WASHINGTON, July 22, 2013 — July’s Broadband Breakfast Club, “Over the Top: Broadband Video’s Impact on Future TV,” centered on the transition from video distribution on television to distribution directly over broadband connections.
Eric Wolf, Vice President for Technology Strategy and Planning at the Public Broadcasting Service, presented a number of statistics that demonstrate that this transition is still in its early stages. Television viewing still surpasses all other forms of video viewing by a factor of 30, and the average person watches 150 hours of television each month. However, there is also a major generational difference, with those under 30 far more likely to adopt over the top video.
Wolf also discussed his work with PBS, which is releasing content on all platforms, including over high-speed internet. This utilization of over the top video applies both to its national content as well as content created by local stations. PBS has also begun creating original content specifically for digital media.
Michael Drobac, Senior Policy Advisor for Patton Boggs, also described his previous experience as the first director of government relations for Netflix. He detailed the transition from digital video disc rental to streaming as the primary service offered by Netflix. He didn’t believe that streaming was still merely an additive service.
Although Drobac said that linear programming still has an important role, Drobac noted that the freedom for consumers to determine when and how they watch content is key in the rise of over the top video services such as Netflix instant streaming.
Sharon Peyer, Co-Founder and Vice President for Business Development of HitBliss, described her struggles to get premium content on her company’s website. Although studios were initially receptive to licensing agreements, complaints from more established “over the top” video providers spurred many studies to demand that HitBliss no longer over those titles.
Darren Miller, Director of Content Partner Management for CenturyLink, discussed challenges facing his organization, particularly competition with an incumbent cable providers as well as satellite providers Dish Network and DirecTV. In his experience, Miller found that large value packages, rather than genre-specific packages such as news or sports, were more popular among consumers.
This transitional period between over the top video and traditional television has created problems for broadband providers, who must also provide video service like cable because most consumers consider online video content to be insufficient, according to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Knowledge.
Bergmayer also highlighted the success of program access for mobile video and digital video service. Although he said exclusive content is not necessarily harmful to the industry, he noted that program access promotes consumer choice.
He also discussed the problems with the current legal definition of multichannel video programming distributors. Although the law itself is relatively broad, the Federal Communications Commission has interpreted it to require any entity classified as an MVPD to own cable, wireline or satellite facilities. This requirement, which Bergmayer believes is a misinterpretation, arises from a literal reading of “multichannel” as physical pathways rather than simple video streams.
Piracy was also a topic of discussion among panelists. Peyer asserted that the main cause of piracy is the unavailability of the most recent content. Drobac said this showed that Hollywood studio’s approach windowing of content does not work. Wolf acknowledged that piracy will never be entirely eradicated, and said that making the newest content readily available for a recent price will make piracy a marginal issue.