Can Streaming replace Cable?

Dan Rayburn discusses some research results from Conviva at his blog at and they suggest that there are still problems delivering television content via Internet Streaming. Regardless, Netflix plan to use streaming to replace broadcast television.

The Conviva report used a small bit of code in the volunteers’ media players and the results were not pretty. After summarizing them for us, Dan Rayburn concludes:

Conviva’s data shows that a staggering 60% of views were impacted by stalls, low resolution or buffering. 39.3% of streams were impacted by buffering and 4% never started. That’s over 900 million streams that never started! Ironically, for all the talk of HD, Conviva’s data showed that many consumers are watching on a screen capable of displaying high-quality (HQ) video, yet 63% are viewing below HQ resolution. And when it comes to buffering, for a live event lasting 90 minutes, Conviva’s data showed that 10.8 minutes of that content didn’t work thanks to buffering. Can you imagine turning on the TV to watch a movie and not being able to see 12% of it? Consumers would not stand for it.

I’ve long argued that download (and caching) provides a far better experience than real time streaming, and it appears the results agree with me. Although I can’t help a nagging feeling that Rayburn is subtly promoting this:

On Monday May 20th, at the Content Delivery Summit in NYC, we’ve got a session with RedboxComcastLevel 3 and Conviva discussing, “Managing OTT Video Quality For Service Providers and Network Operators.”

However, it doesn’t seem to be going to stop Netflix’s plans to replace broadcast Television.

It seems to me that Netflix’s biggest challenge is that they have no control over the means of distribution, other than making sure they have enough bandwidth at their end. Between their server and the viewer, the channel is completely out of their control, and (as above) not a pretty picture.

On the other hand, I’m very encouraged by Netflix’s plan to spend $2 billion a year on original television-style production. That’s effectively a new major studio in the production market.

3 thoughts on “Can Streaming replace Cable?”

  1. Granted live streaming has its issues. I’ve experienced them myself. As someone who has both Cable and Netflix, I do find I spend a lot more time watching Netflix though.

    I find the granularity of service, picking shows and watching several in sequence, as well as movies, although obviously prime first round releases, aren’t much different that available on basic cable channels.

    When comparing price and flexibility vs quality of service issues, I can see the potential shift, even more so as quality of service improves. Cable will have a long slow decline, just as print has undergone.

    Cable is exploring a host of counter strategies but it remains to bee seen how effective they will be.

    The studies I’ve seen on “cord cutting,” the rate is still very low. I believe some studies have shown it’s more significant in key targeted younger demographics who are more likely to live via mobile or computer online services.

    As to Netflix specifically, their new programing would seem to make them an up and coming competitor to “channels” like HBO. It’s still early but overall I don’t doubt the piecemeal erosion of cable.

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