May 20, 2009

Who needs 500 channels?

With my SUPERDish, I get another two dozen free channels in addition to the handful of Asian channels I was already getting, Christian, public access, and shopping networks. And CSPAN and NASA ("Making space exploration as boring as CSPAN!"). Plus the countless PPV sports, porn and movie channels.

The best free channels are Research and UCTV and NASA. (During an actual mission, that is. The Hubble Repair Mission was like This Old House in space. The ISS is boring. What's it supposed to be there for, again?) BYU has a channel too, but it's as dull as CSPAN.

That's not counting the 500+ channels I could choose from with a domestic programming package. It strikes me as a goofy business model that only makes sense if the marginal cost of each new channel is minimal compared to the profit from adding each new paying-through-the-nose customer.

Though a "pure" a la carte system is equally unworkable unless, like TV Japan or the Wall Street Journal, a very specific demand is met by a very specific supply. A la carte plus over-the-air works fine for me.

Mark Cuban says that the Internet can't compete with established broadband delivery networks. I think he's right. On-demand SD television over the Internet would become a bandwidth hog, especially in the local loop (until fiber reaches the home in significant numbers). Forget about HD.

Heretic that I am, I also think ISPs should meter or even block file sharing ports. We're in classic tragedy-of-the-commons territory here. Hey, considering the bandwidth even cheapo web hosting plans allow, if you have to depend on file sharing, then your business is way undercapitalized.

I've never been sold on the next great technology that promises to turn your computer into an "interactive TV." Just because computers and televisions look like each other doesn't mean they are each other. The only thing I want to interact with while watching TV is the remote.

Satellite and cable could implement the on-demand programming using current DVR technology. Basically the Netflix model, but streamed or trickled over unused sidebands. But perhaps people don't want to think even that hard about it. They just want to pick up the remote and watch "whatever's on."

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# posted by Anonymous Dan
Long tail, high quality on-demand video is a killer app. Some day storage & bandwidth costs will drop sufficiently to make this a reality and people will watch their choice of shows just as they read their choice of blogs and web pages. In the meantime the cable companies throw 500 channels of TV up on the wall because they can. Are the viewer numbers for these eclectic channels ever published? I imagine there are some who at any one time have perhaps 10,000 viewers. An astoundingly low number in a country with over 100 million households.
5/21/2009 8:38 AM