks and then you have trouble accessing the internet.
So, all of this is where I’m at. I’m indirectly part of the fallout of all the video out there. I’m part of the problem, albeit an almost infinitesimally small part, and it’s coming to bite me in the arse. But I’m not going to stop producing content. There will be an Episode 303. I even know the wine I’m using. There will be an Episode 304, 305, 306, an so on. It’s just that my audience will now be smaller again until those that watched me on TiVo and iTunes seek me out and/or I gain new viewers elsewhere like I do everyday.
If you are a video hosting company, or just a kind and generous benefactor and would like to host my videos for free and can be an RSS feed for iTunes and TiVo, then hit me up. I mean Leo Laporte has Cachefly as a sponsor and they host his stuff for free, why can’t I? 🙂
If you got this far, I thank you. I will see you next week with another episode of 1337 Wine TV. In the meantime, hit that donate button to the right (it might be a ways up the page at this point) and drop me a few ducats. Tell your friends to subscribe to the website feed or my YouTube channel. Go watch me on Roku and find the ifood.tv or blip.tv channel. However you watch and get your friends to watch, help me re-build the audience.