|I may have missed it in previous posts, but I think an important point is being missed in much of this discussion: take rate.|
An assumption being made is one of widespread long time usage. I would argue consumers have little interest in viewing content for more than a few hundred seconds on their PC. Further, existing solutions for media extension to the television are gaining very little foothold outside of technophiles. They tend to be more complex for the average user than many vendors seemingly realize. While Apple may help in this arena, there are many other obstacles to widespread usage of streaming video outside of media extension.
In entertainment, content is king. More specifically, new release content is king. While internet distribution may help breathe life into the long tail market, it is hard to imagine any major shift from existing distribution methods. People simply like the latest TV shows and the latest movies.
So, this leaves us with little more than what is already offered by the MSOs: linear TV and VoD. This is where things become complex.
The studios will never (not any time soon) allow for a subscription based VoD on new content. They would instantly be sued by Time Warner (HBO). This leaves us with a non-subscription VoD option, which still requires an agreement with the each of the major studios, and would likely cost a fortune to obtain. CinemaNow and MovieLink have done this successfully, and use a PushVoD model to distribute their content. CinemaNow allows DVD burning for some of their content, but both companies are otherwise tied to the PC (without a media extender). Furthermore, the download wait is a pain. Their content is good quality 1200-1500 kbps VC-1 *wince*. It is really hard to say when and if either of these will take off as a service. It is a good service, with a great product, and almost no market at the moment. Get it on the TV and things may change dramatically.
This leaves us with linear TV, which is another acquisition nightmare. It is very difficult to acquire pass-through/distribution rights for linear television, especially via IP. Without deep pockets, a company might be spinning their wheels trying to get popular channels onto their lineup. And good luck trying to acquire the rights to push linear TV outside of a closed network. The studios will hear none of it.
I guess where I am going with all this is simply it is very hard to make this work from a business and marketing side. The network constraints are, likely, a minor issue for some time to come. Interest is low in the public at large for primary (or even major secondary) video service on the PC.
By the time interest in the product swells and content providers ease some of their more stringent rules for content distribution, a better solution for multicasting the content will have presented itself. I would argue streaming video across the Internet to a large audience, direct to subscribers, is probably 4+ years away at best.
I am not saying we throw in the towel on this problem, but I do think unicast streaming has a limited scope and short life-span for prime content. IPv6 multicast is the real long term solution for Internet video to a wide audience.
Of course, there is the other argument. The ILECs and MSOs will keep it from ever getting beyond a unicast model. Why let the competition in, right? *sniff* I smell lobbyists and legislation. :-)
Gian Anthony Constantine
Senior Network Design Engineer