Are Cable Companies Looking To 'Emulate' Web Video Sites, Or Destroy Them?

from the face-value? dept

A piece in BusinessWeek says that cable TV companies are "pushing to become more Web-like" by expanding their online video offerings and making their core TV product work more like the web than the traditional channel-delineated system. On the face of it, this is a good thing, since we've long argued that the TV channel is an outdated concept, and should be seen as being like a web bookmark more than anything. But the article largely glosses over one key point in the cable companies' push to grow their online video efforts: they want exclusivity. So instead of throwing things open and using an ad-supported model, like Hulu, they want to take TV shows and video content, and lock it up inside a walled garden for paying customers. That's not "web-like", it's exactly the same as their current business model. Of course, even if these plans don't work out, they've got another way to try and profit from online video: by introducing capped broadband plans that will charge customers based on how much traffic they use. Time Warner's CEO is quoted in BW as saying "we really need to look at what consumers want." It's hard to imagine they want capped broadband, and they want video locked up behind paywalls. The popularity of the likes of YouTube and Hulu indicate they want something very different from what the cable operators have in mind.

Filed Under: cable companies, exclusivity, web video
Companies: comcast, cox, time warner cable

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 4 Apr 2009 @ 11:39am

    Phased Array in Space.

    I think Weird Harold is mistaken about what will happen with the cable companies.

    In the long run, in nearly every kind of radio operation, phased array changes everything. This has long been a well-known fact in respect of military radio, but the price-tag has traditionally been too high for anyone except the military. Now that is changing. The central fact about an electronically controlled phased array antennae is that it has about five or ten times the angular resolution of a dish antennae of comparable size and frequency, and that it can track a moving target easily.

    This has application to terrestrial wireless, of course, but it also has application to satellite broadcasting. At present, direct broadcasting satellites co-exist in geosynchronous orbit largely because they only broadcast through antennae aimed at their own countries, or else they broadcast on different frequencies. However, when phased-array cuts in, economic rationality dictates that a satellite should broadcast different programs in all directions, on all possible frequencies, so as to most effectually recover the costs of launching. The additional electronics required for this are subject to Moore's Law, of course. What this might work out to would be that you might suddenly have access to at least twenty different satellite television broadcast systems, coming not only from the United States, but also from Europe, Japan, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and maybe others as well. The satellite launches will very probably be government-subsidized, for reasons of national prestige, and the launching organizations will be full of former national air force officers. Under that kind of brutal competition, the notion of having to subscribe to a particular satellite service, or pay monthly fees, will break down. The Brazilians, Chinese, et., al. will just transmit their signals in the clear, so that anyone can tune them in without a decoder card. It will be like what listening to short-wave radio used to be like-- free access to all the world. Each new country's broadcast satellite program will conform to evolving technical standards, so that one receiver works for all the satellites, and the receiver will only cost fifty dollars or so The satellite systems will try to charge content providers to transmit over their systems, and if they fail, as they probably will, they will scream "economic discrimination" to their governments, and get permission to broadcast American DVD's. What it comes down to is that broadcast bandwidth is not really a very scarce commodity, assuming one uses it with some degree of economy, eg. using video recorders. The practical effect of phased-array satellite broadcasting will be to untraceably (*) plug the average American into the Rangoon "street market" in bootleg videos.

    (*) Like Radio Free Europe waves in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the radio waves will be everywhere, only they will be much harder to jam.

    Outer space is like the high seas. It is beyond the ordinary operation of national law. Indeed, the state-of-the-art place to launch a communications satellite from is a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The ship can put out to sea from Shanghai, or Mumbai, or Karachi, or Djakarta, or... The United States Navy is _not_ going to put out to sea and fight a naval battle with the Chinese, just so that Time-Warner can make more money. Forget about it!

    The comparative advantage of the cable companies' landline networks lies in two-way communication, such as high-speed video telecommuting, with guaranteed availability. The cable companies will have to gradually transform themselves, rebuilding their networks from the top down, putting in more optical fiber, and breaking down shared coaxial cable into smaller chunks. Also, they are going to have to learn to behave like common carriers.

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