TV Could Dominate Broadband

TV Could Dominate Broadband

Matt Hicks

Broadband Web surfers might be willing to watch short video clips and venture through three-dimensional navigation while sitting in front of their PCs, but don’t bet on them watching full-length entertainment programs while sitting at a computer desk.

The living room television could play an increasing role as broadband access expands. TV set-top boxes and interactive TV services already have begun integrating interactive features from the Internet, such as e-mail, instant messaging and Web browsing. Higher-end set-top boxes from manufacturers such as Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlantic Inc. are beginning to ship and integrate browsing capabilities that can take advantage of broadband features such as streaming media.

By next year, Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., expects that cable operators will take advantage of set-top boxes to offer video on demand and that DSL (digital subscriber line) providers will upgrade to video DSLs to begin delivering content to TVs.

In fact, while PCs now account for almost all broadband access, by 2005 they will be eclipsed by other devices, such as TVs, and account for just 36 percent of that access, Forrester predicts.

The shift will affect how and to which devices Web sites should target broadband content such as streaming video. By 2005, TVs will become the dominant devices for video—except for short informational clips—while PCs will gravitate toward offering downloadable software and more interactivity, according to Forrester.

Broadband content providers, while uncertain about how the Web and TV will ultimately converge, are trying to prepare. NBC Internet Inc. already has established relationships with a range of ISPs (Internet service providers) for its current broadband portal, said Benjamin Feinman, vice president of publishing and media products at NBCi, in San Francisco. The ISPs often use a customized NBCi broadband portal as the home page to their broadband services. NBCi plans to leverage those relationships and its access to network programming from NBC for future TV applications.

The ISP relationships are critical because it is difficult to deliver high-bit-rate video with high quality and reliability over the open Internet. With its access to ISP networks, streaming media is more manageable, Feinman said, which could allow for such features as video on demand and the streaming of longer programs.

The approach of WWF New Media Network, the online division of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., is likely to become more common. Chief Technology Officer Gerry Louw said that WWF, of Stamford, Conn., isn’t going to just wait and see what happens with interactive TV. Instead, he’s already considering ways that content can be delivered through that channel.

“You keep an eagle eye on set-top boxes and who the providers are,” said Louw.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in eWEEK.