Devices > Consumer Electronics Blog

Internet TV

by User Not Found | Dec 21, 2006

So I thought I’d start out with a few personal perspectives, bugbears and gripes to kick things off. That way you’ll get to know me a little more personally, and those of you who are clients will hopefully recognise some of what follows from our various communications over the years.

The rate of change continues to accelerate. We will see more innovation in the digital consumer space in the next 5 years than we have seen in the past 10, probably 20. The two sides of that coin are frightening and compelling. The opportunities are unprecendented, but matched by the risks.

Everywhere we look we see underestimation of the rate of change. I was asked, by a TV advertising executive, at a conference 2 years ago whether online TV and video would become a reality within 20 years. Yes, you read that right – 20 years. Our research in early 2004 was some of the first to show that broadband adoption was leading to a decline in TV viewing, but the TV industry didn’t want to know.

I haven’t the faintest idea how consumers will be getting most of their video in 20 years’ time, but it surely won’t be a scheduled linear broadcast one-way model. And the TV industry does seem finally to be waking up, fortunately more rapidly (not that this is difficult) than the moribund music industry did 5 years ago.

There was at least one empty seat at last night's Tottenham game against Southend. I had a ticket but was unable to attend. Sky chose to show the Newcastle-Chelsea game so I delved into the world of live internet TV football. TVU Networks ( is one of a number of largely Asian websites offering live streaming of television channels from around the world, but again largely Asia-based. So I found myself watching KBS, the Korean public broadcaster’s, live transmission from the other side of the world of a game taking place 60 miles away from my home. Such is the power of the connected world. And I paid nobody an extra cent.

At least it worked for maybe 20 minutes, during which time quality was bearable. I get BT’s “up to” (one of my list of marketing phrases to be banned once the Mercer government is formed) 8Mbps broadband service, and should peak at 6 according to my local friendly BT engineer. Realistically it probably caps out at 3-4, and I use WiFi between PCs and BT's Home Hub. KBS’s stream was certainly not reaching my PC at anything near that rate but the experience demonstrates why any picture is better than a thousand words (so why am I writing this then?). Blurred images and barely identifiable players are preferable to any radio commentary, although I have admiration for the skill of sports radio commentators. But internet TV couldn’t last the required two hours and after several frozen screens and dropped connections I gave in to the power of Murdoch and turned to the digital radio commentary on the BBC’s Five Live Extra via Sky's set-top box.

The big picture question is: can pay TV survive in a world where everything is available anywhere at any time? Look for sports rights holders to pursue the renegade TV redistributors (why haven’t they already?) through the courts, just as the record companies chase down P2P downloaders. But the stable door has surely opened. OK, so the user experience is not up to the job today but it’s only a question of time. Cisco, Skype and others are all planning to turn this into a real rival to "television", and I for one will not bet against at least one of them succeeding.
Next Post: CES - first thoughts

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