The various TV over broadband services in the form of streaming and downloads offered by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky have gained a lot of headlines showing large take-up, however this appears to be incremental to the traditional broadcast services according to a report in The Guardian.
The TV marketing body Thinkbox (not affiliated with thinkbroadband) reports that UK viewers are watching 3.77 hours of broadcast TV a day so far this year, a 2% increase on the five year average. The amount of content watched online is in addition to this and is also growing. The fact that traditional broadcast viewing is not decreasing may reflect people trying to save money by simply staying at home, rather than going out.
The impact of the online offerings is important to broadcasters as many will hope to reclaim the costs of developing and running their online operation from advertising revenues. Given the recent prediction of a dip in advertising revenue by ITV, we may see some online operations scaling back.
The commercial joint venture named Project Kangaroo between BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC), Channel 4 and ITV looks set to be delayed until 2009 due to the ongoing investigation by the Competition Commission into whether this venture represents a merger situation, and what the impact will be on other commercial ventures.
One reason many people may have taken a look at the current on-demand services and returned to their normal viewing habits is that many services provide poor quality pictures, particularly if viewed from a closer distance as would be typical on a computer monitor. Compared to Freeview some services provide a comparable picture, but this is not saying much as Freeview generally contains compression artefacts. Even digital satellite TV can fail to meet the picture quality of analogue TV at times. People are spending hundreds of pounds upgrading to HD televisions looking for the ultimate in quality, but the images currently being pumped into our homes, be it over broadband or digital broadcast, often fail to impress. Even HD streams are not immune to the 'blocky' nature of compression during fast action scenes.
For those buying movies online, a common trap is to label a 1.5GB movie as High Definition because of the resolution of the image. Even with modern encoding/decoding it will not match the quality of a DVD or Blu-ray film. Good HD content generally runs at 200MB for just 2 minutes of content, making a film download around 9GB. Downloading a single 9GB film would more than double the average monthly usage figure, so it shows the extent to which the complete UK broadband infrastructure from mobile broadband, through the various DSL variants to cable broadband, have some way to go to meet the hype of a all encompassing broadband media experience.