The end of TV as we know it – and good

Many of us are already there – living in a world without Sky TV or terrestrial broadcasts, as well as abandoning  newspapers, books and magazines. My own setup is all- Apple, using iPads small and large to read books, an Apple TV to watch movies and programs and phones, computers and iPads to browse the web. Since getting rid of the Sky box I’ve freed up considerable amounts of time, and freed myself from the tyranny of having to know everything about by favoured sports.

But despite the rise of the internet, the iPad, the iPhone and the computer itself; and despite the rise of peer to peer content such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Vine and everything else, we still see vast money being spent on SkyTV and broadcast TV. The bulk of that money directly from consumers is captured by Sky TV, and Sky TV does so because it can deliver all of the channels in high quality, including sport.

Sky have locked up the rights to the content that attracts loyal customers willing to pay money. That content is primarily rugby, with all other sports taking a secondary, niche position that is the significant factor for many.

These days it is possible to replace Sky Movies with superior quality and quantity of movies from Apple’s iTunes (US store) or torrents. TVNZ, TV3 and others host their content on the internet, and even Sky offers an online service, but only to subscribers.

For those that persevere, and who don’t mind bending a few rules, it is possible to get all of the content onto your computer and then TV. Possible, but not that easy in most cases, and at lousy resolutions to boot.

So while some enjoy being at the leading edge of technology, most are allocating their income and time to more important things like food, shelter and education, and yes, for half of households, a Sky subscription. While most households do have a broadband connection, not so many have computers and tablets and TVs that can seamlessly send content between themselves.

Enter Coliseum Sports Media, and the transfer of the rights to English Premier League football from Sky to an online service.  In New Zealand football (soccer) is a niche sport, yet English Premier League has a significant number of devout fans – here and across the world. Fans will be able to pay $150 (or more or less) and get access to the games over the internet. Coliseum promises it will be easy to flick the content from the internet to their TV screens.

So what’s good and what’s bad about this?

The Good

  • It will give a reason for a significant number of households to migrate to UFB
  • It will give a reason for a wave of households to set things up so that they can easily watch internet video on their TV. That means it’s easier for the next wave of sports and other content such as local and foreign moves and TV programs.
  • It will provide global evidence for (or against) the migration of TV from Satellite/Cable to Internet, bypassing the current content middlemen.
  • If this works, then every other niche sport will be lining up to fund similar providers, and that will mean better service for fans, more money for those niche sports and better connection and communication between fans and the sport.
  • With the emergence of a viable alternative, expect bidding wars to increase the income to all sports, especially Rugby here, NFL in the US and soccer everywhere.
  • Thousands or perhaps tens of thousands will be able to take their Sky box back to sky, saving $100 per month or so.

The Bad

  • Fans of both football are up for an additional $150 per year, along with the set-up costs if they have not got internet video working on their TV.
  • Some households on the end of slow internet connections will have a very poor experience, either degraded from HD quality due to speed, or even essentially no video.
  • Satellite and Cable TV operators have their livelihoods on the line. If they lose the core sports (Rugby, NFL, Soccer) then their reason to exist drops away. Expect their incentives to purchase the larger sport rights to rise even higher, and profitability to fall.
  • ISPs in New Zealand have ludicrously low data caps, and until these are removed we will continue to bask in the sunshine of the past, and penetration will be low.
  • Sky and TV broadcasters pay or commit to pay for shows and sports upfront, whereas pay as you go makes it much harder for direct to internet content to be made. We will still need deep pocketed middle-men to commission, and price, programs. Expect change to be slow as the deepest pockets are with Sky.

I’m all in favour of this, of slicing content up so that we buy what we want, and of encouraging the acceleration of the UFB rollout. It’s a great deal, and well done to Colesium and TVNZ in the background for getting this content away from Sky.

The future is obvious – every bit of content is delivered over the internet, and we can pick and pay for individual or bundles of content, or else get it free elsewhere, legally or not. That means prices need to be fair, content needs to be available and woe betide anyone who tries to fight the rise of the internet

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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3 Responses to The end of TV as we know it – and good

  1. Rob says:

    Some relevant discussion on Public Address, and I found an interesting series of articles discussing how the economics of cable/sky etc work, and why “a la carte” won’t happen in the short term. (tl;dr – to keep the same revenue numbers the likes of ESPN would need to charge magnitudes more via a-la-carte, but the per-user savings from networks skipping affiliating with ESPN is much much smaller).

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  2. Vince Betham says:

    Quickflix (and Netflix for those who know how) is worth a mention on this topic…not sports as such and probably more relevant to ‘the end of DVD stores’, but will be interesting to see if / how they can disrupt the TV industry as they grow content and form partnerships (e.g. upcoming availability on Freeview).

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  3. Pingback: English football holds UFB key | Bill Bennett

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