Disruptive video

Let’s continue from my thoughts yesterday on YouTube and take a look at IP-TV. I am concerned that IP-TV, as a straight broadcast medium over twisted pair, is just not going to work in North America. There needs to be a better way for telcos to play.

We North Americans love our TVs. We have TVs in the family room, in the kitchen, in our bedrooms. During the World Cup this summer, we had TVs running in every bar, in many banks, in office food courts.

What we saw from the World Cup was the power of High Definition. With retail prices for HD equipment falling and the amount of HD content increasing, more homes will have HD sets, and many will have multiple HD devices, watching different HD shows at the same time.

And therein is one of the problems for the telcos’ IP-TV plans.

It is tough enough to upgrade the access plant to distribute one HD signal down those skinny little wires. Multiple HD channels may be beyond the capability of twisted pair until too late in the development and deployment cycle. As a result, Verizon is spending $20B to run fibre-to-the-home for 16M subscribers. $1250 per sub.

That is a brute force way to fight off the converged communications portfolio of cable. It is certainly one approach: replace the entire access infrastructure.

There is another way. Change the rules of the game. Think of Captain Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Faced with an no-win scenario in the Star Fleet academy, then cadet James Kirk found a way around the test by reprogramming the simulation, thus changing the conditions of the contest. In doing so, Kirk defeated the Kobayashi Maru scenario, and went on to fame as a Starfleet captain.

What if the telephone companies rewrite the rules of the game? Participate in changing the way we watch TV. In a universe of hundreds of channels and global programming, how much do we really need to watch broadcast TV anymore? With PVRs, YouTube, file swapping and multiple runs of shows across continental time-zones, people are already starting to control their viewing beyond that of the traditional broadcast medium. Why fight it?

TiVOTo start with, telcos should be embracing smart boxes like TiVo. Telcos should be helping such technologies and finding solutions for digital rights management for peer-to-peer distribution of programming.

Telcos need to help stimulate changes to the way typical users watch TV – not just our kids, but our parents.

At the end of the day, we are talking a fundamental shift, a disruptive change, to broadcast TV. Maybe it is YouTube on steroids.

Telcos need to disrupt the broadcast model because the alternative means fighting the battle using the cable industry’s rules. Disruption is how you beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

Where is Captain Kirk when we need him?

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