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Video Streaming vs. Video Downloading


Video streaming is great for YouTube, but fairly lousy for traditional TV and movie entertainment. (Buffering, re-buffering…) So why are the major TV networks determined to stream everything on their websites? Deborah McAdams over at FierceIPTV makes a good point by saying that interference with over-the-air TV is exactly what led to the birth of cable television. In other words, it’s not something consumers will tolerate when there’s another option available. (Let’s not get into how the network operators feel mass video streaming…)

Back to the question: why not switch to downloads? For the most part the answer is content protection. Gazillions of video download services have entered the market, but none of them have taken off precisely because of the content protection issue. Even when you purchase a video download (versus rent) you’re limited in where and how you can watch it. It would be one thing if you could burn the content to DVD, but that’s nearly impossible without some hacking know-how.

A better question: will the industry figure out content protection first or will networks improve to support better Internet streaming (and large volumes) of high-quality video? I’d bet on the former, but given the music industry’s track record, maybe I’m being overly optimistic. In the meantime, the market won’t falter for lack of companies trying to hit on the best solution. And when the content is compelling enough, at least a few consumers will flock to whatever distribution method is available.

*Note: Last100 has a great roundup of eleven video download services, though I think the post should have given a nod to cable/satellite/telco VOD.

4 Responses

  1. Isn’t the content protection argument an imaginary boogeyman? iTunes has been around for a couple years now, and I haven’t huge napster-style networks pop up trading iTunes videos.

    Streaming seems more about control. Forced viewing windows, pre+post-roll ads, data tracking, branded experience in the browser window, etc, etc.

    Despite the battles between Universal and Apple, a universal player (appleTV, cable box, Tivo+Amazon) needs to reach critical mass. Most people aren’t going to buy 3 $300 boxes and pay $1.99 and watch pre-roll ads for what they think of as “free”.

  2. […] as everything shifts to high-definition, content owners and distributors are deeply concerned about keeping their video secure. The security-vs.-mobility debate isn’t going to die down any time soon, but at least in the […]

  3. […] are a growing number of alternative options for folks who want more control over their TV viewing. There’s streaming video, video downloads (for free and for sale), and video-on-demand services. Yes, I know you have to pay for a tiered […]

  4. […] now over different business models for paid TV content, but one current debate feels a bit like a throwback to 2007: the practicality of video streaming versus video […]

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