Bridging The Gap Between Broadband Video And The Television

from the all-akimbo dept

Lots of stories this morning about Akimbo, the new company that is working on a PVR style device that aims to bridge the gap between broadband content and the television. Right now, of course, there are things like TiVo, which will store live television broadcasts. There are also online sites where you can stream or download video content. What Akimbo is trying to do is create a TiVo-like device that downloads video content from the internet for later viewing on your television. It’s an interesting concept, though it faces a variety of hurdles. First, the pricing is fairly similar to TiVo, with a $200 box and a $10/subscription fee. People are going to have to see real value before they’re willing to double their set-top box fees (the company admits they want to build their technology into other offerings, though). This leads to the second concern: content. Is there enough content online (or can they convince enough publishers to release content online) to make this enticing? They’re initially focusing on niche content providers, mainly because those are the only people likely to agree at this point. They’re also locking up the content with Windows DRM technology – which may upset some users, but probably isn’t a huge issue (other than convincing bigger content providers that their content is safe – which it probably isn’t). There’s also the issue of time. It sounds like you’ll have to set up your preferences and then wait some time (overnight?) until the content is downloaded. While this may work in some instances, it might not appeal to the “I want it now” crowd. Finally, you have the bandwidth issue. With companies like Comcast putting soft or hidden caps on their “unlimited” bandwidth, and others (like SBC) starting up tiered service levels with limited bandwidth, how will they deal with people having their Akimbo boxes downloading all this content all the time? One interesting aspect, though, is that they intend to have future versions of the device allow people to upload their own content to the system. While this also raises the bandwidth issue (and many providers have pretty narrow upstream pipes), it opens up many more possibilities and focuses more on using the internet as a way for people to connect and create their own content, rather than simply being consumers of broadcast content. If anything, this sounds like a feature of a future PVR system, and Akimbo may become more like TiVo – creating the market, but not leading it.

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Comments on “Bridging The Gap Between Broadband Video And The Television”

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1 Comment
Dan Neuman says:

New Broadcast Company

This allows Akimbo (or anyone who wants to use their device – but an open standard would be better) to become another broadcaster. If Akimbo sold advertising (I’ll say more on this) that is inserted within the content, they could potentially not have to charge the $10/month, with the advertising paying for the cost of the content. Having access to all episodes of syndicated or non-mainstream shows would be of value to me. It would be great to see all episodes of past seasons of “24” or “The Sopranos” when I wanted to.

I have a Scientific Atlanta PVR (through my cable provider). I can fast-forward through a commercial in about 3 seconds. I do this for most commercials, but sometimes I’ll see something interesting and watch it, so I don’t think advertising is a complete waste of time (just mostly).

The advantage Akimbo has (to avertisers) over ABC is that they could potentially tell the advertiser how many people actually watched the ad. (It sounds like Tivo can do this, too — see Janet reports.) That might eventually get us interesting ads (like the BMW/Honda ones).

I haven’t watched a live show since I got a PVR. EVERYTHING is recorded. And I love it. So I don’t mind if it takes overnight to download, since I generally record more than I can actually watch anyway. Perhaps an option to throttle the download speed would help with caps. Having access to past seasons, and to shows that never made it mainstream (Futurama/Family Guy) would be better than cable. Having to sit through a few 3 second commercials (sometimes they’re pretty good at that speed) would be worth it. And it would be great if they started to figure out what sort of commercials I actually watch, inserting mostly useful ones on the fly (no more feminine hygiene ads!). I’d gladly give some demographic info if that helped.

To deal with ISPs, Akimbo could preposition content caches at the ISPs. The ISP would only have to deal with downloading popular content (and ads) once, which decreases the ISP’s Internet connection cost (so probably the ISP would be willing to pay Akimbo for this). If the speed throttling happens at the server/cache, then Akimbo’s server could throttle, but anything from the cache wouldn’t have to.

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