Blog Post

Do we really need Live TV on the Net?

In this age of hyper personalization, where DVRs are at our command, ready to playback the latest escapades of Vinnie Chase & the Boys, who needs live TV. Unless it is live sports extravaganzas, say NBA finals or SuperBowl (or Wimbeldon Tennis), television is no longer what appears on the TV Guide grid or on the hour.

On the Internet, Live TV is even more irrelevant, which is one of the reasons my ex-colleague Business 2.0’s Erick Schonfeld is bemused by all the fuss over LiveStation, the P2P TV offering from Skinkers/Microsoft.

On the Internet, does live TV even matter any more?….The Internet is the ultimate on-demand television system, where the choices of what to watch and when have no practical limits. The concept of live TV almost makes no sense in that context. Why limit your audience only to those people who can tune in at a certain time? …. live TV will be a liability on the Web unless those streams are also stored for later viewing.

Unless you are stuck in office late at the night, and desperately want to watch World Series Baseball, there will be few opportunities to actually consume Live TV streams. Okay! Maybe if you can’t do without an Entourage fix while traveling to say, Tel-Aviv, you might need live TV streams. But will there be enough of an audience to justify the costs involved. I am in Erick’s camp. What do you guys think?

28 Responses to “Do we really need Live TV on the Net?”

  1. I think there will always be a need for Live TV. It isn’t going anywhere. There’s nothing like watching history as it happens. I’ve had times in which I’ve been at my computer, and a boxing match or something would be on, but I’d have no TV around me. All I have to do is log onto TVFreeOnYourPC.com and it’s all right there!

    Read my lips: Live TV isn’t going ANYWHERE!

    Van – TVFreeonYourPC

  2. For sports and news coverage, there will always be a demand for live transmission of content. As for hardware, if the ability to handle live content were piggy-backed upon a good digital video delivery device (for instance, a future version of the Apple TV), then all the other boxes could be cleared off the shelf (DVD players, digital cable or satellite, and DVRs)

    techshouldwork.blogspot.com/feeds/5614571690820366728/comments/default

  3. My opinion: There is room for both – and media must be expected to deliver both to its viewer base.

    There’s also a “democratization of tools” aspect to this debate:

    Live has been reserved for the professional users – even online – whereas On demand has been easier for users to get on board with because YouTube provided simple and free tools to do this. However, this does not mean that development has to stop there?

    Adding to that, even broadcasters do not quite know what to do with live TV on the net yet as “professional” (I don’t like the word!) Internet TV for events are usually available elsewhere (like on your normal TV) and will therefore not attract audiences in particular not when geo-locks etc are in place (as an example: I live in London but I am from Norway originally – but due to geo locks on the public broadcast service in Norway I can’t watch any programs from Norway. Ok, so I am one person. But how many more people like me are out there?)

    UGC based Internet TV has also not had a chance to flourish yet because the tools have not been there to do it. But now there’s several new tools and sites popping up around this which gives users these tools. I can mention justin.tv, stickam.com and of course our own service Selfcast (yes, I do work for the company that developed it) which was covered by ReutersTV – watch it on demand (isn’t it ironic? :-) ) here:

    http://www.reuters.com/news/video/videoStory?videoId=60521

    In conclusion:
    I do think there will be room for both live and on demand in the future of TV, and we do not yet know how people will use live TV online.

  4. Half a million Zattoo users would probably argue that there is a reason for live TV on the Net. When asked why they use Zattoo, most of them answer that they like to watch TV while doing other stuff on their PC (call them media multi-taskers). Others say they don’t have a TV at all and Zattoo is the remedy. Another group uses Zattoo to watch TV while in a place other than their living room. And for the rest Zattoo is like a second TV screen.

    The most viewed video ever on YouTube has 52 million views (http://youtube.com/watch?v=dMH0bHeiRNg). That’s the number of viewers you get in one evening across a couple of European countries when airing a good soccer match or the season finale of a top TV series.

    Lastly, socializing is an important aspect of TV consumption. While people do share YouTube videos, they probably don’t talk about them at the water cooler. But they do discuss the soccer match, the season finale, or the outcome of the elections. And guess where they got all those topics of conversation from…

    Disclaimer: I work at Zattoo. Despite my effort to be objective, the opinions expressed here could be biased ;-)

  5. Ours is a world dominated by the 24 hour news cycle and news networks that exist only because of the public’s insatiable need to know not just what happened, but what is happening.
    As IP distribution continues to get faster and better, and live content is increasingly delivered to portable media, the future of live programming by IP is unfathomable.
    Add addressability, true interactivity and “push-pull” options to these factors and video entertainment as we have always known it to be, live or otherwise, is going to look very old.
    Whatever current video consumers consider to be “the norm”, the coming generation of video consumers are already quite adept and comfortable with can watch television, text their friends, play a video game and eat a sandwich without skipping a beat. VoD? sure, but compelling live content with the ability not simply to view, but to participate in the action via interactive capability will drive more and more programmers to find and push live events and activities.
    Are we talking about niche audiences? Of course, but when the audience pool is as large as the online community, there is a lot to be made capturing even an infinitesimal fraction of the total available audience.

  6. Couldn’t agree any more. Live TV is dead: 14 percent of TV viewers have a DVR, it’s not because they don’t want to watch commercials, it’s because people have things to do and can’t watch when the networks want them to. Why anyone thinks that live events streamed on the internet are a good idea I’ll never know. Unless, as you mentioned, it’s an event like a sporting event or something like Live Earth or there is some element of viewer participation, live broadcasting is just an outdated concept.

    Consumers want to watch content when it’s most convenient for them, not on the hour or at the half hour during a made up “prime-time.” Great Post!

  7. Disagree. To be sure it’s more convenient to watch video on demand. The trouble is that nobody has figured out how to make money with VoD (except the YouTubers who sold out to Google.) The linear TV industry we grew up with is enormously profitable because it delivers 16 minutes+ of advertising every hour. You can’t replace that with a few prerolls in front of a 5-minute YouTube clip. P2P streaming technology (like Skinkers and the stuff we use) allows traditional TV stations to simulcast their existing programming with a full adload to their existing viewers. They already have the audiences and the advertisers. Now you may not want to watch Judge Judy or Access Hollywood on your PC but imagine how many cubefarmers would?

  8. comeon

    this is a bit of a non-issue?

    there will be “live” — and, that will trigger “word of mouth” (whether by email, twitter, text or any format), and those (i hate the word) “tastemakers” will spread word of “live” tv (or internet tv, it’s all the same) who go on to watch it archived, on demand — where the “tail” of viewership will consume the content. but, requires the buzz/hype/whatever of the “live” to bring awareness (no different than buying media time for ads).

    there will be everything, because there can be.

    and, just as there is a different experience consuming a movie in a theater, there is a difference (subtle as it may be) in consuming a live event online, knowing you are part of humanity sharing a moment.

  9. While I see a lot of merit in the argument that live TV on the Internet is unnecessary given the plethora of other media options, I do think Live TV on the Internet will always thrive in two categories: sports and public access programming.

    For “less popular” sporting events like the U-20 World Cup, rugby and, to some extent, tennis and cycling, live delivery via the Web is necessary to reach their target audience, which can very widespread geographically.

    Public access has just started to burgeon online, as it should, since it really is the original “YouTube.” More and more state and local governments are making debates available online via live streaming, increasing their viewer base and making their events more interactive than ever before.

    Live TV over IP is not effective for every genre, but for sports and local events, there will always be a place.

  10. “This is Liz Gannes.”
    “And this is Jackson West.”
    “We’re reporting live from Mountain View where YouTube leadership has launched a surprise takeover attempt of the executive suite at Google. Thousands of YouTube users have already moved to support the take over, saying that something must be done to stop Google’s transformation into an Orwellian panopticon.”
    “Our coverage of events here will remain live throughout the day and night as the conflict unfolds. Please stay tuned.”

  11. mrspin

    Hi Om,

    In my post over at last100, I state the case for live TV over the net. Call me romantic, but I miss those communal water cooler moments, that live (or near-live TV) can bring about.

    The biggest issue therefore, isn’t live vs on-demand, but the way Internet TV is crippled by territorial rights restrictions. The water cooler is becoming increasingly virtual and global, and yet, Net TV’s world rights issues, fly in the face of this.

    http://www.last100.com/2007/07/09/does-live-tv-over-the-net-make-sense/

  12. Consumers will tell us whether or not they want the service and are either willing to pay for it, or willing to have it be supported via commercials. The viewers decide if it will work from a business model, not us. If the technology does not get adopted into a viable business, then who cares what the technology can do.

    Some content that is niche, like sports and news has a shot, but those will not reach a wide audience, which I think is ok as it’s about the quality of the people you are reaching first, before you think about the quantity.

  13. Do we really need it?

    In a totally unscientific test, let’s look at the rest of the
    stories immediately after this on NewTeeVee. How many are events, news or sports – content that would suit live broadcast?

    Live Earth’s Live Video – live.
    NewTeeVee events – events.
    YouTube Meetup in NYC – event.
    Morning headlines – mixture, n/a
    Friction.tv – on demand.
    Skinkers article – not counted.
    Frontline – news content.
    Live from Iowa: sports, already live.
    BBC – news content.

    So out of 8 stories (excluding the Skinkers story):
    2 are already live
    4 are content that suits live – events and news
    2 are on demand.

    so 6 out of 8 are candidates for live streaming.

    If live isn’t important, why do so many people watch live sports? How many “on demand bars” are there versus “sports bars”.

    The desire to watch live events / sports as they happen won’t disappear just because on demand content appears on the PC.
    There is a significant amount of live content that belongs alongside it.
    People will still want to keep in touch with their “tribes”. e.g. those defined by the soccer team they follow, their national news, Olympics, local news, Glastonbury, Live 8, Live Earth etc.

    Live is different and complimentary to on demand. and you notice I’ve explicitly not mentioned scheduled broadcast programming (aka linear TV).

    Let’s let the market decide!

    Jari
    LiveStation (Skinkers) Team
    (p.s. I love NewTeeVee :)

  14. vinay

    Live TV, in some aspects, is a thing of the past. But the present and future are not yet fully sketched out. For example, Live TV helped define an agenda for our day to day lives – in some ways, this tied us down. On Demand TV liberates us, but puts in new demands. Was it episode 23 or 25 of that soap that I watched 4 days ago ? Nopes, actually, i’ve seen them both..maybe it is 34 or 35 even. Gosh, stored TV makes me look at those ads for memory improvement pills. I never had to worry about this when there was good old Live TV. I always got the latest (yeah, there were repeats, but they were latest too – or in the right sequence)

    In other words, On Demand TV should still evolve a bit so that it’s really usable. Current interfaces are not smart enough.

    Suggestion : You might want to do some usability analysis on current on-demand TV systems for this wonderful site you run.

  15. Matt_

    I totally agree with you Om the only real money to be made in live intent TV is sport and mostly due to betting and the revenue that can be derived by taking a cut of the betting revenue from legal gambling if you have the broadcast rights .

    Travis Kalanick the CEO of Red Swoosh wrote a great blog post why Live p2p is currently not worth the investment and points out there is only 3 categories where live makes sense …..that is sport ,events and news .

    http://www.redswoosh.net/blog/?m=200605

    Live Sport is what powers sites like Myp2p where you can find a schedule of most live sporting events including the Cricket (Im an Aussie …Om loves the cricket also ) and Tennis as well as sports that get blacked out regionally like Baseball all distributed over live p2p usually on Chinese based streaming p2p networks .

    http://www.myp2p.eu/

    So there is money to be made with live p2p streaming but it should not be your only revenue stream and it should be additional to your on demand offerings .

  16. Stuart Gannes

    Your sports caveat is more than a caveat. Live sports – especially those that people bet on – is a very big category. From Olympics to Tour de France, there is a distributed audience for every sport when it’s live. Once it’s over you can read about it.

  17. Om, I’m with you. I think it’s another instance of the techies making something possible that nobody actually needs. The logical evolution of what we used to call television is the time-shifted, place-shifted, profile-curated IPTV arena we are in the process of happily thrusting our way into.

    Apple TV and similar apps will get it onto our home theatre screens. Certainly these screens will still give us access to live programming where live is an imperative component of the content’s appeal and, as a previous comment stated, when interactivity is factored in.

    But LiveStation exists, I fear, only because somebody decided it was possible.