To stream or download; that is the question

The story about Hanaro Telecom offering delayed downloads of TV shows caught my eye this week. Telcos across the country are sinking millions into infrastructure upgrades so they can offer IPTV, even as the other form of IPTV known as streaming threatens to cannibalize it on the very same infrastructure. Everyone knows video streaming has exploded far beyond the point of overkill. The proliferation of YouTube clones represents a venerable dynamic in the stodgy world of established media. 1) Do not innovate. 2) Let someone else innovate. 3) Copy what works and drive it into the ground. 4) Repeat cycle.

And so it is that NBC, having failed to make it's own streaming media site work, is taking a second crack at it with News Corp., parent of Fox. NBC once partnered with Microsoft. NBC needs to get a clue.

TV networks trying to wrench every last penny from programs are going to great lengths to make their own YouTubes, but with more grown-up players and long-form content. Some of these players are impressive, and some of the content is even worth a hoot, but data rates are what they are. People can only stand so much re-buffering. It's no different than the type of interference that caused millions of miles of coaxial cable to be laid across this country like a spider web. There's nothing quite like a spooky climax punctuated by picture freezes and audio drops.

Downloading is a viable alternative, even though U.S. data rates pale in comparison to those in Korea. I've been downloading feature-length films for a year. Sometimes it takes a while, but it's easy enough to start a download and do something else. I've also watched a few TV shows on the Web when I've missed the original telecast, but I've mostly given up on that because of buffering interruptions. If NBC would take its eyes off the competition and look at its audience for a minute, the suits would be pushing download promos at the end of every show and paying Nielsen to churn out combined ratings. Am I the only one who thinks this makes sense?

I hope you'll join me at IPTV Evolution next Monday, Sept. 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and let me know at [email protected] -D.