Where is my TV on demand

Back before netflix was invented, in the late '90s I started wondering about on-demand tv.
July 16 2010

Consumers should demand more from their commercial content providers

Back in 2000 I first got both cable tv and cable internet connected. At the time I was a single nerd, sharing a house with another nerd.  We rented a lot of movies.  A lot.  The local blockbuster knew us by our first names.  Hell, they should have even reserved movies for us when they came out.  They knew we'd be in as regular as clockwork on Friday and Saturday nights, to grab the latest action or horror movie.

I guess all that girlfriend-less time gave me plenty of time to think (Keep in mind, this predates Bittorrent by a long stretch, and Napster was the only thing asserting its influence on my massive 16GB hard drive.  Back on point: I got to wondering why didn't blockbuster wake up and embrace the times.  Each store could be replaced with a server, or at least contain a server, filled with the digital copies of their movies.  I think I actually envisaged a room full of racks containing DVD's, with a giant arm in the middle that went and retrieved them for playing; A massive version of Sony's 400 CD jukebox, which I was lusting after at the time.  Anyway, this new Blockbuster would provide movies on demand, from the comfort of my own home.  I'd log into their website (thanks INFS3202 - Web Information Systems) and they'd retrieve the DVD I'd selected and stream it to my computer.  Having cable I figured it was doable.

I thought more and more about it, as my trips to blockbuster increased and I by 2003 I looked forward to when we all had FTTH, which provided all our telecommunications needs: Phone, TV (on demand), Movies, Internet.  I figured fibre should provide the bandwidth to give me all I wanted: and that was to never have to leave my house.

Over the next years, a number of file sharing technologies came and went, providing easy, albeit not legal, ways to obtain movies and television (there will always be usenet, but it's not very userfreindly and hard to find stuff).

For the last few years bittorrent has been king of that scene and integrating uTorrent (a bittorent client) with RSS feeds and Windows Media Center can provide a semi decent user experience for a HTPC.

What I've also got is a Foxtel cable tv subscription, which I got pretty much solely for live motogp before OneHD telecasted motogp with any regularity.  Now they do, I've since cancelled the Fox Sport channels and don't watch foxtel myself (even though my kids and wife get plenty of use from it).  My biggest gripe with pay television is that you pay $70+ a month for a whole bunch of shows that are either repeats of what is on free to air commercial TV or one of a huge number of pointless documentaries on World War 2.  What my subscription buys me is a baby sitter for an hour or two a day.

Over the last couple of years the IPTV space has been improving and services like Hulu and Netflix have gained widespread acceptance as TV and Movie content providers.  Hardware and infrastructure have also come a long way, with CDN's (Content Distribution Networks) spreading the content globally and providing faster access.

Australia still has an infrastructure problem, but with the National Broadband Network (NBN) starting rollout (or trials at the least) and with new estates providing FTTH and 100Mbs internet, thinks are looking good for IPTV and entertainment on demand Down Under.

This morning, while listening to the latest Hanselminutes podcast I hear that Hulu are now offering Hulu+, a monthly subscription to all their TV show content on demand many devices, for just US$10 per month.  Hulu+ doesn't have the very latest TV, but it does provide access to every season of shows that are currently available on DVD.

For me, the TV and Movie On-demand business will have matured when I can pay a reasonable monthly subscription (I'm willing to pay $60 a month for just TV shows, or $100 a month to include movies) for high definition content delivered to my TV, computer, mobile device, car when I want it.

I think I'm not alone in this but instead of working on a solution to meet consumer demand (and the demand is there), studios are be reactionary and suing torrenters and the Australia Free To Air networks are to blame too.  Instead of accepting technology changes they're stuck in trying to make as much money as they can from obsolete delivery methods.  We're an ever increasing techno-savvy population and the sooner the media dinosaurs release this the happier we'll all be.

Personally, I'm excited because I'm currently scoping a project that should see a large Australian company make a good go of competing with Hulu, Netflix, GoogleTV, YouTube rental, and their ilk.  Hopefully my decade old dream is only a year or two away.

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