In a recent survey by Harris Interactive
over 25% say they download TV shows regulary, but only 5% watch videos on a TV or other video-playing device regularly. Ars Technica
attributes it to the difficulty associated with watching downloaded shows on TV due to DRM and other technical barriers. They also warn content providers from the inevitable consequences of making it hard for consumers to access their content via networked devices:
"As online video continues to expand, content providers will have to face the consequences of their own restrictions on how viewers use content. Making it easier to transfer files to portable devices and set-top boxes will help drive viewership
What do I make of all this? Well... During 2007, Internet videos and specifically Internet TV has clearly gone mainstream, however as the survey suggests accessing Internet videos from TV is far from mainstream and is still in an early adopter phase. I am convinced however that in 2008, thanks to game consoles and popular networked set-top-boxes (like the DirecTV HR20/HR21), we will see more and more Internet content accessed in the living room. This content however won't be TV shows or movies, it will be content freely available on the web, such as YouTube, podcasts, live TV from all over the world and more. The reason it won't be movies and TV shows is precisely the one mentioned by Ars Technica.
I can testify from my own experience (a few conversations with a top NBC executive) that content publishers do not want it to be accessed via services that they do not control - they are afraid from losing control over their content to iTunes or it successor. This is why NBC and Fox started Hulu, and this is why Joost is having such a hard time
and has finally realized that its future lies in the long tail and not mainstream media.
What content publishers do not understand is that they have been fluctuating between two extremes (illegal file sharing on the one hand and iTunes legally taking over their content on the other) and the conclusion they should draw is not "let's pile up additional restrictions" but rather "let's remove these restrictions" so that content won't be used to lock in users (like Apple does) and will be easy enough to consume legally. Will they do it? I am not optimistic... I said it before and I will say it again, the shareholder of the music labels and the movie studios should have replaced the board and management of their companies long ago for their remarkable incompetence when it comes to the digital age.