Not a day goes by without news of Internet video apps using more bandwidth than was even conceived of a few short years ago. In my head, these reports translate into three categories.
Streaming Service Success:
YouTube may have been the first Web video wonder, but professional content is rapidly gaining on the cat-on-a-skateboard variety. Two recent news stories support this. First, Hulu announced earlier this week that it has sold out its advertising inventory. While bad news for consumers in that it may incentivize Hulu to add more commercials, the sell-out means that advertisers are convinced of Hulu’s popularity. Translation: Lots of people are using the online service. Second, the BBC announced that its iPlayer saw 17.2 million streams and downloads in March, a 25% month-on-month growth since its December launch. ISPs aren’t thrilled with the news, but the BBC is pressing on and just launched a version of the service for the Nintendo Wii.
Proliferation of Boxes:
No third-party company has yet mastered the art of bringing Internet content to the living room TV (consumer adoption is low), but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying. Most recently Blockbuster has said it is developing a set-top to stream movies directly to TV sets. Netflix has toyed around with the same idea, Vudu’s giving it a try, and of course Apple TV has been on the market for over a year. More popular, however, may be direct streaming to game consoles, since consumers have already invested in those boxes. The Microsoft Live service on Xbox is one good example of this, with iPlayer on the Wii (see above) the most recent.
Programmers and ISPs In on the Action:
Not to be outdone, Internet service providers are getting in on the Web video action, even as they simultaneously fret about the bandwidth strain. Starz Entertainment has announced a new service called Starz Play that will give broadband subscribers (with specific cable and telco operators) the ability to access about 2,500 movie and video selections online. Apparently the company is “finalizing contracts with several large operators” to make the service available. And Starz isn’t the first to take such an approach. Time Warner Cable is currently testing out online HBO delivery in select cities.
With everyone trying to get a piece of the Internet video pie, there’s no doubt that bandwidth use will continue to skyrocket. Could even Nielsen be underestimating demand?