Channel4 VoD

Listened to Bob Harris do a talk on the implementation of video on demand at Channel 4. It was interesting to compare their offering with what Joost has been coming up with recently. Joost are now much more fluid in their production. The web site is looking a lot better and the technology appears inteesting from the outside. We’re having to wait for the APIs though.

Channel 4 have gone down a similar route with their torrent type streaming technology. They have a desktop client on the PC. They are using the CapeClear system which manages a lot of the back end content management functions. They don’t have the rights on a lot of their older content, so are building their portfolo up gradually with all the new programmes being produced; they have several thousand hours available. The system is based around the Kontiki system of grid computing. Kontiki have experience with spreading business data around the world and are now providing the same type of facility for video files. CapeClear are confident of their ability to grow with the demand. I think that Sky is involved with them as well.

The media formats are created using Windows Media, primarily because of the need for DRM. MPEG2 streams are encoded to wmf for storage and streaming. Streams are around 400kbps I think I heard. The programmes are offered both via broadband and cable and may be played via the stream or downloaded for playback later. The downloaded files have a limit of two days once they’ve been played once, so they won’y be stored forever. The pay per view material has now been added to with free catch-up content. Perhaps that will push up the viewing figures.

All the big players must be looking at the convergence of TV with PC, or more accurately the convergence of the satellite dish and aerial with the broadband connection. The Apple TV box is out and being hacked. The Xbox is being opened up to use as a media centre. More people are generating content and becoming very creative doing it and this is driving a larger section of the community to view podcasts and specialised content; they want to view it at times convenient to them or to share viewing across the web. Nowadas, it’s becoming more difficult for pople to talk about a programme the morning after. Their colleagues may have only recorded it, while some people in the office will cathc the repeats on the catch-up site. I am more often expecting to hear a radio programme that I missed on the Listen Again section.

Technology is changing quickly and perhaps there is room for a few small startups to bring in the innovation to succeed. Television is full of people that have been there for years and that may not be able to get out of the conservative rut. I was surprised that there weren’t more people listening to Bob, as it will be life and death to some of the standard TV stations.


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