Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The introduction of widespread satellite TV was revolutionary in a number of ways- mostly because it delivered a much clearer signal and many more channels than cable TV was capable of. Just as importantly, satellite TV heralded competition in the TV service provider market for the first time. (Channels that transmitted over the air have always been included in cable TV line ups, and so added to the appeal of cable TV rather than detracting from it.) Because of the numerous advantages in number of channels offered and cost that satellite TV had over cable TV, cable TV companies have gradually been losing subscribers over the years to satellite TV companies.
Now switched digital video promises to reverse that trend. Switched digital video allows a cable TV subscriber to request a single channel and for the cable TV company to send just that channel to the subscriber's cable box, rather than sending all of the channels to the subscriber's cable box and letting the cable box filter out most of those channels and only display the one that the subscriber wants to watch. This is a huge difference because it frees up a ton of bandwidth. After all, hundreds of channels take up a lot more bandwidth than just one or two channels. All of that extra bandwidth can be used for high speed Internet applications, HDTV programming, and much more. Also, since the cable company only sends one channel at a time using switched digital video, it can make many more channels available. This could give the cable TV industry a significant advantage over the satellite TV industry, considering that one of the advantages of satellite TV in the past has been a greater capacity to deliver programming.
Another advantage of switched digital video is that it paves the way for video on demand. In fact, in many ways switched digital video is very much like video on demand only instead of delivering a specific video at any given time, it delivers a distinct video data stream upon request. In other words, a very similar thing.
In many ways, switched digital video could swing the balance of power away from satellite TV and back to cable TV. In other words, history repeats itself.