Archive for March, 2010

March 18, 2010

Is internet TV the best use of bandwidth

I recently read 3 very interesting posts on the above topic. The debate between Mark Cuban and Avner Ronen at SXSW. Clearly very strong points of view.
These are Mark’s points of view:
Don’t waste the internet on TV
Internet TV vs Music vs Newspapers et al.

This is Avner’s point of view:
The future of TV

I agree with both of them. Now that might seem a bit odd given that they seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Here is what I believe.

For the foreseeable future both cable/broadcast and internet TV will co-exist. Both bring with them their inherent advantages.

Broadcast delivers video at the least cost per bit and is an efficient use of the medium whereas internet TV provides addressability, interactivity and personalization.

I believe that the most popular shows should and will be broadcast in all their glory – HD, 3D what not and the long tail of content will be delivered on demand. Now long tail has many different connotations these days. However I look at the long tail as video that does not have mass appeal. In addition there is a lot of video out there that will probably not be shown on your TV broadcast/cable – videos from the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Funny or Die, Daily Mirror, Maxim, Cosmo, Stanford, MIT classes etc.

All of the above have built videos for the internet. However its ironical that funny or die is now going to TV. As Eric Schmidt mentioned in his Abu Dabhi media summit, this might be the way shows are created and distributed in the future. First create shows on the internet. Test with an audience with the least amount of production capital and if there is mass appeal move it to the broadcast medium.

The big problem with the internet (also its biggest advantage) is that it is 2-way. This means that the bandwidth has to be shared across users. More users, means more bandwidth split and more unpredictability. Quality of service on the internet is a big concern as you move from SD to HD and beyond.

So very soon you will find hybrid set top boxes that will give you both broadcast content as well as an internet connection for the back channel and video on demand capabilities (There is a new standard Hbb being proposed). I believe this hybrid setup will be the way forward for a while to come.

Now, that being said I have seen that broadband video is the norm in S.Korea. Very few people actually watch broadcast TV. So in theory it is possible to expand TV on internet to a larger population like in the US. However is it the best use of the medium?

That’s the question Mark is asking. And I don’t think using internet video for all video content is the best possible use. If you want to break the shackles of linear TV for that popular American Idol show use a DVR. You will get it in all its glory – full HD, sorround sound, 3D etc.

When people start appreciating bandwith as a limited commodity like water, fuel & electricity then some of these visions might begin to look like excesses. Especially when we realize that other deserving services are being starved of this precious resource.