The recent acquisition of Sling by Echostar certainly suggests that the big guys in the biz value a little technology called place-shifting, and that the little guys still need big pockets to move their technology forward. So with the place-shifting market starting to mature, here’s a look at what has and hasn’t already been accomplished.
On the rights management side of things, content producers and distribution networks have worked out a series of tentative solutions. Television networks are starting to embrace online delivery (TV wherever you can get an Internet connection), but they vary widely in what shows they make available, as well as where you can access them, and whether they’re free or for purchase. Meanwhile, Motorola’s work with Verizon has satisfied the guardians of copyright in terms of in-home video networking with the Home Media DVR service. Analysts have called the service a breakthrough and a change agent, a feature that will spark other providers to offer similar functionality. (Sorry for the horn tooting)
The bandwidth required by place-shifting and TV viewing over the Internet has yet to create the storm of debate that is sure to come. As Google itself has said, the Internet is not ready for TV. And yet TV is coming to the Internet – streamed, syndicated and slung – so operators are trying to figure out how to support it. Will adoption move slowly enough to keep a bandwidth crunch at bay?
Finally, there’s the format war. No, I’m not talking about HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray, I’m talking about making video available in HD vs. SD, formatting for large displays vs. mobile screens, delivering analog vs. digital. In how many formats should operators reasonably store and deliver their shows? Will there be a master receiver/transcoder at some point so that any format will work no matter how or where you’re watching TV?
Now that place-shifting has gone past its infancy, it will be interesting to watch the move into late childhood and adolescence. The evolution will likely be less about shiny new toys, and more about making place-shifting work as a sustainable, revenue-generating business.