Broadcasters Embrace Web TV

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The landscape of television is changing rapidly and with the rise in popularity of WebTV, more and more broadcasters are turning their attentions towards webcasting and online video streaming.

This is due to a shift in viewing habits, with a new generation of “mouse potatoes” more likely to log on to online content as opposed to tuning into traditional TV stations. The past year has shown a massive rise in the amount of viewers watching content online, with an estimated 10 billion online videos viewed each month.

In the U.S, major studios such as Fox and NBC Universal are improving and developing their online efforts in a bid to gain a slice of the huge audience of Web TV viewers. The two media behemoths joined forces in March of this year to create Hulu.com.

They are not alone, as Warner Brothers are getting on the act too with ‘TheWB.com’ streaming episodes of popular shows ‘Friends’ and ‘The O.C’ to audiences in the U.S.

Marketing experts are predicting that this model of online content, supported by limited advertising will work. It is already a method, which has worked successfully for Hulu, which greets visitors with a brief, un-obtrusive advert at the beginning of each stream. This takes up only around 10% of the running time of the content, which is considerably less than one would expect to find on the television networks.

Here in the U.K it is a similar story, with many broadcasters increasingly turning their attention to online video streaming. This is evidenced by the growing popularity of online WebTV platforms from established broadcasters, such as the BBC’s iPlayer.

These online platforms are flawed, however, in the fact that due to licensing restrictions, they can only be viewed in their country of origin. Hulu.com and thewb.com are unavailable outside the U.S, whereas BBC’s iPlayer is not available to non-U.K viewers.

Computer scientist Vint Cerf, widely regarded as one of the fathers of the Internet, believes the future of traditional TV lies in the ability to integrate with IPTV (Internet Protocol TV)

This vision of things to come means that broadcasters would send IPTV programs to homes through a private Internet network. Viewers would watch the programs on computer-enabled TV sets that translate IPTV data into images and sound displayed on a TV screen.

“It’s my expectation that the traditional broadcast media will become avenues for IPTV delivery,” said Cerf. “I think we are maybe 10 years away — if the TV manufacturers and TV broadcasters get there at all.”

A spokesperson for Web TV specialists Streaming Tank had this to say: “Many broadcasters are seeing the value of the internet as an efficient and cost effective medium and it has a huge role to play in the way people watch TV in the future.”

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