IPTV is creating "buzz" in the blogsphere with the recent entry of Joost and a war chest of billions; the fight for media dominance has never looked more uncertain.
Cheap bandwith, web 2.0 and the power of social networking has really made an impact, but with things changing so fast its hard to keep up. I hope this article lightens a few corners.
Duncan Barnes BSc (Hons) Broadcast Technology and currently a freelance technical director for Sky Plc, summarizes the changes that have taken place in the IPTV market during the last year.
- Peer to Peer in general; When I wrote my dissertation figures were put P2P as responsible for 60% of global internet traffic by Cachelogic, unfortunately the research notes citing this which were freely available at the time are no longer so and as statistics on this differ it would be difficult to reference here a comparable current figure. I think it would be accurate to say that it has increased significantly and that Andrew Parker’s (Cachelogic CTO) point still holds true that “P2P is driving consumer broadband uptake…and broadband is driving P2P uptake”. When I originally wrote the text media companies were starting to explore P2P as a delivery medium, the BBC and others mentioned below have indeed started to make significant moves in this area which will push its impact in the legal arena although despite the best efforts of the MPAA and others, the piratebay and other torrent search engines appear to be catering for an ever increasing user base.
- BBC iPlayer; The BBC iPlayer which at the time was in a limited user test period with little information besides screenshots and projections of what the service could offer has now moved into a public consultation phase but in my view its appeal and potential impact has been damaged significantly by the proposed limits passed on in recent findings by the industry regulator Ofcom. Ashley Highfield (BBC Director of New Media and Technology) said in 2005 that “when switch-over begins, I want internet television to be a viable alternative to satellite, Freeview and cable”. This it still has the potential to be but if the programs capacity is limited ‘in the public interest’ then it may not be so promising.
- Apple TV; Now this is probably going to be quite popular to say the least among the mac community, Apple’s success with the iTunes business model is likely to work the same way with the video world as it has with the music world when Apple TV launches. Naturally its Quicktime based, will have DRM etc and as with the current iTunes/iPod business model offers a fantastic vendor lock-in solution where the system works perfectly if you have entirely Apple hardware but requires iTunes to work with Apple TV and is probably not going to work with anything else!
- Sky Anytime; When I wrote a year ago there was very little information available about what this was going to be and Sky declined to comment when I enquired, saying that they were ’still developing an offering’. A year down the line and Sky Anytime is looking to be quite a good service, via PC, Phone or Television offering a wide range of content from the Sky channel line-up including shows such as Lost and 24 as well as films and sports.
- 4od; The Channel 4 on demand service allows you to download a wide selection of content both for rental and to keep although as can be expected with all the more well known companies there is the expected dose of DRM in there so you can’t take the content onto your laptop from a desktop to watch on the train or onto a portable player like the video iPod or the Creative Vision W
- TIOTI; Tape it Off the Internet was at the beginning of last year just a subject of blog posts with little real information known, the service has now opened up in beta although I must say I was unfortunately disappointed with a service which didn’t help me find content and instead got in my way and added another link in the chain. I’ve mentioned this before so I won’t delve into it too much again but I do believe it would have worked much better as a desktop client including a media player such as VLC and a bittorrent client alongside its social offerings.
- Joost(The venice Project); Last year Joost didn’t exist at the time of writing, in the last year this has grown from a simple and quite nondescript website into Joost beta which markets itself as ‘infinite choice, and TV that is truly interactive. TV anywhere, anytime…’. While the interactive side appears to be limited, the brainchild of the people behind both Kazaa and Skype seems to be heading off to a good start and when it launches (?) should hopefully flourish as an online provider. To be honest I prefer the idea of a company who is not already a media giant (BBC, Sky etc) ruling the roost for IPTV offerings and hope it goes this way. Time will tell but Joost seems to be one to watch in both senses of the word! Wired magazine have a good if a little lengthy article on this but it has some informative diagrams as well.
- Youtube is so widely discussed and such a figurehead of online video that there is not much point in mentioning its continued growth over the last year as well as Google’s expensive aquisition of it, suffice to say it has been a significant mover!
- Sopcast and Rawflow; The main difference between the two of these is that Sopcast is currently a free offering where as Rawflow is pushing itself more at larger broadcasters/content providers. Both services use P2P for transmission and support live content although I haven’t had the opportunity to experience this yet. Rawflow supports Windows Media, Real Player, Shoutcast and AAC based streaming media and the DRM capabilities of these formats. As the Sopcast system employs a similar approach although information is limited it would seem it offers the same potential.