Sunday, December 2, 2007

Thoughts on On-Demand Television!!

Read this article on The New York Times about Internet Video and how it is replacing the traditional business model of generating video for broadcast television.

The article is good and is backed by good data and interviews from internet video/content producers. But the article missed out some of the key developments in the world of television and on-demand viewing of content.

Here are the points which I felt were missed out with respect to viewing content on-demand.

Video (or content, for that matter) is becoming "on-demand". TV Service providers (cable companies and telcos alike) provide a library of on-demand movies and shows which gets streamed as IP packets (IPTV as we call it) so that users can watch it at their convenience. So, basically, TV service providers understand this need of users to watch video at their convenient time.

Also, Set Top Boxes (STB) (device which your tv service provider installs to receive and show the video on your television) come with lot of value-added features. DVR is one such feature. DVR (Digital Video Recorder) capable STBs which come with inbuilt hard disk let you schedule and record shows/episodes which can be watched later at your own convenience. So, this again is an other form of on-demand viewing.

Apart from this there are companies like Vudu which are coming up with pure IPTV set top boxes which do not support broadcast television. These set top boxes always receive video on demand. Vudu for example is trying to achieve what Netflix does today. The only difference is that the movie library is available 24x7. You can browse through the library of movies on your television, watch a trailer, then buy/rent that movie on the television and the movie gets streamed to your television instantly (through the Set Top Box).

These boxes, I can bet, will at one point of time come enabled with capability to search and play video content available on the internet.

So the point is, PC may not be the preferred viewing option for video. Television is always the preferred option for viewing video. Television is here to stay one way or the other. What changes is how the content is going to be delivered to your television.


To deviate from the actual topic, what I am also not sure is how on-demand viewing is going to affect advertising. Advertising traditionally to some extent was targeted by the prime time slots. Of course, advertisers also take into account the kind of show that they want to target.

Advertising would be more targeted with on-demand viewing. Advertisers would want slots in the most watched and top-rated shows.

Also, I keep wondering if there would be any side-effects on human behavior because on on-demand viewing. I am not sure of what kind of effects these might be. When I compare my viewing patterns as a kid as against what my son/grandson might face in future, there will be a huge difference. For example, as a kids, I had a pre-defined time when my favorite shows/movies would be aired. My mom would want me (threaten) to complete my studies and home work for the day before I can watch these shows that gets aired at a particular time. If I had had on-demand facilities of viewing video, I would probably not have bothered to complete my home work on time :). Even, if I would complete my studies on time, I would have probably ended up watching television all night long because I could have ideally demanded to see any show I wished. The only restriction would have been my mom poping in every now and then asking me to go to bed :).

What about Parental Controls? With video/content being generated by almost everyone, how reliably can you rate these programs. Take YouTube videos for example. These are user rated videos and again the rating is a perspective of the group which rates these videos.

There are lots of such questions for which only time can give an answer.

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