The Internet Is the Hottest Thing on Television

Carl Weinschenk

In the olden days, the fireplace was the center of the home. This shifted to the television in the 1960s and '70s. Ever since the dawn of the Internet, the television and computer industries have battled over who is in control. It seems like set manufacturers and Internet companies are angling toward a draw, while broadcasters may be severely challenged.


Broadcasting & Cable suggests that there will be a lot of news at this week's Consumer Electronics Show on the use of the Internet to deliver content to televisions. The story says that the equipment has long existed that could use televisions to display IP content. The sector is getting hotter as the gear gets sleeker, network throughput increases and home gateways proliferate.


The writer offers a partial review of the introductions in this sector: Two years ago, the Bravia Internet Video Link enabled display of content from popular sites on Bravia-branded sets. Sharp and Samsung got in the act last year when they included Ethernet ports on some sets. Last summer, Intel and Yahoo partnered to refine the ability to deliver programming to IP devices. The story mentions initiatives from iTunes, Netflix, Vudu, Sony and Vudu, but misses Hulu.


Increasing broadband speeds has made "over the top" delivery of content-the use of unadorned networks to deliver content-possible. The logical conclusion of such a trend is the sinking of the necessary consumer electronics circuitry either in the television itself or its co-location with other functionality in set-top devices. Today, Electronista reports that LG will use the CES to introduce televisions with built-in support for Netflix. The story describes Netflix's plan, but doesn't offer details about the sets themselves except to say that there will be plasma and LCD models.


Anything concerning entertainment video is almost guaranteed to ring up big numbers. ABI Research says that the move to easier online viewing will be fueled by the industry's ability to deliver over-the-top video to televisions. The firm says that at the end of last year there were 563 million online television viewers. That amount will balloon to 941 million by 2013. The release, which hypes a report entitled Broadband Video and Internet TV, paints a picture in which online delivery to televisions bridges all forms of video content. This is a broad sector that is exploding.


If nothing else has been proven during the past decade, it is that the flow of creativity is relentless. Actually, there are a few types of creativity: The creativity of developing the base technology, the creativity of the business people who recognize and harness its value in the marketplace, and, finally, the creativity of those who author content for the new platforms. All of those, it seems, are coming into play in the movement of programming from the PC to the television. Last month Vudu, vendors of a device that enables Internet-delivered content to be displayed on televisions, announced that it is making its tools -- known as the Vudu Rich Internet Application-available to outside developers. The software is based on Lua, the open source programming language.


Blogger Gary Kim takes a look at the ABI Research report at IP Carrier. The most interesting element of his analysis is the point that over the top broadband connections simply weren't designed to support a large screen HDTV signal. People won't settle for lower quality in the long run, however. It may be possible that Web-delivered video will be popular enough to stimulate widescale moves to quality of service (QoS) and traffic prioritization approaches. If this happens, it could be a game-changer for far more applications than those involving consumer video.

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