I get a lot of email from readers, and occasionally I share our exchanges here. This week, I got a particularly interesting message about this week’s post about “Online Streaming Grows“:
And here is my reply:
Thanks so much for sharing your comments. I think you’re right on target in many respects, but I also believe that your analysis and mine not only survive side-by-side, they are probably inevitable.
There are always remote outlier areas of just about any population, especially in the U.S. There are regions where terrestrial broadcast does not reach, for example. In some cases, those areas can be rather well-populated such as the valleys of Vermont. Terrestrial broadcast can’t reach these viewers, so alternative approaches have a window of opportunity, such as digital broadcast satellite (DBS).
Moving to the issue of Internet access, the same problem of sparse population and long distances can make it not cost-effective to build out higher capacity transmission systems. It is likely that it will be a long time — if ever — before it becomes feasible to provide high speed service to remote areas.
So far, we’re right in sync. But here’s how I see it going forward. I believe that “watching what I want, when I want it” will trump linear programming, and that other solutions will be offered to viewers with lower bandwidth. For example, they would simply create a queue of programming that they would like to watch (just as they do now with Netflix, Hulu, or TiVo), and the content would be trickled to temporary storage onsite. (Terabytes are amazingly cheap, and still getting cheaper. I saw a 2 TB external USB drive for $100.) You can move a show up in priority, and it will be ready to watch sooner; the system could even alert you when it is “ready” even though the download is not complete, and you can “chase” the show while the rest of it downloads.
This would have minimal impact on the viewing experience of the user, while delivering almost the same benefits that a high bandwidth subscriber would get. I think that this would be a much more likely scenario than trying to use the terrestrial broadcast system to deliver the content.
I believe that something like this is likely the best-use case for the existing cable infrastructure, and that with the exception of maybe a couple live channels, linear programming is likely to simply go away. Not tomorrow, not next year, but I think it’s the logical outcome of the current trajectory.
Thanks again for writing.
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Posted by Alfred Poor, March 30, 2012 6:00 AM
About Alfred PoorAlfred Poor is a well-known display industry expert, who writes the daily HDTV Almanac. He wrote for PC Magazine for more than 20 years, and now is focusing on the home entertainment and home networking markets.