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article imageOp-Ed: Is crowdsourcing the future of original online streaming content?

By Leigh Goessl     Feb 17, 2012 in Business
Online streaming is becoming a highly coveted market niche many businesses want to get into. In the past year there has been a lot of talk on the web about this industry.
Long time content delivery service Netflix has made it pretty clear it feels DVDs are on their way out and the company's focus is geared towards streaming.
With heavy hitters such as Netflix, Verizon, and Amazon actively pursuing a means to deliver online content directly to customers, it's obvious many business leaders see this market as a future profitable one.
Where to find entertainment to stream?
Earlier this month it was reported linked up with Viacom Inc. to bulk up their online streaming subscription service. Verizon partnered with RedBox. Reportedly Google is getting in on the action too.
As it's now perhaps clearer where the coveted market is, what is less certain is how companies plan to gain a competitive advantage. Many businesses are looking towards partnerships with companies that are already in possession of content, but the problem with this is, it may be the same, or similar, content a competitor is offering and, in this respect, a partnership may or may not allow for differentiation.
The answer many are seeking to acquire differentiation can be found in original content to make available to entertainment lovers. Original content appears to be a market many of the primary providers are currently looking to integrate into their programming.
How to achieve differentiation through original content?
Netflix just released their first original series, Lilyhammer, but the series was sourced from established producers. Hulu has also entered the foray of original programming with its Battleground series, created by JD Walsh, of Two and a Half Men fame.
As for Amazon's potential original content, it looks as if perhaps crowdsourcing is its solution. Amazon is already set up for accumulating content this way and has been running contests since late 2010, enlarging its pool of contributors for original content.
Recently Digital Journal reported Amazon is looking to expand one of its teams associated with Amazon Studios. One of the job descriptions stated, "People's Production Company is a movie and series production company. We are seeking a Creative Executive, Comedy to help develop half hour comedies for online and traditional distribution. Projects will primarily come from Amazon Studios."
Will Amazon's content stem from its crowdsourced program? If so, can it succeed?
There are two different camps where this idea stands. The Guardian reported in Dec. 2011 screenwriter Craig Mazin said, "The comparative lack of guarantees, rights, residuals, credit protections, healthcare and pension is astounding to me. In short, Amazon is offering aspiring writers a devil's bargain; in exchange for the mere hope of access, the writer must trade away many of the basic contractual foundations of our professional status."
Amazon Studios director Roy Price presented the other side, stating for a writer "in the earlier stage of their career", it's a fair deal. And at least some contributors agree.
"The million-dollar prize is so unprecedented and I know many of us are working so hard for that unbelievable carrot," says Marty Weiss, a screenwriter and Amazon Studios user who won the first screenwriting prize in December 2010.
Pros and cons of crowdsourcing original content
There are clearly pros and cons to the concept of crowdsourcing streamed entertainment products, as some see it as exploitation, others as a cheaper way to "outsource", while still others see it as opportunity to break into an industry that may be hard to get a foot in the door.
Many types of businesses, including Oscar de La Renta, are giving crowdsourcing a try.
Where the streaming market is concerned, crowdsourcing ideas and scripts are a potential advantage for entertainment lovers and the businesses delivering the content because it is possibly going to be totally new programming. It is not uncommon to hear complaints of Hollywood either remaking old movies or recycling and tweaking already used storylines. With a broadened pool of writers, companies investing in online streaming can tap into undiscovered talent with fresh ideas.
(Hopeful screenwriters/filmmakers should carefully read Amazon's agreement prior to submission of any intellectual property and thoroughly understand any copyright and compensation terms prior to submission).
Over the course of time Amazon has been a leading company, after all, the company helped revolutionize ecommerce. Crowdsourcing original content to stream might be its latest endeavor to kick off a new way of doing things. However, that doesn't mean it won't have any opponents to the practice.
A path full of grey areas
Much like other industries, there are going to be critics, and as Creative Boom notes, in crowdsourcing, there's a lot of "grey area."
How the online streaming market plays out remains to be seen, however one thing appears to be clear. As technology progresses, and businesses look for ways to expand, adapt and survive in changing markets, there are likely going to be some unprecedented roads to navigate.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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