Live P2P Streaming: The Next Urban Myth?

How much of the TV you watch is truly "live"? Don't look at me funny, it's a serious question. What fraction of the TV you watch is only a few seconds old, straight from some camera to your TV without editing? Let's break it down: - Is anything on Must-See-TV live? No - How about Saturday morning cartoons? No - Leno?, Letterman? Nope - The Sopranos, Everybody Loves Raymond, Soaps, Opera Winfrey? Nada How about the national news? If you're on the east coast, maybe it's live, not on the west coast though. If you're watching a 24 hour news channel, the *vast* majority of play time is pre-recorded segments. How about 24? That clock doesn't make it so :) Now isn't the holy trinity of media distribution - broadcast, cable, satellite - perfectly designed and suited for live distribution of Television? Of course it is. So why isn't most of TV live? Here are a couple reasons: - Editing makes TV better. - For 95%+ of the TV people watch, live doesn't matter, NOBODY CARES Even the notion of linear programming seems to be dwindling in every direction I look. Comcast and their MSO brethren have launched and are aggressively expanding their on-demand offerings. 99% of what is distributed on the Net is non-live content (the 1% is made up of the few radio stations that still do live streams online - the most popular radio services are simply playing pre-recorded songs in a pre-set playlist). So, why the heck is everybody knocking down my door about live P2P streaming? Usually they're frenetic, intense and on a mission, like Indiana Jones about to get the holy graille or something. Cheap, live, high-performance video distribution online. Previously, only in the sci-fi books. Does it make me feel kind of special to be the guy, behind the guy, behind the guy, that can make their dreams come true? Of course it does, and I bask in their praise every chance I get. But then reality sets in: How much of Headline News is Live? I'm going to guess less than 10% How much of ESPN is Live? Less than 50% for sure. Now don't get me wrong, if you're going to want live, it's going to be in one of 3 categories: sports, news, events (like concerts). But even in these categories, sports is the only one where a majority of its viewed content is Live. Long-term customers probably range only at 15-20 max. My point isn't that Live doesn't exist or that there's no business there, but it's not even in the same order of magnitude as the big business of pre-recorded content delivery. So how come all the hub-ub, the frothy mouths, and the Venture Capitalists circling around like vultures? The REAL reason for this recent move toward live online P2P is licensing. Content owners are scared of losing ad revenues in an on-demand world (Tivo on the Net is worse than the Second Coming for these guys) especially one that's online. Cable companies are scared that the pipes they built to double up for Internet access will be used to get around their $80/month/subscriber cash cow. Content companies are scared that their cable deals will get screwed if they try to "go around" the cable companies by doing on-demand on the Net. Bottom line is that for the next couple years, on-demand, ad-supported TV licensing for the Net is a non-starter. And so with all those 100 million people on the Net but no way to get them on-demand programming online, some brilliant guy trying to make his numbers came up with a genius holding pattern: "Why don't we take pre-recorded TV content, and broadcast it Live over the Internet?" Don't even get me started on the technical lameness of the proposition, but this is the world we live in for a couple years, until online, on-demand licensing makes the world better for consumers everywhere. In the meantime, I'll bask in the temporal sunny rays of the Live P2P streaming spotlight. - chief swoosher

This entry was posted on May 25, 2006 at 7:21 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Jim McCoy says:
July 24th, 2006 at 4:15 pm

Here is a simple rule to remember: if you can’t place a bet on the outcome of a particular piece of content then there is not really any reason to deliver it in real-time (this works for both online streaming as well as for traditional broadcasting.)

You are absolutely correct about the licensing bits though…

chief swoosher says:
July 25th, 2006 at 10:43 pm

Jim, I love your betting analogy. I don’t think I could have put it more succintly than that.

Ingjerd says:
August 7th, 2006 at 10:33 am

I agree and disagree with what you’re saying. There are defintely certain kinds of content that have more value in being broadcasted live than other types of content. Live music, live sports etc, carries more premium than prerecorded events.

And yes, the main argument behind putting other kinds of content live, such as a sitcom etc, is A) Licencing and B) Advertiser revenue. If you can get a critical mass watching at a certain point of time, it will drive advertiser revenue.

Now, to where I do disagree: The way you are argumenting is based on a traditional view of broadcasting where the broadcaster is sending you as a viewer content. Now, in the internet space, there really is no reason why the interactivity with the audience should be this limited? With the build up of communities online, you can allow for real time interaction between the broadcaster and the audience. And for that to happen, it has to be live, so I still belive in a future for Live TV, but maybe in a different format than today.

morten petersen says:
August 8th, 2006 at 1:56 am

Though I found this article a great laugh, I mean it really cracked me up I have to disagree with more than half of the “pocket philosophy” aired. Let’s get some facts on the table instead and that will hopefully enlighten you on why the VCs are like vultures around live P2P.

Firstly people are BORED with on demand. It is still in its early days and people are already turning their stomachs with on demand services. The fact is that the average time spent on the 100 million clips in YouTube is only a devastating 15 minutes. I have tried it and quite frankly I have never managed to spend more than 10 minutes there before getting bored out of my mind. Research from psychologists state that humans are very prone to being couch potatoes. We do not always prefer the choice, pre recorded content being broadcast as live is just what we want. We are too indecisive as a race to make a choice every time we sit down in front of the TV or the laptop.

Secondly there is the issue of handling a live event. A truly massive audience has not yet been seen online as there is yet to be large “online only” events driving the audience to their laptops. When this happens, say 6-12 months from now, the Internet, the cable companies, CDNs, ISPs do not have enough capacity to deal with it. Yes there is a tremendous amount of cable in the ground but only a small proportion of it can actually serve the public, the rest is for shipping data around in the background, not for the publicly accessible Internet.

I am 100% behind Eisner’s (Disney) comments from last month on YouTube: “in the end people want professionally made content”. 10 years ago we started seeing boxes in our home with vast movie directories where we can rent or buy content at our leisure – did that ever catch on – NO. Now that idea has moved to the net and I’m predicting the same, a measly mediocre uptake, another miniature bubble that will never become big enough to burst. Live P2P is here because it is solving a problem, not offering broadcasters moneymaking schemes to enforce on the viewers.

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