[opendtv] The End of TV as We Know It

  • From: Monty Solomon <monty@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: undisclosed-recipient: ;
  • Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2004 09:55:44 -0500

The End of TV as We Know It 

Sit back on the sofa and get ready for packetized, on-demand, digital 

By Frank Rose
Wired Magazine
Issue 12.12
December 2004

We live in the age of the digital packet. Documents, images, music, 
phone calls - all get chopped up, propelled through networks, and 
reassembled at the other end according to Internet protocol. So why 
not TV?

That's the question cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner and 
Baby Bells like SBC and Verizon have been asking. The concept has 
profound implications for television and the Internet. TV over 
Internet protocol - IPTV - will transform couch-cruising into an 
on-demand experience. For the Internet, it will mean broadband at 
speeds 10, 100, or even 1,000 times faster than today's DSL or cable. 
Online games would be startlingly realistic; the idea of channels 
would seem hopelessly archaic. Why not indeed?

So far, the answer has been inertia. But competition is a powerful 
stimulus. For years, DirecTV and EchoStar have been adding 
subscribers far faster than cable, so cable companies want something 
satellite can't match. At the same time, voice over IP is enabling 
cable operators to poach phone customers from telcos. Combine VoIP, 
truly high-speed broadband, and totally on-demand TV - and you've got 
such a compelling proposition that the Bell companies figure the only 
way to survive is to do likewise.

IPTV is not to be confused with television over the Internet. On the 
public Net, packets get delayed or lost entirely - that's why Web 
video is so jerky and lo-res. But private networks like Comcast's are 
engineered, obviously, for reliable video delivery - which means IPTV 
will look at least as good as TV coming from digital cable or 

It will be accompanied by another, equally critical change. Instead 
of broadcasting every channel continuously, service providers plan to 
transmit them only to subscribers who request them. In effect, every 
channel will be streamed on demand. This will free up huge amounts of 
bandwidth for hi-def TV and high-speed broadband. Add IP and you get 
interactive services like caller ID on your TV. And the system will 
be able to track viewing habits as effectively as Amazon tracks its 
customers, so ads will be targeted with scary precision. Put it all 
together and you've got television that's as intensely personalized 
as 20th-century broadcasting was generic.



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