Wednesday, November 21, 2007
For over a decade now, the cable TV industry has been getting trounced by the satellite TV industry. That's because ever since the technology to provide satellite TV- with its huge bandwidth and high quality signal- to a large number of people at very affordable prices became available, the relatively low bandwidth technology of cable TV simply hasn't been able to compete. This huge technological inferiority on the part of the cable TV industry has prompted the cable TV industry to resort to a very heavy level of exaggeration in its advertising campaigns. In many ways, this unsupported and blatant self promotion on the part of cable TV companies is probably the only thing that's kept the industry alive all of these years.
Now all of that boasting and hyperbole has paid off in that the cable TV industry managed to keep itself alive long enough to develop a type of technology that could not only make it competitive with satellite TV, but may actually make it superior to satellite TV in some ways. This technology is called Switched Digital Video- or SDV- and it essentially takes advantage of the bandwidth that cable TV does have in order to deliver a lot more different programming options. Basically, switched digital video allows viewers to choose what to watch and then the cable TV provider will send the channel carrying that programming and only that programming over the cable. Since TV cables have more than enough bandwidth to offer one channel at a time, this technology allows the cable TV provider to offer a virtually limitless number of channels.
The thing that switched digital video is really good for is video on demand. As more and more programming is stored on computer servers and then directed to individual households through SDV technology, cable TV will become more and more like video on demand. The only major difference between video on demand and normal TV supplied through SDV will be the level of control that the viewer has over when he or she watches it. With plain SDV, the viewer essentially requests that an existing programming stream be directed to her or his TV receiver, but video on demand is only the simple step of requesting a specific program stream. In this way, cable TV providers can offer a lot more video on demand content than satellite TV providers can.
Now that the cable TV industry has this great new technology that could put it right back on the map, there's a good chance that its old promotional habits could derail it. That's because even though cable TV companies are now on the brink of implementing a powerful new technology, some of them are misrepresenting what the technology can do. For example, one company is bragging about providing four hundred HDTV channels by the end of 2007 and eight hundred by the end of 2008. This undermines the credibility of the company because there aren't even eight hundred HDTV channels in existence! The company is getting these figures by counting individual HDTV feeds available through its video on demand service and then adding that on top of all of the real HDTV channels that it anticipates having within those time frames. The other way in which this is a misrepresentation is because it counts local HDTV channels and regional sports networks in HDTV- neither of which are available nationally.
While SDV is a great new technology, it definitely shouldn't be misrepresented.