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Streaming will never replace Cable TV?

Dan Rayburn, has written a provocative post titled: Streaming Video Can’t Scale At Cable TV Quality, Will Never Replace Traditional TV Distribution. Essentially he argues that there isn’t enough bandwidth for the large scale events. He’s only partly right.

Dan’s argument revolves around large scale events: those with 30 million or more viewers, and for those events he’s right. But his overall premise is wrong, because those type of events are now the exception, and generally only for the broadcast networks (carried on cable, for sure, but not originated for that medium).

His argument fails because:

Most shows, particularly on cable, have much smaller audiences. Ten or 15 years ago, a 20 million person audience would get a show cancelled, now it’s a major hit with those numbers. Most shows are 2-3 million through to six million audience;

Only sports and news (and perhaps some reality shows) need to be delivered to all the audience at once. By artificially pushing “streaming” as a “all watch it at once” problem, he makes his argument, but at the expense of accuracy. In the IP TV world, the audience watches when the audience wants, and not at some “appointment” time the broadcaster or cabler want to show it.

Streaming will never replace Cable TV? Not for the huge sporting events, but for drama, comedy, movies, etc, appointment television on a broadcaster or cabler is already dead. We’re just waiting for the corpse to smell badly enough to realize it.







5 responses to “Streaming will never replace Cable TV?”

  1. One thing that puzzles me about this argument is that the difference between digital cable TV and streaming video seems less than clear. Both digital cable and streaming have in common that a compressed video stream is pushed from a server to a user’s set-top box or computer for decompression. I suppose it’s the one-to-many vs. one-to-one connection from the server that’s the issue, perhaps in the digital cable system the server sends the video out to a simple multiplexer and doesn’t have to grapple with sending multiple streams itself?

    I’d almost argue that both are streaming systems, and the difference worth discussing would be better cast as on-demand vs broadcast streaming.

    1. Philip

      I believe the one to many relationship is where the IP version has problems. Each device watching is a unique stream. For broadcast or cable there’s one output per program, and all watchers simply ride on that.

  2. Steve Speed

    BT in the UK are investing in Sporting events for their streaming TV platform which is the area they’re taking the fight to the Murdoch Satellite TV platform to attrack customers away so presumably it can scale. It wouldn’t be much point if if it couldn’t.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the quality is like from these boxes compared to Sat.

    Once our FTTC is installed I’ll get the streaming box for the weeks catch up service alone. Currently we have FTA satellite & AppleTV which caters for everything bar free instant catchup.

    I wonder if Apple can get into the home and innovate TV at all. In every territory there’s big money fighting to maintain the status quo and limit choice. There’s a lot of companies not wanting to go the same way HMV has gone and if they let Apples toe in the door Apple could become a huge global broadcaster and dominant like it has done in music. It’ll be interesting to see…

  3. Patrick James

    I have not owned a television for some years. All TV programmes I watch today are on the BBC’s iPlayer which is a desktop application which downloads programmes from the BBC. With the iPlayer you have a timescale within which to watch a programme, usually about 1 month. After that time the programme expires.

    This is a great system imho. The programmes are simply downloaded when they become available and I then watch them within one month.

    For the BBC’s servers, I guess, they can ease the burden of too much traffic when a programme first becomes available by simply staggaring the availability of the downloads for the consumers.

    I think the BBC’s iPlayer is the way ahead personally. I am sure other stations have similar systems but I have never tried them.

  4. Even live events can be streamed with the right technology. I’ve heard some very impressive figures from Octoshape (