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The Economist On Television Over Broadband

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the running-scared dept.

Television 220

zxjio recommends a pair of articles in The Economist discussing television over broadband, and the effects of DVR use. "Cable-television companies make money by selling packages of channels. The average American household pays $700 a year for over 100 channels of cable television but watches no more than 15. Most would welcome the chance to buy only those channels they want to watch, rather than pay for expensive packages of programming they are largely not interested in. They would prefer greater variety, too — something the internet offers in abundance. A surprising amount of video is available free from websites like Hulu and YouTube, or for a modest fee from iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon Video on Demand. ... Consumers' new-found freedom to choose has struck fear into the hearts of the cable companies. They have been trying to slow internet televisions steady march into the living room by rolling out DOCSIS 3 at a snails pace and then stinging customers for its services. Another favorite trick has been to cap the amount of data that can be downloaded, or to charge extortionately by the megabyte. Yet the measures to suffocate internet television being taken by the cable companies may already be too late. A torrent of innovative start-ups, not seen since the dot-com mania of a decade ago, is flooding the market with technology for supplying internet television to the living room." And from the second article on DVR usage patterns: "Families with DVRs seem to spend 15-20% of their viewing time watching pre-recorded shows, and skip only about half of all advertisements. This means only about 5% of television is time-shifted and less than 3% of all advertisements are skipped. Mitigating that loss, people with DVRs watch more television. ... Early adopters of DVRs used them a lot — not surprisingly, since they paid so much for them. Later adopters use them much less (about two-thirds less, according to a recent study)."

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220 comments

ALL HAIL KARL MARX! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720317)

Smash imperialism with international socialist revolution! Reforge the Fourth International!

Re:ALL HAIL KARL MARX! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720967)

Yeah!

Let's kill another few hundred million while chasing your Utopian Worker's Paradise.

I say start with you.

I guess I'm at the far extreme (1, Interesting)

blackjackshellac (849713) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720391)

My television viewing is probably about 99% on DVR and I skip all commercials religiously, although if I see an image that intrigues me I will stop and rewind.

Cable television is dead in the water. Now we have to wrestle control of the network pipes from them, or at the very least have public network infrastructure installed (fibre to home anyone?). Socialism is good.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (3, Insightful)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720467)

No, socialism is bad, it's what got us here in the first place. Gave the telcos $200B for a 46mbps pipe to the home by 2008 (? might have been 2006, I don't recall). As is typical with government, there was no oversight, or checks to make sure what needed to be done was being done...the money disappeared.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720555)

Yep. I remember that provision. And apparently so does Robert X. Cringely [pbs.org] . I remember thinking back then that by now we'd have 45 mbps, which was practically unheard of back then. Most of the country was on dialup, and there were a few folks on cablemodems.

So where did the $200 billion go? Read Cringely.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720635)

That was not socialism. If it had been socialism the government would have put some oversight in place to make sure that the telecommunications companies actually rolled the fat pipes that they promised to. There would have been regulation and some control over the companies that received this money to make sure that the money did not just vanish into shareholders' pockets. What happened in telecommunications in the US in the 1990s and 2000s was a classic example of what happens if you just let private companies do whatever they want with public money.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Interesting)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721095)

I usually think that when the government starts merging with industry, it's called Fascism [wikipedia.org] , which is more an attribute of the right than left, but both parties are moving that direction. Usually the government nationalizes corporations, but if the government is run by the corporations, it will end up being the same thing... the single party bit is true in all but name now -- neither party resists the corporatism.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721335)

Why do you think that the Democratic Party is fascist? Because you and the others in the ditto-head legions heard some blow-hard entertainer use the term?
Wake the hell up, man. The labels don't mean much, the actions of our elected officials do, and those actions are, largely, bought and paid for by corporate interests. The telecom lobby is arguably the most powerful in Washington. They are, without question, able to buy whatever influence they need or want. The only completely correct term for that is corruption . Our "elected" officials are elected to, ostensibly, represent the interests of their constituents. At the national level, the fund raising required to get elected and stay elected is almost a full-time job. Those interests who make that job "easier" become the new constituents. Unless/until we take away the ability of corporations (entities which, rightfully, have no votes) will wield influence that is very often at odds with the interests of the people. The term you want to remember and demand of all your elected officials is "campaign finance reform".

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722095)

Why do you think that the Democratic Party is fascist

Because everyone points their fingers at everyone else when it comes to fascism. It'd be the most overused hyperbolic epithet of the current decade if only it weren't so often true.

The "right" insists that they're not fascist, only the left can be fascist because the left wants to control what you think and do on a daily basis. By forcing conformity and compelling everyone to march in lockstep... this is indeed a part of fascism.

The "left" insists that they're not fascist, only the right can be fascist because the right wants to give corporations unlimited powers and money. Government and corporation marching in lockstep... this is indeed a part of fascism.

The fact that the right also wants to control what you think and do or that the left also wants powerful corporations... these facts are lost on the supporters of both sides of the argument.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721751)

We need to avoid both at all costs.

We do not need government owned or operated businesses. This never ends well. We do not need a government that has its strings pulled by big business. This never ends well either.

What we need is government protecting an environment that fosters competition, and businesses competing. It IS the hard way... requiring the most work and diligence.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

Invisipunk (321702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721719)

In the interest of splitting hairs.. this is 'state socialism' as in the money was forcefully acquired from tax payers and handed out to corporations. More than likely, the same corporations that gave campaign donations. Efficiency comes about from people managing risk and maximizing their return on investment. With government, people aren't held accountable and are often incentivized to fail since they can just come ask for more tax money. If you want real socialistic approach why not form a co-op and pool your money to achieve your goal? Ultimately relying on the government safety net instead of self reliance will just lead to more and more disappointment.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Insightful)

funkatron (912521) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720719)

That is not socialism, it's incompetence. Making sure that work paid for (in this case rolling out telecoms infrastructure) is done properly is basic management and should be part of every system of government.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (2, Interesting)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722093)

Blanket labels like that are rather shortsighted. There are many socialized services that do very well and are required for quality of life in the US. Medicaid, medicare, social security, police, fire, public schooling, etc. You post smacks of partisan politics without any real thought behind it. If you are so against social services, would you take your mother off of medicare? Would you pay for all of his or her expenses out of your own pocket since they could no longer pay for themselves without social security? Could you even afford to do so and care for your own family? Would you put out your own house fire and arrest your local neighborhood criminals yourself?

It could also be argued that the handouts that these telco's took also ushered in broadband for millions of Americans, but only where it was profitable to do so. Oversight is never as good as hindsight. It does not mean they cannot do better or be required to do better by congress. The first bank bailouts had zero controls. They now come with a substantial number of them to the point where banks are hesitant to take them or eager to pay them off early. Granted more thought could have gone into them but they are at least trying to learn from past mistakes.

It sounds like congress let out too much leash and is hopefully ready to reel them back in (hopefully a lot). I see cable companies in the same boat as the failing brick and mortar RIAA model. They will either need to adapt (and compete), or they will simply be replaced by those that can.

I for one would have been MUCH happier had the government done the work that they expected of the telcos. It would have at least been done, been more accountable than the telcos, and given some return investment to the tax payer rather than filling the telco's purses, and I'm betting I would currently be using 50MB service at home for far less than I'm paying my local cable provider.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722165)

Giving shit-tons of money to the nation's largest corporations is not quite socialism. Socialism would have been to form a government-owned corporation to deploy and operate the network.

200 billion could have bought a LOT of fibre and routing gear, but instead it bought a bunch of hookers, yachts and bonuses.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (4, Interesting)

Enry (630) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720489)

This and this. We've been using Tivo since 2001 and I'd say our viewing is the exact opposite of what the Economist says.

I think the only reason we see ads anymore is when my daughter is watching a pre-recorded show from Disney Channel or Cartoon Network - she can't work the fast-forward yet.

It's just so great not to have to be tied to the network's idea of when I should be watching TV. Have a meeting on Monday nights? No problem, Heroes, 24, and House will be there waiting for me in full HD glory.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

nih (411096) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720601)

damn straight, i was watching a live football game and got an urgent call to fix a neighbours sink, so i paused live tv, this took a few hours, and when i got back i unpaused the tv and carried on watching the live game from where i left it, ain't technology great!

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720491)

You already have socialism: it is government that grants these companies their exclusive monopolies. Why do you think that a bigger, more intrusive monopoly will lead to improvement? Take the monopoly away, don't strengthen it.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (5, Interesting)

Doug Neal (195160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720575)

You already have socialism: it is government that grants these companies their exclusive monopolies. Why do you think that a bigger, more intrusive monopoly will lead to improvement? Take the monopoly away, don't strengthen it.

That's not socialism, though.

The important difference between a publicly-run network and a privately-run network is that the public network is not run with the intention of generating maximum profits for the shareholders, but rather for the public good. Financially speaking, it's fine if it breaks even. Fast fibre connections into every home would also have many secondary economic benefits to the community that are harder to quantify than a company's balance sheet. Yes it's technically a monopoly, but many of the reasons for a monopoly being a bad thing no longer exist. There would also be nothing to stop telcos from building their own private networks alongside the public one. Given the choice between a public monopoly and a private one, I'd rather have the public one every time.

I would possibly like to see such a public network run as a wholesale service whereby the service providers buy capacity and resell it with their own packages. This would completely level out the playing field and make true market competition possible. This is evident in the way that the incumbent telcos are trying to get bills passed to prevent this from happening; they are scared shitless by the possibility that the power they have to completely rape their customers for as much money as possible for as shoddy service as they can get away with, would be neutralised.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720789)

The important difference between a publicly-run network and a privately-run network is that the public network is not run with the intention of generating maximum profits for the shareholders, but rather for the public good.

Don't delude yourself into thinking that just because a network is public that profit isn't a motivation. Nor is everything publicly-run done for the "public good".

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720815)

But a private network is NEVER for the public good, and ALWAYS motivated by profit. Not good odds...

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (2, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720923)

The BBC is a perfect example of what you are saying. Despite being funded by the taxpayer they are run along commercial lines with orders to maximise profits...

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (2, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721931)

One arm of the BBC makes profits, and all of them are reinvested in the BBC.

No one owns shares in the BBC. When the BBC makes a profit, the people who gain are the British public, through reduced license fees and an improved service. I think the world gains as well - how many BBC shows are rightly regarded as classics?

The BBC is not funded through taxation, but through a license fee. If you don't want to pay it, you do have to divest yourself of all equipment capable of recording their broadcasts.

On the other hand, for less than £12 a month you get a lot of value, not least of which is the knock-on effect of improving the general standard of broadcasting in the UK. We have a mandated maximum average of 12 minutes of commercials an hour here - it's more like 18 elsewhere.

Complaining about the license fee is like complaining that for a measly 1/4 of what the USA spends per head, we get universal health care with no co-pay and fixed prescription costs.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721967)

BBC is well run, but it isn't a private monopoly. It is a government run agency that uses "best practices" learned from being in business a long time and paying attention to other well run broadcasters. They are not in business to make a profit, but to provide a sercice to its audience at a cost that is politicaly justifiable. Their motive to keep costs in line (or to show a "profit") is political.

A real life privately owned, government granted monopoly is a business model that doesn't make sense, except for in the short term, when it is desirable to expand the business faster than possible under a freer market. Network style business (roads, pipes, buslines) have the inherent problem that early adopters might have to wait a long time before being a customer makes financial sense. An internet or a road with only a few destinations isn't worth much. Value goes up exponentially as networks are linked up and more destinations are added.

But, once the network is built out, and the network is more or less stable, then what? Profits can't so easily be increased by expanding the network. When profit margin is dicatated by regulators, customer satisfaction drops out of the equation. Since profit is supposed to be what drives the enterprise, the business model is deliriously flawed.

But, private business gotta make money. So, option one, screw the customer. This works amazingly well since the customers can't go away, and politicians are slow. Regulators have the annoying habit of being from the business regulated, and politicians would rather debate gay marriage than bandwidth. The monopoly business can argue quite truthfully that option 2, allowing a competitor to build a parallel network is more expensive than the little bit of screwage they might be guilty of.

Option 3 exists, and seems to work, but I don't have enough data to support an opinion. Here in Georgia, it was done with local telco for awhile, and now it is done with natural gas. That is, the wire or pipes, are maintained by a monopoly and the product carried through the wire/pipe is sold by competitors. Since the infrastructure is the expensive part, this might work out. Bonds could be used to finance the build out and maintenance could be paid for by the companies that use it. This is how highways get built. Truckers pay huge taxes and even individuals pay a little with the gas tax at the pump.

Television has turned into a system where cable monopoly is going away very quickly. No matter how much cable wants to keep it's monopoly, it has Dish, Internet, Netflix, and whatever we think of tomorrow to deal with. If I had the bucks, I'd buy up the cable companies and convert them to a business model where customer satisfaction actually mattered. Rather than owning the regulators and lobbying for more regulation to keep competition out, I'd try to be the best option. After all, the cable company has the best pipe in the neighborhood. They are way ahead of the phone company with fiber, and don't have the latency issues of the satellites. They just have to learn some new tricks. Like being nice.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720801)

I would possibly like to see such a public network run as a wholesale service whereby the service providers buy capacity and resell it with their own packages.

If you do that, what's the point of the service providers? Why not get your internet directly from the government and cut out the middle man?

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722023)

It's because as Americans we have a knee-jerk reaction to fear anything that has government-controlled or socialist in the name. While I'd agree that all-out socialism isn't for us: we are a very large, diverse and divided country with a history of strong personal independence and small-government leanings, which I think is well suited to the Federalized system we're supposed to have.

However, in this case, its ridiculous, because the government-granted monopolies or duopolies don't even have to make a show of trying to provide the best service for the lowest cost, as a truly competitive company would, or doing their best for the people, as a government-run service would. Instead, we're stuck with two companies who don't even try to hide that they're ripping us off to benefit their shareholders.

Personally, the solution I'd prefer is to make the fiber and copper municipal or state property, since its infrastructure just as much as roads or sewers, and have it leased out to whichever companies seek it. Unfortunately some talking head would then talk about how we're "nationalizing" the lines, and we've got anti-socialist hysteria all over again.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720879)

QFT. Socialism as it relates to the issue at hand would require the companies that have monopolies to be owned by the people, which in a centrally led system would end up meaning state ownership of the companies. The wisdom of that can still be debated, but just throwing pork at privately owned companies is pretty far from socialism, and calling it that is a sign either of confusion or dishonesty.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721655)

You're thinking of fascism, which is a system of government, not an economic system. Granted, fascism goes very well with socialism, but it doesn't preclude capitalism.

Any time you "share the wealth", it's socialism. More specifically, whenever the government distributes wealth, it's socialism. The more often you share the wealth the closer you get to pure socialism. The government paying for services is capitalism, but the government seems to suck at it. Right now we have a pretty strong mix of both socialism and capitalism, which annoys both socialists and capitalists.

The $200b in 2000 or so was not a payment for service. It should have been, but it wasn't. There was no contract established with the telcos to provide the service, there were no consequences for not providing it (as there are in contract law), there was nobody from the Government doign quality assurance. It was basically just congress saying "Here's $200b, do this for us". They weren't acting on behalf of the people to get something done for the good of everyone, they were just throwing money out there and hoping it was done right. It became just another handout for an industry who's entire existance has been mandated and supported by the government since the invention of the telephone.

With the telcos in general we have an odd situation of the government mandating a service (i.e. telephone service everywhere), but not wanting to be socialistic. That idea by itself is a little contradictory. So they guaranteed a monopoly to a couple telcos to get it done. That's not socialism, in a raw sense, that's just poor management. They inadvertantly took away the only effective balancing agent in a capitalist system, which is competition. With it you get maximum value possible (be it low price or high quality, or somewhere in between), but without it you get the minimum value tolerable. It's the second situation that we are in with Telcos - though not completely, as the telcos were split up once, so there is a moderate amount of competition in a national sense. Regionally though there are plenty of places with no competition.

Socialism makes everybody feel good as long as you put your blinders up and ignore how crappy your situation really is compared to what it should be. Greed, if leveraged in a capitalist system, allows for maximum effectiveness with minimum effort and oversight, and everybody can establish the best position for the. It fails in a social sense though, when you trust people with greedy fingers to "do the right thing". That's basically what Congress did with the $200b, and what they did with the telcos in the first place.

And they're doing it in the biggest way ever with this one and a half trillion dollar bailout. This "inherited deficit" that Obama, the sleezeball, tries to play off as getting stuck with when he voted for the first half and signed into law the second half. I just hope we don't regret this BS for the next 50 years like I'm afraid we will.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (2, Interesting)

subreality (157447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721129)

public network run as a wholesale service whereby the service providers buy capacity and resell it

That's more than the government needs to be involved in to fix things. All they need to do is provide *fiber* for service providers to resell. Keep it to the absolute minimum that has a natural monopoly, and let the market take care of everything where competition can be provided.

I've said more about this before. [slashdot.org]

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (1)

snaz555 (903274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721225)

I would possibly like to see such a public network run as a wholesale service whereby the service providers buy capacity and resell it with their own packages.

The way I see it it has nothing to do with socialism or private vs government. It has to do with a division of who does what. Clearly no free market exists without a government (the fabled bazaar is very much a government creation), and corporations are communist: they're command economies strictly planned and executed from top, ultimately controlled by a small circle (the politburo/board of directors). And like any communist structure they give lip service to things like integrity and values while planning to stab each other in the back. It's not surprising that organizations like this can't meet deliverables while they enrich the most important people in the world: their senior management. (And even if they're too humble in public to express this sentiment, that's how they view themselves.)

The problem with broadband today is that the infrastructure model is that of railroads. A RR could hold a municipality hostage and make preposterous demands in return for running a line to it. Even though running the line without any incentive whatsoever from the local government would still be profitable and a very good business idea, milking the municipality was even better! Make a big public outcry about how expensive and unprofitable it is and how it needs to be supported with tax incentives and exclusive deals. And we all saw how well the RR's handled changes in infrastructure needs. Nationalizing didn't really make much difference, because the fundamental problem is in the infrastructure model itself: competing behemoths that own and manage infrastructure as property.

What we need is the interstate model. Yeah, it's not profitable. Heck, we don't even try to monetize it. Instead we recognize that it provides value greatly in excess of the tax payer cost of operating it. It's open to everyone for whatever they choose to use it for. If you want to run a trucking company, by all means, all you need is a truck! You don't have to start by building roads, or leasing rights to whatever stretch you want to run. Just do it, who knows, maybe you can grow it to compete with UPS? Yeah, there may be weight stations, gasoline taxes, and fees, but that's really not a significant issue, and it's the same for everyone. No old-boys network, no special deals, no exclusive contracts. In providing the interstate system we provide an important tool to reduce the barrier of entry for transportation. We help create a market for transportation services.

What if UPS and Fedex owned the interstate system? Would anyone in their right mind think it would be a good idea to sell it in pieces to the highest bidder? Yet, that is exactly what we've done with our communications infrastructure. Of course it's dysfunctional. Trying to regulate free access back into it really doesn't work either - because of the nature of authoritarian command economies and how the people at their top think it simply isn't in their nature to accept.

We've done the same for airports - these are paid for by taxpayers, and even though there are some usage fees, it's pretty trivial stuff. Want to start an airline? By all means; all you need is terminal space and an aircraft. Airport operations and air traffic control is provided by the tax payer.

So we should create a federal communications authority, that simply goes ahead and lays the fiber. It should contract not with telcos but with the people who actually dig the trenches and splice the ends. Then they sell access at some nominal fee, not necessarily to make a profit or even break even but to avoid the tragedy of the commons. The resulting economic growth spurred by innovation in technology and new previously impossible business models then produces a tax base which indirectly pays for the infrastructure. This is really the ONLY way to get it done. Unfortunately our politicians (and much of the naive citizenry) is mentally stuck somewhere in the 1930s and hold ridiculous notions - like working everyday in what is effectively a communist corporation while in fear of some abstract socialist threat they can't identify.

Re:I guess I'm at the far extreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720867)

Erm, I believe that's actually called fascism.

That headline reminds me of the RIAA.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720773)

The only thing they know is hardball. They'll do anything, ANYTHING ... except listen to their customers and give them what they're asking for.

I did it. (5, Informative)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720393)

A couple of months ago, I broke away from cable for good. And for the most part, I haven't missed it.

You really can find just about everything you want or need online.

I had a spare computer that I loaded Ubuntu on, made sure it had the latest flash and java. I also installed Boxee, although, since the Hulu problem, haven't used it.

Most of the entertainment type shows I get via Hulu. Their interface could be a bit friendlier (too much scrolling, really), but overall it's not bad. For news, CNN offers live streaming, which is really quite good quality at full screen. MSNBC offers all their shows for streaming - well at least the ones I care about - Countdown and Rachel Maddow. And I get local weather from WGN - also streamed full screen.There are a few European stations I like watching, and I use Livestation for that. The quality through that isn't the best, but I will say the streaming is steady.

The one beef I have with it all is the disparate pages I have to go to/navigate to get to the content. This is where I was really hoping Boxee would do some good. Not yet. They have a section in their UI to add apps, but it looks like it's Boxee specific, so I can't just add any program (such as Livestation. As it stands, I've created a bunch of Prism desktop shortcuts to take me directly to the content I want.

Re:I did it. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720437)

I too want to have the newest flesh installed.

Re:I did it. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720483)

I wonder how long TV on the internet (for free) will work out. Right now all the cable/sat subscribers are funding this. If everyone starts viewing TV online only...it will start costing $$$.

IPTV has been ready to go for years and years...the content providers are the ones holding it back. If you think TV on the internet will be the next big thing...well... I think it will be too, but magically it will still cost the same as cable TV is today.

The content guys will always get their $$$.

Re:I did it. (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720539)

The content guys will always get their $$$.

Truthfully, I have no problem with this. As long as it's the content guys (ie: the networks) and they let me choose exactly what I want to watch. Commercials don't bother me nearly as much as they used to. My life is full enough that I can look away and be amused while they run. And some of them are amusing in their own right.

Re:I did it. (2, Interesting)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720567)

The real question is, what will the "real cost" when our current model of subsidizing unpopular channels under the guise of bundling them up with more popular ones, is replaced with an ala carte model.

No one, with realistic expectations, expects this to be free.

Re:I did it. (2, Interesting)

Carlosos (1342945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721181)

Why not free? The broadcast channels are already free using an antenna and I'm assuming that those are even the most watched ones. Why shouldn't it be possible to get Comedy Central, Discovery Channel free by showing ads like FOX, NBC, etc. ?
There are also some countries where only free exists with the exception of HBO like channels.

I'm already getting almost everything free that I watch (or everything after dropping cable). I get the broadcast channels and with hulu I also get the things that I watch on comedy central. The only channel really missing is Discovery channel and I can live without it. (not worth the $50 cable bill for one channel)

Re:I did it. (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721651)

Broadcast TV isn't free, it's just the currency isn't one you are trained to recognize as such, advertising. Why do you think broadcasters fight so hard to prevent PVR's from cutting out commercials, why even the companies that formed Hulu fought to keep it off Boxee. Because these things hurt their ad revenue. If you aren't willing to pay for broadcasting with your time and eyeballs in 'ad dollars' then eventually it'll either not be produced or it'll be paid for some other way. For instance, by the government, and by extension, under the government's watchful eye that nothing 'offensive' is produced. Or by you directly.

Re:I did it. (2, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720565)

A couple of months ago, I broke away from cable for good. And for the most part, I haven't missed it. You really can find just about everything you want or need online.

PBS and CSPAN programming are generally not available online. I couldn't (or wouldn't) do without either, so for me, the cable subscription is worth the trouble and cost.

That said, I agree with your general sentiments. If you're looking for entertainment, there are alternative sources. And if HBO's lineup (since the Sopranos ended) is any indication, Schwarzenegger movies are probably cheaper when rented from your local video store.

Re:I did it. (4, Informative)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720577)

Can't speak for CSPAN, but PBS has an awesome video portal to most of their content now... http://www.pbs.org/video# [pbs.org]

It was just launched last week.

Re:I did it. (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720689)

Good point, but I was aware of it. PBS seems to be ahead of the curve (for both music and video), but they're a ways off from being able to provide complete coverage for their TV lineup. I mean, seriously, what's a self-respecting geek kid supposed to do with their laptop if Sesame Street isn't available online?

Re:I did it. (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720925)

Grow up, perhaps? ^^

Attack of the Clones (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721081)

Grow up, perhaps? ^^

Just because you saw accelerated aging in Attack of the Clones doesn't mean it's been invented in this galaxy.

Re:I did it. (0, Offtopic)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722015)

Hey moderators: Whoooosh! ^^

Re:I did it. (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721547)

PBS and CSPAN programming are generally not available online.

PBS programming is available from the iTunes store. C-SPAN is available as live streams from their web site. In addition, some PBS stations have online streams of their shows.

Re:I did it. (2, Interesting)

Xebikr (591462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721383)

I canceled DirecTV a month ago. I get my tv through eztv.it and Torrent Episode Downloader (TED). I have two XBOX's (original, not 360) that I've loaded XBMC onto. I get movies through thepiratebay and Netflix. I don't have the fastest internet speed in the world, just 1.5mb, but it seems to work just fine for everything I want to do.

Before I got rid of Dtv, I had paired it with ReplayTV, which we loved. We watched a reasonable mix of live and recorded tv. I might still be with Dtv and replaytv if replaytv had been allowed to continue to innovate and hadn't been litigated out of existence. I just couldn't stand the picture anymore from the replay on the new tv, couldn't bring myself to getting dtv's comparatively crippled dvr, and building two dvr's using Mythtv or whatever was just too expensive and too much trouble.

The Economist hits the nail on the head (5, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720413)

A torrent of innovative start-ups, not seen since the dot-com mania of a decade ago, is flooding the market with technology for supplying internet television to the living room."

Torrent was EXACTLY the word I was looking for. Thank you, The Economist!

Re:The Economist hits the nail on the head (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720501)

yaaaaarrrr

Re:The Economist hits the nail on the head (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721251)

Torrent was EXACTLY the word I was looking for. Thank you, The Economist!

If you think that happened by accident, you don't read The Economist regularly. That's exactly the sort of dry wit their writers use.

Some years ago, The Simpsons had Homer traveling by air in first class, and he says "Look at me, I'm reading The Economist. Did you know Indonesia is at a crossroads?" The Economist published an article titled "Indonesia at a Crossroads" that week.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720439)

I watch all my shows via dvr or down load them with bittorent at my leisure. Big cable better get there act together or they will soon find themselves on the street washing car windows. :P

The model is going to change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720481)

The whole model of television is starting to change, and it is going to undermine not just the cable operators who will see their bundling and channel market broken, but the channels themselves.

People are getting wise to the fact that commercials are the hook that goes with the worm that is our entertainment. TV is paid for because someone thinks they can sell us stuff. With torrents and the 'net, smart consumers can be like smart fish - and get the worm without getting the hook. When that happens, the advertisers will cut bait and the market will have to reinvent itself.

The same is happening with the web as more people adopt successful ad-blocking.

In due time, we are going to have to pay ourselves up-front for the big budget entertainment, rather than indirectly as a cost built into the products we buy, because they got advertised as a subsidy on our media.

Re:The model is going to change. (2, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720535)

In due time, we are going to have to pay ourselves up-front for the big budget entertainment, rather than indirectly as a cost built into the products we buy, because they got advertised as a subsidy on our media.

Nah, the ads will just move into the movies in a bigger way. Along with NOS, Autometer, Nissan, Ford and Subaru... I wonder how much Castrol paid to get in to Fast & Furious this time? Even my non-car-geek friend picked up on that advertising. Or the ads become feature length movies... either way really.

Re:The model is going to change. (1)

Aerynvala (1109505) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720751)

I didn't notice even one product placement in TFTF 4. *grin*

ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720485)

> Cable-television companies make money by selling packages of channels

Not in Australia, where they make money by selling advertising.

I dodged the expensive DVR (3, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720543)

Mythbuntu allowed me dodge the expensive DVR and accorded me the freedom to skip commercials from recorded programs. My Mythbuntu, connected to a wireless router, quietly runs in the basement and through a netbook connected to an LCD TV, I watch these shows. Sweet.

I just hope that folks at Mythbuntu can integrate the script [mythtv.org] that removes commercials. Right now, you must be a semi geek to set this up. The other problem too is the trouble with remote controls. It appears that there is no way of getting a remote control configured without editing some text file. This can be scary with the enormous number of options. Even with this, you will be lucky to have it working.

My experience has been rewarding. To save on power bills, I would like to use a notebook based TV card if I can find one.

For those who might be wondering whether Mythbuntu 9.04 has solved anything, I can say not much over here though boot time is faster with 9.04 as compared to 8.10.

My next task will be to grab free "Free To Air" signals in my area. I understand there are many channels around. This means folks, that I am not very happy with my cable TV company.

Re:I dodged the expensive DVR (2, Insightful)

idiotnot (302133) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721089)

And lots of cable providers are trying their best to kill off anything that doesn't require a monthly rental box. So far as I can tell, there aren't any clear QAM channels available from my provider where I live (they do have them in other places, but my city is often used as a testbed for the provider.

Sadly, I haven't found a tuner card nearly as good as even my free DTV converter box. Certainly none as good as an ATSC tuner in a modern TV.

My DSL provider pulled the plug on its IPTV service a few months ago. I could run three SD streams without too much of an effect on DSL performance (each mp4 stream seemed to eat ~1.5mpbs). But still not enough bandwidth is available to service most of their customer base for HD content, which is why I think is part of the reason they decided to ditch it (in addition to the STBs being incredibly flaky).

Overall, I think maybe people might be more amenable to a pay-for-play system if it didn't cost too much. But at $1.99 an episode from iTunes, plus the fact that I effectively only pay $25/mo for my TV signal (difference between my cable bundle pack and just the cable modem), doesn't give me much leftover to buy TV episodes.

Re:I dodged the expensive DVR (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721191)

Over the air (OTA) has been around forever. You could had done that long ago. :) I haven't had cable since the mid 80s (back when the transmitters were way too far).

Re:I dodged the expensive DVR (4, Informative)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721953)

I just hope that folks at Mythbuntu can integrate the script that removes commercials. Right now, you must be a semi geek to set this up.

Really? I have Mythbuntu installed and this stuff is built in. You can set up the auto detection methods and there is a commercial flagging job. Sometimes it doesn't always detect commercial breaks, but it's been impressive on the ones it has detected.

Welcome to my world (0, Flamebait)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720561)

Dedicated PC, no cable. no satellite, 1 remaining broadcast station until June, when it goes digital. Hulu, Netflix and other streaming TV and most of them are advertising supported, exactly as was broadcast. Nothing has changed here but the cost and variety. Lower cost, better variety.

Nice to see the rest of the world catching up to me. Gonna be a pisser when the DSL pukes ...

Re:Welcome to my world (2, Interesting)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720633)

I lost a lucrative job in late 2001. The first thing I cut off was the satellite tv. I learned to test DTV until the p-4 switch and have since relied on OTA and various forms of TV over DSL, especially justin.tv. My kid doesn't care or doesn't realize that we only have 2 channels on our tv.

Re:Welcome to my world (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721807)

Hulu, Netflix and other streaming TV and most of them are advertising supported

How long, do you suppose, they'll continue to exist, if the efforts to get rid of the commercials described elsewhere on this page make progress?

Keep chippin away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720563)

I can't wait for the day the whole fucking lot of them, Big Media and Major ISPs, box themselves in with their walled gardens and restrictive laws. When the top 1% earners are the only consumers left to afford multiple service providers, they'll realize the internet was fine to begin with.

Hnng on (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720591)

I thought digital TV was supposed to save bandwidth!? ;)

I don't watch TV (1, Interesting)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720603)

And when I get married, I don't think I will buy one either. So far all I have seen TV do is poison people and waste massive amounts of time. All everyone does now a days is flame how uncreative and bland network shows and sitcoms have become. Yet as soon as they get off of work they rush home to turn the TV on and spend the rest of their night watching it. How about you go volunteer at a church or something instead? Or get this, How about do a bible study session with your own family? You would be very surprised at how much happier you get when you spent time with your family and learn their every need and the trials that they go through everyday. Everyone sitting in the living room and staring at a TV set is not family time....

Netflix (4, Interesting)

stomv (80392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720609)

I haven't had cable television in 7 years. I don't miss it. For the money I save, I
  * Netflix
  * Go to the movies
  * Pay for the newspaper
  * Pay the late fees on my library books
  * Pay admission to museums

At the end of the day, cable isn't offering us anything we can't see already on Netflix or on youtube or hulu et al. So really -- why pay $700/yr or whatever when we can watch all the programming that we really like by pulling it instead of waiting for it to be pushed?

P.S. Take a Kill-A-Watt [amazon.com] and check out how much electricity your cable box + DVR + ??? are using on standby and calculate the additional burden on your electric bill. I'd bet it's a combined 40W or so, good for another $50+ a year.

Netflix is not for sports (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721141)

True, the combination of Netflix, Netflix, and online news can replace films, scripted TV series, and news on cable TV. But what replaces live sports on cable TV?

Re:Netflix is not for sports (1)

Carlosos (1342945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721277)

With big sport games its the broadcast channels you get with antenna and with the digital channels it is better than analog cable TV but sadly no ESPN for the people that watch more sports. Maybe there is a chance to get ESPN from unencrypted satellite channels but I never tried that since I'm living in an apartment and a big dish is no option.

Re:Netflix is not for sports (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721295)

You can find this too, here for hockey i use cbc.ca (free) and rds.ca (pay per view and subscription). For F1 races I use torrents, they are available a few hours after the event.

Re:Netflix is not for sports (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721845)

But what replaces live sports on cable TV?

Maybe live sports on the dozens of free, over-the-air, broadcast TV stations? The ones you can get in vastly higher quality with a bent piece of wire and a $15 converter box?

You know, the channels you currently watch through your cable/satellite service, which buy up and broadcast ALL of the remotely popular sporting events. Remember those?

Hell, NBC's Universal-Sports DTV sub-channel broadcast at least here in the greater Los Angeles area is VASTLY better than ESPN/FoxSports/etc.

Re:Netflix is not for sports (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722405)

stomv wrote:

I haven't had cable television in 7 years. I don't miss it.

tepples wrote:

But what replaces live sports on cable TV?

evilviper wrote:

Maybe live sports on the dozens of free, over-the-air, broadcast TV stations?

But the local CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates don't broadcast the sport that I like to watch. For instance, only one game of this round of the NHL playoffs is on a broadcast network; the rest are on channels exclusive to cable or satellite. Instead, the major networks they broadcast some strange "sport" that they call Reality TV. Should I just learn to like a different sport?

Hell, NBC's Universal-Sports DTV sub-channel broadcast at least here in the greater Los Angeles area

WISE-TV [indianasnewscenter.com] , the NBC affiliate in Fort Wayne, Indiana, doesn't have Universal Sports.

Re:Netflix is not for sports (1)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722121)

True, the combination of Netflix, Netflix, and online news can replace films, scripted TV series, and news on cable TV. But what replaces live sports on cable TV?

The satisfaction of not seeing a bunch of jocks demonstrating why the college dean fiddled the entrance criteria to get them on the team.

Re:Netflix (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722413)

I haven't had cable television in 7 years. I don't miss it. For the money I save, I
* Netflix
* Go to the movies
* Pay for the newspaper
* Pay the late fees on my library books
* Pay admission to museums

At the end of the day, cable isn't offering us anything we can't see already on Netflix or on youtube or hulu et al. So really -- why pay $700/yr or whatever when we can watch all the programming that we really like by pulling it instead of waiting for it to be pushed?

P.S. Take a Kill-A-Watt [amazon.com] and check out how much electricity your cable box + DVR + ??? are using on standby and calculate the additional burden on your electric bill. I'd bet it's a combined 40W or so, good for another $50+ a year.

I've never had cable and rarely watch broadcast. I've been with Netflix since its creation. Last time I watched broadcast was when Obama was on Leno. I picked up a converter box at Fry's because it was cheap, but it's been at least a month and I have yet to plug it in. I'm starting to think I wsted the $9.99 I gave to Fry's.

Throw in one of these [amazon.com] , and live broadcast is completely unnecessary, except possibly for emergency broadcasts when internet is down.

The cable adapter takes no juice at all. Imagine the savings if you got all your shows with your computer.

It's not going to make anything cheaper. (4, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720611)

Most would welcome the chance to buy only those channels they want to watch, rather than pay for expensive packages of programming they are largely not interested in.

I'm sure they would, but the economics of television channels doesn't work like that.

Let's suppose person A is willing to pay $5 a month for the sport channel and $10 per month on the news channel. Person B is willing to spend $10 a month on the sport channel and $5 a month on the news channel. If the package of 2 channels costs $15 they'll both be willing to pay for the channels. If the cable provider charges $7.50 for each, then each subscriber only pay for one channel since the other one is not worth the amount they're charging to that customer. So, the cable provider has lost out on $15, and each subscriber has lost out on a channel that they're reasonably interested in.

It's not like other purchases. The cable provider doesn't have to buy a selection of channels and resell them. They pay a fixed fee to the station, based on the expected number of subscribers, and price their offering so as to maximise their profits.

Internet based TV services aren't going to change this offering. They'll still offer a selection of "channels". You'll still end up with a package of programmes, most of which you don't want to watch.

Re:It's not going to make anything cheaper. (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721555)

There's no reason why cable companies can't continue to offer bundles of channels for those who prefer bundles. But they're going to need to start offering a la carte if they want to get back people like me. (Just canceled my satellite subscription for AppleTV.)

tv is background noise (4, Insightful)

xmousex (661995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720619)

in my house its usually on cartoon network or the news and its just been sitting there playing while we are online, gaming, or doing things around the house. we watch important shows on hulu if we care about it, or we look through ovguide.com, so we can start and stop and go back to previous episodes. we have a tivo someone gave us but never saw justification for the subscription fees.

shows that we really care about and want to keep come in from netflix and copied to external hard drive.

we search for the ultimate device to make use of this collection. that device would read through all the episodes of each show we have and play them back like itunes on random and broadcast those to all the tvs in the house on our own custom tv channel. we dont want to have to pick a show to watch, we just want them all playing on their own and we can either sit down and watch if were interested at that moment or not.

my younger sister lives in an apartment but is rarely ever there because of work or social activities. she just has her laptop with her always and a sprint card. this is how she watches her tv shows and gets her news. if that device gives her whatever she needs, why pay the extra money for something that only works when she is in one particular spot?

the people i know that care about the tivo are older, they are settled into houses, have a big entertainment center hooked up, and do not spend alot of time buzzing about. like my dad, he loves tivo. the difference i think is he specifically spends an hour or more sitting in front of the tv and thats all he does, his purpose is actually to just sit there and watch... just sitting and watching tv would drive me nuts.

USA only (5, Informative)

Exp315 (851386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720795)

Whenever you list online media sources like Hulu, you should remember they are available in the USA only due to restrictive regional licensing agreements by the major media cartels. The rest of the world can only download the same content illegally.

Re:USA only (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721157)

The rest of the world can only download the same content illegally.

Immigration to the United States [uscis.gov] is not necessarily illegal.

Re:USA only (3, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721679)

Just really, really difficult to do legally.

Re:USA only (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721183)

The reverse is also true. There is a lot of really good programming outside the US (for my interests, that would be Europe), but cannot be had in the US. Sure, there is Livestation, but for individual programs, control is control, no matter what part of the world you live.

Re:USA only (2, Interesting)

kwark (512736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721315)

But is the rest of the world paying $700 yearly for television? I only pay 9.50 EUR/month for the basic subscription (26 channels). Throw in the FTA channels, about 15 interesting enough and I still don't watch more then 15 of them.

The max. subscription price is 53 EUR/month (for about 65 channels), but I can't imagine anyone willing to pay that amount when you have the ability to (illegally) download most of it for your own convenience.

Re:USA only (2, Informative)

williamhb (758070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721341)

Whenever you list online media sources like Hulu, you should remember they are available in the USA only due to restrictive regional licensing agreements by the major media cartels. The rest of the world can only download the same content illegally.

Stunningly enough, however, the rest of the world does have some technical nouse of its own, and isn't just twiddling its thumbs in the dark. iPlayer, iView, 4od, ... rather a lot of channels in non-US countries provide their own Web TV services.

Re:USA only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721791)

Which is silly. It's called the internet. The 1980s called and want their local-only BBSes back.

Re:USA only (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722285)

Which is silly. It's called the internet. The 1980s called and want their local-only BBSes back.

Advertisers of consumer products designed to be used by and shipped to United States residents do not want to advertise to people who can't buy their products.

Anyone else annoyed by the noise? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720845)

All DRV boxes I've gotten to play with have 1. been noisy even when not in use and 2. require you to target the remote directly towards the sensor.

As a result we got rid of the DRV/Digital decoder and we'll be sticking with analog TV for as long as that lasts.

Re:Anyone else annoyed by the noise? (1)

Huh? (105485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721405)

Not sure Tivo was on the list of DVRs you tried, but the remote/receiver on all of my Tivos have been amazing.

Re:Anyone else annoyed by the noise? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721489)

Nope. Never seen a Tivo. Good to hear that there are good remotes out there.

Outright Arrest or Nationalisation (1)

resistant (221968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720901)

I'm typically a "small-ell" libertarian, but I'm strongly moved to advocate that the principals in the acceptance of vast sums of public money during the 1990s to provide nearly universal broadband be given the choice of either being sent to prison for fraud, or agreeing to the nationalisation of their companies, with control over operations specifically delegated to individual cities or counties. It might be unwise in some ways, but how can it be worse than the situation that exists today, with greedy, infinitely arrogant corporations butt-raping their customers in semi-monopoly markets?

The fat lady is just getting warmed up (2, Insightful)

doppiodave (911019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720979)

The Economist article on Internet TV says all the right things. But never underestimate the ability of the incumbent broadband ISPs in North America to leverage their near-monopoly control of last-mile facilities. In Canada, as well as the US, the incumbent telcos and cablecos have both the opportunity and motivation to use traffic-shaping, bandwidth caps and exhorbitant fees to discourage the use of the local loop for any service that threatens an established service of their own - especially video. Ever since the collapse of the content/carriage distinction, they've all been in a conflict of interest, fully sanctioned by the FCC and CRTC. You get to own the pipes plus you get to offer whatever content you like. So don't be holding your breath about the ability of that "torrent" of startups to dislodge the likes of Comcast and Rogers. True, Time Warner Cable just lost a high-profile battle on bandwidth caps. And they retaliated by taking their DOCSIS 3.0 marbles and going home to sulk. Up here, Bell Canada has filed a tariff [slashdot.org] that would allow it to extend 60-gig caps beyond its own subs, to be applied to every DSL reseller it supplies in Ontario and Quebec. And this tariff is actually being given serious consideration, even though it's egregiously anti-competitive. Proving once again that non-facilities-based competition just doesn't work. Did I mention Bell owns Canada's leading satellite-TV provider, ExpressVu? Sure, we're getting TV over the Web. And Canadians lead the world in consumption of online video. But fiber is the only viable way we'll ever get real hi-def TV running over the Web in North America, looking like it oughta. And the incumbents - with exceptions like FiOS - don't want to go near FTTH, because that would spell the end of the artificial bandwidth scarcity that keeps them in charge.

Ogg Theora (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721069)

The real issue is how few know about open source codecs like Ogg Theora.

I live in Canada and CTV for instance has both Discovery Channel material and BNN material online. However their websites are so broken that its not worth the trouble to even try to access the material.

Calling them and sending emails doesn't help. They are really thick.

Maybe if more people get on the phone and start demanding support for Ogg Theora then things will get better. Another option is to contact their advertisers and tell them they are wasting their money.

Torrents (1)

ayjay29 (144994) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721115)

>>A torrent of innovative start-ups

Nice choice of words :-)

A common misunderstanding.. (4, Interesting)

general_re (8883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721273)

Cable-television companies make money by selling packages of channels. The average American household pays $700 a year for over 100 channels of cable television but watches no more than 15. Most would welcome the chance to buy only those channels they want to watch, rather than pay for expensive packages of programming they are largely not interested in.

It's not the cable companies that are selling packages of channels, it's the content producers - cable companies don't much care beyond the technical details of access control and so forth.

Everyone thinks they want a la carte programming, but the reality is that if it ever came to pass, most folks would pay pretty much what they pay now, except they'd get fewer channels in exchange, particularly for those who are interested in niche or specialty channels. Without the producers being able to subsidize niche channels through fees for their popular, flagship channels - which is, of course, exactly why they sell channels in packages like they do now - the price of those niche channels will go up dramatically for those who choose to subscribe to them. Not a problem if you're only interested in ESPN 1 and MTV 1, but if your tastes are even slightly outside the mainstream, you won't wind up saving much money at all.

Re:A common misunderstanding.. (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721609)

Without the producers being able to subsidize niche channels through fees for their popular, flagship channels - which is, of course, exactly why they sell channels in packages like they do now - the price of those niche channels will go up dramatically for those who choose to subscribe to them.

I think you're wrong. The truly niche channels are currently usually sold only as add-ons or in premium packages, precisely because they don't have the clout to force their inclusion in the core packages. For example, if I wanted the Science Channel or Logo via DirecTV, I'd have to upgrade to the $61/month package. In the mean time, I was left subsidizing channels like ESPN and FOX News, which frankly don't need subsidy.

[I've written about the whole a la carte thing in more detail [ath0.com] .]

Re:A common misunderstanding.. (2, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721975)

Everyone thinks they want a la carte programming, but the reality is that if it ever came to pass, most folks would pay pretty much what they pay now, except they'd get fewer channels in exchange

Nope, not buying it. You can't convince me that having a choice is worse than having no choice.

I have some friends who used to live in Japan. When they moved to the USA, I checked to find out how much it would cost to get them one channel of Japanese TV programming on Comcast cable; it was heinous. They would have to buy a complete package of stuff they didn't want, plus pay something like $30 for the Japanese channel. It would have been $60 or $90 per month (I don't remember exactly how much, but I just remember my feeling of shock over how much Comcast wanted for this).

I have to assume that some company in Japan could stream TV shows over the Internet for way less cost to the user.

As another example, I'm interested in bicycle races. The "Versus" cable TV channel will have the Tour de France, but no cable channel will carry the Giro d'Italia or several other bike races I could name. There just isn't enough interest in most of the customers in America. If I could get TV shows a la carte, I could get the Giro.

I think you are partly correct: it may be that buying a bundle of channels will allow customers to save money compared to buying every single channel one-off. And people will probably still buy bundles for the convenience. But the current situation lets the cable companies dictate terms to their customers; when the customers gain the power to end-run the cable companies, that will put downward pressure on the cable company prices. Which can only help bring costs down for the consumers.

Mis-Informed Article (1)

tealwarrior (534667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721457)

While stories of the cable companies running in fear from the impending flood of online content and restricting bandwidth in response have been common on slashdot for a while it's disappointing that something like the Economist has picked up this fable.

The reality is that most of the content that offered on cable today won't make its way to the web for free under the current revenue models of content providers (not cable cos). Currently half of the revenue that channels like TLC get is from cable subscriptions. The other half is from advertising. These channels aren't interested in cutting their revenues in half on the hopes that on-line advertising somehow doubles in profitability. This is especially the case when it's currently only about 10% of what the same ads get you on TV.

Hulu is an experiment by major networks (FOX/NBC) (who already provide their content for free and get most of their revenues from advertising) to see if they can make the online advertising model work and capture more eyes than they are currently getting. While the site is successful in terms of traffic, the advertising dollars aren't there yet. As long as it doesn't undermine the real money of TV advertising, it's a useful experiment. (There is some cable network content on Hulu from Viacom ala Comedy Central/Sci Fi but its the content that is so mainstream that the advertising experiment may pay-off).

While the Economist was missing the boat they decided to also throw in the al-a-carte pricing myth as well. That model doesn't work either since not everyone wants the same 15 channels. If you move to that model then today's 100 channels would be tomorrows 20. Hope you like Home Shopping Network more than BBC America.

As to why DOCSIS 3 is so slow to make its way out? First cable cos are large companies that have basically been monopolies for long enough that their culture reflects that. They are slow to do anything. Second, they are waiting for the end of analog signals so they can reclaim some bandwidth. Third it's expensive. When you have 30 million customers, $100 a pop is real money. Under these conditions, there is little incentive to rush to market. That said, cable cos are starting to roll out this service and increasing the bandwidth of existing customers.

So what will happen? I think content providers will partner with cable cos to provide their content online. It will be on a different part of the pipe, just like phone service is so you get good quality of service for HD even when your neighbor has his torrents at full throttle. You'll see reasonable network caps like comcast's 250GB a month but your video viewing (on that separate pipe) won't count towards that so you mostly won't care providing you have a job or something else to do other than watch torrent content all day. Will you suddenly get all the good content you want for free? Unlikely. Will your most affordable (and legal) option for getting content still be from a cable co/tele co? Probably. Hopefully as more options become available: Cable, Fiber, Netfix, iTunes, the pressure will be on cable/tele cos to provider a better experience.

Re:Mis-Informed Article (2, Insightful)

californication (1145791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721783)

Discovery has 100 networks that earns them 3 billion from 1.5 billion viewers. Whats to stop them from starting their own over-the-internet subscription service? If their viewers bought only one channel a-la-cart, they could pay 17 cents a month and Discovery would still net 3 billion in a year. With their viewers buying even more channels, or packages, the price per channel could drop even lower, or they could simply pocket more of the revenue.

Channels that are unpopular should die, not be subsidized by other consumers. We already have public television to fill that gap.

Re:Mis-Informed Article (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722097)

So what will happen? I think content providers will partner with cable cos to provide their content online.

That might bite the cable companies in the ass. Certain content providers [slashdot.org] are waiting eagerly for them to open the doors on such negotiations. That'll make cable dumber than a dumb pipe.

Second, they are waiting for the end of analog signals so they can reclaim some bandwidth.

Huh? Cable bandwidth is unrelated to the OTA switch to digital signals. Some cable companies will continue their analog basic cable services long past the switchover date. Others have already abandoned analog, requiring their customers to use a digital set top box, with whatever DOCSIS version or other protocol they deem appropriate (FiOS for example).

Re:Mis-Informed Article (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722219)

You'll see reasonable network caps like comcast's 250GB a month

And unreasonable caps like Time Warner's 5GB a month? I guess that's a "fable".

re The Economist on Broadband TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721675)

For a piddling 80 bucks a month, you can get 3D bar charts of Sri Lanka's GDP updated in real time!

Co3k (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721827)

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DVR and skipping ads... really? (4, Interesting)

Pathway (2111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721937)

I'd like to point out something I've observed over the years I've used my DVR: I watch the commercials.

I'll be watching my show, and I'll be using the 30-second skip feature to skip commercials during the show... but in the act of flipping through the commercials, If I see something that looks interesting to me, I'll actually go back and see what the commercial is about.

Reasons I skip commercials include: The commercial is annoying, I've seen it several times, or I am defiantly not the target audience.

I've also experienced where I am watching with somebody else, I skip a commercial, and the other party asks to go back to see it because they were interested in it.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this observation. So, I think all commercials get a fair showing in most cases with DVR.

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