AOL Video vice president Tim Tuttle took the keynote stage here at Streaming Media West and gave his pitch for the 4th place video service, which he claims has been silently making aggressive moves in the video space in the last year.
Tuttle, who replaced nytimes.com GM Vivian Schiller as the keynote speaker after Schiller came down with the flu, touted AOL's number four spot in the top video site list and claimed the company had the fastest growing advertising network, with 40% growth in Q2 2006.
Tuttle, who founded video search engine Truveo (acquired by AOL last January) also illustrated what he sees as the evolution of the video space. The first wave, according to Tuttle, was hosted and licensed videos on sites like MSN. After that, iTunes revolutionized video with paid downloads in 2005. 2006 has been the year of user-generated videos on sites like YouTube. Tuttle sees 2007 and beyond dominated by video search.
The wild west days of video sharing are over, Tuttle said. In the future, all the video you've been used to watching won't be on a single site like YouTube, but instead will be distributed across multiple sites that each have different content partnerships.
Tuttle was vague on the specifics of how AOL Video would dominate this next phase of online video, but trotted out AOL's past successes in video, mentioning (as every AOL speaker inevtiably does) Live8, AOL UnCut, and In2TV, which was the first service to offer free, full-length TV shows on the Web.
Despite my circumspect view of AOL's chances to break into the top tier of video search, I agree with Tuttle that search will be the dominant factor in online video's next iteration. Long-heralded but slow-in-coming technologies such as voice recognition and various forms of stream processing will likely factor in big.
But if we're relying on expensive and unproven technologies like that, I have to give the upper hand to Google's immense infrastructure. As multimedia becomes more popular, the technology required to index and organize that media becomes more complicated. I think that's the true meaning behind Google research director Peter Norvig's recent comments at TIEcon: the investment required to build and operate an Internet-scale, high performance crawling, indexing, and query serving farm are now so great that only the largest Internet companies had a chance of competing.