Cable TV Franchises Threatened: Stumbling Blocks for IPTV

When it comes to forecasting the future of any emerging new media technology (and any product really), it's easy to see the final product but NOT the problems that will pop up along the way. Microsoft is a good example as has been Apple in the past. They know what the product will end up looking like, but they don't allow for unexpected bumps along the road.

IPTV has the potential to revolutionize the television business. The word revolution implies taking the current system in use and replacing it with something completely new. I have been telling my students and have been desperately trying to tell my faculty colleagues that this year's freshmen ("first year") class of 2011 will graduate into a media world that, judging by phenomena such as MySpace and YouTube, might very well not be predictable.

I'm not an engineer, but as an expert on emerging new media, I can see IPTV as the protocol about which consumers don't know or need to know any more than I do about how it works. All they want to know is what channels are available and, though subtle, they will want to watch the best quality video available. Old research has demonstrated that given a choice between a very clean broadcast signal and one that has interference or is otherwise degraded, most audience members will choose the clear signal. This is despite the fact that the clear channel is not the audience member's first choice.

The following is information I retrieved some time ago but for which I cannot find the reference. If anyone recognizes it, please let me know. This is very inightful information:

IPTV has the potential to basically make any source of video on earth available to those with access to the origination point. AT&T faces a problem that might not have been considered as it has already been rolling out its IPTV service peculiarly called "U-verse TV" in various cities in the U.S. Cities have franchise contracts with cable providers that often include a "tax" on the cable service paid to the city and public access, educational, and even municipal channels.

AT&T spokeswoman Jenny Parker said the telco proceeded with the rollout in Milwaukee because “we are in good-faith negotiations with the city of Milwaukee and [are] making some progress.”

AT&T notified the city 30 days ago of its launch plans, Parker said, and it made a “binding commitment” to the main issues the municipal government cares about -- revenue sharing and support for public, education and government (PEG) channels. “The commitments will remain in effect while any legal issues are resolved either through a settlement with the city or the courts,” she said.

Time Warner Cable is the incumbent cable provider in both Milwaukee and Racine.

Elsewhere in the telco’s traditional 13-state service footprint, AT&T next plans to roll out U-verse TV in parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in early March and then Kansas City later in the month. That would bring U-verse to 15 markets by the end of the first quarter -- a milestone the telco had hoped to hit by the end of 2006.

AT&T initially deployed U-verse TV in June in San Antonio, where the company is based. It announced service availability in parts of Houston in November and then in nine other markets in late December.

The company suspended marketing activities behind U-verse TV in October as it ironed out some glitches with the IPTV software provided by Microsoft. Starting in mid-February, the telco resumed direct-marketing efforts, including employing door-to-door sales representatives in neighborhoods where U-verse TV service is available, the company said.

AT&T said it now has about 7,000 U-verse TV subscribers. It reported having 3,000 as of Dec. 31, 2006, which was unchanged from the previous quarter.

This is potentially a major roadblock. As of this writing, I don't know where the arguments stand but will be looking for those who do.

Labels: , ,

Unlimited Bandwidth at No Cost (c) 2007 Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein

"Information wants to be free" is so appropriate for the emerging new media world of 2007. New media are carving their paths simultaneously in an unprecedented rush to get content on the Web. It seems that there are video screens from around an inch squared (cell phones) to HDTV sets that keep growing. Video has moved into the automobile, something that was suggested in the past in a publication such as Popular Science. While the video began in the head rests for viewing in the back seat, there are now products that can be installed where the car radio normally resides. It seems likely there will be local ordinances and state laws that will prohibit these, although it's hard to imagine making outlaws out of those with GPS navigation systems in the front of their cars.

There is a direct relationship between video quality and bandwidth in which the video is transmitted. Already there are web sites with "free" live television channels, some with better quality than others. The genie is out of the bottle. Perhaps most of us will have our 15 minutes of fame when caught on video knowingly or not (i.e., surveillance).

The technology trend is toward unlimited bandwidth at no cost. The wider the bandwidth, the more video and other information can be transmitted through it. As for no cost, Americans generally like the trade-off between access to content at no charge while accepting advertising in its place. If such statistics were known, the percentage of newspaper web sites that charge for access are far outnumbered by those that don't and include advertising on their pages instead.

Scientific advances continue to improve compression methods while, at the same time, technological advances continue to offer wider and wider bandwidth. So I post this quip not knowing who said it first, but if you want to understand where emerging new media are going, think unlimited bandwidth at no cost.

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2007, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!