This year will mark the beginning of the end of traditional television. What we watch may not change so soon but the way we watch it will. And really, what we watch will change, too.
At the moment, most people in the UK watch regular terrestrial TV. A lot of people watch cable TV. Also, most people watch TV when the show is on, not when it’s most suitable for him or her to watch it. Sort of linear way of watching content. A lot of cable companies do have set-top boxes that can be programmed to record a show for later viewing. This has the disadvantage that the show has to be recorded as it comes on TV and the show mostly is tied to the box.
This is all going to change very quickly. It is going to be replaced by downloadable content. This, as an idea, is not new and is already being done by iTunes Music Store (in the US) and other similar services. I think it is fair to say that services like this will eventually replace the tradition television broadcast. It is much easier to download a show of the internet and watch it when it suits you, not the TV company or the average target audience.
Problem with this content at the moment is that it is not very high resolution. Mostly less than what’s standard definition TV. See also things like Youtube or Google Video, the content doesn’t look that great. This all has to change and the content will have to be in HD, or atleast close to this, to create a good experience. This brings another problem, bandwidth. It’s not really a problem for big companies like Apple or Amazon (see their Unbox service) at the moment as the usage is still relatively low. But here’s some maths. Let say I’ll make a video podcast which is about 15 min long, in HD that’ll be probably be around 150Mb. The podcast happens to be really, really good and clocks 10000 viewers (downloads) a month. 10000 x 150Mb is 1.5Tb. For tapaninaho.com, I get 5Gb bandwidth allocation. So basically I’d be 1495Gb short. That clearly is a problem for an independent podcaster.
There actually is a solution to this already, it’s an application called Democracy. It has channels that you subscribe to and it then automatically downloads the content onto your computer when it becomes available. It also uses BitTorrent to distribute then content. This totally eliminates the problem of bandwidth and actually makes the experience a lot nicer as the content is share by so many other users that download speed is very fast.
Democracy has one problem though. It’s not iTunes. Everybody I know uses iTunes. If iTunes had BitTorrent client build in, it would not only revolutionise the way we watch video in a second but also what we watch. Continue the trend Youtube has started. You might think that it’s not of Apple’s interest to do this as they certainly can afford the bandwidth. It’s not a question of why they should do it but rather why should they not.