Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is network-based DVR an IPTV savior?

Cablevision recently talked about providing a network based dvr. And were successfully stopped from proceeding. Time Warner has made some subtle changes to the model and presented it as Start over and Look Back, with early success.

Technology is turning the distribution model on its knees and once the cat is out of the bag, it is hard to put him back in again. Such has been the case with the dvr and commercial skipping. The appeal of IPTV delivered programming is that it enables more flexibility in viewing and more interactivity between the user and the content. No matter when you view content, the material can be updated to remain relevant and interesting to the viewer.

The hurdles remain are high. Content ownership and syndication; technology allows the owner of the content direct sell through to the user without selling access to different windows. Can content owners make up the revenues lost from selling access to different windows ( North American rights, premium rights, VOD rights, etc.) to other partners and get higher returns from direct access to the viewer. Can Turner Classic Movies survive as a network if Sony can sell its films directly to the home. And how far will it go. Will AMC Network give up its cable license fee to get ubiquitous distribution as a stream. Do cable companies end up as simple content delivery networks, managing communication lines like the phone company once managed their phone business. How this data is managed and moved, both at the set top box and at the network level will determine how these businesses will evolve.

These licensing models have been around for a long time; technology and IPTV delivery changes the business. “We have to make sure the business models intersect, for service providers and content owners,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice-president of Microsoft TV, in an NAB interview. “We need to establish a set of discussions.”

More Than 10 Billion Videos Served

Numbers for online video usage rose in February and that's without counting the launch of Hulu and itunes. Wow! There is an insatiable desire for online viewing, and more is coming. But is this a false high, and the numbers will settle down once the newness goes away, or is this the inevitable direction for all video usage? The vast majority of those views are from You Tube. It will be interesting to see where Hulu emerges on the list in next momths report. I have found Hulu to be a very satisfying viewing experience for professional content, where You Tube offers more viral content.

As noted in the article, "consumers may have more options for watching TV shows on demand and for watching content on TVs that's currently online-only." I have found that first hand. I recently put our Tivo on a wireless network and used it to download video from Channel Frederator. While I enjoyed the experience, I didn't season pass it; I'll continue to watch those shows on my computer, and leave my Tivo for longer form content.

To me, the end game is not the length of the content, but where and when I choose to watch it. I want the flexibility to watch it on my terms. And for me, the small screen is ideal for short form content, the big screen for long form.