[opendtv] News: Ditch Your TV

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2008 12:59:25 -0500


Digital Media
Ditch Your TV

Mary Jane Irwin, 12.08.08, 12:00 PM EST

The Internet is offering (almost) all the programming you need, at little or no cost.

Usually, we all look forward to the holidays as a time of cheer, relaxation and endless James Bond marathons on TV.

But this year, with global economies in shambles and daily reports of massive layoffs, your all-you-can-watch $50 monthly cable TV service is looking excessive. And forget upgrading to a fancier digital video recorder or a new jumbo HDTV.

Fortunately, there are now myriad ways for you to get your weekly dose of House without cable or even a TV. Just use your laptop to access online video repositories like Hulu.com, where you can watch most Fox and NBC programs for free 12 hours after they air.

You can also go directly to TV network sites. On ABC.com, you can find shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives streamed free--often in high definition. CBS is offering its shows with social chat features, and most other programs can be picked up a la carte from Amazon.com or iTunes. Finally, you can also use your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 to stream content.

All this means that your computer or game console is a far cheaper way to watch TV and movies than a cable subscription, and you'll have the added bonus of watching any time you like. Really, the only thing you're going to miss is HBO or Showtime, but you can rent the last season of Entourage or The Tudors from Netflix or buy them on iTunes.

It's inevitable that the Internet will rival, if not surpass, television. According to Nielsen, Internet viewers watched on average 27 hours of streamed video feeds per month during the third quarter. And online viewing of video content at television network sites soared 155% from August to September, due to season premieres, coverage of political news and the financial crisis, Nielsen said.

The biggest roadblock is live programming. TV networks aren't ready to cannibalize their premium TV ad spots, which is why most shows air online a day after they've been taped. But the networks are starting to make concessions: The NFL is streaming Sunday Night Football live and CNN offers live streaming reports.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire says it will all come down to broadband penetration. "For digital natives--young adults and the tech-savvy--the Internet is becoming a viable alternative, if not a preferred alternative" to TV, he says.

McGuire expects that, come January, with everyone so concerned about household budgets, consumers will take a hard look at their cable bills. Many, he says, may decide it's more cost-effective to run the "biggest, fattest [Internet] connection into my house instead of pay for premium cable." Sure, you're paying for the privilege to watch those premium shows, but through iTunes, "you're paying only for programming you want to acquire or download."

For most people, this makes sense, McGuire says. It's about personalized programming--TV Guide is no longer the task master of the living room, and you don't have to watch Heroes at its broadcast time on Monday nights. If you want to watch it Wednesday, just view it at NBC.com.

The downside: The video quality of streaming services is often inferior to cable TV, McGuire says.

So, the biggest barrier to free or pay-as-you-watch TV is no longer about quality or quantity. The question is now, "How do I view this content on my fancy plasma TV?"

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