TV Companies Embracing Online Streaming... But Why Not BitTorrent?

from the solves-the-bandwidth-problem dept

The NY Times has an article talking about how the various TV producers are finally embracing the idea of offering up TV shows online, noting that Warner Brothers is now opening the vault and adding a bunch of old shows that can be streamed directly online. This isn't all that surprising. However, what's odd is that the article includes a few complaints about the cost of doing this compared to the revenue, with NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker complaining "there are streaming costs so you have to make sure you’re covering that." Of course, that brings me back to a discussion some folks had around here over four years ago -- when we started wondering why television companies didn't just use BitTorrent to distribute their shows. If you combined RSS and BitTorrent (which was briefly referred to as "Broadcatching" by Ernest Miller) television companies could make it very easy for people to watch their shows. With RSS, they would "subscribe" to the shows, so as soon as a new one came out, subscribers would definitely see it. It would increase loyalty and remind people to watch their favorite shows. And by using BitTorrent, it would take the bandwidth cost away from the television companies. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry is still too scared of BitTorrent to realize how it can be embraced. So they complain about bandwidth costs for absolutely no reason.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Haywood, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:14am

    No kidding

    I BT shows for a number of reasons; scheduling conflict, Sometimes I live on the wrong continent, (I love Brit and Aussie TV), since cable isn't offered here I can't get shows like the Sopranos. If there was a proper method, I'd consider it, but while they were hiding in their walled garden, a cottage industry grew up that likely does it better than they ever will.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:26am

    It's hard to teach old dogs new tricks. It's surprising they even can learn one at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    SteveD, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    Tribler and 'P2P-Next' in Europe

    With some estimates on Torrent Freak claiming TV make up half of all torrent traffic, it’s surprising that TV networks are taking so long to adapt (even if they’re managing slightly better then the RIAA). It’s estimated that shows like Heroes get downloaded 10 million times worldwide, so that’s a massive market going un-tapped. Part of the problem is the way in which TV shows are sold to different countries, with viewers no longer prepared to wait months after a show has aired in the US for it to be shown locally (for example, the second season of Heroes has just started on UK TV). It’s also worth mentioning the Tribler team working on P2P-Next, a torrent-based video streaming technology. The project recently received a great deal of investment from the European Union and a number of EU broadcasters, most notably the BBC. Clearly some people consider bittorrent the future of online video.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:35am

    Cause with BitTorrent - the user has the material on their PC "ownership" and with streaming, They can only View from the stream and do not OWN the content - For a tech place, I'm surprised you don't know the difference between streaming and downloading.
    - I'm still against the money grubbing A-Holes with the networks. They can kiss my left nut

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Rajio, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:36am

    The CBC is embracing bit torrent (slowly) (in HD)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:36am

    maybe you haven't heard...

    bit torrent is destroying america and supports gay terrorism. no self respecting PR department would allow the the stuff to be touched with a 10 foot pole no matter how much money it will save their respective corporations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Jim, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:47am

    I'd stream if I could

    I'd be happy to stream shows if the networks gave the option - but so far I've been met with failure. ABC won't let me stream because I don't have the proper OS. NBC won't let me stream because... I don't know why but it doesn't work. Other networks will let you stream but not in full screen.

    I WOULD stream shows if it were easier than BT, but as it is I can have a full resolution show in about 8 minutes - why deal with the BS? I bet if the networks released an "official BT" with commercials left in people would actually grab those trackers - especially if it was RSSed. That would give many benefits for the company: they know how many people downloaded, very low overhead, and additional advertising revenue. I'd happily support the networks but if they are an order of magnitude harder to work with I am left with only one option.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    Re: Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks

    You can teach an old dog new tricks, you just have to repeatedly beat it over the head with a stick until it "learns." No doubt the entertainment industry needs this negative reinforcement in order to learn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Mischa G, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 7:50am

    What they need is devices

    It's such a good idea to move to digital content distribution for so many reasons but what's missing is a quality device to bring that content to the living room. That's why I'm particularly excited for the (hopefully) upcoming announcement of Netflix WatchNow on the Xbox 360. Heck, it's a partnership that could save the planet and be convenient and cheap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    Cause with BitTorrent - the user has the material on their PC "ownership" and with streaming, They can only View from the stream and do not OWN the content - For a tech place, I'm surprised you don't know the difference between streaming and downloading.
    I'm surprised you, and perhaps the networks, have apparently never heard of stream capturing. There isn't a streaming technology in existence that can't be somehow captured and converted, making the idea of controlling usage of the content by the use of streaming rather pointless.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    wasnt me, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:33am

    as long as the media companies do everything in there powers to keep control in there hands things like these will happen.

    with NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker complaining "there are streaming costs so you have to make sure you’re covering that."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    > There isn't a streaming technology in existence that can't be somehow captured and converted,

    Of course. But they can always pretend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    TheDock22, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:53am

    I assume...

    It is because then they can't control the money coming from advertising. I no one wants to download a show with commercials stuck in the middle of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    bshock, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    as rhetorical questions go, this one is a bit dim

    TV Companies obviously aren't supporting BitTorrent because BT leaves the user with something he can watch or copy or edit (such as removing annoying commercials) any time he likes.

    Doesn't matter that this is a better way to do business -- they don't want us to have their stuff on any but the narrowest terms.

    Just as well. They'd probably try wrapping their garbage in some sort of pointlessly annoying DRM anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    MLS, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Re: I'd stream if I could

    Do you by chance use Vista as your OS?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Matt Katz, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 9:04am

    Advertising

    TheDock22 is right.

    I know folks who worked on the Hulu project etc. The biggest part of the work effort is making sure you can not only show the advertisement to the viewer, but accurately count the number of views of that advertisement. The online model for ads is very different from the tv model for ads: pay per click or pay per view. The ad companies/ad buyers won't buy ads on a broad number like nielsen numbers etc the way they do for tv.

    If you allow folks to bittorent/dl the content with ads embedded, how do you count the ad views?

    If you use something like wmv which allows you to do callouts/popouts that get ad content dynamically, how do you guarantee that the person doesn't adblock those ads? With server streaming you have a high bandwidth cost, but at least you can sell the advertisements. I think you see that where you don't have advertisement based models, like public radio, you end up with delivery mechanisms that emphasize conserving bandwidth. They offer streaming, as do most radio stations, but they also offer podcasts of all shows.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    mike allen, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    bit torrant

    BBC Iplayer uses bit mtorrant with p2p technology even gives the number of seeds when you download picture quality much better than streaming.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    asdf, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    Re: maybe you haven't heard...

    lulz.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Mike, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 9:52am

    it doesn't even matter

    Even if the companies embraces bittorrent, I would still use the same sources to get my downloads anyway, I would rather download torrents from users than from the companies anyway. What it comes down to is trust, and as it stands I trust complete strangers on the internet more than I trust ANY corporation, so this whole issue is a non-issue to me. They can continue to lose money fighting bittorrent, and I will continue to download their shows without permission. Getting their "permission" means absolutely nothing to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 29th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    For a tech place, I'm surprised you don't know the difference between streaming and downloading.

    Um. I understand the difference between streaming and downloading -- but that's the point. By letting them download it (also using someone else's bandwidth) they no longer have to worry about the cost of all that bandwidth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 29th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    Re: Advertising

    If you allow folks to bittorent/dl the content with ads embedded, how do you count the ad views?

    I'm sure that is the thinking, but it's incredibly dumb thinking.

    Would you rather have a small audience you can measure accurately or a much larger audience that you can estimate? I'd go with the second one...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Matt Katz, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Advertising

    My understanding from talking with the guys who work in this field is that they'd love to do that. At least the engineers know it is a smarter, easier, cheaper, scalable solution. But the guys who buy the ads won't buy them that way. They are buying these ads more like they are amazon or google ads rather than tv ads. This is third hand - I don't work for one of those companies but I know techies who do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    TurboFool, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 2:51pm

    Seems like BOTH sides are a bit clueless

    It constantly amazes me how businesses fail to recognize the needs and desires of their public while underestimating their ingenuity. But it equally amazes me how people in our community continue to fail to recognize the needs of businesses, as well.

    What is the incentive for a business to offer television shows for viewing online for free? It's the same incentive as offering them on television for free. Advertising.

    If you make a show available to stream on their site, it requires you to visit their site, being reminded of all their other TV shows that you may want to watch on your TV, being reminded of other goods that their partners are advertising, and creating further mindshare.

    If you make a show available for torrent, it magically appears in the unbranded torrent application of your choice, free for you to play, rewind, fast-forward as you like, and view over and over again without any mental connection to the company that provided it, and without surrounding advertising.

    It's pretty obvious where they're coming from. Does that mean I like it? No. If I had my way I'd have my TV shows delivered to me the same night they air, commercial-free, in 1080p in a standard DRM-free format, with no network badges in the corners, and portable to any device I please with ease, all for no money down. Am I going to get that? Of course not. It doesn't make the network that funded it any money, and it doesn't pay the producers, writers, directors, actors, etc. for their work.

    So we have to settle for whatever options provide the best financial return for the networks. And right now that appears to be placing the TV show in a network web page, surrounded by ads. And honestly, that's okay by me. For anything I have to have look good and play on my TV, I'll use the unofficial torrents recorded from HD feeds. For my lunch breaks I've been very impressed with how well 30 Rock on NBC.com streams. If they're unhappy with the backbone required for this, they clearly have some work cut out for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Clueby4, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 5:52pm

    P2P for free stuff only. (no ads either)

    P2P is great for sharing stuff. But not buying stuff, and advertisements count as buying.

    So if the content is free and ad-free as well P2P it. Otherwise the distributor is "stealing" the user's network bandwidth, and CPU resources to service other users. Unless they have some for of compensation for the use of others infrastructure I find the use of P2P abusive to distribute non-free content. Example the dirtbags at Blizzard "distribute" their patches via P2P, and even have it setup so technofeebs aren't even aware that it's running in the background.

    However, I expect maybe in the minority with regard to my views, given that cable has advertisement and chuckle-heads are buying wide-screen monitors for their PCs, and gaming is de-evolving to consoles it not surprising.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 29th, 2008 @ 8:51pm

    I'm surprised you, and perhaps the networks, have apparently never heard of stream capturing. There isn't a streaming technology in existence that can't be somehow captured and converted, making the idea of controlling usage of the content by the use of streaming rather pointless.


    Yes, but capturing streaming Flash videos (true streaming, not the buffered streaming like YouTube uses) is still kind of dodgy. There's really only one program that claims to be able to do it, Replay Media Catcher. I don't know if it works since it won't run on my older version of Windows. The one program that supposedly works on my system, FLV Recorder doesn't actually do anything.

    Um. I understand the difference between streaming and downloading -- but that's the point. By letting them download it (also using someone else's bandwidth) they no longer have to worry about the cost of all that bandwidth.


    But if people have it on their system, they won't come back to the site over and over, watching new ads each time. Also, If people have a copy saved, then the company can't delete it like they can from their web site.

    It's all about control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Robert Pryde (profile), Apr 30th, 2008 @ 5:31am

    Re: bit torrant

    But the BBC admit users don't use it despite the fact that downloaded programs can be viewed for up a month, and are higher quality. Streamed programs are only availiable for 1 week after transmission.

    Personally I connect my laptop to my TV using an s-video connector, and the use the headphone socket on the laptop as the sound input.

    I do this for iplayer and 4OD.

    Why would I clog up my hard drive with content that I might view only once.

    Besides there's so many repeats I don't need to worry if i miss something that week.

    As an aside why on earth do TV content providers think that more 'digital' channels is more important than decent NEW programs?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    Yes, but capturing streaming Flash videos (true streaming, not the buffered streaming like YouTube uses) is still kind of dodgy. There's really only one program that claims to be able to do it, Replay Media Catcher. I don't know if it works since it won't run on my older version of Windows. The one program that supposedly works on my system, FLV Recorder doesn't actually do anything.
    There is more than one program that can capture flash videos, there are several. Just because you don't know about them doesn't mean they don't exist. (You are, after all, someone who actually thinks Windows 98 is the most secure OS Microsoft ever made.) (snicker) All it takes is ONE person capturing it and putting it up on P2P for their "control" to be lost.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 9:28pm

    There is more than one program that can capture flash videos, there are several. Just because you don't know about them doesn't mean they don't exist.


    Ok, so what are some of those programs? Replay Media Catcher is the only one that I ever see mentioned and the only one that seems to come up in a search of programs being able to download RTMP streams. Oh, there's FLV Recorder, which supposedly works under 98, but refuses to recognize my ethernet card. The company also doen't bother to answer email. What are the rest?

    (You are, after all, someone who actually thinks Windows 98 is the most secure OS Microsoft ever made.)(snicker)


    Show me where I ever said that.

    All it takes is ONE person capturing it and putting it up on P2P for their "control" to be lost.


    The problem is that if something is popular, there will already be copies floating around. If something is less popular, not only will it be less likely that there are already pirated copies on the net, but it will also be less likely that someone will capture a copy from the site and put it up on P2P.

    You want an example? Someone I know wanted to get the episodes of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle off Hulu for his kids. I can't download them, but I figured there must be copies of it floating around. If there are, I can't find them.

    Before you ask, yes he has XP, but like most users today, about all he knows how to do is load IE and check his email. I haven't yet had the opportunity to try RMC on his system yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Re: P2P for free stuff only. (no ads either)

    The distributor is stealing from me if he gives me a convenient, light-weight method of recieving content I've prurchanced?

    You're not even talking about that, you're saying the distributor is somehow stealing from me because something I'm getting for free includes ads, and I'm not being compensated for... use of the p2p protocol? I'm pretty sure I benefitted from being able to use p2p to get the content in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Please tell me you aren't really using Windows 98.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 10:27am

    Re:

    "If something is less popular, not only will it be less likely that there are already pirated copies on the net, but it will also be less likely that someone will capture a copy from the site and put it up on P2P."

    So, you argue that the media companies are relying on their shows being unpopular...?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 6:47pm

    Re:

    Please tell me you aren't really using Windows 98.


    And not only that, he seems to think that Microsoft discontinued security updates for 98 because it had become so refined that it just didn't need them anymore. Ever wonder how those botnets find so many easy targets? People like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2008 @ 7:38pm

    Re:

    Ok, so what are some of those programs?
    I'm tempted to tell you to go do your own search or ask you how much it's worth to you for me to spoon feed you. But, on second thought, I'll list just a few. Now, let's see. There's Video Downloader, and DownloadHelper, and Snagit, and SnapzPro, and WMRecorder, and Replay A/V, and Orbit Downloader. And those are just a few of the especially "easy" ones. A little more involved is using URL snooping tools like URL Helper or NetXFer or even Proxomitron to find the URL and then use a separate download tool like Mass Downloader, HiDownload, Net Transport, FlashGet or most any other download manager. And you know what? ALL of those can be found from just the FIRST TWO results that I get from a Google search on 'flash video capture'. If you can't even use Google, then no wonder you think there's only one program to do it. Oh, and if you really know what you're doing there are always the packet capture programs like Ethereal and so on that will capture just about anything. Next time, you might want to keep your mouth shut if you don't know what you're talking about (but I doubt you're that smart).

    Show me where I ever said that.
    How about you show me where I ever said you said that?

    Before you ask, yes he has XP, but like most users today, about all he knows how to do is load IE and check his email. I haven't yet had the opportunity to try RMC on his system yet.
    I imagine you'll be trying to "upgrade" him to Windows 98 too. Poor guy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:24am

    I'm tempted to tell you to go do your own search or ask you how much it's worth to you for me to spoon feed you. But, on second thought, I'll list just a few.

    I'm very glad you did, I was starting to get worried that you might actually know what you were talking about. However your list of programs has proved that you know a lot less than you think you do.

    Video Downloader

    There are a couple Firefox extensions with this name and also a web site. All of them will only download from Flash sites that use HTTP to send the video, like YouTube or iFilm. None of them will work with sites like Hulu or AtomFilms because they use RTMP protocol. Anytime a Flash downloader provides a list of sites that are supported, it means it won't download true streaming Flash videos.

    DownloadHelper

    Same limitations as Video Downloader, for the same reasons.

    Snagit

    SnagIt saves screenshots, not videos, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you meant Camtasia Studio Screen Recorder by the same company. Hmm, I asked for something that would download streaming Flash videos and you recommend a $300 screen recorder. Ok, I'll concede that it would allow you to save the videos, albeit not in their original format and at a rather expensive price.

    SnapzPro

    Ok, a Mac screen recorder for $69. I guess that would work for people who own a Mac. I've never met a Mac owner, but I hear they exist. Also not what I asked for.

    Replay A/V

    Not sure about this one. The web site claims it captures "streaming" Flash videos, but makes no mention of support for RTMP protocol. Also, the page for Replay Media Catcher, which does mention support for RTMP streams, says that you should use Replay A/V for capturing Windows Media and Real Video formats. I suspect, though I can't prove since it doesn't work under 98, that Replay A/V only supports sites like YouTube. Otherwise it would make Replay Media Catcher pointless.

    Mass Downloader

    From the features page; "HTTP, FTP, HTTPS, RTSP, MMS, MMST protocol support" Next...

    HiDownload

    Although the web site is poorly laid out and full of broken English, if you follow the section for downloading Flash videos, you'll see that HiDownload doesn't download RTMP streams. For that you'll need FLV Recorder, which doesn't seem to work. Also, before you blame my system (which I'll admit might be the reason it doesn't work), note that virtually nobody seems to use FLV Recorder.

    Net Transport

    Supports; HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, MMS, RTSP, PNM, BitTorrent, eMule. Next...

    FlashGet

    From the features page; "FlashGet supports HTTP,FTP,BT,MMS,RTSP and other protocols." No mention of RTMP. Next...

    most any other download manager.

    According to this page;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_download_managers

    The only download manager to support RTMP is Orbit Downloader. Most do NOT support RTMP streams.

    Orbit Downloader

    Congratulations! You've finally managed to stumble across a program that claims to support downloading RTMP streams! Although given how many programs you listed that don't download RTMP streams, I imagine that it was probably blind luck rather than careful searching on your part. I admit that I overlooked Orbit because the features page still says that RTMP support is coming soon. It won't run on 98, but it's interesting to note that the screenshot of the transfer screen looks almost identical to Net Transport. Maybe this is why NT still doesn't support RTMP.

    WMRecorder

    I'm big enough to admit that I managed to miss this one too. It even says it works under Windows 98. Thank you. :)

    So the final tally is 9 programs that won't do what I asked for (I'm not counting the "most any other download manager" part, which would greatly increase that number) and 2 that will. This gives you a 22% success rate, although if I exclude the screen recorders, your rate goes up to 28%.

    Oh, and if you really know what you're doing there are always the packet capture programs like Ethereal and so on that will capture just about anything.

    RTMP isn't listed as one of the protocols that Ethereal supports, although I suppose it's possible that it can just capture raw packets. Of course then you'd have the fun task of putting them back together into a playable format.

    Next time, you might want to keep your mouth shut if you don't know what you're talking about (but I doubt you're that smart).

    Says the person who obviously had no idea what I was asking for and rattled off a list of programs that clearly did NOT do what I wanted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    andy, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:35am

    Replay Media Catcher 3.0

    The new Replay Media Catcher 3.0 now captures RTMP, RTMPE, RTMPT, RTMPTE, MMS, HTTP, RTSP.

    That's pretty much all of them... in one program.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This