Video streaming is great for YouTube, but fairly lousy for traditional TV and movie entertainment. (Buffering, re-buffering…) So why are the major TV networks determined to stream everything on their websites? Deborah McAdams over at FierceIPTV makes a good point by saying that interference with over-the-air TV is exactly what led to the birth of cable television. In other words, it’s not something consumers will tolerate when there’s another option available. (Let’s not get into how the network operators feel mass video streaming…)
Back to the question: why not switch to downloads? For the most part the answer is content protection. Gazillions of video download services have entered the market, but none of them have taken off precisely because of the content protection issue. Even when you purchase a video download (versus rent) you’re limited in where and how you can watch it. It would be one thing if you could burn the content to DVD, but that’s nearly impossible without some hacking know-how.
A better question: will the industry figure out content protection first or will networks improve to support better Internet streaming (and large volumes) of high-quality video? I’d bet on the former, but given the music industry’s track record, maybe I’m being overly optimistic. In the meantime, the market won’t falter for lack of companies trying to hit on the best solution. And when the content is compelling enough, at least a few consumers will flock to whatever distribution method is available.