One thing is clear – broadband and the speed with which it is being adopted by consumers has large media companies scrambling for a broadband content strategy. Home & Garden TV, The Food Network, and CNN.com all have announced new initiatives, reports WSJ. CNN, is going to forgo the subscription fee for its videos. MTV Overdrive is going to be first of MTV’s many MTV web efforts. They are reacting, much like a doe caught in the headlights, hoping that by making content available on their websites, they might stem the viewer defection. Like large media companies thinking that ‘reinventing journalism’ as blogging could make them cool, the TV folks are going about it the wrong way. They just want to capture some of those “internet advertising dollars.” If they were serious about broadband, torrents would be part of the whole game plan.
7 thoughts on “Reinventing TV for Broadband?”
Absolutely. Torrent based dribble broadcasting is the key.
The trick is adapting the advertising to that model which has
not yet been ironed out.
They need to be able to go “where the money will be” rather than
trying to see exactly where it is now. Something bigger companies
always struggle with.
The problem with RSS+BitTorrent for video is that the technology isn’t exactly Video on Demand. On a good day, I usually have to wait up to 7 hours to get a 1-hour TV show. You won’t convince anyone to pay a monthly subscription for a distribution system with half that much lag time when they can get HBO on demand from the cable company for the same price with no wait. Plus, if you make it free, you have to pay for it through advertising, but the first adopters will likely be DVR owners. Thus, who would watch the ads?
And how will users watch the files? Will the video be tied to the PC? What video format would everyone use? DivX? XviD? MPEG-4? WMV? Quicktime? TiVo? There’s no real defacto compression standard like there is with MP3, and that just makes it more difficult for everybody.
It would take someone with a fairly technical audience to make RSS+BitTorrent video distribution work. Leo Laporte might be able to pull it off; his This Week in Tech podcast apparently has 6-figure listenership after 5 shows. (I should be so lucky — Dave’s Lounge has maybe 50 subscribers.) Even then, though, Leo would have to get the equipment together to produce a video show, and video will ALWAYS be more expensive than audio in that regard.
For all the talk about video downloading, we still have a really long way to go yet before we even think about replacing cable or sat TV.
I see some concern about the speeds of BIttorrent + RSS noted here, but I think your concerns are misplaced. If major networks embraced Bittorrent as a distribution method for its content, it would reach out to whole new groups of people who have plenty of bandwidth to spare, and make what many people consider a taboo and still underground technology into something acceptable and something used by the whole family.
I do believe that the one major concern that is valid is the format the files would be distributed in. And one concern I would have is that each network would choose a different format, claiming that it’s “better” than the others, in hopes of winning over more users. Because I’ve been into digital video for almost five years now, I have a vast collection of video already, most of it utilizing DivX and Xvid. That’s certainly not something I’m willing to change at this point in the game, and for any network to sell me on downloading a show from them rather than still using other captured sources, they’d have to be able to compete in terms of size, quality, format, etc.
I adopted this technology before I even had a video card that could support TV-out. Now, my entire entertainment system is based upon my computer. The computer is connected to the TV, using S-Video (I could use component if I had the proper cables) and standard audio. Instead of having hundreds of VHS tapes, everthing can be called up with the click of a mouse. That’s not to say that I don’t still watch TV; I do have cable, and I watch my shows when they air whenever I’m able (and I make an effort to do so). But the main concerns I’ve always had – cable going out, bad weather interferring with reception or resulting in show interruptions, editing commercials out of my VHS tapes, what happens if two shows I want to tape are on at the same time (West Wing and Alias this season), where can I store 500 VHS tapes…etc…are basically moot now. They’ve all been solved by the growing merge of TV, broadband, and computers, and their integration into the home entertainment system.
It’s all coming, it’s just a question of how quickly it’s going to go mainstream, and what kind of sacrifice in quality will be seen when it does. I’m not interested in a Tivo, or a DVR from my cable company, because there’s never enough storage on them and voiding the warranty on an expensive product isn’t my idea of fun (in the case of Tivo). The DVR is ultimately something I would just rent from my cable company and would have to give back in the event I moved or if it broke, losing everything on it in the process. I want to just be able to shove another hard drive into my media computer for storage when the need arises.
As more and more computers come standard with TV-out, and broadband adoption and speeds get better, more and more people will begin to experiment with downloading video, just as people began to experiment with downloading music. Four years ago, I couldn’t imagine downloading a file that was 350MB in size. Now I don’t even consider that a sizeable chunk.
I think Permanent4 is quite mistaken when he says we’re a long way off from thinking about replacing cable or satellite in favor of downloading video. It’s not a long way off. For many people I know, that day has already happened, and they no longer subscribe to either. While it might take him 7 hours to download a show, it’s a lot faster for many people, and they have the ability to watch the show at their convenience. Even specialized programming on some networks (like FoodTV, for instance) is being captured and distributed. And anyone who remembers keeping an eye on BT during the 2004 Summer Olympics will recall that there were torrents available for almost every major event (and many that were off the beaten path as well). Even the Presidential Debates were captured and distributed. The only thing that cannot be gotten currently in that format are news broadcasts, particularly local news. But lately, I’ve forgone watching my local news and reading the local newspaper to using their websites anyway. I’ve forgone the Weather Channel in favor of the National Weather Service website, Storm Prediction Center website, and my local station’s doppler radar page. Right now, I find that Cable is only good for two things: background noise at 3 a.m. that doesn’t involve infomercials, and shows that I want to watch that aren’t worth my bandwidth (i.e. Nick@Nite). Even sports is moving toward broadband-based content, with MLB TV and other offerings at fairly reasonable prices. When the change happens, it’s going to come fast. Everyone is so focused on what HDTV is going to do for us in the near future that this is sneaking up on the average consumer…but when it hits…it’s going to hit fast, and it’s going to hit hard. And it’s going to send networks and cable and satellite companies scrambling, because once more people find out that theyr’e no longer at the whim of annoying networks that bore us to death with repetitive commercials, or networks that send our shows abroad before we get to see them, they’ll jump on board.
Now this will blow your O ring