Monday, September 27, 2010

Ivi Debuts with "Live TV On The Internet"

A colleague recently sent me this article regarding Ivi, a new television content-to-PC service. Billed as "live TV on the internet," it describes the service thus:
The Seattle-based company is launching a downloadable PC application that takes a live feed from TV channels and distributes that stream, uninterrupted and without delays, to viewers worldwide 24 hours a day. Ivi is offering a 30-day free trial for the service to watch major broadcast channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The CW, PBS and other local affiliates.

The Ivi TV player transforms a computer into a television with multiple channel offerings. Users can select the channel by using a simple channel guide. The TV player can be downloaded to any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. It will soon be available on platforms such as mobile devices, tablets and set-top boxes.

The company claims Ivi will make set-top boxes obsolete by allowing viewers to watch their TV shows anywhere, on any PC where they download the application. Todd Weaver started Ivi in 2007. He serves as chief executive.

One of the features that consumers have long wanted is a la carte TV channels. Most of the time, consumers may want only one or two channels. But they have to subscribe to a whole bundle of channels in order to get what they want. Ivi says it can enable such a la carte service.

The basic Ivi Air package contains over 25 major broadcast channels for $4.99 a month, after the 30-day free trial. More channels will be added each month for no additional costs. If you want time shifting, or digital video recording that allows you to watch a show whenever you want, you pay 99 cents a a month more.

Ivi hopes to create a bigger hole in the cable TV industry, which is losing lots of subscribers. Market researcher SNL Kagan reported that the cable TV companies lost 711,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2010. Yankee Group said that pay-TV revenues are starting to decrease, partly due to rising cable service rates. Ivi claims that it has legal rights to run TV shows on the web and it will be paying royalties to copyright holders.

Ivi’s service does not require buffering, or a delay which occurs as a video downloads to a user’s system. You can watch the Ivi shows in any quality level you want. You can watch local content anywhere in the world. You can view New York City broadcast channels wherever you are. The company is one among many companies that are promising to disrupt the TV business. Others include Apple with Apple TV, Google with Google TV, Samsung with its TV apps, and Logitech with its upcoming Google TV set-top box.

There's no doubt that Ivi, if it operates as claimed, gives you instant PC- or other digital device-based access to television content wherever you can get an internet connection. And it certainly allows your PC to function like a television with a digital recorder.

In this regard, it certainly offers an ability to drop a $50+ monthly cable television subscription.

However, it's unclear how Ivi disrupts the provision of cable signals to an actual home television. I can think of two methods of doing that. One is to simply dedicate a laptop or Ipad with a companion large flat panel monitor as one's home television. Another is to buy a new Tivo remote with which to access the internet.

So it's likely one can fashion a method of linking those last few feet from a home digital device to one's television. I simply found it odd that Ivi celebrates making your laptop into a television, which is already old news, what with Hulu already offering free access to previously-aired programming. Yes, the real-time television content hook might be worthwhile. But if you time shift already, maybe not.

Still, with Ivi available, and for such a low monthly fee, the further disintermediation of cable television and its revenues looks to be given another big shove.

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