Ok, the truth first. I normally don’t watch football. I like my baseball and hockey, thank you. (A’s and Sharks for the win!) But when the 49ers were demonstrating so much awesome in one season, even I got caught up in the excitement. But with the Giants taking the win last weekend, my interest in the Superbowl waned and I find myself getting all Peter Brand (of Moneyball fame) about it. This week I’m thinking about the future of televising sports.
But what about TV as a whole? There has been talk about streaming TV for a while with numerous companies popping up to do just that. Netflix got itself into a PR mess last year that was worth $billions because of it. How close are we to watching streaming as the primary method of television consumption?
Truthfully, a long way off. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come really far — it’s not hard to casually know someone that has made the switch and dropped their cable because Hulu, Netflix, Comedy Central, and Fox are enough. Even Spongebob Squarepants has a home on Netflix. But are we even ready to have everyone watch TV on streaming? After all, when Prince William got married, the Internet more or less melted down.
A key problem as it is done today is that online streaming doesn’t have the same efficiencies as broadcast TV does when you’re talking about tens of millions of viewers. The cost of streaming has to continue to come down — we can’t have a server for every few hundred viewers. It economics have to flip around first. CDNs will be a key factor in how that happens, but even then we’re going to need to help CDNs scale out their infrastructures.
(You’ll forgive me for skipping the whole content licensing politics part of the equation. Yes, that is another key problem.)
The challenge becomes even more interesting when we consider how we make the value of watching streaming content better than watching broadcast TV. After all, between my DVR and cable proivider, I have a solid working system. Geekery will make me switch. But it won’t make my sister switch. Something better has to be on the other side.
So far, On-Demand-Anything seems to be the winner. But dumb Layer-4 forwarding for the service providers isn’t going to be enough. True acceleration of content and significantly higher efficiencies in network traffic handling are going to be necessary. We have the pipes (well, we’re getting close) now what is the feature?
Inquiring minds want to know.