Julian Clover sees the Net Neutrality debate as a running thread in the coming months, but isn’t the idea of pay-TV to provide better quality?
If we were to open up Ball Bearing Monthly I am confident that the publication would currently be full of articles explaining that 2011 is going to be the year for ball bearings. So we have to make our own choices as to what might be the trends for the next 12 months, and we all hope that will include ourselves.
We didn’t get too far into January before the first Net Neutrality storm blew up, this time surrounding BT Wholesale and Content Connect, established as a means to use broadband as a TV platform. Content Connect uses a Content Delivery System provided by Cisco, who held a sparsely attended press briefing during IBC 2010.
BT are not the only ISP interested in ensuring that selected content enjoys a life in the fast lane, its partner in YouView, TalkTalk, has already hired Alcatel-Lucent Velocix to install its CDN system.
The delivery of content over broadband to the TV screen is my pick for a constant developing story over the next few months. The better online services will no doubt migrate to the TV, while maintaining their PC presence. The BBC iPlayer has already done this, through Virgin Media, and later with Freesat and Freeview. In the Netherlands, Uitzending Gemist has done the same, as have SVT Play and TV4 Play in Sweden.
Over time we will see whether people are prepared to pay for a better experience, as things stand, it is a far better experience to watch catch-up TV through a direct connection to a cable operator than it is over the internet to a PC. Not quite Net Neutrality, but heading in that direction.
The iPlayer is of course free, but in order to receive Virgin’s high quality version, you need to subscribe to the cablenet. Let’s extend this argument to The Ball Bearing Channel. You may be able to receive it over the internet, but surely the quality would be so much better if it was piped directly to you. Is there a difference between a channel being a part of a package or sold a la carte? Virgin might argue that its TiVo box with its dedicated broadband connection works around this.
TiVo or to be precise any device or collection of devices that brings in content to the home, or to the person via a mobile device, then allows onward distribution to a given group must surely be worth following. I remain sceptical about the ability of Connected TVs to deliver premium content without a little bit of help.
In pay-TV terms they are offering a basic or sub basic package with the ability to access on demand content. Key is that there is nothing in the middle. But things would start to get interesting if a company like Lovefilm – in the process of shifting from the postal service to online distribution – were to start offering premium sports content along with the movies. Would the consumer pay extra to ensure the picture did not freeze as the vital wicket went down?