Monday, December 09, 2002

There is an article at CableWorld (via slashdot ) explaining that American cable television companies hate the idea of TiVo and other Personal Video Recorders. Basically the argument seems to be this. Cable companies have more bandwidth per customer than satellite companies, and so are able to offer Video on Demand (VOD), in which the customer requests a program, and the program is piped down the cable directly to that customer as he watches it. Satellite companies are unable to customise to individual customers this way. However, a PVR allows a satellite customer to store a large number of programs that have been broadcast at various times in the past, giving the same effective service to the customer. That is, the customer can have a large choice of customers, and can watch a program when he likes. That is, PVRs allow satellite providers to better compete with cable providers.

According to the cable companies, this is somehow unfair, and we are getting comments about how PVRs are the "Napster of television".

As I mentioned yesterday , Napster was as much as anything a symptom that the music industry's 20 year old technology and even older business model was obsolete. If PVRs become the Napster of the television world, then this means much the same. The cable companies have to see what it is that customers actually want, and then give it to them.

Satellite companies seem to have no trouble with this concept. BSkyB in the UK is offering a combined Set Top Box / PVR, and charges an extra 10 pounds ($15) a month for customers who want this. DirecTV seems to offer something similar Given that in the digital world cable and satellite world are offering very similar things - essentially a box in your living room capable of decoding MPEG-2 signals, that also contains a CPU, some memory and maybe a hard disk, I cannot see why cable cannot also offer this, if it is what customers want.

As far as the cable companies are concerned, here we yet again have an entrenched former monopoly that wants laws to be passed to protect an obsolete business model rather than attempting to find a new business model that works.

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