Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

Summary: I like TV on the Internet, but, when push comes to shove, it's not ready to replace conventional cable, satellite and over-the-air TV. Darn it!


I've been watching TV over the Internet since its very early days. Today, I own, and use, an Apple TV, a network capable Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray Disc Player, and a Roku KDS. I also subscribe to Hulu Plus and Netflix. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I know, like and watch TV over the Internet all the time

That's why I'm not happy to report that for many people, TV over the Internet still isn't good enough. Oh, it's not the video quality. With a high-speed connection, like my own Charter cable 25Mbps (Megabits per second) connection, 720p HD video comes in just fine. Oh, in the future, it may be another story. There's not enough Internet to go around for everyone to watch TV over the net. Even now, Netflix alone is taking up an insane amount of available Internet bandwidth, but that's not the problem I see most people having with the currently generation of video streaming services.

No, the real problem is in content. As most of you know, most sports aren't available over the Internet. There are some exceptions, such as ESPN3, which I see is now showing—I'm not making this up—high school field hockey. And, as a baseball fan, I like that I can watch baseball both on my PC and on my Roku via MLB.TV. Past that though, the pickings get scarce.

That's old news though. What really made me aware of what a big problem content is on the Internet was a series of articles by my old friend Tristan Louis on just what was, and wasn't available as video-on-demand (VoD) over the Internet. Louis looked at the most popular 100 movies of 2010; the top 50 U.S. TV shows in 2010; and the top movies of the last few years.

Would you guess how many of them are available for display on your TV? Out of the top 100 movies of 2010, as of late January 2011, 74 of them were available on DVD, but only 48 were available on Amazon Video on Demand; 46 on Vudu; and Apple's iTunes Store; and a lousy 10 on Netflix. Many popular recent movies, like Red and The Book of Eli, weren't available on any service.

Previous years weren't much better. Avatar? No The Hangover? Nope. Sherlock Holmes? Elementary my dear Watson! No.

Even more annoying, even when they are available, they're often available only as one-time rentals. Want to re-watch an old favorite? Unless you're lucky enough for it to be on Netflix, it will be another couple of bucks per viewing.

That's lousy, but it's not much better when it comes to television shows. Out of the top 50 TV series, iTunes does the best with at least some episodes of 78% of the most popular shows, followed by Amazon with 56%; Hulu Plus with 24% and Netflix with a dismal 4 (four!) percent. The more popular the show, the less likely it is to be available. For example, of the top five TV shows-—NCIS, The Mentalist, CSI, NCIS:LA and (oh America how can you watch this!?) Two and a Half Men--only the last can be rented.

These numbers don't tell the whole story. Many of those shows on Amazon or iTunes are only available for purchase.

What all this boils down to is that if you want the most popular movies and TV shows for a flat-fee, video on the Internet still isn't for you. I've thought that Internet VoD would kill off first over-the air (OTA) TV and then satellite sometime soon. I was wrong.

Besides the technical issues of delivering enough bandwidth, the real problem is there isn't enough of the content that most people want to see. Internet TV is speeding up the death of the video store, but conventional television broadcast methods still have many more good years left in them.

Topics: Mobility, Browser, Hardware, Networking

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  • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

    Demand will eventually force content developers (TV/Movie) to distribute through the Internet. This happened with music and it will happen with everything else as well. The iPod generation is not going to schedule their day around the TV Guide. DVRs essentially create on demand content but that technology will lose out to the shows that can be streamed on demand. This is an old industry with lots of money and legal clout. It will take time for them to embrace a new delivery method but it is inevitable.

    Secondly, Advertisers prefer Internet advertising because it is more targeted and provides better feedback. They have stopped spending as much money on TV and radio advertising and this will probably be the biggest reason content will eventually be streamed.
    • Radio is popular

      video content on Intenet, yeah, sure, when they are free.
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time


      You can set up IE 9 so nobody is getting any feedback. I presume with the right addons you can do the same with Firefox, with Chrome you can't (not counting the approach of headers telling other web sites not to track the current user, which no advertiser is going to honor).
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

      That's a rather simplistic view. What's the revenue generated by internet advertising FOR INTERNET TV streaming? It's a fraction of what the broadcast networks get.

      Also, consider that advertising is no longer the biggest revenue source for many broadcast networks. It's the carriage fees charged to cable/satellite providers that generate huge blocks of revenue for the content providers. And that's something that internet TV does not have an answer for right now. As far as I know, ESPN is the only internet TV streaming site that charges carriage fees to ISPs for access to their programming. And those charges are relatively low because their online audience makes up less than 1% of their total viewership, despite having live streaming for 3,500 events a year, some of which are not carried on any of ESPN's broadcast networks.
  • Content isn't the only problem

    It's just one of many.

    What's the easiest and quickest way to see what's on TV? How do kids watch TV? Who downloads their shows? How many do you need to download? How many different services and devices do you need to watch 80 different TV channels on TV? How much does it cost to watch a show on TV to see if you like or dislike it?

    It's not just content, there are alot of things that make it "not ready for prime-time" the least being content.

    It has to be as [b]easy[/b] to use as picking up the TV remote in one hand, while holding a drink in the other.
    • I totally agree

      I've pretty much said the same thing. Right now I pay one bill a month for unlimited TV viewing, with a little extra for "On Demand" movies, as I rent them.

      All through one box, one account, one remote. Easier then the author's setup, I'll guess.
      John Zern
  • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

    It needs a merge, not a replace.

    GoogleTV already does this, but nobody seems to understand it. Search once, get results for everything (scheduled TV shows, movies, on demand TV shows, movies, YouTube videos, Wikis, pictures, etc).
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

      Didn't we have something similar in the yesteryears (like 90s) as WebTV? Of course like you mentioned we need a better integration of Internet with TV, not a replacement. But still GoogleTV is not there yet.
      Ram U
    • except GoogleTV is locked out of any network or studio content..

      @Droid101 because they didn't bother to check with them before whipping up their device.. LMAO.. leaving googleTV a $300 (most competition is at $100 and below) streaming box that just shows crappy amateur video through a browser.. also acts as a home network streamer, but REALLY clunky in that mode..

      it's a hunk of junk and that's why Google has pretty much scrapped it and went back to the drawing board.. it was a big FAIL!
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

      GoogleTV doesn't look bad, except for that it costs way too much money.
      I already use a very inexpensive piece of software for watching tv online called It's not Google TV,but it is a heck of a lot better when you consider the cost.
      • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

        @JenniferWeb Tvdevo is a SCAM site. She posts this spam all over the internet. Just google tvdevo scam and you'll find lots of reports on this site. Beware on this one!
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

      Problem is that TV viewing is fundamentally a "lean back" activity, while Google TV is yet another search-based "lean forward" solution. It's complexity and extra steps for an activity that people want as simple as possible. That's why media PCs have never caught on, and that's why 75% of TV viewing remains in real time.

      If "nobody seems to understand" Google TV, then the problem is not with the viewers.
  • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

    We're watching LOST on Netflix on an almost daily basis...2 to 3 episodes a night. There is plenty to watch on there...most certainly more stuff that I want to watch, than I have time to watch, and most of it stuff I never had time to watch when it was broadcast "live" on television.<br><br>The whole "prime time television" scheme is as obsolete as black and white television and silent films. Sooner or later, all of the content producers will realize this and will restructure their delivery strategies for the new way of delivering content to subscribers.
    • Not unless its as easy as TV is now.

      it has to be simple enough for a kid to do, unfortunately, its not.
      John Zern
      • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

        @John Zern
        My kids use our Media Center with Hulu and Netflix all the time. Even the 5 year old has no problem with it. It's adults that seem to have the most trouble adjusting to new paradigms, not the kids.
      • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

        @John Zern
        My 11 year old doesn't seem to have a problem using it.
    • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

      @VRSpock Oh yes, there's lots of good stuff to watch out there on the net already. I've been watching the Avengers with Diana Rigg and Dead Like Me myself, but those aren't the shows most people watch.

      • RE: ...watching the Avengers with Diana Rigg...


        I remember having a teenage crush on Diana Rigg, I definitely liked the way she looked in black leather.
      • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

        @sjvn@... Most people are watching or have watched 30 Rock, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Psych, and The Office, as examples. Also CSI, which started to show up for Season 9 on Netflix streaming. I still don't buy the argument that this is just showing oldies. You can watch some very good almost-current stuff on Netflix. It just varies by what the studios are willing to prop up. I don't mind being a season behind if it means I can avoid the price gouging of
      • RE: Internet TV still isn't ready for prime-time

        @sjvn@... Exactly