Future of TV…is now

The “holy grail” in my mind of home television program delivery is true video-on-demand:  being able to watch any episode of any show at any time.  None of the “wait till it comes on” business,  or “oops I missed last week’s episode”,  and being able to get what you want to watch no slower than switching channels on TV.

I figured we were years and years away from something like this working.  Looks like the technology is already here, and already working.

What’s really made this possible is the existence of video content hosting services, like YouTube.  They showed us that low quality video can be delivered, with minimal lag.  We’re still a ways from DVD quality, but don’t scoff at the ability to watch something seconds after clicking on a link.   And the thing is, these sites tend to be so huge that all sorts of content gets lost in there.

What exists now is sites like TV Links. These take links to all sorts of video providers, and sort by categories like TV shows, movies, documentaries, anime … Sure, the quality sometimes is pretty low (but I’ve run into medium-quality anime in DivX format),  but you can be watching anything in seconds.  This makes it possible to grab previews of movies or shows you’re not sure you want to watch…

In my opinion, this is where cable technology should be headed…or really,  it should be there already.  People are worried about pirating, etc…I’m perfectly happy to sit through bits of commercial in the middle of my video if I’m getting the first bit “on-demand” – they ought to think of the first bit before the commercial break as a “preview”.  And piracy – really,  the cable company should hit the niche occupied by the library – offer everything.  Every episode, every season…if the quantity of data you’re offering is vastly more than anyone can store,  then they won’t be able to store it.  You could even impose a maximum bandwidth (say…twice as fast as a human can watch…) for video downloads. Stealing video seems kind of silly in this case – cable companies right now aren’t worried about people videotaping shows and passing them to friends. They worry about people stealing the physical cable connection.

This would easily beat out renting movies…or even buying movies.  If the connection is reliable,  why would you bother keeping hard copies if it’s just as fast to grab it off the network…and no need to hunt through your shelves?  Store a “personal collection” for every video box – basically, “bookmarks”…

I think the future has the HD version in the works, when we have ridiculously high bandwidth available.  But even now, I’m surprised we don’t have a “youtube quality” version…someone ought to grab the licenses for some big company’s ginormous video collection, and offer it at low quality for a cheap monthly subscription rate.

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