Ronen v. Cuban: Can Internet Internet TV Take Over?

Here’s an interesting exchange between Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, and Mark Cuban:

Ronen: “re your ‘people prefer easy over choice’ argument: i don’t think these
are conflicting needs. people want an easy way to get the content
they’d like to watch. the arrival of cable meant more choice for
consumers and as the ratings prove the availability of more channels
on Cable did reduce the ratings of the major networks. the Internet is
the next evolution. more niche content means viewers will be able to
find more content that they are really interested in watching. finding
content online is getting better, faster and easier. the fact that
anybody can post a video to YouTube means millions of videos don’t get
watched, so what? i think it’s beautiful.

I agree with most of what Ronen is saying here, but I don’t think that this fundamentally means that cable TV delivery is going to go away. There’s plenty of room in the market for both the Internet and Cable. They serve different niches. Sure some of the same content can flow from both, but as with Radio and TV, there will be some loss of mindshare and viewing time in the TV/Cable realm, but I think the two will continue to coexist for the foreseeable future.

Cuban, paraphrasing the NetFlix blog: “Lets see, 3 PCs at home that I want to backup , dang, its midnight when my backups start and its right when i wanted to watch something online..thank goodness my TV doesn’t have this problem”

That’s a red herring. The fact is that any sensible backup system would be capable of trickling your content to the backup server. In reality most people don’t do cloud backups anyway, and instead backup to local network storage, or a disk connected to the same machine. In both cases, there won’t be any competition for bandwidth.

The way I read the tea-leaves, most people will be moving away from an explicit backup model anyway in the next few years. Instead, people will rely on having multiple mirrors of their content, spread out over the multiple machines they own, their online storage from their ISP or one of the gorillas like MSFT, Apple or Google, or some other computer(s) where they have an account. This is actually a very robust system, and doesn’t require any training nor a disciplined backup regimen.

If a machine dies or needs to be wiped, just log on again and everything reappears by magic, from the cloud, over P2P, or whatever combination, depending on what endpoint(s) are online at the time.

Anyway, it’s an interesting debate, but to a certain extent they’re both tilting at windmills. The real question is the same one it always is: Who will pay for the content to be created? That’s the one that Boxee, Hulu, Comcast, NBC, and everyone else will need to keep answering. This as users become progressively more and more disillusioned with the amount of noise they have to weed through, before they can find something to watch that they can actually stomach.

It’s the same question that the music industry was faced with when mp3’s and Napster first hit the scene, and which they failed to answer.

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